Monday, February 28, 2011

Do not worry

With a planned houseshift over the weekend past I kept Sunday free from preaching engagements and thus my mind free from thinking about the lectionary readings, let alone knowing what they were. So it was a surprise to me when at church to learn that the gospel reading was Matthew 6:25-end, "Do not worry." What a message five days after the worst of natural disasters in my lifetime here in New Zealand. What a challenge to be free of anxiety in the weeks and months ahead as people lose jobs, as lost houses are not quickly replaced, and as trauma and grief are worked through. None of us are sufficient for these things. Lord, increase our faith!

That service was outdoors. A quick tour of the church revealed the power of the earthquake on a modern (just on fifty years old building). Imploded glass. Holes in the roof letting daylight in. Cracks you could poke your finger in (better not, if there is another shake they might close up again). Scattered prayerbooks and Bibles on the floor. Liquefaction. My colleague's books in a mountain in his office. Irony of ironies: the bookcase had been earthquake mounted to the walls. Except the earthquake ripped the mountings away from the wall.

Then home to the mundane task of completing our house move. The more sorting and cleaning the further out of touch I got from the disaster viewable from TV and newspapers but scarcely visible looking out the window. Shouldn't I be doing more to help? Then right into the thick of the post-quake turmoil, visiting with friends caught up in the extraordinary (and excruciating) process of victim identification. To make that visit we walked along one of Christchurch's loveliest streets, covered in sand and pockmarked with sinkholes.

So today. Back to Theology House. Tidying up. Vacuuming up grit fallen from the gap where ceiling meets brick gable above. Ensuring two diocesan meetings could take place in our premises which have two virtues right now: safe, and beyond the tight police cordon around the CBD. There, for the time being our Anglican Centre lies. But soon a temporary one will be operating in another part of the city. Shouldn't I be doing more to help? In the afternoon an opportunity opened up. Would I assist one of our archdeacons who is juggling three roles at the moment. Certainly. To cross the city to meet with him and his wife, Teresa and I made a wide berth of the CBD and were rewarded with a relatively quick 30 minute trip. On the way home we chose a different route, closer to the CBD, in the hope we might view one of our damaged churches. That route took 90 minutes!

We actually saw two churches. The second we inspected closely. I once worked there, and Teresa and I were married there. With our own eyes we could see damage which makes it unlikely, perhaps even certain that another service will not be held there. Many questions arise from the declarative judgement that a building must be torn down, or reconstructed at vast expense. There are many feelings to work through. With my head I believe that church is not the building but the people. In my heart I am sad that the place where Teresa and I married may be no more.

But Jesus said, "Do not worry."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Funny old day

A little tomorrow about a funny old day which has been very quiet relative to some of the acts of worship and large gatherings which have been taking place in Christchurch today. Late tonight just a moment to note that Tim Harris has posted a second reflection here. Some moving photographs are here. And, Anglican Taonga keeps us up with the day by day unfolding of events from a church perspective.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Natural disasters and theodicy go together like husband and wife. I am not saying which is the natural disaster and which is the correctional facility granted to humankind, but it could have something to do with the one who cannot multitask ...

Seriously, theodicy will be a significant challenge for the Christians of Canterbury and beyond in the days ahead. Well, for reasons of a house shift (pre-planned before the quake) I cannot do much about theodicy, and a change of telephone connection means sometime offline, so what better way to do theodicy than to delegate it to others.

In particular I encourage you to head to Tim Harris at Hikanos for some introductory thinking!


There are too many stories of loss to cope with this week. Lives have been lost in the hundreds and homes in the thousands. At the time the disruption to life after 4 September seemed hard enough, but we are in a new world now. Take schools, for instance, which are out of action because drinking water and sanitation are not guaranteed, to say nothing of those with damaged classrooms. That's a physical problem, but there are some teachers and students coping with losing loved ones, and many more working out their future without a home to live in. That's a spiritual problem which, multiplied across many aspects of life and work in our city, is something never before encountered here.

How do those who name Christ as Lord and Saviour bear witness in this crisis? We serve a Lord who, on the face of it, has let us down not once but twice. The gospel in a nutshell could be described as 'the best is yet to be' but right now life has gone from bad to worse. Certainly we need to draw on our experience of lament and find new resources as one body of Christ in mission to our fellow citizens. How do we sing the Lord's song in a place of terror where over twenty people have died in our cathedral and another three people in Durham St Methodist church?

We may need to improvise in our theology. Dig deep into Scripture, mining Lamentations, Habbakuk and Revelation for words from God which address calamity and crisis. This is a time for faith like that found in Israel and on Patmos. When human sight suggested evil was present and God was absent, faith obstinately refused to let go of the idea that the God of Israel existed and remained committed to fulfilling covenant and promise.

Speaking of improvising in difficult circumstances, and keeping faith in God during dark days, the photo below is of a funeral held yesterday for Janet Baskill, member of the Parish of Woolston and former NZ Church Missionary Society missionary. (To be clear: Janet died before the earthquake).

My father, Bishop Brian Carrell reports: "The funeral of Janet Baskill was held this morning in Woolston. In that part of the city there is now no undamaged St John's Church available, no electricity supply for an amplifier, no facilities for printing off orders of service, no water or heating for a cuppa afterwards, no toilets for mourners. So improvisations are the back patio of Jan's own house, a guitar, hymns from memory, led by Revd Mike Hawke, along with apologies for no refreshments and indication of a space behind a bush behind the garage for those desperately 'caught'. So the service proceeded, with a swarm of Janet's friends and CMS supporters and former missionaries of her generation in attendance, standing or seated on picnic stools they had brought. A moving occasion, as all present had arrived there with some measure of difficulty and deep awareness of the dark shadow hanging over most of the city."

Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying, especially for Bishop Victoria Matthews and other church leaders as they improvise ways forward.

Anglican Taonga now has Lloyd Ashton and Brian Thomas reporting regularly on events and church developments as they unfold.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The city I love will never be seen by my grandchildren

The title of this post picks up on a remark by Phil Goff, the Leader of the Opposition, summing up what he has seen of destruction in Christchurch. Older buildings including Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches bearing the history of the city will be demolished and buried as landfill. (Can the cathedrals avoid this end? I think it a reasonable presumption to make that Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders will do all in their power to save their cathedrals, but even a 'layperson' (re engineering) such as myself can imagine that beyond external damage to the cathedrals (see link below) must lie massive internal damage to the remainder of these buildings not seen in photographs.)

Christchurch is the city of my birth and about half my upbringing from birth to adulthood. It is an amazing 'new world' city whose history bears the heritage of Europe while offering a modern, efficient place for people to live near to sea, mountains, rivers, and parks. Its climate is challenging, capable of bitter cold and immense heat generated by hot winds beginning in the Australian outback. Its culture has generated some of the great discoveries in knowledge (think Ernest Rutherford) and produced some of the greatest sportspeople New Zealand has been blessed to take onto the world stage, especially in cricket and rugby.

But that city will never be the same again. It was going to be different after 4 September 2010, but many landmarks stood tall, if damaged, after that large quake. Now many of those landmarks will go. We will have no money and little will to rebuild with replicas. Our grandchildren will not see the city my grandparents knew so well.

