Friday, April 27, 2012

Thinking Anglicans Stand Firm On Virtue Of Communion With Canterbury (Updated)

Some unthinking Anglicans around the Communion will be surprised to find that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is not planning schism anytime soon. But thinking Anglicans have always sought to peer beyond the headlines about GAFCON/FCA and to discern what is going on beneath the surface of things. Beneath the surface has always been a genuine commitment to a global Anglican movement which works from its heritage towards a new future. That heritage is both the BCP/39 Articles axis and relationship to the Church of England and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sure, from time to time strong criticism of the present incumbent in the See of Canterbury has been made, one or two churches have removed specific reference to Canterbury from their constitutions. But, when we think about it, we have never heard the GAFCON/FCA leaders talk about leaving the Communion (even as they exercise a right to temporarily withdraw fellowship), nor about starting a completely different, independent global institution (even as they exercise the right to form a movement within the Communion).

Thus this morning, reading my fellow Kiwi David Virtue's report on the FCA meeting in London, I find this opening paragraph:

"Fellowship of Confessing Anglican leaders meeting at St. Mark's Battersea heard Bishop Michael Nazir Ali say that the intention of the FCA is not to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion but they will continue to support orthodox dioceses and parishes in liberal and revisionist provinces like the US and Canada."
You see, these are thinking Anglicans meeting who are willing to stand firm on the virtue of continuing Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. From a Kiwi perspective I am not surprised because the bishops and clergy I know who have gone are not anti-Communion. Rather they are pro fellowship and want to find, build and strengthen fellowship around the globe with Anglicans who share that common heritage in orthodox faith as handed down to us through the specific Anglican history of a catholic-and-reformed church.

In fact far from being schismatic, the FCA is likely to push for an enlargement of the Communion. At the appropriate time we will find a push being made for the inclusion of another member church of the Communion, namely the Anglican Church of North America. Their Archbishop Bob Duncan and other leaders (including another Kiwi domiciled in North America, +Julian Dobbs) are at FCA because in the eyes of the rest of the FCA they are true and genuine Anglicans with whom they are in fellowship.

In my view GAFCON/FCA is stealing a march on the creaking structures of the formal Communion institution by proposing GAFCONs (i.e. global conferences of leaders) every five years rather than the every ten years for Lambeth), and taking an initiative in proposing changes of direction in leadership commensurate with the shifting of the centre of world Anglicanism to Africa: electing a Chair of the Primates Meeting would not ensure an African chairs that body (as previously noted by me in a post below), but would open that possibility up for the future. Such changes are needed (in my view) if the formal Communion institution is to keep up with the pace of change in Anglicanism (indeed in Christianity itself in the 21st century). New wineskins for new wine is one of the oldest of all Christian mottos!!

What about TEC and its role in the new shaping of the Communion? I have no particular insight into what the GAFCON/FCA leaders might be thinking on that. But I note that TEC is in significant trouble right now in respect of ordering its own life in accordance with a new triennial budget it is having great trouble in setting. This trouble is not being revealed to us by the usual suspects (such as David Virtue) who have run sniping campaigns against TEC for years. No, this is being played out on the blogs and news services of those most keenly committed to TEC and the direction it has been pursuing since 1979 (e.g. here, here and here). My sense is that TEC is at a crossroads in its presentation to the Communion of the virtues of progressive Christianity. Can it show progressive Christianity as a fruitful pathway for global Anglicanism to follow? If it can, others will follow the lead, and look to the leadership of its Presiding Bishop on the councils of the Communion. If not, the influence of TEC on the Communion will be on the wane, ignored not only by GAFCON/FCA, but by others in the Communion who will increasingly recognise that the dominant bloc in the Communion is GAFCON/FCA.

As for the Covenant, if it does not become the adopted means of restating our Anglican perspective on orthodox Christianity in the 21st century, then I am afraid the Jerusalem Declaration, for all tis inadequacies, will simply become by virtue of lack of competition, the guiding light for future discussions about the content of orthodoxy in Anglican perspective.

The future of the Communion's character is there for GAFCON/FCA's shaping if it stands firm on a number of matters, including Communion with Canterbury.

UPDATE: the event being over various statements, reports etc can be read. Thinking Anglicans offers a series of links here and here. The final statement in PDF form is here. At first glance I am not seeing anything new emerging apart from a strong confidence in the futue of the movement. The underlying motive of the movement, to provide fellowship where none can be found, comes strongly through.

