Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Percy v Welby: one of them should apologise!! [Updated]

[For update, see below]

Is Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, becoming Leader of the Opposition to ++Justin Welby's leadership of the Government of the C of E and Anglican Communion? Earlier this year there was strong Percy opposition to a plan to train bishops in management skills. Today Martyn Percy bursts onto the Anglo-Blogosphere with an essay in Modern Church,* summarised in a fisky way here, which has another go at ++Welby's leadership. (There is also a notice in Thinking Anglicans). [*You will get to the essay via this link.]

The essay is explicitly timed to broadside the gathering captains of the Anglican fleet at the forthcoming Primates' Meeting in January 2016.

No holds are barred as Percy calls on the ABC to apologise for this and that (England's exporting prejudice against homosexuality in the nineteenth century, inviting ++Foley of ACNA to the Primates' Meeting). In one purple passage he makes hay with Anglican statistics to cast doubt on whether the future of global Anglicanism is weighted towards Africa or not. Yeah, right! Basically he is telling ++Justin what to do, how to go about it, and what a numpty he will be if he doesn't follow Percy's manifesto. Here he is, for instance, commenting on the possibility that the Communion might devolve to something akin to the manner in which Eastern Orthodox churches populate the world, often with overlapping jurisdictions:
"The Archbishop needs to understand that there is a theology of Communion: a delicate relationship between geography, catholicity, ontology, theology, authority and pastoral oversight. Pushing the Anglican Communion to a more dispersed ‘Orthodox’ paradigm would cause irreparable damage to Anglicanism, licencing schismatic-churches in all but name."

The Archbishop needs to understand. That is interesting language coming from a lesser ranked clergy. I wonder how far I would get in synod if I started a speech with "The Bishop needs to understand ..."?

There seems to be no point of potential weakness in the planning of the Primates' Meeting on which Percy fails to pour scorn:
"There will undoubtedly be valiant attempts to construct some much-needed rapprochement for the Anglican Communion at the Primates’ gathering. At the forefront – or at least facilitating – is Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appointee for reconciliation. Porter is an Irish Presbyterian by background, and an Evangelical-Anabaptist by conviction. But he will have his work cut out to fashion some theological unity, in what is essentially an Anglican-catholic problem of polity."

But the great weakness in Percy's essay is its failure to offer a better way forward than what the ABC is offering. His compelling critique of Anglican failures re sexuality (and of C of E failures in particular) offers no specific recipe or remedy for unity on these matters. His alternative to a possible "Orthodox like" future for the Communion is this:
"It is possible that the Commonwealth, rather than the Orthodox Church, might serve as a better model for the future of global Anglicanism."

Er, that would be the Commonwealth that regularly suspends or expels errant members? Such a Communion no doubt would need a Covenant to help it understand which members should stay and which should go! And would that be the Commonwealth that bit by bit, year after year increasingly becomes less and less relevant to its members?

Oh, and apparently some poetry will fix our problems. Yes, it's there in the essay and if I don't tell you the page numbers you might be drawn to read Percy's breathless prose. He is a very readable writer. In his breathless prose, incidentally, many fine and telling observations are made: there are a number of things about Anglican approaches to homosexuality which are not going well and Percy rightly challenges his own church and the Communion to do better. But that is not the main point of the essay, which concerns how the ABC is going to lead the next Primates' Meeting as part of leadership of the Communion. The incidental points are hammered home but the essay's main thrust becomes a feather duster flailing in the breeze. A hammer nailing home its main point, that the ABC is wrong, wrong, wrong, this essay is not.

[Update] A comment from Nick alerted me to the following passage in the essay which I had not paid close attention to. This is an extraordinary critique (at best) and attack (at worst) on the work of ++Justin Welby.