NZ Herald has two sites with excellent sets of photos. This one has 'before' and 'after' comparisons, including the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and Knox Presbyterian church. This one has fifty photos, some of which include destroyed churches. (Locals may know better than me, but one without specific caption seems to be Durham Street Methodist, badly damaged in September, and now completely flattened).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prayers for Christchurch Appreciated

Your prayers for the people of Christchurch are appreciated - special thanks to those who commented that they are praying via comments on other posts below. I and my family are safe, with house habitable with power, but, like most of Christchurch, without water. Many photos accessible via Stuff and other news services.

I include one below, of our Anglican cathedral, which is in the centre of our city, a treasured icon for believers and non-believers.

Many more churches have been affected (some mercifully propelling them from insurers' belief they could be repaired at huge expense after the 4 September 2010 quake damaged them), including churches that will never appear in the news reports because neither historic nor iconic.

Many families are in grief, many more will be simply traumatised, and some reports are emerging of a new set of homeless people in our city.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Improving the Jerusalem Declaration? (2)

Yesterday I began a series of posts on the Jerusalem Declaration with a view to pointing out where it needs improving. My starting point, which I was not especially clear about, was a previous post of an excerpt from a recent ACI essay by Philip Turner in which he points out that the Jerusalem Declaration falls short of being an adequate basis for unity among those Anglican churches seeking a renewal of the Communion distinct from the liberal and progressive theologies being dissented from by absenteeing bishops and primates, and (so the argument goes) a better basis than the Covenant itself.

As I understand the arguments in favour of the Jerusalem Declaration they (1) occasionally go like this, 'The Communion should unite around the JD' (which is nuts really, because the tenor of the actual words used in the JD is way too 'conservative evangelical' for the whole of the Communion to gather around them, but (2) more often go like this 'The JD is a totally fine theological document around which Anglicans should be able to unite, but even if it's only conservative evangelical and catholic Anglicans who unite around it (as per the continuing GAFCON movement (assured) and Global South (hoped for), that would be a good thing in the long run (other forms of Anglicanism likely to wither on the vine).'

My point in these posts is that the JD has flaws. They are flaws such that not even (2) above is possible (unless a whole lot of people close their eyes to the flaws ... which does seem a possibility!). In short, the JD is not fit for purpose(s). It is a kind of naivety on my part to speak of 'improving' it, as the kind of document required for the purpose in mind likely needs composing from scratch.

Doug Chaplin at Clayboy has now posted three analyses of the JD and I urge you to read them (and responding comments). Here, here, and here. (I do not agree with Doug on one major criticism he brings, namely to the word 'obeyed' in clause 2. In my experience Anglicans of all shades and stripes happily obey the Bible and use the language of obedience to talk about their actions ('as our Lord has commanded us, we pray ...', 'The two commandments are all we need to live by,'We regularly celebrate eucharist because Jesus said "Do this",').

For myself, today I want to move from yesterday's attempt to embolden the bits of the JD which are uncontroversial (more or less, that is with a little rephrasing here and there, most Anglicans in most places would agree with the emboldened words) to italicise those words which any amount of rephrasing is unlikely to secure wide global Anglican agreement. To these words there would be disagreement, dispute, or deafening clamour to provide something vastly improved if not expanded in order to be widely acceptable. Here goes ...

"In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

1.We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

2.We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

3.We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4.We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

5.We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6.We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

7.We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

8.We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

9.We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

10.We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

11.We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

12.We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

13.We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

14.We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."

There are many issues involved in the italicised words. A few of which may involve a more or less simple binary opposition between 'conservative' and 'liberal' groupings in the global Anglican community (e.g. clause 8).

But some issues are issues within the conservative community of Anglicans, especially when we note that the originators of the JD and the continuing promoters of it are conservative evangelical AND catholic Anglicans: are all agreed on the role and significance of the first Four Ecumenical Councils? Are all agreed on ALL 39 Articles as expressing true doctrine AND being authoritative today? Is there really unity around the 1662 BCP as the true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer?

Typically evanglicals have looked in askance at the authority of councils and catholics have looked in askance at the 1662 BCP being satisfactory! Then there are debates over the validity and applicability of all 39 Articles ... (Personally I am a fan of the 39A, the 1662 BCP, and the importance of the Ecumencial Councils, but none of these things is inerrant).

None of these kinds of matters are resolved by blithely touting the JD 'as is' as fit for the purpose of uniting Anglicans, even as distinct a group as 'conservatives.'

There are other problems (as Doug Chaplin is pointing out in the posts linked to above). 'Biblical' is now a vacuous word needing huge definitional circumscribing, because it is easily pointed out that when we claim to be 'biblical' we are selectively biblical; and when we claim that others are 'not biblical' they are biblical in their own way (e.g. Roman Catholics can easily claim to be 'biblical' in their understanding of eucharist by asserting that they take the plain words of Jesus at the Last Supper seriously, "This is my body," etc).

'plain and canonical sense' begs a number of questions about interpretation of the Bible which, unfortunately, are not easily resolved by a rewrite of a short clause. (I actually aim to read the Bible plainly and with its canonical sense in mind, respectful of the church's historic and consensual meaning, but I also know that justifying this approach requires more words than available in the JD as it currently stands).

I suggest however that these difficulties with the JD are minor relative to its greatest problem. More tomorrow (though Doug Chaplin may beat me to it)!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Improving the Jerusalem Declaration? (1)

With a conference and a house shift coming up this week, posts will be lite! So here is a plan: a little work on the Jerusalem Declaration (following on from yesterday's post). Today's work is to cite it and to embolden the parts I suggest pose no problems at all for most Anglicans most places. (Parts not emboldened might be disputed or doubted or denied, or require explanation (e.g. what is a 'plain' reading of Scripture?).

"In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

1.We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

2.We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

3.We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4.We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

5.We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6.We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

7.We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

8.We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

9.We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

10.We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

11.We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

12.We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

13.We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

14.We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More brilliance from the ACI

They may be legends in their own lifetime, the gang of four, self-appointed, with laptop, taking on the future of the Communion, to the chagrin of many critics, but they are brilliant. Is anyone else on the internet consistently turning out the quality of essays the Anglican Communion Institutes fellows have been publishing for years now? Remember, as you launch into the 'usual' criticism of the ACI, they are driven by a vision for the unity of the Communion. I am not always convinced myself that their critics share their vision with the same passionate commitment.

For some time now they have been saying the Communion is likely to fragment, and nothing has proven them wrong to date. Where they have been wrong is to have hoped that the future of the Communion would evolve through sticking to the Windsor recipe. That is not now happening.

Thus Philip Turner, writing at ACI, turns his attention to the next challenge in the reality of post Primates' Meeting global Anglicanism, whether the absentee primates represent an Anglicanism which is or can be united in working towards a renewed vision of a large global Communion. Critics of the ACI may be advised to read the whole essay carefully as what is written is no Hallelujah chorus celebrating the future of Global South and GAFCON. Rather Turner is something of a Jeremiah, somewhat gloomy about the prospects. Here is an excerpt:

'How can those in dissent provide such an alternative? From the outside I can only say that, as I have observed events over the past few years, the objections of the course TEC is taking are clear enough, but I have not seen an equally forceful account of either the Christian Gospel or the nature and mission of the church. We are all involved in a church struggle that cannot be won simply by saying no. A yes must be spoken for a more powerful account of Christian belief, practice and order if this church struggle is to issue in the restoration of communion rather than the ratification of “different integrities.”

