Thursday, November 29, 2012

Won't make any difference at all

Still with eyes overseas, the ACI has written an open letter to the bishops of The Episcopal Church which, summarising, says the Presiding Bishop and others in respect of the Diocese(s) of South Carolina have acted uncanonically. As best I can tell, nothing will change in response to the letter. I am glad they have written it since it lays out in the public domain many things which should not be hidden. But apart from that I predict the effort going into the letter is a complete waste of time.

In England there will be a fresh attempt to bring legislation to the GS re women bishops' this time with some renewed resolve that there will be women bishops as a result. This will require fresh legislation (otherwise what was voted on last week cannot be reintroduced to the next Synod until after 2015) and a clear commitment to a robust means of respecting those who do not wish to live under the authority of a woman bishop which satisfies that part of the church, thus securing the required majorities in all three houses.

I think this response from Bruce Kaye, a neighbouring Anglican across the ditch, bears reading. One might also reflect as Kiwis on why our nation's public broadcasting service has nothing similar to the Religion and Ethics site which ABC runs.

In a quite different mode is Colin Coward's Changing Attitude's reflection on the lost measure. I disagree with nearly everything he writes, including his characterization of the conservatives in the C of E, and his division between the God they (and we, elsewhere in the world) meet in the Bible and the God who Colin, Julian of Norwich and quite a few non-Christians think God is. But he does offer an interesting observation about English bishops and the argument that none truly represent the conservatives!

I draw attention to his disagreeable commentary because I think he makes a point inter alia which all Christians need to constantly consider as we think about and seek to act missionally. He charges opponents of women bishops as living inside a very tall fence which is difficult to look over (e.g.):

"I think the crisis that hit the Church last week arises from the inability of the conservative group of lay members of Synod to see over the fence. Their very concrete world is circumscribed and even if they have a description of the world beyond the fence, nothing will convince them that it describes authentic reality."

At one level this is nonsense which fails to reckon with the wisdom, insight and intelligence of the theologies which lie at the heart of (e.g.) Reform and Forward in Faith (to say nothing of being insufficiently self-critical of his own theology and its possible shortcomings). At another level, however, it puts its finger on something important: are all Christians in a shrinking church in a rapidly changing society (simultaneously secularizing and receiving immigrants from many faiths) living in a kind of stockade?

Within the stockade we have our squabbles and quibbles, and some of us, unwittingly or not, live in such a manner that makes the walls of the stockade taller. But mission is reaching beyond the stockade, and its long-term goal is not to race outside, snatch a few souls and bring them back into the stockade. Successful mission, in the history of the church, has always been about lowering the stockade walls and chattering the gospel with those outside of it in a public conversation about God.

I think the anguish in the CofE is that, quite inadvertantly, because no one on any side of the argument intended it to happen, the walls of the stockade have been raised. The desperate need in the particular circumstance of the English church is to lower those walls. To lower them by showing it is a church which is engaged in the public conversation about the dignity and integrity of womanhood through permitting what the majority of its members want, women bishops. To lower them by showing it is a church which finds a way to respect the integrity of its own beliefs, that is, its historical theology founded on Scripture and developed in tradition which has led a minority to passionately believe that women bishops are inconsistent with those beliefs - only such a church can engage in a society with many minority groups.

Contrary to Colin Coward, I do not think maintaining such beliefs is a form of spiritual ignorance or immaturity. Indeed such beliefs are nearly always intrinsic to Anglican churches as a whole avoiding the heresy of becoming indistinguishable from the Labour Party at prayer. (Not that there is anything bad about discovering that the Labour Party prays!!).

If the church - any church, everywhere - is to make a difference in the world, it is through our ideas (theology), the clarity with which we hold them and the clarity with which we communicate them. Our habit of building walls between church and world seems an inescapable part of being Christian. Breaking them down again is our inescapable obligation as disciples in the kingdom of God.

To return to TEC and ACI. The tragedy unfolding in South Carolina is the loss of missional vision. Canonical rules, whether observed or broken, are triumphing over gospel imperatives. It is no part of Anglicanism to build stockade walls with canons. The way forward for the C of E is to find as few canons as possible to make women bishops happen and a reformed mission move forward in faith.

