Friday, February 5, 2016

NZ Bishops Divided Over Biblical Command But No Schism Imminent

Quiz

Q1: It is important to obey the commands in the Bible? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q2: One of the most important commandments is Do Not Kill, is it not? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q3: But there are some exceptional circumstances in which even this commandment might be set aside? Correct Answer: Christians debate this matter, so some see killing in a justified war as justified, but others believe it is never, ever right to kill another person.
Q4: So, to go back to Q1, It is important to obey the commands in the Bible but sometimes a command might be set aside? Correct Answer: Yes.
Q5: So, to go back to Q3 and "exceptional circumstances," who decides what those circumstances are? Correct answer: the church has the authority to do that.
Q6: In an episcopal church, presumably the bishops play a role in making such authoritative decisions? Correct Answer: Indeed!
Q7: But what happens when the bishops cannot agree on the correct answer? Correct Answer: "Houston, we have a problem!"
Q8: Surely on the matter of the interpretation of the Bible re which commands might be set aside, and under what circumstances, we could expect bishops to be united, of one heart and mind? Correct Answer: We could.
Q9: Potentially, then, when the bishops are divided, the church itself might divide? Correct Answer: True.
Q10: So, if perchance, the bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia cannot agree on the exceptional circumstances under which one human might kill another human, do we have a potential schism on our hands? Correct Answer: Almost certainly not!!

According to this Taonga article, we have nine signed up bishops saying "No" and one saying "Yes" in a submission to Parliament re euthanasia. But I do not think we have an imminent schism on our hands because of this public disagreement.

Even the non-rocket scientists among readers here will recognise potent analogies here with our parallel debate on same sex blessings and same sex marriage. (There are also some non-analogies, but I am not going to go into all the details of the analogies and non-analogies).

My questions for today are:

A. Why are we so het up as a church re our divisions over one commandment and scarcely raising our collective heart rate over our divisions over another commandment?

B. One answer to the above question A is that on euthanasia we have no fixed canonical/liturgical policy, nor would we see teaching on euthanasia as a matter on which the constitution prescribes or proscribes what may or may not be taught, publicly debated etc. So,
- would we be better off as a church if our GS in May 2016 made the barest minimalist of changes to something* in order to permit ourselves the luxury of continuing to (a) be a church able to hold diverse views, and (b) be a church able to continue to explore difficult questions of biblical interpretation over which we remain and will remain divided?

*For instance: what if the only change GS made was to remove either engagement in a same sex partnership or conducting the blessing of a same sex partnership as a possible offence under Title D? LATER ATTEMPT TO CLARIFY LAST SENTENCE: Title D does not refer specifically to same sex relationships or blessings of them, but it does refer to "chaste" relational behaviour, without clearly defining what that is. There is a view abroad in our church (as I understand things) that unless or until otherwise clarified, the implication of "chaste" is that sexual intercourse for licenced ministers of our church should be inside marriage and not outside it. Thus potentially any infraction of the same could incur a complaint under Title D, whether it was a complaint against a couple living in a relationship not marriage, or a complaint against a bishop who ordained a person in such a relationship or publicly and formally permitted the blessing of such relationship. Thus my argument/proposal is that the "least" change we could make to our current canons and liturgies, a change which kept open conversation between differing groups in our church about the possibility of including a liturgy of blessing in our church as a formulary of the church, would be to clarify what "chaste" means in respect of same sex relationships, but to make no further changes at this time to other canons or to liturgies. Yes, a fishhook or three is immediately apparent ... But would that be liveable with when, it appears, the current status quo is not liveable with, but certain changes could immediately divide our church in two or three pieces?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...


Because Jesus came to break the hearts of liberals and conservatives alike, and because doing so is usually very conducive to a lasting peace centred in him alone, I suspect that, were I there, I would first affirm both the truth of the traditional Anglican teaching on marriage, and also the state's justice in accommodating SSM in the local laws, and only then would remove penalties for offering occasional prayers for those registered according to civil law, subject to the direction of the diocesan, and provided that the prayers used be forwarded to the liturgical commission for study.

