Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The only game in town

"Bishop Michael Nazir Ali said that "I am disappointed that the Anglican Communion Covenant, even in its watered down version,has failed to gain the support of the Church of England. This now means that the Jerusalem Statement (2008) is now 'The only game in town.'" "

With H/T to Thinking Anglicans, this comment by +Nazir-Ali on Anglican Mainstream goes too far (there are other games being played) but that should not obscure the point that if the opposition to the Covenant in the C of E is interpreted as complete defeat for the Covenant around the globe then it is a pyrrhic victory in respect of the organisation of Anglicans around the globe. It may not be the 'only game' but GAFCON/FCA with the Jerusalem Declaration as its binding scrum will be the main game in Anglican town if it proves that the Covenant is globally dead in the water.

Think about it for a few moments. Anglican 'nature' abhors an organisational 'vacuum': we love our vestries, synods, General Synods, local, diocesan, provincial and international meetings. Something binds us together at those meetings. Partly its our history and our relationships but substantially it is, in fact, what we believe, what makes us distinctively Anglican rather than, say, Presbyterian ('cause we believe in bishops) or Baptists ('cause we believe in infant baptism) or Roman Catholics ('cause we don't believe in bending knee to the papacy).

So, if, in the end, the C of E vote signifies the end of the Covenant (at least for a decade or so) what will speak to Anglicans around the globe about the means and method of our organising ourselves? Who and what is set up to draw Anglicans together in meaningful ways, including motivation to be missionally-engaged with the challenges of the 21st century? Well, it is already in place: organisationally (GAFCON/FCA) and doctrinally (Jerusalem Declaration). In a few weeks we will see reports of a gathering of 200 hundred Anglican leaders from 30 member churches. Could the liberal/progressive opponents of the Covenant organise a similar gathering from 30 member churches of the Communion?

In celebrating the English defeat of the Covenant as a centrist, moderate, and mild proposal for the future life of the 38 member church Communion, liberal/progressive Anglicans around the globe seem quite unaware of the fact that they are colluding with conservative opposition to the Covenant, opposition which paves the way for the strongest part of globally organised Anglicanism to be  strongly doctrinal and confessional in character, the very antithesis of what liberals/progressives are fighting for!

Thus the most fatuous remark about the English synodical voting against the Covenant has been made by Diarmaid MacCulloch when he writes, "Now Anglicans can start listening afresh". What will happen is the opposite of what he means: Anglicans will start listening afresh to a new and rising conservative leadership which is primely positioned to move into the vacuum created by the lack of global support for the Covenant as the key to a moderate, centrist Communion for the 21st century.

The second most fatuous remark is made by Pluralist (Adrian Worsfield) when he writes, "In terms of the Anglican Communion, the balkanisation that was taking place will now obviously continue". Er, no. The balkanisation will stop. GAFCON/FCA and the Jerusalem Declaration will sweep up those tempted to become Croatia and Serbia and draw them together into a united band. (There may be some balkanisation within the Church of England because the bishops there who do not want to lose their largest parishes and those largest parishes who do not want to see liberals/progressives triumph further have a mighty challenge before them which may lead to some separations).

I suggest that, if in the end, the defeat of the Covenant presages a global defeat for the Covenant, history will judge this to have been a pyrrhic victory for progressive/liberal Anglicans. They do not have the numbers in the Western Anglican churches to prop up for much longer the institutions they have sought to control. In particular they do not have the numbers to control the direction of global Anglicanism for much longer. .

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fracturing of the Anglican Communion brings no joy to anyone, but is a story with parallels across world Protestantism. I can't think what is going to stop people going their own way now.
Whoever becomes Archbishop of Canterbury is going to have a wretched job on his hands.
Speaking of which, I wonder if anyone has thought of the Bishop of Sheffield? - a quietly spoken orthodox man with ideas on building communities.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

".. a quietly spoken orthodox man with ideas on building communities.
- Martin -

I do love these sectarian definitions of 'orthodox'. Of course, they'd be laughed out of court by those who belong to the Holy Orthodox Churches of Christendom.

And this is the problem with the dissidents of the Anglican Communion at this time - like, for instance GAFCON and ACNA. What gives them the right to call all other ep[xression of Anglicanism 'unorthodox'.

Yes, they don't call us that, but their insistence on the categoric use of it for their own exclusive doctrine and polity is really quite frightening - to those who do not understand that the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ invites ALL who believe in Him to fellowship in the Gospel.

Salvation is simply not dependent on our righteousness! It is only the righteousness of our Redeemer that puts us right with God. Thank God for that!

Shawn said...

" Of course, they'd be laughed out of court by those who belong to the Holy Orthodox Churches of Christendom."

No, the wouldn't. While there may be substantive differences there is also common agreement between orthodox Protestant Churches and those of the East. Far more so than between the Eastern Orthodox and liberal Protestants. The Holy Orthodox Churches of Christendom do not and never will embrace homosexuality.