Anglicans who opposed the actions of TEC from both above and below the equator have not done this work. The theological position of TEC and its supporters does not go beyond a commitment to inclusion that they share with citizens of liberal democracies throughout the world. Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy. This is rather thin gruel, but those in dissent have not taken the invitation of those who wrote the Windsor Report to go more deeply into the vision of unity found in Ephesians and Corinthians. They have not placed their distress with the way things are within a view of God’s providence and his will for the church and the world to be found in Holy Scripture. It appears that the dissidents from both north and south of the equator have decided to play the game on terms set by the liberal leadership of the Instruments. They have rightly resisted the change in moral practice TEC has undertaken, but they have neither exposed the shallow nature of the theology behind these changes nor proposed a more robust alternative.

I have no doubt that an objection to what I have said will be lodged at this point. Some will say that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has done the necessary work and they will point to the Jerusalem Declaration as evidence that this work has been done. With but two exceptions, I could happily sign the Declaration, but from my perspective it does not exemplify the sort of theological work necessary if the Anglican Communion is to survive as a communion of churches. The Jerusalem Declaration is comprised of fourteen assertions having to do with things its signers hold to be true. The fourteen points are matters in which they “rejoice” or “believe.” They are matters they “uphold,” “proclaim” or “recognize.”

No doubt theological views stand behind these assertions, and many of these views I probably share. Nevertheless, all confessions (this one included) represent theological summaries designed to give a group identity and mark the boundaries of its membership. The theological work I have in mind is rather different. The present crisis has forced upon Anglicans questions the heat of the present struggle has led them to ignore. What do Anglicans mean when they say they belong to a communion of churches? What content do Anglicans give this word? Why did the authors of the Windsor Report use the notion of koinonia both as a way into the most essential of Christian beliefs and as a means of displaying the importance of unity in the church? Were they right to do so; and have they made clear why dissolution of the Anglican Communion might prove an unacceptable loss to the church catholic?'

I share many of these concerns, and applaud Turner for writing them down. The Jerusalem Declaration, for instance, for all its many strengths has significant weaknesses. Those who trumpet it as the future basis for a renewed Communion need to sit down with some really good theologians and do some work on improving it. (In a future post I may delve into the Declaration).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Covenant Study Guide

Betwixt and between today with a garage sale, preparations for moving house soon, and a laptop under serious threat with malfunctioning anti-virus software (long story). So just time between jobs to post a link to the announcement of a study guide to the Covenant, published by the Communion, produced by an IASCUFO working group convened by our own Bishop Victoria Matthews (H/T Ron Smith). I am looking forward to reading the guide which handily is produced before our Christchurch synodical conference discusses the Covenant on Saturday 12th March.

Meantime I am aware of some comments I need to respond to ... duties and distractions permitting. It has been a day of controversies for me with allegations that I undersold items at the garage sale. Perhaps if the pizzas for tea are extra special, redemption will be purchased!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blast from the Past

Reading an article in the Living Church I have been reminded of this definition of the Anglican Communion:

'The Anglican Communion
The Conference approves the following statement of nature and status of the Anglican Communion, as that term is used in its Resolutions:

The Anglican Communion is a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, which have the following characteristics in common:

a.they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorised in their several Churches;

b.they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and

c.they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.

The Conference makes this statement praying for and eagerly awaiting the time when the Churches of the present Anglican Communion will enter into communion with other parts of the Catholic Church not definable as Anglican in the above sense, as a step towards the ultimate reunion of all Christendom in one visibly united fellowship.'

This is Resolution 49 from Lambeth Conference 1930.

Some points of interest here are:

- inclusion of 'dioceses' as part of the Communion. (Yes, I understand that in 1930 this would have been about the Diocese of ex-colony X which is not yet part of a national church, rather than providing for a diocese recently broken away from its national church).

- clear commitment to the autonomy of 'national' churches in which the 'national expression of Christian faith, life and worship' is within the framework of 'the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church' and related to other national expressions by 'mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.'

- framing of the theology of the Communion and its member churches in these terms: 'the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order' as set out in Anglican prayerbooks.

- eager hope for future visible unity in fellowship with all churches.

Eighty-one years later this vision of the Communion is ragged if not in tatters. Consider:

(1) We seem only able to have 'common counsel' when we gather less than the sum of all our bishops together in conference.

(2) 'the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order' seems to be dispensable when it conflicts with some local interest or fashion.

(3) We talk to other churches, have made progress in visible unity with some, but generally have no eagerness to share in visible fellowship if it looks like we would lose control of our church and its autonomy.

(4) The Anglican Communion is not itself united so it becomes a mockery to organise for the Communion itself to engage in talks intended to make progress towards visible unity with other churches (e.g. ARCIC III).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ACANZP Primate on the Bench

'The following Primates were elected as members of the Primates' Standing Committee at the recent Primates' Meeting in Dublin, Ireland and have agreed to serve:


Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Sudan) - alternate Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Burundi)
Central, North, South Americas and the Caribbean

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (The Episcopal Church) - alternate Archbishop John Holder (West Indies)


Bishop David Chillingworth (Scotland) - alternate Archbishop Alan Harper (Ireland)

Middle East and West Asia

Bishop Samuel Azariah (Pakistan) - alternate Bishop Paul Sarker (Bangladesh)

South East Asia and Oceania

Archbishop Paul Kwong (Hong Kong) - alternate Archbishop Winston Halapua (Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia)

Each Primate serves for a period of three years, and thereafter until the next Primates’ Meeting. Also membership ceases when a member ceases to be a Primate.' [From ACNS].

In sporting parlance Archbishop Winston Halapua's election as 'alternate' is like being selected to sit on the bench of a Super XV rugby game ... every chance of some game time!

If my memory serves me correctly, some of this committee then join with some of ACC to form 'the Standing Committee' of the Anglican Communion.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Covenant at centre of centrist domination of Communion?

In trawling around the Angliblogosphere I notice some positive ruminations about the future of the Communion. All could yet be well. That sort of thing. Maybe I was too bleak last week? In my defence I would say that if the future Communion is congenial and coherent at the cost of being smaller in size then the present Communion has unravelled; and if its happier state is at the expense of independency being favoured over interdependency then 'Communion' is the wrong name for what will be a federation of independent churches willing to talk to each other. Part of the positivity is some reassessment of the Covenant's future. Thinking Anglicans has drawn my attention to a Jim Naughton article at The Lead which I had missed. Naughton thinks ++Rowan may be quietly satisfied with progress to date, envisioning a future in which the Covenant sits right at the centre of AngComm life:

'I am wondering if the proposed Anglican Covenant is as dead as many Episcopalians think it is. It seems to me that Rowan Williams is making slow but significant progress toward assembling a notional center that he can then play off against the left (constituted by us, the Brazilians, the Scots and maybe the Welsh) and the right (constituted by Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.)

Consider: The Churches of Mexico, Myanmar and the West Indies have approved the covenant, and the Churches of England and South Africa have embarked on a process that seems almost certain to end in its approval. Mexico and South Africa are two of the provinces that opponents of the covenant within the Episcopal Church hoped might keep us company if we declined to sign up.

The Australians and Canadians are in the midst of processes whose likely outcomes are not clear to me. But both are members of the British Commonwealth, and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia is a leading figure among the Primates, so covenant opponents would be foolish to presume that these two provinces won’t follow where Canterbury leads.'

The analysis and prognostications continue till Naughton reaches ACANZP:

'Which brings me to New Zealand. At the moment that province has ratified the first three sections of the document, but not the disciplinary fourth section. Maybe they will leave it at that. Is that an approach our church [TEC] could be comfortable with?'

