With GAFCON, Global South and the Anglican Communion officialdom all trying to call the shots on Anglican futures, an ongoing question which drives this blog from year to year - the question of Anglican unity - is worth a review.
It is quite clear to me, probably to you too, dear readers, that the bonds of affection remain tautly strained. As the 21st century moves forward added tensions from (say) 2003, are moves in opposite directions re local contexts: so gay marriage is more and more legally approved in the West, while in two key Anglican provinces, Nigeria and Uganda, legislation is moving in the opposite direction. Churches in each sphere (understandably) are wary of moving out of step with the state.
In the sphere I know a little bit about, the West, there is the continuing twist, wound ever more tightly, of Anglican churches living in a state of desperation as the forces of secularization push the church around like a juggernaut, measured statistically by (overall) declining numbers. If the gospel is good news for 'all the people' does that mean bending and flexing in the direction of the people re the new status quo re love, sex and marriage? Or does the gospel mean that as much as ever we have seen before in the history of Christianity, God's gospel people must live out and stand for distinctively different (i.e. holy) styles of living? Let's face our history honestly- it is not a good guide as to what to do now. The church in its mission has sometimes made great progress by shunning the paganism around it and insisting on disciplined holiness; other times it has made progress by embracing the culture of the people to whom it proclaims the gospel.
Undergirding all Christian unity is truth. Some kind of common understanding lies beneath all claims to unity. Anglicans (it seems to me) have been quite good at maintaining some kind of unity on the merest sliver of common understanding! Think ++Desmond Tutu's profound, mischievous (and ultimately inadequate), "We meet." Part of the strain on the bonds of affection at this time is the recognition that unity in the pluralist, post-modern 21st century (i.e. don't tell me what to do) requires more than a sliver of commonality. Thus the question of Anglicans reading the Bible together (a recent Communion project, full of description, devoid of prescription) has become urgent. But urgency has not yielded much re unity (e.g. see above as both GAFCON and Global South take initiative, even though closely aligned theologically).
I wonder if one day we will look back on the past fifty or so years as the messy beginnings of a 'new hermeneutic' for Anglican churches as we read the Bible. Much has challenged our reading of the Bible through these years, especially in respect of developments in human society. Whether we engage questions around roles and status of women, the purpose of marriage in an age of proficient contraception, the value of life in a world of medical advances (e.g. a scan could give plausible reason for abortion, to give or withhold certain drugs towards the end of life is to have a previously unknown power over death), complicated calculations re war (aside from the Second World War, stand up all 'just war' theorists who are supremely confident that any other war of the last one hundred years has been a justified war) or simply attempt to determine who is poor, who is not, and what economic justice looks like in global economic terms, we have huge challenges trying to apply the Bible to these matters according to a consistent hermeneutic.
I say 'huge challenges' rather than 'impossible' because I acknowledge that some think there is a consistent hermeneutic available. But I wonder, really wonder whether there is such a consistent hermeneutic at this time. Even if that hermeneutic is at hand, who or what will articulate it, how will it be recognised and received, when will it be widely applied in fruitful ways?
Perhaps these musings chart a reason for staying together, even in great tension: we do not yet know what future common ground we will find ourselves agreeing to. Thus separating now for reason of the differences immediately in front of us would be wrong because it is a prejudiced understanding of the future. For the sake of the children, the Anglicans of tomorrow, we should stay together.
Nevertheless, we have problems, real problems which trouble us today. Perhaps we ought to give room for GAFCON, Global South and the Anglican Communion office(rs) to take initiatives. From one or more of these may come the road ahead.
Please do not use the words 'homophobia' or 'misogyny' when you post here. These words in your comments seem to imply that esteemed and valued colleagues and friends around the Anglican world are being judged and condemned for holding to the traditional teaching of the church regarding chastity and marriage, or ministry. If you wish to expound on these alleged faults using those words, please do so on your blog. But not here. Accordingly I am moderating your comment to omit these offensive words.
