Monday, November 19, 2012

Anglican Communion in Tatters

The now formally resolved withdrawal of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church in at least one way shreds the Anglican Communion. Here is a body of Anglicans believing what Anglicans believe and wanting to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in keeping with the reformed and catholic heritage of Anglican theology which has felt honour-bound to withdraw from the larger body which has the certificate of title to "formal membership" of the Communion. Consequently, at least for the time-being, this Diocese (despite ecclesiology which tells us that in the local the fullness of the church dwells) is not formally a part of the global Anglican fellowship of Anglicans formally communing with the See of Canterbury. Institution trumps true faithfulness to Anglican doctrine! 

But in the process the Anglican Communion is shown to be a body incapable of being truly 'Anglican' because it is bound to support the member churches which formally belong (no matter what they believe, whether they treat dissenters well, or whether they practise the Christian faith in an Anglican manner) and it is not bound to support actual Anglicans.

Further 'Communion' is shown up to be something of a misnomer. Communion is our inclusion together in the great circle of love of the baptised gathering around the Lord's Table. But the reality of 'Communion' in the phrase 'Anglican Communion' is that we do not include in our circle of love those who seek to be Anglican. We exclude those who have become disturbed by trying to be Anglican within a member church which continues to move away from Anglican faith and practice.

All this is, of course, possible in a global movement which appears steadfast in its refusal to countenance a Covenant by which adherence to Anglicanism might be measured and through which non-adherence might be disciplined.

Here is the "money" quote in Bishop Mark Lawrence's address to his convention over the weekend:

"But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church. It's about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth – it is about what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out. 
We have spent far too many hours and days and years in a dubious and fruitless resistance to the relentless path of the Episcopal Church.  
And while some of us still struggle in grief at what has happened and where these extraordinary days have brought us, I believe it is time to turn the page.  
The leaders of the Episcopal Church have made their positions known—our theological and creedal commitments regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture, the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ, and other precious truths, while tolerated, are just opinions among others; our understanding of human nature, the given-ness of gender as male and female, woven by God into the natural and created order, is now declared by canon law to be unacceptable; our understanding of marriage as proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer “established by God in creation” and espoused by Anglicans around the world hangs precariously in the life of the Episcopal Church by a thin and fraying thread; and our understanding of the church’s polity, which until the legal strategy of the present Presiding Bishop’s litigation team framed their legal arguments, was a widely held and respected position in this church.  
Now to hold it and express it is tantamount to misconduct or worse to act upon it – is ruled as abandonment of this church. While one might wish the theological and moral concerns were on center stage, it is the Disciplinary Board for Bishops' misuse of the church’s polity that has finally left us no place to stand within the Episcopal Church. So be it. They have spoken. We have acted. We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago."
Dissent is not theft

Incidentally one of the most bizarre notions I have come across re being Anglican is the claim by opponents that +Mark and the Diocese are guilty of theft from TEC (i.e. they wish to 'take' the church properties with them as they depart TEC). Church property is a tricky issue as its ownership is both about the past, present and future being safeguarded through trusteeship (e.g. from foolish, spontaneous decisions by local parish meetings) as well as about the commitment of the present congregation which pays for maintenance, insurance, repairs and development as it utilises the building to the glory of God. But somehow a whole Diocese determining that it is seceding from the ties which formerly bound it to the larger national body while continuing to worship in the buildings it has guardianship over seems a long way removed from 'theft.' Certainly in a NZ situation the idea that the properties of my diocese (whose titular ownership is in the hands of the local trustees, the Church Property Trustees) ultimately belong to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia is nonsense. Their ownership is in the power of the people of the Diocese of Christchurch.

Anglicans Not Good With Dissent

A quick read of Anglican history is that we are not very good at coping with dissenters. Tolerance, broad church, inclusive church are Anglican concepts which look great on paper but in practise they hide a totalitarian resolve to exclude dissent which goes beyond margins not written down but assuredly held by Anglican authorities!

35 comments:

Mr. Mcgranor said...

The institution is corrupt on purpose. The bureaucracy must be toppled by the faithful. Who are the faithful? Clerics like pastor Lawrence. Why not offer him and his church a place in the A.C.N.A.?

Anonymous said...

And this on the day when Rowan Williams makes his farewell from his post. The ruins of the Anglican Communion may be the epitaph on his failed leadership: a man singularly ill-equipped for his appointed role.

Gary

Shawn said...