In the comments responding to the post the 'NZ option' for TEC is canvassed back and forth.

As a matter of fact I am not sure that what we have done thus far is to 'ratify' the first three sections. I think we have said at General Synod that we have no objections to the first three sections, and look forward to further discussion in the dioceses confirming that assessment or otherwise, as well as discussion of the Covenant as a whole with a view to the whole church endorsing the Covenant or not via General Synod 2012. On the fourth section we have sought a legal opinion about an aspect of it - about its constitutional propriety re the ACC. As an observer of these things I do not care to offer an opinion on whether that concern re S4 is such that a good legal opinion being received we will then proceed to endorse the whole Covenant or such that it is effectively a holding action which allows us, for the time being, to have a bob each way. If the wave across the Communion is to endorse the Covenant then we will (after all we were almost there ourselves) and if not then we won't (our concern has been justified)!

What could be interesting for our church is Naughton's thesis that the centre is, so to speak, marshalling its forces, quietly forwarding the Covenant as the key to a balanced Communion. Despite what some say about our church being a fellow traveller on the left with TEC, we are heterogeneous, composed of progressives and conservatives, TECophiles and CofEophiles, those who feel GAFCON is the future and those preferring Global South's lead, some who would happily not the sign the Covenant when everyone else is and some who would vigorously demand that we go along with whatever the remainder of the Anglcian family thinks best, etc. I think that when push came to shove, if (say) Australia and England sign to the Covenant, that would weigh more influentially in our minds that (say) TEC not signing. Further, if (say) Nigeria and Uganda don't sign, I suggest arguments against S4 because it is 'punitive' would be undermined. Who would be driving the punishment forward?

In short: if the Covenant is the centrepiece of a centrist drive to build the future of the Communion (whatever size it is), then it may be hard for ACANZP to resist a gentle wave of peer pressure to endorse it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I like these

Several posts have caught my eye.

At catholicity and covenant there is report with comment on an ordinariate for Roman Catholic priests coming over the Thames to the Anglican church (in this case of Peru). In the course of commenting the writer gives this definition of being Anglican:

'a way of being catholic apart from the juridicial form of Canon Law practised in the Roman Communion.'

It is a pleasure again on this blog to be able to cite Ruth Gledhill's work, now freed from behind a dictatorial paywall. Here she reports the Primate of Burundi (who did go the Primates' Meeting) chiding (in love) his fellow African primates:

"Archbishop of Burundi Bernard Ntahoturi, whose troubled country is one of the poorest in the world and where violence and human rights violations are a constant threat but where the UN presence is being downgraded, said: 'The Anglican Communion is our communion. We have a share, we have a place in that communion.... The Anglican Church of Burundi recognises there are problems in the Communion. The Communion is a family. When children disagree on certain issues, you do not separate. You meet and discuss those issues together.' "

In case recent readers here misunderstand a line I have been following: my first preference re the Primates' Meeting is that all showed up and talked; but when they didn't all show up, my second preference was that the shower uppers addressed the situation highlighted by the absentees.

Then, tackling some problems infiltrating at least a corner of the mind of the Communion, my colleague here in NZ, Tim Harris, Dean of Bishopdale Theological College, has continued his series of posts on headship and eternal subordinationism at Hikanos. The two most recent posts make some important points about how we understand 'obedience' within the Trinity.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stop global warming, read ARCIC III report here

The Primates' Meeting is concerned about global warming so what better practical Anglican contribution to cooling the planet than to cut down on jet plane travel?

I am glad you agree with me so far. How about we write the ARCIC III report now so that the group doesn't have to meet (except in our imagination)?

I am sure you will also agree with me that, in writing the report, we can be mature people who do not need to waste words on the 'usual stuff' like 'We really enjoyed meeting with each other and we learned so much about each other's churches, and although we didn't actually share the eucharist/mass together we had an experience which was, in a truly profound sense of the word, 'communion.'

You would probably agree with me that if we were to write the 'usual stuff' it would be a nice change if we added words like, 'and for the life of us we don't really understand why we cannot share eucharist/mass together.'

But on this occasion we will be succinct and get down to the heart of the matter in an easy to read report which really communicates joint Anglican-Roman understanding of the matter at hand.

That matter, the topic of the next ARCIC is this: Church as Communion  - Local and Universal.

Report on ARCIC III: Church as Communion - Local and Universal

'It's difficult.'

[End of report].

Not only jet fuel saved, but words also!

Anglican Down Under can exclusively reveal that the Anglicans really wanted to say, 'It's impossible' and the Romans wanted to say 'It's possible if you agree with us.' But 'It's difficult' seemed a reasonable compromise.

We can also reveal that two key contributions in discussion were these:

Romans: 'We do not understand why we are discussing this topic with you because you seem to have no idea how to run a communion.'

Anglicans: 'After the recent Primates Meeting which went much better when people in agreement with each other met together, we understand you Romans better: communion works best when there is a common mind.'

Incidentally the combined group got a bit peeved with one of the Anglicans who kept muttering 'the Communion is not a church, the Communion is not a church.' The Romans said he was wrong, and the other Anglicans said he was right but this was not the right time or place to state the obvious.

Finally, it has been reported that a protester disrupted the meeting shouting out 'We are a communion of independent churches. Why aren't there representatives from all 38 churches?' Obviously an Anglican with new fangled ideas. Why can't a group of nine plus a consultant represent the mind of the Communion?

Still all this perturbation underlines the truth of the report's substantial statement on communion!

Go to your local betting agency now and place a bet on the ARCIC III report amounting to no more than 'It's difficult.'

CODA: ARCIC III will also look at this question: How in communion the Local and Universal Church comes to discern right ethical teaching.

In this case ADU is not privy to the Roman contribution to discussion but can share the Anglican contribution: 'We tried and failed.'

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Praying for Egypt

Let's continue to pray for Egypt. Amazing political change has been secured by the most moving of democratic expressions, the peaceful uprising of protestors en masse. But some reports out of Egypt, from beyond Tahrir Square, tell of civil distress elsewhere in the city as people have looted homes and terrorised fellow citizens. Many questions now arise about the future. Will freedom now lead to true democracy later, including unfettered freedom to worship for the Christian minority?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

ACNA Encouraged By English Synod a year ago ... any update?

This item originally referred to an article published in the Church News Ireland and, on further investigation, and with thanks to commenters below, it appears to be an erroneous republication of last year's news about a motion which was agreed to by the C of E GS - erroneous, that is, to the extent that it implies a newly agreed resolution this week. So (with some italicised changes) I am recasting the post!]

This blog has long argued that ACNA should be recognised as a full Anglican church with membership of the Anglican Communion. It is good therefore to read this resolution of the General Synod of the Church of England as reposted in an article this week which erroneously gives the impression it has been discussed again by the English Synod:

“That this Synod aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America, recognize and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican church in North America (ACNA) to remain within the Anglican family; acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.”

The republished report about this is very upbeat. Read it here. But the resolution is the thing, not the upbeat (not least because it is not quite the 'recognition' some think it is). I think it keeps the pot boiling on recognising that the situation in North America is such that it warrants an unusual-by-church-history-standards' arrangement in which those Anglicans adhering to traditional teaching of the universal church at least have the choice of belonging to a church where they have confidence that teaching will not be constantly challenged.

