Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anglican chickens coming home to roost?

Glen Young writing a comment on my Church of England Empowering Act says,

"If the aspirations of the proponents of blessing same-gendered relationships ,cannot be legitimately accommodated within the Doctrine of Clause 1 then it does not fit into the ACANZP - period. 

I feel, if such is the case, those who have been advocating and promulgating doctrine which is inconsistent with the Doctrine of Clause 1 have never been under genuine adherence and submission to the authority of General Synod.

The Church cannot be split into a lawful and a unlawful factions. In actuality, we could finish up with 9 tikanga."

Let's unpack this a bit.

As an Anglican church within the Communion (i.e. since the Anglo-Catholic and Modernist controversies of the mid nineteenth century) we have lived our life as a broad church which has given considerable latitude to its preachers to enunciate from the pulpits interpretations of the 'doctrine of Christ' which, strictly speaking, if ever tested before a doctrinal tribune, might not be consistent with our constitution's definition of the doctrine of Christ as that expressed through the BCP, the 39A and the Ordinal.

But, and here is the thing, none of our latitudinal, broad minded preachers have ever succeeded in the synodical process of our church in (say) changing the creeds or removing the BCP as part of our fundamentals. Put another way, all the St Matthew's-in-the-City billboards, and all the times our newspapers have printed an interview with clergy about not taking the Bible literally, Mary may not have been a Virgin and did Jesus really rise from the dead? amount to diddly squat in terms of our constitution. Those statements whistle in the wind doctrinally because they change nothing about what our church formally believes. (Pastorally they likely have mattered in a different way: how many people have been misled by such statements as to what the Anglican church stands for, what Christians believe and what the Bible teaches?)

The difficulty with where we have evolved to as a broad church is that we have lulled ourselves into thinking that we can accommodate any reasonable change proposed by sincere members of our church. That is true only to the extent that a reasonable change is a canonical or constitutional change to church order and belief consistent with the constitution or is a change which does not touch the canons and constitution.

Potentially where our church is going in the light of Motion 30 is towards a place where we cannot accommodate the change we seek. Glen Young's comment highlights this possibility because he is properly focused on what our constitutional understanding of doctrine is and raises the questions whether

(1) a change to incorporate blessings of same sex partnerships (let alone same sex marriages) is consistent with that doctrine; and

(2) any attempt to get around an agreed inconsistency by promulgating some other structure would effectively be a structure consisting of a 'lawful' and an 'unlawful' church (or set of churches).

There is a kicker in the comment above because Glen is highlighting the possibility that for decades 'liberal' or 'progressive' members of our church have actually been tacitly rebelling against the lawful authority of the General Synod. If so, then our lax discipline has fostered a situation in which we have high hopes that will be constitutionally dashed. Such hopes would not have arisen if we had taken a firmer hand on discipline concerning the authority of General Synod and the true submission required of licensed ministers (lay and ordained) in our church.

Are Anglican chickens coming home to roost at this time in our history?

Is God challenging this church to wake up out of its theological slumbers to address the question of belief?


Jean said...

"Is God challenging this church to wake up out of its theological slumbers to address the question of belief?"

I believe so, of what importance is theology if it holds no sway or application in churches?

There is a big divide between allowing grace and God the time to work in people's livees to bring them to faith, and allowing a church to teach "Jesus didn't rise from the dead" or "Mary was not a Virgin" so people feel comfortable. If effectively rules out teaching on the power of God and the Holy Spirit.

My concern here lies not with those who "know in whom they believe" but with those who are being taught a different story. Will this story save them? If not are we who do not speak out complicit?

(NB: I purposefully stayed away from the homosexual topic so as to providing a wider context for adhering to doctrine or in my preferred language belief in the gospel of Jesus)

With penteost and General Synod's focus on Mission, it would be great to join with the COE in their request for "A Call to Prayer" - see:
'The call to prayer is not a one-off, but a call to a continuing openness, dependence upon, and imploring of God to work among us for the sake of others. Rather than launching a programme or a campaign, the Church is seeking to respond obediently afresh to the last words of Jesus, in both the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 and his charge to wait on the empowering presence of the Spirit in Acts 1: 8.'

liturgy said...

“for decades 'liberal' or 'progressive' members of our church have actually been tacitly rebelling against the lawful authority of the General Synod.” Peter Carrell

Greetings Peter

Following your divisions-of-Anglicanism paradigm, if any category of Anglicans has been for decades encouraging a culture of disregard and rebellion against the lawful authority of the General Synod it has been evangelicals. Week by week, Sunday by Sunday, they have been leading communities with disregard for the formularies they vow to and sign up to. When challenged, even on this site, the convenient put-downs include calling those who abide by their vows as Pharisaical, and straining out gnats whilst swallowing camels, etc. Yes, chickens may be coming home to roost – but they are not just 'liberal' or 'progressive' chickens as you contend, for evangelicals they are your own.



carl jacobs said...