"our theological and creedal commitments regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture, the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ, and other precious truths, while tolerated, are just opinions among others; our understanding of human nature, the given-ness of gender as male and female, woven by God into the natural and created order, is now declared by canon law to be unacceptable; our understanding of marriage as proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer “established by God in creation” and espoused by Anglicans around the world hangs precariously"

Spot on. The sad reality is that faithful Anglicans in the USA have no choice but to remove themselves from TEC. TEC is no longer a legitimate Christian Church of any type. It's leadership is corrupt and tyrannical, and it has gutted the central teachings of the Faith in order to replace the Christian Faith with something else entirely, a "new" (false) religion they have made up out of thin air to suit themselves. Real Christian virtues and morals have been replaced by the Democratic Party platform.

It is time to expel the leadership of TEC from the Communion, and recognize those faithful Anglicans in South Carolina and in ACNA who have kept the faith of their fathers in defiance of tyranny and hersey.

The leadership of TEC have allied themselves with the spirit of the anti-Christ. Expulsion is now the only option.

Shawn said...

Slightly off the thread topic but still relevant:

"Primary school teachers 'could face sack' for refusing to promote gay marriage"

"Liz Truss, an education minister, refused to rule out the possibility that teachers, EVEN IN FAITH SCHOOLS, could face disciplinary action for objecting on grounds of conscience."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9686306/Primary-school-teachers-could-face-sack-for-refusing-to-promote-gay-marriage.html

Is this where the West is headed? Is this not an example of homosexual tyranny?

Can supporters of the gay rights movement in the Anglican Church continue to do so when the independence of the Church is at stake?

Are gay rights supporters in the Church helping, however unwittingly, to prepare the Church for slavery to Caeser?

Father Ron Smith said...

What a lot of woe-begetters! How on earth does one dissident ex_TEC Bishop, who got himself elected to take the disaffected, conservative South Carolina TEC diocese out of the Episcopal Church really make that much difference to the world-wide Anglican Communion?

I say: those who want to leave - let them go. Those who are left may better flourish without the negative vibes being spilt by the detractors. The Church of god needs to be positive not whining.

Let them join ACNE - or whatever the next schismatic group if going to be calling itself. It will make very little difference to either ACNE or TEC.

Father Ron Smith said...

"There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea"

- a Faber hymn that we need to bring back into use, in order to confound the whining puritans. Thank God, God is more merciful than they!

Father Ton Smith said...

" Tolerance, broad church, inclusive church are Anglican concepts which look great on paper but in practise they hide a totalitarian resolve to exclude dissent which goes beyond margins not written down but assuredly held by Anglican authorities!"
- Peter Carrell -

It all depends, doesn't it, Peter, on who are the dissenters!

When TEC dissents from sola-scriptura exclusivity; you can hear the screams as far as Sydney, or even Nigeria and Uganda. Dissent is not a simple one-way street!

Shawn said...

"When TEC dissents from sola-scriptura exclusivity"

TEC dissents from ANY notion of Biblical authority, not just Sola-Scriptura (which has nothing to do with exclusivity). Thus it places itself outside of the Christian faith. Neither the Roman or Eastern Churches are Sola-Scriptura, and BOTH reject homosexual sin.

"those who are left may better flourish"

Liberalism does not flourish, it whithers and dies. It empties churches at an impressive rate. Since going liberal TEC has gone bankrupt and lost most of it's membership, as has every other liberal church.

Liberalism is death to a Church.

" Dissent is not a simple one-way street!"

Yes, in this case, it is.

"The Church of god needs to be positive not whining."

Evangelical Churches ARE the positive wing of the Church. It is liberals who are whining like spoiled children, insisting that the Church change every doctrine of the Gospel to suit their thinly disguised atheism and fashionable sexual perversions.

Faithful Anglicans are not "whining". We are doing what real Christians are supposed to do; discern the signs of the times, oppose heresy and evil, stand up to tyranny in the Church, and proclaim the Faith once delivered to the saints. Now that is being truly positive!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You are too sweeping with your generalization about liberals. Yes, there is a liberalism which is a thinly disguised atheism, but many liberal Christians are not in any way atheist. They would likely dispute quite vigorously that they were keen on blessing perversions; rather they are committee to upholding human dignity.

Shawn said...

Hi Peter.

My reference was specifically to TEC, and I think an analysis of TEC's theology does show an underlying atheism, though perhaps agnosticism might be a better term.

"They would likely dispute quite vigorously that they were keen on blessing perversions; rather they are committee to upholding human dignity."

I'm sure they would, but I prefer truth and plain speaking to self-serving spin.

MichaelA said...

"ACNE" was quite good. I expect ++Duncan would have a good laugh about that one ... ;)

MichaelA said...