The important thing is to break the right hearts for the right reasons. On the one hand, it is good to disappoint those who may hope that church accommodation of state SSM will open the way to a more general revision of all Christian ethics for sex and marriage. To do that, one makes it clear on the ground that wise accommodation for the 3% is not directly relevant to the 97%. On the other hand, it is also good to disappoint those who may hope that the Six Texts will be taken to dispose of the matter apart from every other civil, scriptural, and pastoral consideration. To do that, one acknowledges, with a certain matter of fact serenity, the concrete harm that the state's law and the permitted prayers will avert. Neither side wants any disappointment, of course, but sooner or later their hearts will be broken anyway, and these disappointments are the ones that they can live with-- a bit of justice without an exhilarating revolution, principle conserved but not with grim inflexibility.

BTW extremists are extremists in part because they exaggerate their chances of success. It is only when they face the saddening prospect of almost certain defeat that they begin to make more sober calculations. It is naturally hard to arrange for both sides to face almost certain defeat at the same time. But it can be done by requiring a super-majority for anything of exceptionally high importance. Given that the civil law has removed all urgency from the issue, and that the recent meeting of Primates has made the matter one of exceptionally high importance, it seems reasonable that any decision should have an exceptionally high degree of support. On the other hand, your Presbyterian friends there have a consensus rule that may work just as well.

Bowman Walton

Eric Love said...

Q2 Modern English translations say in the ten commandments "You shall not murder". Even if the original word is more like 'kill' than 'murder', it was understood as only prohibiting murder - their law allowed for war and capital punishment.

Your other points are valid, but imo using "do not kill" is a bad example.

Bryden Black said...

Of course Peter, everything depends upon how one sets up these sorts of dilemmas (see e.g. Lk 10:26c, “HOW do you read?”).

In what manner are Biblical commands/texts in contradiction and/or complementary?
Are the disputed matters “core/creedal”? Do they have doctrinal weight even if not core? I.e., where might they sit on Bolotov’s scale of things? Are they adiaphora? How do these doctrinal aspects relate to pastoral praxis? Does praxis/action precede doctrine/theory, as some would suggest? And lastly (for now) what does the Church catholic have to say, diachronically/synchronically? Re analogous matters and/or similar matters? For the Church should not indulge in “chronological snobbery” (Lewis), or be pressed by the sheerly present moment (as Christopher wells so eloquently expresses it on another thread).

And even when one has undergone all such exercises, there remains a key matter - WHOSE authority?! The Good Ship Anglicana simply does not have these days a clearly reasoned and widely respected answer to this vexed question. Even in ACANZ&P there’s no real acknowledgement of such an entity as “The House of Bishops”, while GS itself does claim ultimate legitimacy in many matters - yet NOT all!

At root of course, there is also a deeper, paradigmatic issue, of the likes adumbrated by Alasdair MacIntyre: western moral discourse is itself vexed at the core; so little wonder many Christians are similarly konfuzzed! So much for 2 Cor 3 or Rom 12:1-2!!

QED: what IS Holiness? And how are human beings to duly participate in it/Him, the Holy One? I suggest we start there ...

Anonymous said...



"...And even when one has undergone all such exercises, there remains a key matter - WHOSE authority?... What IS Holiness? And how are human beings to duly participate in it/Him, the Holy One? I suggest we start there..."

I know, Bryden, that you know that holiness is participation in the holiness of Christ. Since neither rationalism nor consensus nor power struggles avail to find the path to such participation, such a finding is beyond any synod that we know. This I think you meant to say.

Are you also saying that only one who can be seen to have this holiness can reliably explain what is conducive to it and what is not? That indeed, only one who is ready to hear such a word can understand it when it is given by one who can see the readiness? I hope so.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

" Even in ACANZ&P there’s no real acknowledgement of such an entity as “The House of Bishops”, while GS itself does claim ultimate legitimacy in many matters - yet NOT all!" - Bryden Black -

This dilemma is not unrelated to the 'authority' ambiguity at the ACC. As has been pointed out on other blogs - and by a canon lawyer in the Church of England recently - Anglicans have no Magisterium. There is no Pope (the ABC?) or Vatican Council (Primates Meeting or House of Bishops?) having jurisdiction over the rest of the Church. That function - of authority - has been ceded to a more democratic (episcopate/clergy/lay) body in both the ACC and the ACANZP.