34 comments:

MichaelA said...

Colin Coward writes (in the article linked by Peter):

"So long as the Church of England goes on trying to accommodate these people [conservative evangelicals and anglo-catholics], so long will we get nowhere, mission and evangelism in the Church will be fatally constricted, the majority in the country will turn its back on the Church (they already have) and it will continue to shrink and become ever more irrelevant to the country and unable to reveal God’s infinite love in creation. That is the real scandal of our age."

This is so out of touch with reality as to amount to delusion. The Church of England has been shrinking precisely because so many leaders share Colin Coward's fluffy, fuzzty concept of make-your-own-god. It is the evangelicals whom Coward despises who have the growing churches within CofE. The conservative anglo-catholics aren't doing so badly either - they are at least holding their own and some are growing. Meanwhile the rest of CofE declines, often at a rapid rate.

[Note that Coward's article is directed at those who opposed women bishops. Yet his definition of God would dump many evangelicals who do believe in women bishops, on scriptural grounds, in the same basket]

Pageantmaster said...

Walls are interesting things, Peter+, it is not always clear which party is inside and unable to see out.

More generally than that, I really wonder whether the best that those outside the church have to expect from us, or for that matter care about, are our bishops. I despair of the time the CofE is devoting to bishops at the complete expense of mission and evangelisation. We are wrapped up in our own little world and hierachy. Now if we were to talk about making servants, that would be another thing. Jesus did not tell us to go out into the world and make lots of .... bishops.

Peter Carrell said...

Colin Coward has, shall we say, interesting takes on this and that, while always being 100% confident he is on the side of history!

Yes, Pageantmaster, the key to the future is refinding ourselves as 'servants' ... including biscops!

Rosemary Behan said...

Peter is quite right, we need to re-find ourselves as ‘servants.’ Also I think both Carl and Bosco are wrong. They are making the women’s issue .. as others have often done .. a first order issue. Saying things like two authorities cannot exist together. I would have thought that the proof that this is NOT so is right here in this Diocese. Here you have several serving clergy who do not believe that women should have complete control over mixed congregations. Many do not believe women should preach to mixed congregations, but ALL are aware that they live and work for a church that has not only ordained women to do those things, but ordained women as Bishops. They are our own Bishops supporters. They work for her and freely admit that as a Bishop who believes so completely in the supremacy of Jesus Christ Our Lord, she is easy to follow and obey. Before Carl or Bosco make statements, they need to look at this situation and I hope .. re-evaluate. I dislike having to say this, but I would say that those serving clergy I mentioned, have been trying to show true ‘grace’ which we haven’t seen from many others. All we ask is that we be FULL and VALUED members of our church, please let me see some sign that this is so, otherwise the English situation will never be sorted, never mind our own!

Bryden Black said...

Mmmm... Sorry Peter; but you have both the headline and the opening paragraph fatally wrong your dear self - IMHO!

While KJS will most probably carry on her merry way, the clear spelling out of certain key ‘happenings’ under her watch serves as a witness, one which other bishops also now have to reckon with. To be sure; they too may wish to ignore the same. That only serves to highlight their own complicity. For we all know the history - well; we should!

The Rubicon was a mere creek in and of itself, just as this Open Letter has perhaps, to certain eyes, not much significance, and just as the goings on in SC are not that significant again to some eyes. But it also marked the political boundary between Rome proper and Cisalpine Gaul: that was the legal theory. And here and now, the strict letter of due church order and its malfeasance has been called out by this Letter: KJS has crossed the line as surely as Caesar’s legions crossed that wee creek; Civil War is declared! “The die is cast!”

To be sure; as with many an outworking in history, things will take time, and may even get worse, before we may reach the equivalent of Augustus’ ‘peace’. In the meantime, it’s good to know some eyes at least are wide open to the key realities, IMHO. For as Pageantmaster from UK points out, it’s sometimes a bit 'awkward' when the inside is out and vice versa!

Shawn said...

There is no way I could get throw Cowards article without throwing up, so best not try. Michael has it right, utterly delusional. The sad fact is that his "thinking" exists within the Church, often at leadership levels, and in some seminaries.