"Church property is a tricky issue as its ownership is both about the past, present and future being safeguarded through trusteeship (e.g. from foolish, spontaneous decisions by local parish meetings) as well as about the commitment of the present congregation which pays for maintenance, insurance, repairs and development as it utilises the building to the glory of God."

Indeed. TEC has been running lawsuits against departing congregations and dioceses in respect of their property for several years now. In a few cases TEC has been successful (actually far less than many people think). But it is then faced with the problem, what to do with the property?

Winning a law suit, whether by a judgment or through outspending the congregation so that it gives up, never brings back the people. The church property then just becomes a sink-hole that sucks up money, for maintenance, insurance etc. Sometimes they can be sold - the case of TEC selling church buildings to Muslim and other religious groups are notorious - but often even that option is not available. There simply aren't that many uses to which a church building can be put.

In the meantime, the departing congregation hires a community hall, school hall or gym, or it shares a church building with a non-Anglican church. It conducts its services in these temporary premises until it has the money for a deposit on its own building. Because the people who do this are pretty dedicated, the congregation tends to grow by evangelism at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Shawn writes: "Liberalism does not flourish, it whithers and dies."

I would agree, except that I would also add that it is parasitic (it depends on living Christian churches for its own sustenance) and that it infects the healthy with disease

"It empties churches at an impressive rate."

Absolutely true - it has no power to attract new believers because it only adds a weak gloss to liberal secular culture. Liberalism is actually atheism in slow motion, as John Henry Newman recognised many years ago.

"Since going liberal TEC has gone bankrupt and lost most of it's membership, as has every other liberal church."

But Tec hopes to eke out its last days by living off the wealth of the churches it has driven out.

Gary

Shawn said...

"Liberalism is actually atheism in slow motion, as John Henry Newman recognised many years ago"

Exactly. Individual liberals may believe in God, or at least some kind of "Higher Power", but overall, as you brilliantly put it, Liberalism is atheism in slow motion.

MichaelA said...

"Since going liberal TEC has gone bankrupt and lost most of it's membership"

Errr, not quite, although the trend is that way.

I haven't seen any indication that TEC is bankrupt or on the brink of it. It is having trouble balancing its budget each year, and there are plenty of negative indicators - reports of diocesan services being withdrawn or downgraded, dioceses not paying their dues, and the capital of long-established trust funds being consumed. Definitely not good news.

Also, TEC claims membership of 1.9 million, with an Average Sunday Attendance of 650,000. There is some controversy over these figures but I expect they are generally correct. But you are correct that the trend is constantly downwards - there is a slow but steady trickle of reports of parishes being closed down, and virtually no news of any new ones being established.

Another problem for TEC is the age of its parishioners - the prognosis for the future is not good.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Not church; but the whole diocese, rather.

Kurt said...

Folks Down Under should remember that old Southern saying about South Carolina: “It’s too small to be its own country and too large to be an insane asylum.”

This is the final chapter in a soap opera saga that has been going on in SC for some decades now. These people were huffing and puffing when I was a kid in the 1950s. It has been an irritation, but it’s a relief to many of us that it will all be over in a few years time. The people who just left had made South Carolina one of the most right-wing dioceses in TEC, and perhaps its most socially backward. Good riddance, I say!

Eventually TEC will get our properties back. Some of the properties may have to be liquidated and sold to developers to pay for the costs of the coming litigation. Some churches may have to be closed. Frankly, I’m more concerned about making sure we first retain our historic churches and chapels in SC than I am with the disposition of post-1865 properties, anyway.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
I would have thought that the churches of South Carolina belong to the people of South Carolina and the notion that TEC "owns" them as disposable assets to be sold to pay for litigation to prove that they are "owned" by an office in New York rather than by the people of South Carolina who paid for them, repaired them, insured them, worshipped in them, still wish to worship them etc is inimical to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is precisely the line you are taking here which disturbs many Anglicans around the world as they watch on. What on earth does TEC stand for when it's core business seems to be naming and claiming property rather than proclaiming the gospel of Christ?

Kurt said...

And many other Anglicans throughout the world are disturbed by thieves posturing as “orthodox Christians.”

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

I have read this blog for a while and Kurt from New York (that place of quiet gentility, faithfulness to the Gospel and kindness) has now repeated his same hateful insult about South Carolinians about three times. It's good that South Carolinians have better manners than he; I imagine a few thoughts about NY may come to mind. Time for Kurt to change his cracked record or (better) to give up his proud hatred of faithful S. C. Christians. Hate speech is unbecoming of Christians, if one still wishes to own that name.
The aging and fast-disappearing entity called 'Tec' never existed when the Diocese of SC was founded, so how he imagines its churches are "our" property escapes me. Maybe it's a New York thing, caused by an excess of lawyers and banks, to imagine it owns the world. What 'will be over in a few years' time' will be Tec itself, to judge by its monodirectional demographics.