No core credal definition concerning the veracity of Christ and the Trinity is currently in contention in the present discussions going on in either ACC or ACANZP. What is happening is that adiaphoral matters of Church discipline are being implemented in some Churches of the Communion (as being appropriate to their environment) and discussed as to their local application and propriety in others.

These are not the first theological/pastoral arguments to be taken seriously in Christendom, nor are they likely to be the last.

The ACC - being a partnership between Faithful Laity, Clergy and Bishops - has been given the role of ordering (as far as it can in terms of the independence of its constituent Provinces) the life of the Anglican Communion. However, its authority is limited by the legal constitutions of each member Church. That is the essence of Anligcanism, being a federation of Churches with a filial relationship with the See of Canterbury - 'Unity in Diversity'.

The General Synod of ACANZP - being of a similar membership (episcopal/clergy/lay) - has been given the role of ordering the life of its component dioceses. That is the way things work in the local Anglican Church organisation. No amount of wishful thinking can make it otherwise.If you want magisterial rule, you convert to Rome.

Our basis of decision making - in each Province - may be focussed on the Early Church principle: It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.

Peter Carrell said...

I heartily disagree, Ron!
1. Who says doctrine of marriage and/or of blessings is an adiaphoral matter of discipline? Only an authoritative body can make that judgment; and such a judgment is especially urgent in an Anglican Communion which (at the least) has the problem of one group saying "It's just adiaphora, let local provinces decide" and another group saying, "It's a matter of shared doctrine."
2. It is an oversimplification of Anglican life to say that the most authoritative body in the Communion is the local general synod/convention of each province. Suppose one of those General Synods decided that bishops were not essential to the order of the church, that from now on presbyters would ordain future deacons and presbyters. That would be a departure from Anglican ecclesiology of such a magnitude that, in fact, some kind of Communion decision would be required to determine whether that province could continue to claim to be a "proper" member of the "Anglican = Episcopal" Communion.
3. What might that body be which made such a decision? Agreed that we have a certain amount of confusion and even dysfunction in our understanding of which Instrument(s) call the shots etc, but I think we could be pretty confident that if (say) the ABC + ACC + Primates + Lambeth Conference determined that such an anti-episcopal province was no longer Anglican then that judgment would be determinative and be as good and powerful within the Communion as any decision of the magisterium is within the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, I also disagree that to have a magisterium one needs to go to Rome.

Father Ron Smith said...

I knew this would create a kerfuffle!

(1 & 2) However, when, Peter, you postulate the spectre of a province deciding that it would no longer use bishops - one of the founding principles of Anglicanism - the need in all circumstances for a marriage to be consecrated by the Church is NOT one of those principles - you are creating a straw person. A similar situation might be that of deciding to allow Lay-Presidency at the Eucharist (a prospect in the Sydney Diocese); and if this happened, the Church deciding in this way would, indeed, be transgressing one of the ministerial foundations of Anglican polity.Both situations affect the ministerial integrity of Anglicanism.

Such is not the case with gay relationships. They have always been a part of the Church - acknowledged or not - and, as such, have not affected the foundational, ministerial organisational adminsistration of the Church. Nor are they likely to do so. What the Church is now needing to discuss - and this is already being brought to a head in the Church of England - is whether a same-sex related person should be allowed to share in the Churches' ministries.

You yourself have recognised that the categorisation of 'adiaphora ' is currently in contest within provinces of the Anglican Communion, with some believing that - civil same-sex marriage could come into that category - as being nothing to do with the ministerial provenance of the Church. What seems to agitate conservatives is, not just whether such relationships could be 'blessed' by the Church; but whether, in fact, they are even morally justifiable (i.e.,seen to be the province of the Church).

(3) I agree that - as far as anyone is able to ascertain from the current situation in the Communion - there might need to be some central authority, that should comprise of laity, clergy and bishops of the Church; to decide whether or not any one province was - by its insistence on altering its observance of the Communion polity on Holy Orders - deciding to go it alone in such a matter (ditching bishops, allowing lay-people to preside at the Eucharist) - then the whole Church, represented by each of its operational instruments, could declare a province to be no longer part of the Anglican Communion.

Mind you, that has already happened as far as the GAFCON Provinces are concerned. Not only have they interfered in the existing Anglican provinces of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada by their raising up of a rival 'province (ACNA); they have also effectively cut off relations with TEC and the A.C. of C. - without consensus with other provinces of the Communion. So where does 'authority' begin and end?