"but their insistence on the categoric use of it for their own exclusive doctrine and polity is really quite frightening"

What is quite frightening is the insistence that liberals can overturn orthodox doctrine and morals, and then claim that they should not be held to any standard of accountability to the wider Church.

" - to those who do not understand that the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ invites ALL who believe in Him to fellowship in the Gospel."

We do understand this, but Christ's invites us in order to transform us, not to leave us in our sins.

" Salvation is simply not dependent on our righteousness! It is only the righteousness of our Redeemer that puts us right with God."

That is correct. Our salvation is not dependent on our righteousness. However, our sanctification is a process by which God transforms us, and we leave behind our former ways. The moral Law is a guide as to what that transformation should look like.

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith opines above.

The irony is just too rich. First he says...

What gives them the right to call all other expression of Anglicanism 'unorthodox'.

... right after which he asserts an expression of orthodoxy that brooks no challenge.

Salvation is simply not dependent on our righteousness! It is only the righteousness of our Redeemer that puts us right with God.

He thus denies the possibility of orthodoxy by using an assertion of ... orthodoxy. So, I have an answer for your question, FRS. But I wish to ask you a question before I answer. Perhaps by answering my question, you will be able to answer your own.

How do you know that salvation is simply not dependent on our righteousness? How do you know that it is only the righteousness of our Redeemer that puts us right with God.?

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

My answer is speedy and based on personal experience, carl:

Saint Paul; in the Scriptures tells us so. This is one of his more clearly enuniciated dicta - based on his own experience. His very own unrighteousness - as a Pharisee and advocate of the Jewish Law - had to be overturned by his vision of the Risen Christ.

However, his dicta on what he had thought were facts about sexuality have to be re-thought (like his original thoughts about what he saw as righteousness through obedience to The Law) by a process of openness to new teaching through the Holy Spirit - and subject to the evolving expansion of social and biological objectivity.

Joshua Bovis said...

Dear Ron,

Yes, they don't call us that, but their insistence on the categoric use of it for their own exclusive doctrine and polity is really quite frightening - to those who do not understand that the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ invites ALL who believe in Him to fellowship in the Gospel.

The Gospel is to be proclaimed to everyone of course, and all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:11-13) and I am absolutely full of praise to God that we are justified in Gdd's eyes because of the merits of Christ alone as Article XI of the Thirty Nine Articles say, “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings".

However Ron, this does not abrogate the need for repentance .

Jesus message was not merely believe, but believe and repent (Matt.4:17;Mk 1.15; cf. Matt 21:31-32).
Zaccheus authenticated his repentance by actions in paying back those whom he had cheated (Luke 19.1-10).

The Gospel is not merely 'come as you & stay as you are'. But 'come as you are & go as Jesus says'.
A gospel of inclusivism devoid of repentance Ron is not the gospel.

in Christ
Joshua

Shawn said...

"However, his dicta on what he had thought were facts about sexuality have to be re-thought (like his original thoughts about what he saw as righteousness through obedience to The Law)

The problem with this argument is that Paul's "dicta" on sexuality occured AFTER his experiance of the Risen Christ. Thus your argument is self-defeating.

Your picking and choosing to suit yourself again. On the one hand you want to affirm what Paul says in one place, then ignore him in another.

That is not a valid approach to interpreting Scripture.

"by a process of openness to new teaching through the Holy Spirit"

The Holy Spirit never gives "new teaching" that contradicts Scripture, as the Holy Spirit is the Author of Scripture. Such a claim is contrary to ANY understanding of orthodoxy, including Anglican.

Nor is there any evidence that the Spirit is doing so with regards to homosexuality.

"and subject to the evolving expansion of social and biological objectivity."

You mean subject to the opinion of liberals. There is no such thing as "evoloving expansion of social and biological objectivity.

That last statement is meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Shawn, Carl: I think the above exchange illustrates the reason for my resolve not to engage in fruitless exchanges with Ron. I think it is how the Mensheviks were eventually put off by the Bolsheviks' constant attacks.

Don't be sidetracked but please keep contributing thoughtful orthodox commentary.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

"keep contributing thoughtful orthodox commentary."
- Martin -

Yeah! Right!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
To draw the discussion back to the ramifications of the CofE decision for the Communion, I'm not sure it's as positive as you suggest for the GAFCON/FCA group. The liberal/progressive wing actually does have the numbers in many Western churches - certainly the US and Canada, and possibly Aus, NZ, and the UK (all 4 churches) too. They may not be able to control the whole global picture, especially the Global South, but they can control the official instruments, as they have done increasingly over the last 10 years. Some of those in the middle may align with GAFCON, but many will be wary of their evangelical ethos and schismatic tendencies and prefer to stay closer to the institution, as long as they can maintain space for themselves.
So much depends on the new ABC - if he can uphold traditional Anglican faith, restore the instruments to their purpose and implement the Windsor moratoria, GAFCON might be drawn back to the fold. But I doubt an ABC with that mindset would be nominated.