FURTHER COMMENT: I wonder if GAFCON/FCA has some umbrella aspects to it which we should take account of before labelling it 'extreme conservative' or some other epithet which might give comfort to those who want to dismiss the movement. It is an umbrella, for instance, to developments in the Church of England, especially in the Southwark Diocese, whereby parishes are seeking to develop ministry and mission with as much separation from the established power structures into which strongly liberal leadership has been placed and from which conservatives seem to have been excluded. Yes, for some evangelicals in the C of E, this aspect of GAFCON/FCA seems to be extremely conservative. But GAFCON/FCA is also an umbrella to Anglicans in North America who represent a range of conservative (a better descriptor might simply be 'traditional') perspectives but are disenchanted by the extreme liberal/progressive tendencies of the leadership of TEC and ACCan. Ditto, dare I say it, for some Anglicans in my church who are concerned at the direction their dioceses are heading in. Plus GAFCON/FCA seems to be a natural place to gravitate to for many Anglican leaders from Africa and South America (but not, I notice, looking at the photos on the PDF linked to above, from Asia) who would not describe themselves as conservative or liberal but simply 'Anglican' as they have grown in their Christian walk with Anglicanism as handed down to them. In sum: a movement drawing from 30 member churches of the Communion is going to be complex rather than simple, diverse to an extent rather than monochrome.

19 comments:

Zane Elliott said...

Peter, I think we really need to grapple with your question 'Can it show progressive Christianity as a fruitful pathway for global Anglicanism to follow?' here Down Under.

ACANZP has for the most part supported the direction TEC has set for the Western Provinces in the Communion, and what is the fruit?

What I see as a young curate is nothing less than shameful. I look around our province and with one-eye see empty parishes, $0 budgets for mission and youth ministry, the increasing reality of non-stipendiary ministry and a rejection of services which don't have ritualistic Communion services at the core.

What is the fruit? MT 7:15-20 brings us a challenge in red letters that chills me to the bone. v.15 ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.

Parishes that have held to the traditional doctrine of the Anglican Church (but perhaps progressive forms of articulating or celebrating the same) by and large in our province don't seem to be faced with the same issues, or maybe on a lesser scale.

When are we going to get real, and seriously grapple with the fruit this direction appears to be bearing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane
I think a couple of observations on my part might modify your observations, at least a little:

(1) we are a church of episcopal units, so not all is as you say in all dioceses (that includes both parishes with traditional worship doing well and parishes with progressive worship doing not so well). In summary terms, I think one issue is the quality with which we do things, as much as what we do.

(2) I wonder how helpful it is to frame legitimate concerns about the future of our church on the basis of present observations with descriptive phrases such as "ritualistic Communion" and invocations of passages about wolves in sheep's clothing?

(3) Whatever we do about Communion I think we should seek constantly to be obedient to Christ. In same cases that may mean that a certain style of communion service places more emphasis on Christ and less on (say) getting certain actions right, or singing certain kinds of music; in other cases that might mean embracing the possibility that weekly communion services is, in fact, faithfulness to Christ.

(4) In respect of wolves in sheep's clothing, false prophets and all that: that is a danger for every ministry. All of us need to consider the ways in which we may be misleading people. That can include ... well, I won't set out my hobby horses, suffice to say that I feel very strongly that some of us can be misleading about what the church is all about when we least think so!

Zane Elliott said...

Hi Peter,
thanks for your observations; I'm not sure they have modified my thinking, but that is probably because I am young and bull-headed!

Re: your second point, it may not be entirely helpful to use the language of wolves in sheep's clothing - the emphasis I see (and the link from your own words) was the fruit.

I guess what I am trying to advocate for here is a realistic and balanced approach to assessing what the direction TEC has set for us, is actually resulting in on the ground. I'm not holding my breath that such a thing could happen because the culture of ACANZP is so permeated by the TEC direction those of us who don't hold to the TEC principles can't get a word in edgeways.

again I ask - When are we going to get real, and seriously grapple with the fruit this direction appears to be bearing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane
I think you core question here needs asking and re-asking. I think our church is engaging with it to a degree, e.g. when it chose your current bishop, in the choice that has been made for the next Bishop of Wellington (to be announced this Sunday, I believe), also when one goes to meetings about education and training in the church and we find the conversation is about mission!