It would be very interesting to see what positive effect it might have on Communion relationships if (1) TEC and ACCan would recognise ACNA (2) ACNA would cease rhetoric about displacing those two churches (3) Property issues were resolved (4) ACNA becomes a member church of the Communion. Might that be sufficient compromise to see Nigeria, Uganda and co back at the table?

Consequently it is intriguing to recall this resolution and to wonder aloud where the C of E investigations are going re ACNA and what report will be made back to the (presumably) July session of the Synod.

UPDATE: Thinking Anglicans now carries a report from General Synod (C of E) on Lorna Ashworth's enquiry into the fate of her question. Read here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Making up the rules as they go along

Sharp as usual, George Conger presents another seeming folly emanating from the ACO. This time concerning an American who is not an American who has been appointed to ARCIC. Why does Canon Kearon make these proposals and why does ++Rowan agree to them? How do those Americans recently demoted on other commissions feel? Conservatives are not happy, as Conger reports, pointing out an intriguing contradiction in Communion polity. But The Lead is scarcely chirpy about it. Hey, but didn't the Primates' Meeting last week (much lauded by my critics) devolve even more power to the ABC and the ACO? Remember: we get the Communion we deserve.

This ARCIC is in the hands of a good man as chair. None other than Down Under's own Archbishop David Moxon. There are few troubled waters ++David cannot smooth. (The full team is here).

Even ++David, however, will be hard pressed to explain to his Roman counterpart what the topic of this ARCIC, 'The Church as Communion - Local and Universal,' means to Anglicans today. We are not a universal communion. We are forbidding the meetings that might make decisions from making decisions about our communion being renewed. And in ++David's own patch, there is little 'local communion' occurring between tikanga.

I would love to be a fly on the wall of the meeting when one of the Anglicans explains to the Romans how the absenting bishops and primates from recent Communion meetings have absented themselves because they hold views which have more in common with Roman doctrine than with the views held by some Anglican bishops. That is, there is more in common between Rome and the protesting bishops than between Rome and the presenting bishops!

The good thing, then, is that ARCIC might help us Anglicans to engage in some common sense reflection on the state of our communion together, both universally and locally!

Discerning Anglican realities

Philip Turner responding to one analysis of the Primates' Meeting argues that it's time to get real. I agree.

Bryan Owen draws attention to the reality of Anglicanism's hesitancy to engage with conflict and heterodoxy with a view to determining a judgement on the matter at hand. Will we ever change?

Tim Harris is beginning a series tackling the tendency to make one's views on "headship" or "eternal subordinationism" markers of evangelical identity. If this tendency makes headway in the Anglican church (and arguably it is in sections of the Australian and English Anglican churches) then it will be a reality with an extraordinary grip on some Anglican minds.

Joshua Bovis draws attention to a post by leading Sydney Anglican theologian Michael Jensen on lay administration of the eucharist. Joshua diplomatically says it is an interesting post. You can read the argument Michael Jensen lays out here in favour of lay administration (in the context of the Diocese of Sydney) but also arguing 'not yet' for the sake of other Anglicans around the world. Joshua himself has one of the best comments. It seems unreal in this Jensen post, and most comments on it, to have little or no understanding of Anglican distinctives (in this case, we order our eucharistic presidency this way and not another way which belongs to the ways distinctive of other churches).

Via Ron Smith's post on the debate at the currently happening session of the C of E's General Synod on the ARCIC report on Mary, I learn that the next ARCIC round will be on 'The Church as Communion - Local and Universal.' The disconnect between what I imagine Anglican members of ARCIC will say and the reality of our lack of universal communion is going to be huge. If I were Benedict XVI I would put the conversation on hold until the next time we have a Lambeth Conference or Primates' Meeting with all present and participating!

Finally, the reality of truth is that it will always find away to make itself known. In human history we have discovered that neither the Soviets nor the Nazis could suppress the truth. In the end the Berlin Wall came down. A few days ago I discovered that another draconian measure has now failed to suppress the truth. A wall has been breeched. You cannot keep a good woman down! Yes, Ruth Gledhill's blogs have found a way through Rupert's paywall at the Times. They can be read here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Anglican Covenant's future

After the change to the life of the Communion marked and underlined by last week's Primates' Meeting, it could be fantasy to think the Anglican Covenant now has a future, other than as a piece of paper read by fewer and fewer people and signed up to by even fewer member churches (three to date). But as the days have gone by I have been thinking that the Covenant has a future, and that future could be along two lines (or more).

Future number one is tenuous, but worth noting. If the Communion is melting down as well as unravelling, as messily as a bunch of mixed metaphors in the same sentence, then the Covenant immediately is irrelevant. On this scenario the messiness of the Communion's life gets worse and worse, but such messiness can come to an end. At some point in chaos people quest again for order. In a couple of decades' time, or maybe it will be five decades' time, Anglicans around the globe could get serious about living into an interdependent fellowship with mutual accountability. The Covenant will be sitting on a shelf ready to serve the purpose of putting in writing the nature of that new Anglican Communion.

Future two is realistic when we note the following current conditions: some member churches have signed it; despite the breaking up of the Communion re important meetings, no one (as we are constantly reminded) has any intention of resigning formal membership of the Communion; alternative networks of Anglican churches already exist (e.g. GAFCON, Global South). I suggest it is possible that the Covenant will commend itself to more than three member churches in the next few years as a document marking the aspirations of Anglicans open to both writing down what we believe as well as setting in motion a process of mutual accountability. As Communion life unravels but (on this scenario) does not become completely chaotic, groupings around shared common values may mean that member churches not drawn towards GAFCON or Global South and also not satisfied with 'independency' gather together around the Covenant as a basis for working together 'interdependently.'

Note in respect of the above paragraph that, just as GAFCON and Global South are not mutually exclusive Anglican networks, an Anglican Covenant network could overlap with those member churches whose bishops and primates continue to be willing to meet together at Lambeth Conferences and Primates' Meetings.

In an attempt to be clear, what I am not saying here is the following: I am not arguing that the Covenant, post last week's meeting, remains a key strategy for future restoration of Communion life. Not at all. (Also: before last week's meeting the Covenant was not going to 'fix' anything (that would require a prior willingness on the part of member churches to 'fix' things); after last week's meeting it absolutely will not 'fix' anything wrong with the Communion).

What I am suggesting here, as possible 'future two' for the Covenant, is that it offers a means by which some member churches in the Communion can express their commitment to a vision of global Anglican life as being marked by interdependency and mutual accountability. Whether the member churches signing up to the Covenant remains at three, increases to (say) ten or twenty is something I do not care to predict. I am willing to predict that all 38 member churches will not sign up to the Covenant within the next five years!

In short: I think the Covenant has a future in global Anglican life. But I am not quite sure what that future is.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

There is no equilibrium between unity and diversity

Many years ago an older Christian said to me that in our commitment to Christ we are either going forwards or backwards. There is no standing still. I have a hypothesis that something similar is the case in respect of unity and diversity (or, if you will 'unity-and-diversity'): there is no equilibrium (this side of Glory) between unity and diversity. We are either becoming more unified or more diversified.

You can probably guess where I am going with this. Global Anglicanism is definitely on a pathway of increasing diversity (and its converse, decreasing unity). Over the past decades, just when we might have sought to stem the tide of diversity, we have habitually refused from doing so (the recent Primates' Meeting being the latest refusal).