"On the surface, a businessman-turned-Archbishop, with skills in negotiation, may seem like an ideal person to resolve this for the church. But we should be wary, and probe deeper. Negotiating and achieving results in business is often based upon intrinsic and extrinsic inequalities in power relations. The new company seeking to buy the larger, older, but now weaker competitor may be in a much stronger position than others. In business, risk, aggression and decisiveness are often rewarded – handsomely. But these are not necessarily the characteristics one wants to the fore in ecclesial contexts. Especially now. Moreover, the Archbishop, can do little to re-narrate his background – as a privileged white male; Etonian, upper-class; and related to titled people, who has little experience of powerlessness. Indeed, in terms of powerlessness, it is hard to see how he can enter into it, let alone comprehend it. His negotiations as a businessman in sensitive areas of Nigeria, whilst winning plaudits in the media, are not the same as the work of reconciliation, and arguably not the right ‘fit’ for the church, where first-hand experiences of powerlessness are often important for shaping episcopal ministry. Indeed, any ordained ministry."

15 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Contrary, Peter, to your dismissive comments about the recent statement made by the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford - a modern theologian in the Church of England - his statement here speaks volumes:

"‘(the) legal stigmatisation of homosexuality was largely ‘made in England’ in the nineteenth century, and imposed on cultures and emerging countries and that had not been, hitherto, homophobic. This is one of England’s less wholesome exports. The Archbishop of Canterbury could begin the Primates’ meeting by accepting responsibility for the part the Church of England has played in perpetrating this discrimination and the subsequent injustices – and publicly repenting of them.’ "

I have two Engliah retired-clergy brothers-in-law, both of whom admit to the Churches' wrong-footedness in the export of English homophobia to the colonial mission fields - a viewed from their own experience of having been missionaries in South Africa and Tanzania.

Dean Percy is not some upstart in the field of Anglican theology, but an experienced teacher and clergyperson whose been at it longer than the current ABC - at an academic as well as a pastoral level and deserves to be heard.

It really is time the 'elephant in the room' of Anglican homophobia is acknowledged and repented of - publicly and sincerely. Especially now that the chief proponents of Anglican dismissiveness of LGBTQ people will be gathered together at Canterbury in the New Year. Let this be for Anglicans - as well as Roman Catholics under Pope Francis - a 'Year of Mercy' for ALL people.

Kurt said...


“There is also widespread myth in the Anglican Communion, that the dioceses and congregations of the global south now form the majority, and are the only ones growing numerically…The actual asserted ‘core membership’ of Anglicans in many African countries may be no more dependable than it is for the Church of England. In contrast, figures for the USA and Canada may be more robust. So the received wisdom – that the future lies with the majority, growing, surging churches of the global south – may not be as trustworthy as some assume. The Church of England has plenty of recent cause to be suspicious of spurious statistics that are used to shape policy and polity. Conservative Christianity is not the only brand of faith capable of withstanding the onslaught of modernity. “ –Dean Percy

It is good to see that not all British clerics are “out of kilter with the rest of the UK,” and that they don’t buy into the myth of Global South triumphalism!

“The Church of England’s stance on sexuality is deeply alienating and quite incomprehensible for most young people in the UK. It confirms their view of religion as being backward-looking and bigoted. ++Welby knows that he won’t make much headway on evangelism and mission with a church that saddles him with an inherently homophobic polity. A non-inclusive church is an evangelistic dead-duck.”

Well said, Dean Percy!

“Some recent studies carried out by Gallup in the USA highlight the extent of the social and moral changes, and cultural shifts on sexuality. For example, in 1977 56% of Americans thought that homosexual people should have equal rights in the workplace; the figure for 2004 was 89%. Support for gay clergy moved in the same period from 27% to 56%. Some 60% of Americans in the 18-29 age-bracket now support same-sex marriage, compared to only 25% of those who are over the age of 65…The world only spins in one direction. It doesn’t stand still. And it doesn’t spin backwards.”

That’s right, Dean Percy, the bigots in the West are dying off and they won’t be around forever.