On to other things. There is no such thing as "public" broadcasting, or "public" education. Public is being used as a dishonest bit of propaganda to hide the fact that "public" broadcasting is in reality State controlled and run broadcasting. And in every case of State run broadcasting or education in the West such institutions have been captured by the footsoldiers of the Frankfurt School.

They already have enough weapons. Let's not give them anymore.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you all for comments.

I may be wrong, Bryden. In my defence I would suggest that it would be difficult to find an occasion in the recent developments in TEC where the ACI has made a difference to the hierarchical juggernaut's progress from 815 (=HQ) to the rest of that church.

Observing that is not meant to depreciate the importance of ACI's work in bring the cool light of reason and canonical knowledge to bear on the situation, nor to offer comfort to 815.

Shawn said...

Well said Rosemary.

There is no reason we cannot experiment with different models of church oversight. Our current structures are not wrong, but neither are they Biblical, and are thus nor authoritative. I am always bemused by those who treat the episcopal model and liturgical issues as though they are sacrosanct, but then quite happily ignore Scripture on marriage, family and sex.

Very strange.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
I would credit Australian public broadcasting with some advantages over NZ public broadcasting, your important point about 'public' notwithstanding!

Shawn said...

Sorry, I also meant to say that WO is not, as Rosemary rightly says, a first order issue. Other more sensible churches have not treated it as such. I do believe as a strong supporter of WO that it IS important, and I believe right, but it should not cause those who in good conscience, and out of a striving for obedience to Scripture, to be sidelined or simply forced to accept.

Separate oversight is possible and should be persued. We already have that in NZ anyway.

And I wonder how many liberals who disagree are also supporters of the Three Tikanga model?

Or am I right in suspecting that some libeals do not want to accommodate complimentarians at all and would rather force them out, but are quite happy
to make the Anglican Church in NZ a model of Apartheid to accommodate Maori racial supremacists?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
You have barely passed moderation with your last comment.

(1) Do not speculate on other people's motives. It is an ambiguous thing to do: it cannot be refuted but it manages to cast a shadow if not a slur over the group you make the speculation about. (I cannot think of anyone in the church who wants to 'force' anyone else out).

(2) If you want to start a discussion around whether out three tikanga arrangements constitute 'apartheid' (or whether 'liberals' have a preference for 'apartheid') then please commence your own blog to have that discussion. I know of no part of our arrangements which constitute 'apartheid' let alone 'Apartheid' in the South African sense of those words, which was a denigration and demoting through permanent structure of people already humiliated and denigrated culturally. Accordingly I am not prepared to both with trying to moderate such a discussion here (and will take no further comments on the matters Shawn touches on. Make them and they will be deleted. Nothing is more deleterious to race relations in this country than invoking the spectre of 'apartheid' when it is not warranted by the facts.

What I am prepared to have a discussion about (to be positive) is specific, evidenced occasions in which discrimination in our church works negatively against a specific individual or group; whether our three tikanga relationships and arrangements are fostering a gospel based unity in our church, and whether those arrangements should be provisional (while certain historic wrongs are being righted) or permanent.

carl jacobs said...

Rosemary

Also I think both Carl and Bosco are wrong.

Me? Wrong? Inconceivable! ;)

They are making the women’s issue .. as others have often done .. a first order issue.

This is not correct. A first-order issue defines the difference between Christian and non-Christian. Supporting WO may entail a severe compromise of Scriptural authority, but it doesn't define the boundary between belief and unbelief. It does however define an irreconcilable difference between Christians who occupy the same institution. Women can either exercise spiritual authority or they can't. Thus your example provides my counter-argument.

Many do not believe women should preach to mixed congregations, but ALL are aware that they live and work for a church that has not only ordained women to do those things, but ordained women as Bishops. They are our own Bishops supporters. They work for her and freely admit that as a Bishop who believes so completely in the supremacy of Jesus Christ Our Lord, she is easy to follow and obey.

If a man believes that a woman cannot exercise spiritual authority then he cannot in good conscience follow and obey her. She is acting in a capacity that he by definition rejects. If these men truly believe that women cannot exercise spiritual authority over a congregation then they cannot consistently accept her authority over many congregations. They have thus already compromised and tacitly accepted what they say they reject.