There are of course at least two alternatives for dealing with this constitutional issue.

1. The "Positivist" approach. Which basically means "We can redefine the words to mean whatever we want. We are our own law."

2. The "Ignore it" approach. Which basically means that only the church hierarchy can hold itself accountable so it doesn't really matter if the constitution is ignored.

Both avenues have been well-traveled by TEC. And what is to stop your typical progressive from running roughshod over the law when he is his own enlightened authority? If he will trample the Scripture is his rush to establish the desires if his heart, then how is a church constitution going to restrain him?


Jean said...

Hi Bosco,

I do not subscribe to any 'particular' stem of christianity and my knowledge of liturgy and doctrine is lacking.

So for the sake of understanding can you provide a practical example of disregard and rebellion evangelicals have shown towards Synod, and of how they lead congregations away from the formularies they agreed to in their ordination.

Many thanks for your time,

Father Ron Smith said...

I.m with Bosco, here. Instances of liturgical 'rebellion' by evangelical parishes have been known - certainly within my 33 years as a priest in ACANZP.
I don't needs to define them. I suspect that those concerned in this diocese will know who and what the issues are/were.

Besides all of which; one doesn't expect one or two militant evangelicals to decide on issues that have already come before General Synod, and which are being processed through their careful and considered steps.

Your suggestion, Peter, of the possibility of a major split over the issues before us are, I think, alarmist, to say the least. Your Mr. Young must take note of due process when he brings up red herrings like this one.

We have to make sure the tail does not succeed in wagging the dog!

(Bye! off to Noosa for a rest from the hurly-burly - & sunshine)

liturgy said...

Greetings Jean

I'd be interested then to know why you didn't ask the same question of Peter about 'liberal' or 'progressive' members of our church? And why you just focus on 'evangelicals'?

Not following the agreed readings.
Not using the agreed Eucharistic Prayers, but reading Paul’s Last Supper story instead.
Not robing.
Discarding consecrated bread and wine.
Using other than wine for Holy Communion.
Lay presidency of the Eucharist.
Using unconsecrated bread in a service of “the Sacrament consecrated elsewhere”.



Jean said...

Hi Bosco

I didn't ask the same question of Peter because he infers to the liberal/progressive side and examples of divergence from doctrine accordingly in his post.

I asked you for examples re evangelicals because you responded to Peter's post by pointing out divergence from General Synod's authority by evangelicals and I didn't know what you were referring to.

What you listed appears to me to be the order of worship adhered to by the Anglican Church - is this in the 39 Articles or part of the constitution - excuse my ignorance. What Peter refers to appears to me to be doctrine, the cornerstone of faith for all christian churches (ie: Jesus rising from the dead).

Evaluating the above while I appreciate the structure and order provided by liturgy I do not worship it. I consider foundational beliefs a greater concern.

Kind Regards

Jean said...

Is it time we stopped using the labels liberal, conservative, , progressive, reformist? Are they not loaded terms which by placing people in groups assume they hold all the views pertaining to each label.

Being politically liberal, religiously conservative except for women's issues, ethnic issues, and liberation theology. I might just have to invent a new label.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
You summed up my position very succinctly. Thank you. I am very interested in your statement:- (pastorally they may have mattered in a different way...)
Having retired from 20 yrs of providing psychiatric rehabilitation; it strikes me that Motion 30 is not based on Best Therapeutic Practice. By pre-determining that same gender relationships are right ordered, the question arises as to how one deals with a person who wishes to be healed of same gender attraction. A blog on this would be interesting.

liturgy said...

Jean, I agree with you. I have long been highlighting the problems with divisions into labels – including regularly on this site. On some things I am conservative, on others liberal, and even revisionist. Similarly, Peter on some things is conservative, on others liberal, and even revisionist. Hence, you will have noticed the start of my first comment.

On your other point, as I understood Peter’s post, he was talking about “change to Anglican church order and belief” and “rebelling against the lawful authority of the General Synod”. No one here is talking about “worshiping the structure and order provided by liturgy”. Nor is this a discussion whether “foundational beliefs are a greater concern”. Such a response is merely reinforcing my original point.



Kurt said...

It raises another interesting question, Glen. How does one deal with a person (say, a bi-sexual) who wishes to be healed of opposite gender attraction.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters
Thank you for stimulating and challenging comments.

I stand by the post, despite certain comments above. Nothing in the post above says that no other individuals or groups in our church are innocent of rebellion. Those charges are for another court and another time.