“As the head of the Anglican Communion, and with 41 Commonwealth countries still criminalising homosexuality, the Archbishop could take a simple moral lead, call his fellow Primates to repent, and in so doing remind them that people of different sexualities should neither be oppressed or criminalised. Nor should they be unwelcome in our churches. As fellow believers, they should be received as such in Anglican churches across the globe. “

He could take such a moral lead, Dean Percy, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

“One wonders how ++Welby might respond if the North American Archbishops invited the Free Church of England (originating from 1844) to the January gathering? Or perhaps members of the Ordinariate (established in 2009)? Could these rifts not be addressed as well?”

Good questions…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Whether or not England is responsible for exporting homophobia etc, it is entirely arguable whether an ABC in the 21st century should be repenting of that or not. It is further quite arguable whether it is Martyn Percy's role to tell the ABC what to do, whatever experience and theological acumen he has. (Incidentally, I think MP and JW are about the same age so not quite in agreement with you about difference in experience).

Anonymous said...

Sadly, Peter, the essay is agitprop.

I do agree with some of its substantive concerns, and sympathise with the rest. But the political gesture of the whole shouts over the whisper of its rambling argument.

The dean seems to fear that the archbishop's popularity is moving the *overton window* in the CoE to its natural centre, so that as common opinion moderates, happy warriors for marginal views who were empowered by the polarisation of opinion during the debate on SSM are sinking back into their natural powerlessness. To slow this decline, he appears to be, as is said in America's blood sport politics, trying to *drive up the negatives* of his popular opponent.

Happily, I cannot prove that the dean has made any of these dark calculations. Unhappily, he cannot prove that he has not. The essay's apparent purpose will be remembered, its ideas forgotten.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

A comment from Fr Ron - my apologies Ron, I pushed the wrong "button" and deleted your published comment by mistake. Here it is again:

"'agitprop' on not, Bowman. How different is it from the material of any blog, including that of your own? If politics is the art of enunciating "seeming sensible and judicious (opinion) in the circumstances" - then surely Dean Percy's essay is relevtant here? The fact that you see the thrust of the Dean's remarks as 'darkly negative' may only relfect the reality of your own opinion. Blogs usually reflect the opinion of their owner, do they not? "

Anonymous said...

Fr Ron, I agree with Kurt on those points which he culled out for posting at 9:57, and with Peter that his criticism of the person of an archbishop with several years of service remaining served no purpose of the Prince of Peace. Any who read my comment carefully will not be surprised by this.

I so greatly agree with you on the Christian duty to love all God's creatures that I freely give that love to both sides of every controversy as Jesus Christ did on the cross, and pray for those minds so ruled by hate that even in Christ they will not do more than the pagans do.

Bowman Walton

tachesterton said...

I also note that Martyn Percy apparently thinks that any church that is not an established state church is a 'tribal' church. Take that, you tribal Kiwis!

(He also apparently regards the title 'Evangelical Anabaptist' as a black mark. Take that, Tim Chesterton!)

Tim Chesterton

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Tim, we have more tribes than you can poke a stick at!

Kurt said...

“Indeed, one organisational model hinted at from Lambeth Palace is for the Anglican Communion to become more like the Orthodox churches – one where the member patriarchies may not get on with each other (e.g., Russian and Greek), but all agree on a kind of titular head. So Anglicans in North America may not see eye-to-eye with Nigerian Anglicans, and may never settle their differences. Indeed, they could individuate further. But they would nonetheless remain in communion with each other through the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would be a focus of unity in the Sees (and seas) of diversity.”—Dean Percy

Dean Percy is opposed to such an “autocephalous” Anglican Communion. I’m afraid that I don’t agree with the Very Reverend Gentleman on this. Perhaps that is because, unlike the Church of England, we American Episcopalians have not been established by law anywhere in the USA for at least 232 years.

During that time, a number of minor Anglican bodies (and one major body, if one can consider Methodists at all Anglican) have split off from us for one reason or another (the REC was not the first, and the ACNA will not be the last in this regard). Nevertheless, as a result of the spirit of ecumenism set in motion by Blessed John XXIII, today all members of Continuing Anglican denominations who have been baptized are welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament from Episcopal altars. These Continuing Anglican groupings include ACNA and even the Ordinariat. In many cases—though not all— visiting Episcopalians are welcome to receive Holy Communion in their parishes, too.