Gary

Anonymous said...

"And many other Anglicans throughout the world are disturbed by thieves posturing as “orthodox Christians.”"

Yes, that does sum up the way many of us other Anglicans throughout the world - orthodox believers in the USA, UK, Australia, West and East Africa - have looked on the behavior of Tec.

But as they say in the Palmetto State, 'Dum spiro, spero" - it is never too late to repent and return to the Gospel of grace.

Gary

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
I am sure all faithful orthodox Anglicans are concerned whenever a brother or sister Christian, let alone Anglican steals anything, this being both a contravention of God's commandments and of necessary social order whether one lives in a socialist or a capitalist society.

The questions here are (a) whether South Carolingian Episcopals continuing to utilise for worship and mission the churches they have been utilising for worship and mission are stealing anything from anyone. I would be interested in hearing how such action constitutes "theft"; (b) whether TEC "owns" properties in the Diocese of South Carolina where, due to the particularity of state law there, there is (we are told) an unlikelihood or even a certainty that TEC does not own anything in that state. Do you have a sound legal judgement for your implied claim that TEC owns the churches of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Either way, I am afraid your claims about your brothers and sisters in Christ in South Carolina being thieves cuts no ice with me, and seems to me to be a most illiberal attitude to people seeking to be faithful to God and the gospel.

Zane Elliott said...

Peter,
do you think that any diocese within ACANZP will find themselves in the same place as SC? Much of what +Mark has said resonates with our own Province - there are places where we could substitute 'TEC' with 'ACANZP'. There is a lot of discussion around the traps about outcomes of GS 2014 - I'm sure you'll want to be cautious and wait until GS 2014 happens before you make a real judgement, but can you see this occurring here if the report of Ma Whea to GS2014 endorses a direction that is inconsistent with traditional Anglican theology?

Zane

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane,
If ACANZP were to become like TEC and treat the possibility of losing dioceses as something like 'collateral damage' then, yes, we could lose a diocese or two.

However, at this stage, I do not see ACANZP becoming like TEC, notwithstanding one or two aspects of our life which bear resemblance. As far as I can tell, our leadership in ACANZP is interested in genuine institutional unity. I cannot detect that interest in TEC.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Zane and Peter, Re this last line of conversation: pray for "the wisdom from above" for the Commissioners, I reckon ... It looks not a little like trying to square a circle, IMHO. Yet stranger things have happened in the Anglican world before now!

MichaelA said...

Kurt wrote:

"Some of the properties may have to be liquidated and sold to developers to pay for the costs of the coming litigation. Some churches may have to be closed."

My understanding is that virtually all of these properties (i.e. any that TEC manages to obtain possession of by litigation) will have to be closed, just as they have been in the past. They are generally sold when there is a buyer (christian or otherwise) and retained as a very expensive money-pit when there isn't.

"Frankly, I’m more concerned about making sure we first retain our historic churches and chapels in SC than I am with the disposition of post-1865 properties, anyway."

Kurt, this may be your concern, but it is not TEC's. If they had done intelligent deals since 2005 to let departing congregations keep the newer properties, then TEC probably could have ended up with the historical properties and enough income and cash to maintain them. Come to think of it, some deals were done in early days, although that may have been under Frank Griswold (the previous Presiding Bishop). But in recent years TEC has blindly fought to keep everything, thereby spending a great deal of money to no real effect.

As I wrote above, TEC is not yet on the verge of bankruptcy. But the incompetent people in charge are sending it inexorably that way. Once the receivers are called in, how long do you think you will keep your "historic churches and chapels" then?

Zane Elliott said...

Thanks for the reflection Peter, how far do you think ACANZP has to move from traditional Anglican Theology before this kind of SC action is required?

Bryden,
I genuinely hope I will be surprised by the outcomes of the Commission!

Barth has something worth pondering when it comes to the destructive force called TEC which was once a Church -

Again, there exists in the Church, before heresy arises,...the possibility that a false moralistic earnestness will dominate proclamation, as though it is man's affair whether it is victorious or defeated, as though man has to make the Word of God powerful by the weight of his own will, as though it lies in man's hands to compel decisions about it. When this is the case the Church strengthens itself to serve the Word of God, as though it is a matter of the organisation and running of a business, or the instituting and carrying through of a lawsuit, or the deployment and operations of an army. But...it is impossible to handle the truth in this way. As a rule, this kind of ecclesiastical earnestness involves a trimmed and therefore truncated version of the truth. (CD 1.2, 808)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane,
I think the better question is, "In what way can we in these islands work out how we remain faithful to God's revelation and respect the dignity of all members of our church and would be members?"