If we think of global Anglicanism as a wheel, then in recent decades everything has moved away from the axle to the rim. Unsurprisingly, as the wheel has spun faster, somethings have fallen off: congregations and even dioceses have come off the Anglican wheel, bishops and even primates have spun off.

Over time we may find a natural reverse occurring (I hope we do), a yearning for unity which leads to action rather than inaction towards finding our common mind in Christ. But I am guessing that for a long time to come, perhaps for ever, we will see no lessening of the penchant for diversity. The key word defining Anglican churches in relation to each other is and will be 'independent', unmodified by qualifying phrases about 'common faith and practice'.

In terms of the aspirations of this blog - looking for signs of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church among Christians identifying themselves as Anglican - things will be forlorn. We are not one (either institutionally or organically), if we are 'holy' then a whole lot of other Christians are marching to a different understanding of holiness, 'catholic' is questionable as a descriptor of any Anglican entity claiming global connectedness between Anglican Christians, and as for 'apostolic', well, we argue furiously with each other about the content of apostolic teaching relevant for today as foundation and definition of whatever passes for shared theology among Anglicans, and we have varied approaches to understanding the ways in which we are (or are not) in continuity with the ancient apostolic church.

Whether God is bothered to save us from ourselves, I do not know.

What I do know is that there is no Christian body dominated by liberal or progressive theology which has flourished. (NZ readers might like to ask themselves about the non-existence of the NCC-become-CCANZ here). If (as I suspect) the recent Primates' Meeting represents a decisive step in which the entity known as the Anglican Communion has yielded itself to domination by liberal or progressive theology (i.e. rather than ensuring a balanced theology in lively tension between liberalism and conservatism), then there is no reason to think that anything other than decline awaits that entity - measured both by decreasing numbers being represented by those who meet in the name of the Communion, and by further fragmentation of the common life of those who continue to meet.

For those peeling off from the entity known as the Anglican Communion (i.e. peeling off from the actuality of Communion meetings, I acknowledge that no member churches have formally left the institution), the future is not necessarily less bleak. History suggests that those disengaging from a liberal or progessive Christian institution likely themselves will further divide; and there are signs in North America that unity is hard to find among those who have left TEC and ACCan.

I remain ever hopeful that the church of God, represented in churches of many names throughout the world, will flourish. Whether global Anglicanism will flourish as a once, holy, catholic, apostolic communion is unknown to me!

But there are worse problems being faced by Christians. Pray for the Coptic Church!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If the Primates Do Not Understand the Problem ...

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, has returned to Scotland and written a reflection on the Primates' Meeting. Thus we read:

"As the statements make clear, the Meeting spent much time clarifying the role of the Primates’ Meeting as one of the Instruments of Communion. It should not be a place where decisions are made for the Communion or for Provinces. It was clear that most of us come – as I do – from Provinces where decision-making is collegial and consultative within our autonomous provincial structure.

So when our College of Bishops meets next week, my colleagues will not expect me to bring back a series of decisions for implementation. But they will want me to share with them the best account I can give of how other Provinces are dealing with the same problems as we face. That won’t just be an account of how far-off places are doing – because through the Instruments of Communion we expect to respond to the feelings and the difficulties of other Provinces. As they respond to us. That’s what it means to be a Communion."

I suggest that lovely though this sounds (We meet. We share. We care. We learn.) it begs a number of questions about being Anglican in a global communion.

(1) The Communion is an organisation. It has governance needs irrespective of whether the Communion itself should or should not govern individual member churches. Where does governance of the Communion as an organisation take place? With the Lambeth Conference becoming non-resolving, and the Primates' Meeting becoming disinterested in the Communion itself (though not becoming non-resolving, because willing to resolve about global warming etc), the governance of the Communion - as being observed by people other than myself - is increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer people. In the case at hand, the Primates' Meeting, when one lot of primates will not sit down at even the table of discussion with another lot of primates, when do the reasons for that impairment of communion get addressed, let alone possible solutions become aired?

(2) Why spend funds on primates meeting together if the main return from doing so is hearing how similar problems in other parts of the world are faced? Other parts of the world are different so, by definition, it is highly likely that the solutions to those problems are interesting but not applicable elsewhere. Why not spend the funds closer to home? In New Zealand, for example, we Anglicans have problems around aging congregations, declining attendances, and shortages in ministry personpower. Should we pay for our primate to fly to Dublin or request that he meets with other church leaders in our land to see how their local solutions are working out because they are likely to be applicable in our context?

(3) But, it might be claimed, in response to (2), it means something to meet as Anglicans. We have things in common which bind us together. Also it means something to be a global community of Anglicans, so it means something to have representative meetings of the churches of that global Anglican community. But that line of thinking begs the question of what we do when we also realise the things we do not have in common as Anglicans. At which meeting do differences between Anglicans get addressed? Who works on the possibility that either these differences can be resolved (thus strengthening both our unity and our understanding of the extent of our common faith) or they cannot be resolved (thus opening up the question of not being what we think we are, a single global community of Anglicans, and the further question of what that might mean in terms of future meetings).

The Primates' Meeting could have given a lead on what it means to be Anglican at this time. It could have spoken about how these important representatives of Anglican churches saw the future of the Communion. It could have opened up the pain of our divisions and made some honest assessment of what these divisions mean for the global Anglican community.

The Meeting could have done all the above without  making one decision that needed implementing by individual member churches when the primates returned home.

Essentially the Primates' Meeting has deluded itself that because it has no power to make decisions affecting the internal life of member churches, it has no power at all. It could have considerable power in respect of the life of the Communion as a global community: the power of influence, the power of vision, the power of stating problems and the power of proposing solutions for consideration.

That the Primates' Meeting used its power to make statements about a number of problems in the world and denied itself the power to make any statements about problems in the Communion is absurd.

Actions have consequences. In this case non-actions also have consequences. The Communion is becoming something other than a communion with every passing meeting because it is refusing to reflect on the reality of the impoverishment of its common life, let alone on the depth of its divisions. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Global Forum of Independent Anglican Churches

I am aware that there is an argument that the member of churches of the Communion have always been 'independent churches.' My proposal that, in the light of the Primates' Meeting in Dublin, we (i.e. the Anglican Minority Communion) would now be better named the Global Forum of Independent Anglican Churches involves an observation that the reminder of independency in the Primus of Scotland's words (see post below) was not accompanied by the statement of being a fellowship with a determination to seek the common good of the Communion as a whole.

Independency rather than interdependency was identified by no less a figure than Robert Runcie as implying gradual fragmentation:

"But we have reached the stage in the growth of the Communion when we must begin to make radical choices, or growth will imperceptibly turn to decay. I believe the choice between independence and interdependence, already set before us as a Communion in embryo twenty-five years ago, is quite simply the choice between unity or gradual fragmentation." [Cited S66, Windsor report; R Runcie, Opening Address, reproduced in The Truth Shall Make You Free, The Lambeth Conference 1988, CHP (1988), p.16.]
On the matter of 'autonomy' versus 'independence' these words in the Windsor Report are worth pondering:
"75. The word ‘autonomy’ represents within Anglican discourse a far more limited form of independent government than is popularly understood by many today. Literally, ‘autonomous’ means ‘having one’s own laws’ (auto - self, nomos - law), and the autonomy of a body or institution means “[t]he right of selfgovernment, of making its own laws and administering its own affairs”. In the secular world it is well settled that ‘autonomic’ laws are those created by a body or persons within the community on which has been conferred subordinate and restricted legislative power. Autonomy, therefore, is not the same thing as sovereignty or independence; it more closely resembles the orthodox polity of ‘autocephaly’, which denotes autonomy in communion.