Bryden Black said...

Dear Bowman, You read me like a book! For the truth is this: the Church is neither a democracy nor a bureaucracy. And what passes for truth is not exactly a function of any passing philosophical method. That so much of our present debates is conducted by means of the "flesh" (pun intended) is frankly tragic. [Having looked at ++Jim's 'argument', as reported, I can only bleed for him ...]
Kyrie eleison!

Father Ron Smith said...

"QED: what IS Holiness? And how are human beings to duly participate in it/Him, the Holy One? I suggest we start there ..." - Bryden Black -

Indeed! Jesus posed a question in that direection. When addressed by someone as "Good Master", he is reported to have said this: "Who are you calling good? There is one alone who is Good" - indicating that, in the flesh, even Jesus could not claim this title. Only His Father had that right. This surely casts serious doubt on the ability of any of us to approach that standard of holiness, that even Jesus. in the flesh, did not claim for himself? - "He took our nature upon Himself..."

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". No human being has yet been found qualified to take up that challenge of Jesus. it is a known fact that - despite our human sinfulness, God loves us and has redeemed us, en Christo. This is what we need to acknowlegde for ourselves - not our own righteousness, but that of God alone.

The nearest we can get to the holiness of God-in-Christ is to be with him and to partake of him in the Eucharist. That is my missional, celebratory calling as a priest. Holy Holy Holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the Highest! +Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. hosanna in the Highest
Deo gratias!

Father Ron Smith said...

"I seem to remember the New Testament story where Jesus asks those Pharisees who are trying to trap him on matters of Sabbath observance: "is there one of you who does not untie his ox or donkey on the Sabbath and take it out for watering?" - indicating that even animals were meant to be treated kindly " - Bryden Black -

May the Lord indeed have mercy on us ALL!

Have you ever though of the incosistency of your argument here, Bryden, - not unlike that of the Pharisees agrument with Jesus about allowing one's ox or donkey to drink water on the Sabbath?

When you belittle Bishop Jim's advocacy of a merciful end to the life of a human being; this might be tantamount to saying that such mercy is not what God may want for those who suffer beyond their capacity to bear it. Would you not do the same for your cattle on the farm? If one of them was suffering, would you not put it out of its misery? Or is that somehow different?O'm not sure Saint Francis would agree.

Bryden Black said...

"So where does 'authority' begin and end?"

Great question Ron. And a key feature of any answer needs to invoke that word buried in the first word - author/author-ity.

So; a question: who do you say we are? And a key feature of the answer to that question will invoke how the Author has set us up as depicted in Gen 1 & 2. Primordially, human being is no adiaphora matter but absolutely essential. You might like to try to think otherwise but the Author just happens to refute that.

Just as human life is sacred - so sacred that euthanasia is close to blasphemy - so human identity is sacred. Our present culture, having lost any sense of the transcendent, simply fails to compute we humans are to image the Creator, who sources our human identity. Meanwhile, you and others might like to ally yourselves to our contemporary social experiments; yet God is not mocked.
Kyrie eleison

Bryden Black said...

"So where does 'authority' begin and end?"

Great question Ron. And a key feature of any answer needs to invoke that word buried in the first word - author/author-ity.

So; a question: who do you say we are? And a key feature of the answer to that question will invoke how the Author has set us up as depicted in Gen 1 & 2. Primordially, human being is no adiaphora matter but absolutely essential. You might like to try to think otherwise but the Author just happens to refute that.

Just as human life is sacred - so sacred that euthanasia is close to blasphemy - so human identity is sacred. Our present culture, having lost any sense of the transcendent, simply fails to compute we humans are to image the Creator, who sources our human identity. Meanwhile, you and others might like to ally yourselves to our contemporary social experiments; yet God is not mocked.
Kyrie eleison

Anonymous said...

The first Lambeth Conference was called to resolve a doctrinal dispute involving a bishop because only bishops had the authority to do it. The grand authority problem today is that the Communion was conceived as a global body of bishops under Nicaea canon 4 and Apostolic Constitution canon 32 but a populist understanding of synods implicitly rejects both those canons and hence the Communion's raison d'etre. C19 Anglicans did not inexplicably forget to invent a doctrinal authority; they recognised the continuing doctrinal authority of bishops.