Kurt said...

Hmm. Perhaps there are not that many Eastern Christians Down Under? I have known several since childhood. And I still have several Orthodox friends, including a retired priest. They tell me that many American Orthodox favor gay rights—inside the Church as well as outside. (And, they also tell me that the Orthodox seminaries have many closeted gay students). My Orthodox friends also generally favor women in ministry. Sadly, they say that the older leadership clinging to power will have to meet their Maker before gradual reforms take place in American Orthodoxy. Perhaps in another decade or so we will see some surprising changes!

Anyway, High Churchmen like Fr. Ron and me are more likely to have an influence on contemporary Orthodox in these matters than con evos—our theology is much closer to Constantinople than Geneva. (For example, since I was a teenager, I have never said the Filioque clause in the Creed because I agree with the Orthodox on this).

Fr. Carrell seems to think that Third World Anglicanism is simply going to roll on in its merry con evo way and be unaffected by the unfolding socio-economic and ecological catastrophes in these regions. I suggest that he read some of the many open source intelligence projections for these regions (most of which can be found on line). Yes, they are the “fastest growing” segment of Anglicanism (or Romanism, or Pentecostalism, or Mormonism, or Islam etc. for that matter), but sadly, they are also the fastest dying. And the global crises are just beginning to unfold for them (just as they are unfolding for all of us!) Who knows how global warming, for example, will affect the “unity” of these Provinces in the years and decades to come? I think one of the last things these people will be concerned about will be “the direction of global Anglicanism,” etc. Empty stomachs and sick bodies will have higher priorities than that!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

Yeah! Right!

Well, aren't you kind.

You do understand, don't you, that there is a difference between agreeing with a comment, and judging that comment thoughtful? Now, I realize that you could use this comment as an opportunity to hurl yet one more insult. If you choose to do so, please understand that your choice would serve my purposes just as well.

carl

carl jacobs said...

Martin

I think the above exchange illustrates the reason for my resolve not to engage in fruitless exchanges with Ron.

If I might offer my perspective. I certainly understand your point. FRS represents a wholly different worldview. There is so little common ground between us that the possibility of successful argument is almost precluded. Even so I believe that there is value in continiung the engagement.

A conversation with FRS is not primarily about FRS. You aren't going to change his mind. He isn't going to change yours. What then is the point? There is still value in sharpening the apologetic. For example, one can learn how his opponent thinks. One can learn how he responds. This allows the apologist to understand his opponent's position so as to represent it accurately, and attack it effectively. A good apologetic must respect an opponent's position enough to learn it, and the best way to learn it is to engage it.

But we are not the only participants. Every weblog has a wide array of silent readers. They may not know how to respond to the challenges that FRS lays out, and they may find those challenges disturbing. But they can learn the weakness of the challenges, and how to respond to those challenges by reading the efforts of others. For the sake of the silent reader, it is uimportnat to engage. It is important to expose inconsistencies such as have been revealed on this thread simply by getting FRS to answer questions. People will not fail to notice what he did in his response. they will notice the shell game with Scripture and authority.

The point of engaging FRS is to produce understanding. The more you engage him, the more people will see the presuppositions that exist beneath his religion. Clarity is the goal to be pursued, and with all vigilance. It's especially critical since liberal Christianity hides itself in the fog of shared terminology. It is our first goal to dispell that fog.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl, thank you for your misconceived and egregious comment here. I think it time you had a look at some other (outside of NZ) recent comments on this thread, in order to try to understand the one-sided nature of your own contributions on this site.

I cannot spend more time with you this morning - I am off to make a pastoral visit - the real work of the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
I am not going to publish your last comment in full as I do not think it appropriate to discuss a commenter with another commenter in the way you do. Some points you make in that discussion are well made, but as a whole the comment is "ad hominem" in the sense that it constitutes a put down of another person.

I am happy, of course, to publish this part of your comment:

"I think this is an important blog (thank you, Peter!) that is noticed (and quoted) Up Over and has no real parallel Down Under, or at least in Middle Earth, and think its comments section should advance discussion on the issues Peter raises.

Martin
"

Shawn said...

Brilliant article by Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm on how liberal activists subvert the Church:

"Theological liberalism is parasitic. It survives and thrives by attaching itself to a healthy orthodox Christian denomination or communion, and subverting its weakest members—namely, those who are insufficiently grounded in scripture, those nursing past hurts and resentments, those who want desperately to be seen as “smart”, and those looking to make a name for themselves by playing the maverick."

http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/28532

Anonymous said...

Your blog, your decision, Peter. 'ad hominem' in logic means attacking a person's character instead of his arguments. I don't think I did that, but your decision is final. My complaint was about putdowns and failure to engage with issues.
Martin