The historic Anglican bodies in English-speaking North America—The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada—among more than 30 North American Anglican denominations are the only full, voting members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, a fellowship in which they are among the very few senior founders. Any attempt to replace them with Continuing Anglican formations would certainly lead to a Trotskyist-like proliferation of “Anglican Communions” each claiming to be the “true” one.

It would be far better to admit the ACNA, REC, FCE, etc. as associate members of a united Anglican Communion. In this regard, I believe that it should be required of all affiliated Communion Churches—full voting as well as associate members—that they practice Table Fellowship with each other as a condition of affiliation. We are all sinners saved by Grace, and the very least that we can do is humbly kneel beside each other at the Holy Table, even when we disagree with each other on some questions.

I believe such an autocephalous Anglican Communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as titular head, is salvageable. It would also be able to accommodate Anglican schisms which will likely occur in the future in the Global South provinces, as well as any schisms in Durban, in Nelson, in Sydney, etc. for that matter.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY




Anonymous said...

Martyn Percy mentions some old friends of mine-- the Romanian Orthodox who settled around the Great Lakes on the US-Canadian border early in the C20. Why do they have two hierarchies, one in Chicago IL, another in Jackson MI? The division began as a byproduct of Communist control of the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe and continues today because of a dispute over whether Constantinople or Moscow has patriarchal authority in the Western Hemisphere. That dispute will presumably be resolved by an Orthodox great council-- the first since 787-- in 2017. For Anglicans, the relevant point is that the division was caused by state courts in the US ruling on Communism, not the breaking away of a faction (eg the Reformed Episcopal Church).

A Patriarch of Romania under Communist control sent a bishop to the Romanian churches of the Great Lakes region. When those churches collectively rejected him as a Communist agent, he sued in various courts for control of each of the several parishes. Where a few courts ruled in his favour, the contested parishes became the archdiocese now in Chicago. However most courts sided with the people, and the parishes contested in those cases became part of the diocese headquartered in Jackson MI. This received a bishop of their own from the Metropolia in New York, which had rejected the rule of Patriarchs of Moscow under Communist control.

At length, the Patriarch of Moscow granted autocephaly (the right to elect its own primate) to the Metropolia, which is now the Orthodox Church of America (OCA). As its authority to create a new Orthodox church, Moscow cited a right to rule Orthodox in the Western Hemisphere that was recognised in the C18. However, Constantinople objected that this right belonged to it by Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, that it had merely been delegated to Moscow, and that this delegation had lapsed with the October Revolution of 1917. The two patriarchates have also quibbled about the canonical conditions for a valid grant of autocephaly. Antioch has played a somewhat mediating role in the dispute.

For Anglicans, the most interesting feature of an otherwise tedious controversy conducted in exchanges of long, florid (one might even say byzantine) documents is Constantinople’s sponsorship of an assembly for all canonical Orthodox bishops in the Americas.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Romanian_Orthodox_Episcopate_of_America_(OCA)

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Romanian_Orthodox_Archdiocese_in_America_and_Canada

Bowman Walton

Kurt said...

One can make the argument that while the American Orthodox Churches of Eastern European origin have different hierarchies in the USA because of the Cold War, we American Anglicans have different hierarchies because of the Culture Wars. (This would hold true, for example, for both the REC and ACNA, though for different periods of cultural conflict.)

ACNA certainly is autocephalous, with their own archbishop no less. (What’s the matter ACNA, too good for a measly Presiding Bishop like TEC and REC…?) And, of course, the 30 other Anglican denominations in the Continuum also select their own leaderships. When it comes to religion, the more the merrier is a very American attitude, which I guess, sets us apart from most Brits.

Again, I see no problem in granting these other Anglican bodies associate membership status in the Communion if they are willing to practice Table Fellowship with the other Anglicans. Perhaps they could have a voice and a consultative vote in the concerns of the Communion. The historic Churches of our international fellowship, such as TEC, ACofC, Nigeria, New Zealand, etc. would of course retain a voice and a decisive vote in the affairs of the Anglican Communion.