76. A body is thus, in this sense, ‘autonomous’ only in relation to others: autonomy exists in a relation with a wider community or system of which the autonomous entity forms part. The word ‘autonomous’ in this sense actually implies not an isolated individualism, but the idea of being free to determine one’s own life within a wider obligation to others. The key idea is autonomy-in-communion, that is, freedom held within interdependence. The autonomy of each Anglican province therefore implies that the church lives in relation to, and exercises its autonomy most fully in the context of, the global Communion. This idea of autonomy-in-relation is clearly implicit in the laws of some churches: for instance, South East Asia describes itself as “a fully autonomous part of the Anglican Communion”.

77. As the right to self-government, autonomy is a form of limited authority. Ordinarily, an autonomous body (unlike a sovereign body) is capable only of making decisions for itself in relation to its own affairs at its own level. Autonomy, then, is linked to subsidiarity (see paragraphs 38-39, 83, 94-95).

78. Understood in this way, each autonomous church has the unfettered right to order and regulate its own local affairs, through its own system of government and law. Each such church is free from direct control by any decision of any ecclesiastical body external to itself in relation to its exclusively internal affairs (unless that external decision is authorised under, or incorporated in, its own law).

79. However, some affairs treated within and by a church may have a dual character: they may be of internal (domestic) and external (common) concern. Autonomy includes the right of a church to make decisions in those of its affairs which also touch the wider external community of which it forms part, which are also the affairs of others, provided those internal decisions are fully compatible with the interests, standards, unity and good order of the wider community of which the autonomous body forms part. If they are not so compatible, whilst there may be no question about their legal validity, they will impose strains not only upon that church’s wider relationship with other churches, but on that church’s inner self-understanding as part of “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” in relation to some of its own members.

80. In our view, therefore, ‘autonomy’ thus denotes not unlimited freedom but what we might call freedom-in-relation, so it is subject to limits generated by the commitments of communion. Consequently, the very nature of autonomy itself obliges each church to have regard to the common good of the global Anglican community and the Church universal."

Of course the Primus of Scotland might wish to say, after reflection, that he spoke hastily, and what he really meant to say was not that the AC is a 'communion of independent churches' but a 'communion of autonomous churches having regard for the common good of the Communion.' But then he did not say that, and what he said followed a meeting in which the Primates Meeting decided it would no longer seek to offer a lead in Communion affairs as an Instrument of Unity. When we remember that Lambeth 2008 as constituted on the basis that it would make no resolutions, the AC looks very much like an entity which has evolved in rapid time from a 'communion' into a 'global forum', a series of meetings to talk about things without intent or pretence to make resolutions directing the common good of the Communion as a whole.

Put another way: where now in the life of the Communion exists the possibility of the Communion challenging any decision made by any of its member churches? One answer could be the ACC. But this body has a reluctance to do such things. In short, there is nothing in the Communion which is likely to lead the Communion to reject independency in favour of interdependency, or to commend autonomy (in terms of the Windsor paragraphs cited above) as the more accurate desciption of our ecclesiology than independency.

When we named ourselves the 'Anglican Communion' we named ourselves as much for our potential as for our existent reality: we were becoming a communion, our bonds of affection were deepening from meeting to meeting. But sooner or later we were likely to meet a test of that becoming, of those bonds. Would we pass the test in a manner which deepened our communion or impaired it, which developed interdependency or revealed independency?

While some lament that sexuality has been that test ... as though some preordained mandate means it should have been, say, the Trinity or the Incarnation ... the fact is sexuality is not an insignificant test case. One might expect a communion of Christians to have among their common doctrines, a common doctrine of marriage. (In 1 Corinthians, that great apostolic epistle on communion, marriage is one of those doctrines expounded by Paul). Further, sexuality and marriage are among those matters of human life on which Jews and Christians believe with some fervour that God has revealed through Scripture how we should live (i.e. differently to surrounding nations and kingdoms). So also the test has been about a common understanding of Scripture.

From Lambeth 1998 to Lambeth 2008, from the highpoint of a Communion proposing a common mind (the Windsor Report, which has been the basis for Primates' Meetings concluding statements since 2004) to the Primates' Meeting 2011, we have seen a hardening resolve to respond to the test issue in favour of independency rather than interdependency, and of 'independency' as accurate descriptor rather than 'autonomy.' So communion is impaired if not broken; certainly not deepened across the whole global network of Anglicans; and the bonds of affection have express limits: affection for each other will be shown, but no bonds will bind against independency. Conversation not Covenant is the key to the future of this part of the former Anglican Communion.

The irony of the recent Primates' Meeting is that it could come to a common mind on two things. One, determining that it would move away from any sense that it is mandated to challenge independency. Two, speaking to any kind of issue outside the internal life of the Communion itself. Extraordinary!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Confusion and Conversation: the AC = GFIAC post 2011

Here is the Primus of Scotland on the Anglican Communion:

a "communion of independent churches"

Here is the Primate of The Episcopal Church on the Anglican Communion:

"Conversations can be difficult with anyone. If we're not willing to continue in conversation, there's not much opportunity for healing or reconciling. We need to come to the table," she said. "I certainly hope and pray that my brothers who've stayed away can find it in their hearts at some point to come back to the table."

No. It just will not do. A 'communion' is a fellowship, a joining together of members of the body of Christ. It is a body of interdependent members. It is a confusion (at best), maybe an absurdity or worse, to speak of a 'communion of independent churches.' But we thank the Primus for honesty. No more of that Windsor nonsense about interdependency. Thanks Windsor for the interesting detour, but no thanks. We are the 'communion of independent churches.'

Again, thanks for honesty to ++Jefferts Schori, the key to this new confused-about-communion, clear-about-independency body is 'conversation.' That is all that matters. Agreement, not needed. Intention to find agreement, not required. Conversation is all.

So here is the thing. Could ++Rowan and Kenneth Kearon and co please face facts, talk honestly, and be bold: rename this thing called 'the Anglican Communion.' It is now a fiction. Here is my suggestion:

Global Forum of Independent Anglican Churches (GFIAC).

And ditch the Covenant from this body. Replace it with 'the Anglican Conversation.'

Simple. Effective. Honest.

Then, maybe, some of us, committed to the Covenant and all, could rebuild a true Anglican Communion of Anglicans engaged with each other interdependently.


(Yeah, I know, a large chunk of hubris re the rebuilding, so ignore that if you do not like it).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Post Primatial Reflections

Short of time today to put my own thoughts down - some ministry priorities are calling which may mean little comments posted for 24 hours - so links to various voices:

Church Times

Church Times Editorial (has there ever been a more egregious anti-conservative editorial than this one with it subtle Hattersley analogy?)

ACI - on the theological money as usual.

George Conger - note the words of the Primus of Scotland. I would like to return to those.

Make no mistake: a very big sea change occurred in Dublin.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We Need Leadership

++Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, speaking about the recent Primates' Meeting, is candid. Good. But I cannot find one sign in this interview of actual leadership by the primates on the matter of the absentee primates. They were missed, they will be talked with, but not one whit of resolution comes from the meeting, neither formally in the published statements, nor informally in ++Fred's insights into the meeting, which attempts to lead the Communion beyond the impasse. No leadership. Nothing will change. Do not expect better attendance at the next meeting.