The actual test is this. Can you find within your diocese a man who believes that women should not exercise the office of elder and also rejects the authority of the female bishop appointed over him? How does such a man co-exists within this authority structure? He cannot. That's why separate authority structures must be created. Good fences make good neighbors.

carl

creideamhamhain said...

Shawn (et al),

Perhaps those who think WO is a first order issue is not so much WO but the hermeneutic that is used to justify it.

As for myself, I have no hassles with WO, though am not comfortable with women being Rectors.

Having said that, I find the debates surrounding ordination quite interesting in light of the fact that the practice of ordination as we have it in the Anglican Church does not appear in the Scriptures.

Thoughts?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I think it is for individual clergy who believe X but in practice do opposite-X to answer for themselves.

In my experience of working in the same Diocese as Rosemary I am very supportive of what she says as the way things work here and work pretty well.

For me (i.e. not attempting in any way to speak for others) I find it a mistake to too quickly presume that I know what colleagues believe, or what their beliefs might mean in terms of their practice. In particular I observe that many Anglicans much of the time live with compromise since that is the nature of our church (e.g. I do not think some Anglo-Catholic practices should take place, but I know they do and I do not protest against them, nor do I move motions in Synod against them).

If (as an instance) a clergyperson believes a woman should not preach to a mixed congregation but believes the local bishop should be free to preach to the congregation since it is by canonical law under the jurisdiction of the bishop ("your charge and mine" our bishop says when instituting a vicar), then a compromise is involved in allowing a woman bishop to preach. Is that a terrible compromise? I don't think so. But I suspect you do!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I am not required to interrogate individuals to make my argument. Rosemary asserted the existence of clergymen who 1) reject the idea of women exercising spiritual authority but 2) accept the spiritual authority of a female bishop. So I can respond to hypothetical Rector Bob who holds these positions "in tension." Rosemary appealed to these individuals to justify her assertion that mutually exclusive concepts of authority can co-exist in the same organization. I think I have demonstrated that her example cannot carry the weight she would place on it. Our hypothetical Rector openly accepts the authority of a female bishop thus making a unity of the concept of authority. She would instead have to show me a rector within the diocese who exists under the authority of a female bishop he refuses to acknowledge. Such a circumstance is a contradiction.

When someone says he believes X but acts in according to Not-X we don't normally say he is making an acceptable compromise. Assume a man preaches the sanctity of marriage even as he openly engages prostitutes. We don't say he is compromising. We call him a hypocrite. Now, you will likely not accept that parallel as reasonable. But the only basis you will have to resist it is that you think adultery is a moral fault, whereas WO is not. But of course I do think WO a moral fault. It is disobedience. We presume to believe our modern "enlightened" understanding is superior to Scripture.

WO is not like other doctrinal disagreements. It can't be hidden. The rejection of WO imposes positive obligations on public behavior. You can't be opposed to WO in theory even as you accept the spiritual authority of a woman in practice. That is not a compromise. It is rank hypocrisy. That is not an ad hominem. That is not a personal judgment. That is simply black letter logic.

carl

Shawn said...

Hi Peter,

Fair enough, it is your blog.

Two points. I have net liberals who think exactly what I said and say so openly, so I was not speculating.

There are a lot of myths about Apartheid in SA, especially here in NZ, but the fact I'd that it simply a symply a system of ethnic separation, ironically originally aimed at the British.

Thus our 3T system is apartheid, that is a fact, and should be stated openly and debated openly, rather than being swept under the carpet with dishonest euphemisms.

But it's your blog so I will abide by your rules.

My final point on the issue. How is anything going to ever change in the NZ Anglican church unless we stop hiding behind double-speak, euphemisms, and PC talk?

That is why we ate on the situation we are now, because others with un-Biblical political agendas are making radical changes, and hiding those agendas behind talk of the Treaty, "human rights" and other fig leaves.