The GAFCON faction would be foolish not to accept such a compromise, or something very close. But perhaps their conservative, Evangelical triumphalism will blind them to what they can actually achieve.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

With quibbles, Kurt, I'm sympathetic to both your argument and your proposal.

No analogy is perfect, but the analogy from the suspicions had about prelates in Communist states to those had about synods in notoriously worldly ones is as close as history is likely to afford us.

Your distinction between charter membership and associate membership, if I may put it that way, is a feature of (c) in my simple typology. Where I see it as a way of connecting Anglican and non-Anglican churches in the world's several regions, you see it as a global structure of membership and governance. To comply with the Lambeth Quadrilateral as presently understood, however, I presume that the associate churches would have to be conformed to the *one place, one bishop* rule (Nicaea), and would have to recognise some chief bishop in the country itself (Apostolic Canons #38).

Perhaps Mount Athos is a scale model of your system. The Holy Mountain was divided several centuries ago into zones, each governed by the abbot of its oldest monastery. Each zone has some spiritually independent younger monasteries, sketes, hermits in caves, etc. Each ruling monastery maintains a representative in the capital, Karyes, for the council that governs the Holy Mountain. Regardless of nationality or liturgical language, all are under the protection of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

I mean no disrespect whatever to our last Presiding Bishop, but her legal activity-- in the House of Bishops, US Federal courts, and state courts-- persuaded me that her office is thoroughly untenable. The TEC episcopate as a whole are not getting the job done because they are not well organised to do it. Ordinary Anglican archbishops over ten or so provinces are far better suited to the actual regional diversity of the United States. If a more inclusive polity anything like the ones we discuss ever came to fruition, this would be even more important than it is in TEC alone.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit enlightens both the Pope and the General Convention with signs and wonders unseen by others, but few of the world's Anglicans believe in the infallibility of either. Most Anglicans in most places find the idea of one communion supporting actually incompatible doctrines of marriage etc unintelligible. Thus despite TEC's past charter role in the Anglican Communion, its recent non-cooperation and present redefinition of marriage pose obstacles to full communion that even a liberal can see. Perhaps the obstacles can be removed over time-- I hope so-- but it is merely honest to acknowledge that they are real today.

You are quite right that the C21 Anglican Communion is demanding more of its member churches-- or at least of TEC-- than it used to do. Before the great movements for C19 missions and C20 ecumenism, Protestants generally left the crazy dream of a global church to Rome. But today, Methodists have actually achieved it, and many thought that Anglicans had as well. American and English Anglicans have been overtaken by a global village that they had expected to stay silent and overseas. And fairly or not, strongwilled "I Did It My Way" Americanism is just as loathed in some quarters of it as vestigial English colonialism. In the long run, maybe sooner, some balanced churches will get together to choose the way of Francis over the Way of Frank, and whether TEC or GAFCON like it or not, their synergy will be the dynamic centre of the next Anglican Communion.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

I saw the dean's contribution to a friendly website a couple of days ago. The reference to the ABC going to Eton when the dean went to the same school as Robert Runcie hardly makes the dean of Oxford "in touch" and the ABC privileged. The dean's reference to post-colonial guilt is really thinking from within a progressive mind. Conservatives (whatever that means) don't go easy on people because of history. We assume that God has given us all a clean slate to reach His aspirations for us. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the dean's appeals to secular "equality" law as some pseudo objective standard. I rather think that the Church universal has to be more discerning than that. As I do routinely, I tried to ascertain the dean's theological and/ or legal qualifications. No insult is meant at all, I simply like to know what I am reading. I could find degrees (one in education) but not subjects.

Nick

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Robert Runcie went to a different English public school from Mr Percy albeit with the same name and motto. Nevertheless, the school the dean went to is more impressive than Robert Runcie's if you believe Wiki's famous pupil list.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Nick
I have now updated the post thanks to your prompt re "Eton"!