There are ways, we should always remember, in which adhering to traditional theology or simply to traditions becomes a form of the scribal Pharisaism which Jesus specifically opposed. It is just important that those of us adhering to traditional theology make sure we do not move to that Pharasaism as we expect our church not to move in such a manner that one or more dioceses feel compelled to leave.

Peter Carrell said...

Lightly redacted comment from Shawn:

"Thanks Kurt for giving us a good example of [prejudice] that urban latte liberals have for good God-fearing folk.

I assume that by socially backward you mean people who believe in strong families, respect for ones neighbors and their property, decency and love for God.

And I assume that socially progressive means a society filled with crime, sexual disease, aids, fatherless children, rape, child abuse, pornography, theft, social isolation, disrespect for neighbors and their property, and of course atheism.

Seriously, you need to read far more Scripture and far less cultural Marxist [material].

Oh, and as a Southerner myself, TEC can keep it's grubby ... Yankee hands off OUR property and churches. You have lost the moral right to anything in SC.
"

Anonymous said...

A small point Gary, but Abp Rowan remains in office until 31st December..Sunday 18th was his farewell service to the diocese at which I was present..a very happy occasion with a packed cathedral which testified to the love and respect in which our bishop is held here. Fortunately being Primus inter Pares of that odd and increasingly fractious ecclesiological entity the Anglican Communion..which the Lambeth Fathers of 1948 declared was provisional and its vocation to disappear, and which is never mentioned in the oaths and declarations a Church of England clergyman ever makes....is the more recent of his jobs and one which many of us in the National Church here would be happy to see him relieved of...as indeed +Michael Ramsay hoped might happen.
Perry Butler, Canterbury UK.

Father Ron smith said...

Zane, re your earlier question: Is there any diocese in New Zealand that might think of exiting ACANZP?

The only prospect so far might be a diocese in the South Island, whose bishop is fond of GAFCON; and which has already produced a newly- confected 'bishop' in the US for a foreign faux-Anglican entity.
___________________________________

Kurt, I'm with you on all of this! Viva Santa Katerina!

Peter Carrell said...

Lightly redacted from Shawn:

"Ron,

Saints do not engage in cultural pillage.

Christians do not drag their brothers and sisters through the courts to strip them of property that the people of South Carolina built, paid for, cared for and worshipped in for generations.

The behavior of TEC is [disreputable].

Calling KJS a saint is even more [disreputable].

[...]

As I have said before, the claim that Liberalism is about tolerance, being inclusive, and non-judgmental is a lie. And we can see now from the examples of certain attitudes being expressed by some liberals on this blog, and by the actions of TEC, the clear and incontrovertible proof of that.

In practice, this kind of liberalism is intolerant, totalitarian, abusive of power, and seemingly happy to engage in cultural [destruction].

Post-colonial? Yeah right.

KJS is no saint.
"

Tone, Shawn, is important! Adjectives lift or lower the tone ...

Shawn said...

My tone was spot on. The time for soft speaking and soft soaping the issues is over.

I would point out that I was careful to say that my words only applied to sone liberals and to a certain kind of liberalism.

In my studies of the early Church I was often struck by how fierce the tone of the Fathers was when they were opposing heresy. We need to recover that fierceness for these times.

At the same time part of the "heat" between myself and Kurt is due to a conflict which goes back a long time. About 1861 in fact.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
I am not trying to moderate a global "tone", suppress "heat" in hot debates the world over, or stymie much needed plain speaking around the Communion.

However, on this blog I have noticed that when the tone is wrong, the quality of debate degenerates. I also get feedback that the tenor of the discussion on the comment thread may inhibit some, perhaps not used to robust debate, from commenting.

Either way, I am keen to keep the tone here polite, well-mannered and as "cool" as possible - it is much easier to moderate comments in such circumstances (i.e. approve all for publication).

Anonymous said...

"A small point Gary, but Abp Rowan remains in office until 31st December..Sunday 18th was his farewell service to the diocese at which I was present..a very happy occasion with a packed cathedral which testified to the love and respect in which our bishop is held here."

I was aware of this, Perry. People always say nice things at farewells - as I used to remind my kids, good manners cost nothing and save a lot of trouble later. This doesn't change the fact that he alienated the vast majority of Anglicans in the world in a way that George Carey never did.
I understood that RW farmed out most of his actual work as diocesan bishop to a suffragan, which let him get on with writing books etc.

Gary