Nothing will change unless we stop buying into the New-Speak that allows them to control the debate.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
To perhaps underline what I said before, but in slightly different words: I think there should be discussion about our three tikanga arrangements, how well they are working and whether they should last forever or just for a while longer. No hiding under the carpet and you are welcome to discuss them here (as the case may arise). It is the use of the word 'apartheid' which I find objectionable on many levels, not least that it is likely to become a diversion in any serious discussion of our 3T arrangements.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I would be a bit surprised if the colleagues I know and admire in this diocese who do not agree with the ordination of women had a self-understanding of their convictions on these matters that equated to it being "disobedience" to work with ordained women, or, having submitted to the authority of the General Synod of this church, or to work under the authority of a woman bishop since they have agreed to be under the authority of a bishop.

I do not think your analogy holds very well. It suggests that in all life situations the belief X can be correlated with not acting out non-X. I find life just a little more complicated than that myself. While successfully avoiding egregious sin along the lines you mention (sanctity marriage/consorting with prostitutes) I find myself (just to give an instance) believing that communion should be received after baptism but recognise that I am weak around imposing discipline in that area of pastoral life and so am sure I have given communion to the unbaptised.

However I am thinking of founding the perfect church and I have the perfect candidate to be its sole member: me!

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,

Sorry about my blog name appearing instead of my actual name.

Joshua Bovis

Anonymous said...

"They work for her and freely admit that as a Bishop who believes so completely in the supremacy of Jesus Christ Our Lord, she is easy to follow and obey."

It is a scandal that anyone who does not 'believe so completely in the supremacy of Jesus Christ' could be a bishop. But they do exist, and 'Pageantmaster' hits it out of the park with his expose in Titusonenine of the devastation that Schori has wrought on the lives and finances of faithful Episcopalian Christians in the USA. What she has done is vindictive, malicious and completely contrary to the Gospel. But since she denies or is openly skeptical about much of the Gospel, this is no surprise. She is, sensu stricto, an enemy of the faith.
As for Colin Coward, the goals of 'Changing Attitude' are very clear. He wants a homosexual-friendly church to validate his homosexual lifestyle, and he wants jobs for his homosexual co-religionists. They are not able or willing to found churches themselves, although the Metropolitan Community Churches exist in the UK, so they want to find places for them in the established Church, with its network of parishes, cathedrals, chaplaincies etc.
To suggest that the credibilty of the Church of England in the eyes of the post-Christian and never-have-been-Christian English is ludicrous. But that's what 'Changing Attitude' is about.
Meanwhile, the number of gay men in the UK who are HIV+ has reached an 'all-time high', according to the BBC.
What is the Spirit saying to the Church?

Martin

Anonymous said...

Colin Coward articulates well Tec 'theology':

"This God can only be seen once you have lowered the fence enough to see what lies beyond. This God is infinite in love, goodness, self-giving, creativity, beauty, wisdom. She [sic] is often elusive, met in life’s crises, neither a rescuing God nor a God of the gaps, but the origin of everything, the light and the dark, intimately woven through the fabric of creation, the life force, energy, inspiration, vision, passion' etc etc

'This God' isn't the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. She (Coward's word) is not the Holy Trinity, and not the Savior. From this description, Coward's deity is most likely Brahma.

It's a different religion that Coward promotes. It certainly isn't Christianity in any biblical or historical sense.
So what is 'Changing Attitude's relation to Christianity? It's called Parasitism.

Martin

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,

Joshua here from across the ditch. My blog domain has changed, so the link you have to my blog on your blog no longer works.

Joshua
http://creideamhamhain.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

What I meant to write: "To suggest that the credibilty of the Church of England in the eyes of the post-Christian and never-have-been-Christian English depends on ordaining women bishops is ludicrous."

The issue for the pagan chatterati is political, not spiritual. Even so, I can't imagine them crusading (oops!) for England's mosques to have women imans. Wonder why not?
What the liberal-left fascists will do, however, is move to strip churches of charitable status. This has already started in England, beginning with the Plymouth Brethren, who have been declared the Wrong Kind of Christian.

Martin

Andrei said...

More food for thought

MichaelA said...

"Having said that, I find the debates surrounding ordination quite interesting in light of the fact that the practice of ordination as we have it in the Anglican Church does not appear in the Scriptures.
Thoughts?"