Kurt said...

Get real, Zane. The American Episcopal Church has set no "direction" for New Zealand Anglicans. You set your own direction. All we ask is that traditional Anglican freedom to set our own, as the Holy Spirit prompts us.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

"The American Episcopal Church has set no "direction" for New Zealand Anglicans."

Actually, a while back Tec "gifted" a "church growth conference" for Kiwi Anglicans, which shows that Americans do have a sense of irony after all. Of course they have tried to influence things, through networking, and they would love to have Kiwis along with Canadians on their voyage into iceberg alley.

If "the Holy Spirit" is allegedly prompting one church to one thing and another to do the opposite, then what we've got here is not just a failure to communicate but a failure to think straight. Remember what Luther said about those who declaim 'Geist, Geist, Geist'.
Martin

Zane Elliott said...

Kurt,
you haven't quoted what I actually said which was this: 'ACANZP has for the most part supported the direction TEC has set for the Western Provinces in the Communion, and what is the fruit?'

Are you seriously trying to argue that TEC just wants to do it's own thing and to be left alone to do it?
if that were the case there wouldn't be the continuous control and posturing of the ACC and Primates meetings. There wouldn't be the threat of revoking support of mission in diocese who reject the direction of TEC in Africa.

I invite you to come and see the legacy and the real on the ground impact of TEC in the ACANZP, as someone who is here I see it.

Zane

p.s won't be able to respond if you do reply, I'm away with the NZ Army for the next seven weeks, no doubt by then this thread will be dead and buried!

Shawn said...

The problem with waiting to see what "fruit" may come from Marxist "Christianity" (which is what "progressive-liberal" really means), that we have had this ideology in the mainline Protestant denominations for well over fifty years at least. Surely the fruit, or lack of it, is obvious by now? The "Progressive-Liberal" expriment has failed to achieve anything of substance except the ongoing political corruption of the Church, and catastrophic demographic decline. Dying parishes, zero budgets, no real mission work, doctrinal heresy, and the importation of every fashionable political fad arising from a small minority of white, urban liberals.

The "fruit" is clear. It is surely time to move on with this failed experiment in comprimise and focus on those parts of Anglicanism that are growing and thriving.

Father Ron Smith said...

"You see, these are thinking Anglicans meeting who are willing to stand firm on the virtue of continuing Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury" - Dr.P.C. -

But, Peter, the 'virtue' of Mr David Virtue, of 'virtueonline' (I almost gagged when you called him your friend and a fellow N.Z.er) does not extend to fellowship with any of the non-GAFCON Provinces, nor certainly with the Archbishop of Canterbury. To think that, would indicate you do not read Virtue's column on a regular basis.

And how on earth you could be taken in by the platitudes of the Gafcon people - about their continuing desire for affinity with the ABC - when they have just planted a rival Church in England called A.M.i.E., with indigenous clergy ordained by the Archbishop of Kenya, the Gafcon Chairperson. One-time Bishop Minns is permanently ensconced as the local Gafcon/FCA underground contact person for that caboodle.

And of course, Peter, you will already be aware that our Bishop of Nelson was at the Gafcon Meeting, which outlined its policy for a new Anglican Communion - under a different primus (not inter-pares)

Father Ron Smith said...

" I'm not holding my breath that such a thing could happen because the culture of ACANZP is so permeated by the TEC direction those of us who don't hold to the TEC principles can't get a word in edgeways."

Zane, your short time in the ministry of ACANZP gives us a clue to where you're coming from - on this (and other) ecclesial issue(s) touching upon the relationship of ACANZP with TEC.

TEC, whose founding Bishop was ordained by Bishops from the Scottish Episcopal Church, shares the same spirit of inclusivity of ALL the Baptised that parallels that of our own Church.

ACANZP and TEC were prime movers of The Faithful Laity being included in the government of our Churches. We were also at the forefront of Women's Ordination - an inclusive initiative that has been resisted by the sola-scriptura branches of the Communion. Why would we want to break ties with an ex-colonial Church body that seeks to bring the Gospel ethos to ALL?

I guess, when you've been in parish ministry a little longer - having to face up to the reality of what the Church needs to do - just in order to become relevant to the real needs of people in the modern world - perhaps you might see things a little differently.

There's always hope that experience will bring enlightenment.

carl jacobs said...

Farther Ron Smith said ...