Labels can be unhelpful but they are also a useful short-hand, at times. In the post I particularly target those for whom the label applies, who consistently have both an appropriately labelled 'liberal'or 'progressive' theology and have pushed for change re blessings. That there are others of a conservative hue re (say) liturgy and theology also pushing for change are not focused on above.

The fact remains, some if not many within our church have lulled ourselves into thinking that a bit more breadth in theology is possible without taking due regard of what our constitution actually says.

We now have a wake up call re the relationship between our constitution and theological developments.

That other wake up calls are also necessary and other chickens are coming home to roost is not being denied here.

What I would be really interested in from commenters is whether the essence of Glen Young's comment holds true. If not, why not?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
I am not going to offer a post on therapeutic means of responding to homosexuality, even where someone is seeking such therapy.

There are plenty of sites, books and what have you dealing with therapeutic responses to homosexuality. Many of them, you likely are aware, represent a turning of the tide against invoking such means.

Zane Elliott said...

Bosco has a good point, we need to focus on what is most important when it comes to submitting to the authority of General Synod. The rubrics must be followed. We should all dress like this - http://liturgy.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/eucharistnz.jpg

So that we can declare the real presence of the unrisen (bodily)non-divine Christ.....

No one mention Fresh Expressions - they aren't authorised!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane
I am publishing your comment, just.
The issues Bosco raises go beyond rubrics and concern our common practice and our commitments through our declarations to share in that practice commonly.

However I am concerned that in our church, as your link to the illustration depicts, it is a practice on that part of a few that one wears the common robes of the church while not sharing the common faith of the creeds of the church.

Such illustration makes the point that orthodox belief is more important than orthodox wear.

carl jacobs said...


What I would be really interested in from commenters is whether the essence of Glen Young's comment holds true. If not, why not?

No, it does not hold true. A constitution is ultimately nothing more than words on paper. It cannot enforce itself. Someone has to have the interest and ability to enforce it. He said that the church cannot divide into lawful and unlawful. But what about a division between lawful and lawless? What binds people to pay attention to this document if they should decide not to do so? How difficult a task would it be to rationalize such a decision? This is a matter of justice, after all.

If the people who want this change have the power to affect this change, they won't be stopped by doctrinal limitations I'm the Constitution. It won't be a matter if "Oh, we have to change the Constitution before we can proceed." It will become "Let's proceed and deal with the constitutional issue later."


Jean said...

I would like to thank you all for prompting (making) me read more of church foundational documents (arghh) than I have ever encountered before.

As implied in my first post I agree with Glen. The foundational belief's especially those given due thought are an important benchmark to abide by. Recognising that one of the primary statements of the constitution is the alignment of church practice with the Word of God as found in the Bible.

Caleb I can understand your doubts about enforcing such adherence, however, from what I have observed the influence and oversight of Bishops in New Zealand in their respective diocese carries a reasonable degree of weight with individual parishes.

Bosco I acknowledge Peter was talking about changes to church order and belief, and he has now mentioned his post is only intending to tackle one branch of thinking in which the church is at present allowing a divergence from the theology in the current constitution.

I also acknowledge your point of being consistent in applying such an application across all positions or branches of thinking. However, I still stand by my original analysis because I believe it is actually consistent with the current church constitution.

This is because the constitution itself implies principle beliefs of our Faith are set more firmly in concrete whereas the examples you mentioned above (many of which I have not personally witnessed but can honestly accept they exist) do not seem to be contrary to the constitution. A conclusion made from the following:

Standing order 2012
Whereas liturgical change is an on-going process and ...it is desirable that authority should be given for continuing experimentation in local and special situations... after consultation with the Vestry, and in other particular areas of the Church's work, upon such ... provided that such experimental forms shall not contradict in principle the teaching in the Formularies.

First Fundamental Provision of the Canon:
1. This Branch of the United Church of England ...doth hold and maintain the Doctrine and Sacraments of CHRIST as the LORD hath commanded in His Holy Word .. and .. hath received and explained the same in the Book of Common Prayer, in the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. And the General Synod hereinafter constituted ... Doctrine and Sacraments of CHRIST, and shall have no power to make any alteration in the authorised version of the Holy Scriptures, or in the above named Formularies of the Church: (1857)

Note both of the above are edited so I don't exceed the word count.

Blessings, Jean

Jean said...

Glen I understand your comment re pastoral care and the subsequent consequences. While accepting many of those in committed same sex relationships may not wish to change, there will be a percentage of people living the homosexual lifestyle who would like such pastoral care. If homosexuality is accepted as being not a behaviour but a genetic gender identity, counselling such people automatically is seen as unacceptable (equivalent to counselling a woman not to be a woman).