Hi Josh, I'm happy to throw in a few thoughts:

My view (which has been evolving over the last few years, and may yet evolve further) is that Cranmer re-thought all of the Church of England's governance from the ground up. His aim was to reform it in accordance with what he believed to be apostolic practice, and he evaluated this by looking at scripture first, and then the church fathers. He spoke with or corresponded frequently with the continental reformers [and married one of their daughters... :o)] At times he differed from them, but he also often admitted that their interpretation of scripture could be as right as his own.

So for example, Calvin read episkopos and presbyteros in scripture as referring to the same office. My recollection (no sources in front of me at present) is that Cranmer didn't deny that this was a possible reading. But since the church from early times had adopted a practice of separating the two offices, and since he didn't see anything clearly contrary to scripture in that practice, he was happy to continue with it. [Personally, I believe you can justify bishops simply as being pastors to the pastors – it seems to me that scripture leaves room for a church to do that, whilst focussing mainly on the key role – pastor to the congregation]

On the other hand, Calvin saw scriptural justification for an office of female deacon, which Cranmer did not (or rather, I think Cranmer may have conceded that Calvin's interpretation of scripture was permissible, but since the office had died out in the early patristic period, he saw no point in reviving it). As I recall, Calvin did not see this as a matter for great argument (and of course Calvin was insistent that the office of female deacon, if it existed, was qualitatively different to that of the male deacon). Even today, orthodox Anglican provinces differ on their reading of scripture about this issue.

Cranmer saw the priest or prester as being exactly what its name indicates – the scriptural office of elder. His aim was to put an elder in each church, with the people in the surrounding area united under his leadership (which was not necessarily the medieval norm). So far as I can tell, he had no difficulty with multiple priests in a congregation (parish, chapter, or whatever) but he saw it as necessary to always have one in charge. That of course is arguable - there are references in both the apostolic church and the sub-apostolic church to multiple elders leading a church.

In terms of ordination generally, Cranmer saw it as the process of approval by the whole church of those put into the chief ministry positions.

Personally I feel Cranmer did pretty well, i.e. our that our Anglican concepts are largely in accordance with scripture, and as much so as any other church. Others may disagree!

MichaelA said...

Andrei, great link. That is really powerful stuff, from a Greek Orthodox lady I gather.

Joshua Bovis said...

In line with Martin's comments, I think that Christianity will never be popular because:
1. we refuse to give answers to the questions that our culture asks that they will find comfortable, attractive, cool, trendy, etc.
2. We don't acquiesce to the thinking of the world but rather be salt and light, therefore we don't allow the world to set the agenda of the questions.

The problem with revisionism is that they do the opposite of the above, thus they conclude the C of E decision regarding Women being ordained to the episcopate is 'suicide for the church'.

Shawn said...

Hi Peter,

I understand your concern that the term 'apartheid' may become a diversion, though it seems to me like insisting that the sky is not blue in rejecting it as a valid description, but I am a little insure about your next statement. Just for clarification,you seem to be saying that we can only discuss whether or not 3T is working and how long it should last, but not discuss if 3T is legitimate in the first place.

That would seem to me to be an odd position given that a number of clergy and lay people have objected to 3T on theological grounds right from the start and continue to do so.

So I am unclear what the rules are on that topic.

Shawn said...

Megan said to me, in discussing the debates here, that my problem is not what I say but how I say it, and that sometimes I sound (read?) as though I am "preparing to invade Poland."

Heh.

Of course I AM preparing to invade Poland, but keep that to yourself! :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
Unintentionally on my part I appeared to rule out a potential aspect of discussion, namely the theological basis for our arrangements. Yes, that needs discussion too as the possibility of never changing the arrangements in the future would rest (should rest) on a sound theological basis for doing so.

Positively, my point that we might see the arrangements as provisional rather than permanent (i.e. for fifty years or so, rather than for ever) rests on the theology of church unity expressed in Ephesians: one people out of two, etc.

Shawn said...

Understood. Thanks for the clarification.

Hope to see you at St Christophers tonight.

Peter Carrell said...

What's happening at St Christopher's tonight? Youth group?

Bryden Black said...

What's happening at St Christopher's tonight? - PC

Megan is being priested!

Peter Carrell said...

Well I hope the youth group are playing quiet games in the adjacent hall!

Memo to self: must work on making my humour less dry, especially near Bryden's farm ... wouldn't want any self-igniting fires :)