The Communion is not in good shape and the primates, effectively, have done nothing about that. If the primates, in collusion with ABC, are so willing to skew the purposes of their meeting around to doing nothing save for reviewing what their meeting is all about, that leaves, oh, the ACO, the Standing Committee, and the ACC to do something about securing 100% attendance at the next Lambeth Conference. Yeah, right. Rome is burning and they have decided their job is to fiddle not to fight the fire.

In their eagerness to get back to first principles concerning what they are not meant to do, they seem to have overlooked the fact that no one else is going to fight the fire. 

Speaking of primates, our three archbishops have published a statement about recent sad events in Uganda. Thankfully Hilary Rodham Clinton has shown some leadership on this issue which the archbishops have been able to incorporate into their statement. I cannot recall which of our three tikanga she belongs to ...

Of course if it turned out that some statements in this world can be both true and helpful from beyond our tikanga, there is a good argument for the Anglican Covenant to be adopted by our church as a true and helpful statement beyond our three tikanga.

Speaking of the Covenant, that is another thing the primates did not speak of.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quick Survey of Recent History of Primates' Meetings

Tim Fountain at North Plains Anglicans has a very useful quick survey of the recent history of the Primates' Meetings. (H/T Bryan Owen, Sarah Hey).

In pointing to this article I am not endorsing each and every assessment, critique, and conclusion drawn.

What is good for Uganda's goose is good for TEC's gander

The recent murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay activist, has occasioned much comment and pronouncement, including one by the primates at their just concluded meeting. Good may yet come of his death if homophobia is checked rather than further fuelled by the kind of language we read reports of from both the country at large, and from some sections of the Anglican church there.

One thing that interests me as an Anglican pondering the nature of our communion together around the globe, is the manner in which a great number of Anglicans outside of Uganda have absolute certainty not only that homophobia is wrong in all human contexts, but is endemic in Uganda, and entwined into the character of Uganda Anglicanism.* Consequentially, many Anglicans outside Uganda have no hesitancy, indeed seem to feel strongly that it is an obligation to speak into the situation there. (The concern about homophobia in Uganda was there before the murder which now highlights it with renewed intensity).

This speaking up is a good thing! At the heart of true evangelical faith, of the central interests of the English Reformation is the presupposition that what is true is true everywhere. There may be local developments in practice  (the 39A understands that) but not in doctrine. There may be localised pastoral responses to difficult human situations but there is one morality: murder is wrong everywhere, telling the truth is right in all places. The outrage over David Kato's death is the outrage of subscribers to belief in the universality of morality.

One question then is whether other aspects of Communion life today involve universal doctrine or local practice. Where universal doctrine is involved we might usefully reflect on whether we are consistent around the globe in promoting it (or, conversely, resisting change to it).

My understanding of the Anglican Covenant is that it is a 21st century document which reiterates the presupposition that Anglicanism is not an expression of Christian faith in which truth is relative. Truth matters to Anglicans and the Covenant will be a modern endorsement of that fact. It is precisely the document which would enable member churches of the Communion to formally call the Ugandan Anglican church to account for accusations that it is intrinsically homophobic (that is, intrinsically bound to demonise homosexuals in a manner contradicting doctrines of neighbourly love and prohibition of hatred for fellow human beings): a call made on the basis that what is true is true everywhere (and thus there is no local Ugandan truth justifying homophobia).

The Ugandan church may be able to account for these claims (for which, after all, people such as myself are aware of through media reports and are thus unaware of the extent to which they may involve exaggeration such as moving from the statements of a few individuals to drawing conclusions about a whole church). But on what basis, without the Covenant, would a 'fair trial' of this church take place in the context of the Communion?

As a Communion we seem able to objectify what is going on in Uganda on the basis of a universal understanding of what is true and right with consequential accusations and charges. There are no voices being raised which say 'this is not what we should be doing because local development of the faith means it is up to Ugandan Anglicans how they conduct themselves.'

But this only makes the contrast all the more clear when we observe the obstruction which occurs when global Anglicans raise questions about what is going on in TEC (that is, an attempt, under the rubric of 'pastoral provision', to change doctrine concerning marriage): We are autonomous. The Communion has neither authority nor power nor right to speak to member churches. Local development of the faith is the Anglican way.

What is good for Uganda's goose is not good for TEC's gander.

[*Sentence slightly rewritten after discussion in comments].

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Anglican Futures

There is simply no way that ++Rowan in the remainder of his tenure of office, even if that were for another twenty years, will achieve what reports of his end of Primates' Meeting interview imply, that a series of visits to absentee primates will build bridges, mend bridges across the chasm which yawns - it is getting a bit boring - through the Communion.

Eventually, after fifty to one hunded years we may see rapprochement and reunion. It has happened with the once split three ways Methodists in Britain and with the once split two ways Presbyterians in Scotland. But in the remainder of my lifetime we will not see this chasm overcome. The persistence in belief that 'this (and not that) IS the way of the Lord' on both (or more) sides is simply too strong for hopes to be realistic for an earlier achievement of new unity. (Though, in the Lord, I do not give up hope).

So expect the following for decades to come:

(1) There will be no theological, liturgical or ministry orders issue of concern to the wider Communion which will be engaged with by the Instruments of the Communion.

Deacons presiding at the eucharist? No problem at all. Lay presidency? Go for it.

(2) There will be many statements issued by the Instruments of Communion concerning any issue in the world outside of (1) above.

Whether anyone is listening will not matter.

(3) Global South will become the powerhouse of the Communion: it will represent the majority of all Anglicans around the world; life within Global South will develop with good self-discipline around the decisions it makes about common life; some Anglican dioceses outside Global South will be increasingly drawn to meet with Global South.

It is not as though no Anglicans have anything in common anymore. Those who have the most in common will meet with purpose and make decisions with significance. Future Anglican rapprochment will emerge as the powerhouse of the Communion increases in strength to the point where other Anglicans realise their future also lies with the dominant player. (It is not clear to me that GAFCON has the leadership necessary to develop a healthy Anglicanism for the 21st century. I do not write GAFCON off, but I would invest in Global South rather than GAFCON).

(4) The next Archbishop of Canterbury will be chosen for his or her bureaucratic, managerial skills. Theological acumen and visionary leadership will not be needed by the See of Canterbury for some time to come.

Mercifully for ++Rowan's future reputation, he will be seen as one of the greatest theologians on the throne of St Augustine, and people disappointed at the blandness of his immediate successors will look back wistfully on the intelligence of his writings and sermons.

(5) The zenith of TEC's influence on the life of the Communion is now. Over the next few decades its declining numbers will expose the weakness of the hand it has played: progressive theology is not a theology of renewal of generations in a church. American money will keep the ACO afloat for a while longer, but eventually the financiers will understand that money is going down the drain on meetings of no importance.

ACNA may rise in strength but it needs to find leadership able to build and maintain bridges within its own ranks.  

For us in ACANZP we need to take great care. We face many problems and have some severe structural impediments to resolute engagement with those problems. One such problem is the future viability of St John's College as a college of education and training for the mission of our church. It is not clear as I write that we are going to be able to solve the problem, though some extraordinary effort is going into doing so. For some time to come we will have leaders divided as to whether the 'American' or 'Global South' approaches to being Anglican are best for us. In the end, clarity will emerge!