In the secular sense we have witnessed this issue in NZ with the legalisation of prostitution. Now it is legal and as such morally acceptable in society it is illegal to encourage, help, aid, women out of the profession. Making a simple issue of organisations who simply wish to help those who wish to be helped, into a complex one.

Careful analysis of future consequences is needed in the making of all these ethical choices.


mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,

Regarding Jean's latest post, and also something Glen wrote.

The term "homosexual lifestyle" is pejorative.

Who has ever suggested that homosexuality is a "genetic gender identity"? What does that even mean?

Regarding prostitution: In New Zealand it is not illegal to encourage, help, aid, women (or men) out of the profession any more so than it is out of any other profession.

Glen mentions psychiatric rehabilitation. What does that have to do with sexual orientations - especially when referred to along side "Best Therapeutic Practice"?

Bryden Black said...

The one mercy, Glen, re your observations and questions regarding our Constitution, is the insistent cry, from all our GS/HW local reps in the debriefing sessions I attended, that the Working Group may declare it is impossible to actually achieve what Motion 30, parts 1 & 2 seek. I.e. their eventual “recommendation” after due “process” might indeed be: sorry, there’s no achievable “structure”...

Should that happen, and it may very well eventuate for the reasons you indicate, a question naturally arises: now what? My answer: game on ...

Jean said...

Hi Mike

I apologise if you view the term 'homosexual lifestyle' pejorative (derogatory); I didn't intent it to me no more than I would consider the terminology 'heterosexual lifestyle' to be pejorative.

Genetic gender identity was my best attempt to explain how some view certain sexual orientations as being determined by our genetic make-up; others that it is a choice or adopted behaviour. The jury I guess is still out in this regard.

The Salvation Army was taken to court for advertising it's long standing programme of assisting women out of prostitution by the Prostitutes Collective. They lost the court case (the Sally's) because prostitution being legal, it was argued by the collective, is the choice of women and therefore they do not need such assistance. Please note I am not against prostitutes here, actually I by far prefer Iceland's model whereby the soliciting of prostitutes is illegal, and social programmes are set up to aid the women.

Cheers Jean

liturgy said...

Zane, the agreements that you and I vow and sign up to do not at all say that we should all dress as you describe. The point you make next is my very point – there is an issue when you pick and choose which parts of the vows you will adhere to (you being one who publicly declares disobedience to your vow – in the same place where you sourced your photo).

Jean, what is particularly interesting to me about your continued attempts to separate belief from practice is your suggestion that the standing order you quote does “do not seem to be contrary to the constitution”. You say this straight after General Synod has just finally admitted that not only is that particular standing order “inconsistent with the 1928 Act” that Peter’s post is about, but it “lacks fundamental authorisation in the first place”.



Jean said...

Hi Bosco

Ha, ha typical, I scan all the constitution to try to find reference to whether Anglican Churches or Minister's when they are ordained are required to abide by all set readings, collects etc etc as outlined in the Prayer Book in every service or if there is some room to use say other scriptures etc if it is appropriate at that time for that church, and the one reference I have found, I now find is revoked!

I couldn't find any reference in the 1928 Act it just seems to imply the Book of Prayer is an aid in interpreting scripture and providing liturgy for use, rather than set in stone guide to be followed as a rule.

Sigh, I resign.

Blessings, Jean

Jean said...

Oh just out of curiousity Bosco do you see no separation of belief and practice? Practice in the sense of how one chooses to worship rather than the works of faith (e.g. evangelism etc)..

mike greenslade said...

Hi Jean,

Your term of reference is one that minimises the issue. It is commonly accepted that lifestyles are chosen, and can be changed. There is no credible evidence of sexual orientation being a choice for anyone.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are certainly not the same thing. It is unhelpful to use the terms interchangeably.

The case against the Salvation Army was - from memory - about coercion. To my knowledge, there is no law in NZ restricting career advice to any legal profession. Do you have a reference for what you wrote?

Jean said...

Hi Mike

As I referred to in my last post there are two points of view, one is that sexual orientation is a choice (genetic) and the other is that it is not (acquired).

I can see how using gender identity and sexual orientation interchangeably could be confusing so my apologies for doing so.

I am afraid my example of the Salvation Army case came from memory of reading an article, in Australia if I am correct. The dispute I think was the wording they used in their advertising which was smuggling was the means they used to help a prostitute leave their profession. Call this coercion if you wish, but one may question whether a person who did not wish to be smuggled would agree to it. I think the Salvation humbly apologised for the add. I just found it sad their work was seen in this light as they have a long history of working with marginalised people.

No I doubt if there is a NZ law restricting career advice. And no doubt there are not many careers where people find their only way of leaving their jobs are by being smuggled out.

Anyway, enough about terminology I think, although I appreciate your comments, generally given the benefit of the doubt hopefully most of us posting here intend no deliberate offense.