"I was most interested, Peter, in your comment here:
"Or does the gospel mean that as much as ever we have seen before in the history of Christianity, God's gospel people must live out and stand for distinctively different (i.e. holy) styles of living?"
This gets straight to the point of contention in the Communion at this time: What is 'holy living'?
Is 'holy living', for instance, living with ...? Or is it trying to bring justice into a world of prejudice and out-dated human inequality?
[This paragraph is omitted by me because it conveys prejudice and condemnation of those who hold to Sola Scriptura. POst on your own site please your prejudices against the learning and understanding of those holding to Sola Scriptura. Do not do it here.]
Can the Church not harness, anew, the witness of Jesus in the Gospels, whereby he challenged the fixed religious understanding of the Scribes and Pharisees? - To the point where they declared him to be a heretic, much as [some Anglicans] are accusing the [other Anglicans] today - of heresy and apostacy!
[Again, Ron, please publish your prejudicial opinions about GAFCON and those you think are too holy, on your site, and not here].
Love, in Christ, must always be primary. Law speaks of coercion, whereas love is prepared to 'suffer all things' for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
I'm constantly mindful of Jesus' retort to someone who addressed Him as "Good Master"! "Who are you calling good", said Jesus; "There is One Alone Who is Good!"
We always need to keep in balance that we are called to be holy, as God is Holy; but that is our aim, none of us has reach the target.
However, Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the Law and has achieved salvation for all who confess their failings & believe in Him, as Saviour and Redeemer.
"Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the Feast - NOT with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". Alleluia! Thank be to God!"
Sorry I've offended your strict code of language. Peter. However, it can be difficult to find words that convey the sort of meaning that are in the dictionary that actually cover the types of behaviour that are being expressed in today's Church. Especially when you, yourself are not above using words like 'heresy' and 'apostacy' , when describing your own betes noir.
I will try to be more bland in any future postings. Agape.
What unity can there be between Christ and the Baals? To stay united is to feed the children to Moloch!
Accusations of heresy or apostasy are often able to be backed up by representations of problematic views. In my experience reasonable expression of views about marriage or ministry seem to attract unwarranted descriptions using 'homophobia' or 'misogyny'. Thus best to steer clear of these words.
"I say 'huge challenges' rather than 'impossible' because I acknowledge that some think there is a consistent hermeneutic available."
This does appear to be conflating two issues. If someone think that a consistent hermeneutic is available, then they won't think these are "huge challenges". Whereas someone who doesn't think there is a consistent hermeneutic available will be in the "impossible" category.
"But I wonder, really wonder whether there is such a consistent hermeneutic at this time. Even if that hermeneutic is at hand, who or what will articulate it, how will it be recognised and received, when will it be widely applied in fruitful ways?"
Christians (and others) have been disagreeing about how to interpret the Bible for millenia. Some disagree because they genuinely disagree, some disagree because it is convenient to do so (i.e. they actually do understand what the Bible says; they just don't like it). But none of this is new.
I can't see much difference in principle between the situation now and that in e.g. the 2nd century AD.
"Nevertheless, we have problems, real problems which trouble us today. Perhaps we ought to give room for GAFCON, Global South and the Anglican Communion office(rs) to take initiatives."
I might be misunderstanding you, but I am struggling to work out what "room" means. Haven't Gafcon, Global South and ACO been taking initiatives for many years now? They haven't been waiting for permission from you or me, and I doubt they are going to start now.
From current news, it would appear that the Global South Primates are threatening top take further action with regard to providing further 'protection' for Anglican dissidents in other Provinces of the Communion. (Hardly orthodox behaviour, of itself!)
They are also demanding that the ABC Call a conference of Primates in 2015 to discuss the trajectory of the Anglican Communion.
The Head of USPG in the U.K., Bishop Michael Doe has protested against this high-handed action, saying that it does not meet with the Anglican tradition. Good on him!
Yes, my comment above was not meant to imply that Gafcon or Global South or ACO (or other groups for that matter) are always in agreement.
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