There's always hope that experience will bring enlightenment.

Perhaps FRS will enlighten us on how a man may know when he has achieved enlightenment.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl. I did not say I had actually achieved enlightenment. It is an ongoing experience.

After 82 years on this earth; 3 years as a Franciscan Novice, and over 30 years as a priest I am still open to further learning. The important point is to be OPEN to enlightenment, and not CLOSED. 'Christus Resurrexit!'

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

After 82 years on this earth; 3 years as a Franciscan Novice, and over 30 years as a priest I am still open to further learning.

So, J I Packer is 86 years old, and he rejects what you say. Age therefore must not have much to do with this subject. Being 'open' to learning is wonderful and all, but the quality of being 'open' doesn't answer the question. When you learn something new, how do you know if that new learning experience progresses you along the path to 'enlightenment?'

carl

Dave said...

FRS--

Gotta love the chronological snobbery! When you are old like me you'll understand kid!

Zane--

Remember the words of Paul to Timothy (and I paraphrase), "Let no man despise you for your youth."

May God bless your service in the service.

Father Ron Smith said...

Carl & David. My plea was not so much for consideration of the age fact, but rather the experience.

I'm not flattered that I should be compared with Mr.Packer. It's like trying to compare apples with pears. Or is it like kiwifruit and Jerusalem artichokes?

The real difference here night be between a live and a dessicated fruit. One is still growing!

Christ IS Risen, Alleluia!

carl jacobs said...

So it seems we have learned a few things about the definition of this word that FRS constantly uses but refuses to explain. J I Packer isn't in the process of 'being enlightened.' J I Packer is instead 'dessicated fruit.' He isn't 'alive' and 'still growing.' FRS doesn't explain how he knows this, but he asserts it with confidence.

It's curious, isn't it? If FRS can say these things about J I Packer, then FRS must know an answer to my question which I will here repeat. How does one know if a new learning experience progresses him along the path to 'enlightenment?' J I Packer is 'dessicated fruit.' J I Packer isn't 'being enlightened.' Note that FRS's equally vague references to 'being open' do not assist his case. It's just a different way to same the same thing. So what then does FRS mean when he uses this word 'enlightened?' How does he know that he himself is 'enlightened' while J I Packer is not? FRS manifestly refuses to answer this question. One would think that FRS would be able to explain these things - since his self-declaration of enlightenment as at the center of every argument he makes.

carl

Tim Chesterton said...

There are a number of subjects on which I don't see eye to eye with Jim Packer. I have, however, had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions, and of a brief correspondence on a pastoral issue some years ago, when he as an experienced 'elder' (see your earlier post, Ron) was willing to come alongside a much younger and less experienced Christian worker (me!) - in the days when you had to actually go out and buy paper, envelopes, and stamps in order to have a correspondence! - and give me wise and godly counsel. Despite our disagreements I have the highest respect for Jim, and I do not think he deserves the disdain with which you speak of him.

Father Ron Smith said...

Tim, thanks for your courteous response. One often, I'm afraid, uses hyperbole on the web. Experience should have told me that this may not be the best way of expressing one's-self in describing a person one has actually never met. I bow to your actual knowledge of Jim Packer as a real person, and not just a conjured feature in combative web-chat. Agape.

MichaelA said...

FRS wrote,

"And how on earth you could be taken in by the platitudes of the Gafcon people - about their continuing desire for affinity with the ABC - when they have just planted a rival Church in England called A.M.i.E., with indigenous clergy ordained by the Archbishop of Kenya, the Gafcon Chairperson."

AMIE is not a 'rival church'. But in any case, why is this ordination inconsistent with Gafcon acceptance of the place of ABC in the Communion? ABC himself does not appear to view the ordinations as a significant threat. You may recall that the same thing happened in 2005 (long before Gafcon existed) and ABC's view then was that the bishop of Southwark was just as responsible for the problem as were his turbulent evangelical clergy. You could say that ABC himself held the door open for this in 2005 when he stopped the bishop from disciplining clergy involved with the foreign ordination.

"Gafcon Meeting, which outlined its policy for a new Anglican Communion - under a different primus (not inter-pares)"

Are you sure about this? The reports I have read indicate that Gafcon called for the chairmanship of the primates council to rotate among the members. That would remove a particular power from ABC, but it doesn't create a new primus.

Michael, Sydney