However, they did not anticipate that over the C20 synods would begin to claim a rival authority to define doctrine. That Topic aside, the conflict is between those who recognise the catholic episcopate, those who would subordinate it to (liberal) synods, and those who are struggling to avoid choosing between the rival claims of bishops and synods.

Since, for the most part, only an episcopal view necessarily motivates deeper koinonia across cultural boundaries, and synodical views of the Communion are empty talking points from localists who will not do missions etc anyway, that dilemma will resolve itself. The bigger car will survive the crash. The more urgent problem is that, while centrist Anglicans waste time debating phobic presbyterians about sex, a liberated episcopate gathering around GAFCON could preempt the recovery of a better balanced and more missional Communion.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, the Church once thought suicide to be a blasphemy and withheld Christian burial on this premise. Even the Roman Catholic Church has altered its dogmatic stance on that one - allowing mercy to overcome the strictness of the Law. However, if one lives by the Law, then one must be prepared to die by the Law. Is that not so for us all? In my book, the Redemption of Christ has brought us out of that mind-set. Now God's prevenient Grace overcomes the penalty of the Law.

Liturgy said...

Thanks and congratulations, Peter, for attempting to get some energy into this significant ethical discussion.

Some preliminary notes:

The absence of the Christchurch and Dunedin bishops surely raises a question.

Your linked Taonga article does not even make a note that (a) bishops are missing, and (b) one bishop holds the opposite position (yes, the latter is presented in a “related article link”).

Eric’s argument that the original Hebrew has “murder” (rather than the Bible Christians used, the LXX, which has “kill”) (cf. that same switching between the two in the fundamental provisions of our Constitution) is a distraction and adds nothing to this ethical discussion. Once again, I would note, the Bible alone is clearly insufficient to make a decision on this extremely important ethical issue – we are talking about life and death here.

I can make no sense of your “what if the only change GS made was to remove either engagement in a same sex partnership or conducting the blessing of a same sex partnership as a possible offence under Title D?” – You will have to point out which parts of Title D have “engagement in a same sex partnership or conducting the blessing of a same sex partnership” as offences. They might be a secondary interpretation of some texts there, but certainly such interpretation is not beyond dispute.

My main point:

I think the question central to your post (A) possibly needs great highlighting in bold, capitalising, and underlining: Why are we so het up as a church about sex within a life-long committed same-sex couple and scarcely raise our collective heart rate over a matter of life and death? (including across our full episcopal bench).

I note that comments don’t deal with your question.

I’m not as quickly convinced by your answer (B) as you seem to be (especially seeing your understanding in your asterisk). But even should we be convinced by your (B), that is not an answer. It merely underlines (A) once more.

We, unlike say CofE or TEC, do not have a systematic canonical system – we merely have a collection of what energises our ecclesiastical lawmakers at the time – all collected like topsy, and some parts of it disagreeing and confusing other parts of it. So, if we accept your (B) we now merely have:

Why are our ecclesiastical lawmakers so het up about sex (so that it has ended up in our “fixed canonical/liturgical policy”) and scarcely raise a heart rate over matters of life and death?

I have posited previously, and continue to do so, that this is all about minorities and scapegoating. We explicitly have no limits on divorce and remarriage for heterosexuals because our Anglican, mostly heterosexual community needs this to be so when our divorce rate is as high as anyone else. And, on the other side of the question, the same is true, as another example, about abortion – this, life and death discussion, is not one that is embarked upon.

The party-line response whenever I raise this is: “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Correct. But your question (A) remains – why do we only ever discuss one of the two wrongs, and never the other. Thank you, Peter, for at least raising an other wrong, and more importantly daring to ask why there's little to no energy for this issue when there is such unlimited energy for the other. As I noted, no one appears to be answering your Question A which is why you haven’t yet been fed the party line response.

Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

"However, they did not anticipate that over the C20 synods would begin to claim a rival authority to define doctrine. That Topic aside, the conflict is between those who recognise the catholic episcopate, those who would subordinate it to (liberal) synods, and those who are struggling to avoid choosing between the rival claims of bishops and synods." Bryden Black -

I find this rather an odd statement, coming from an acknowledged Evangelical academic. It would seem, at least in our diocese, that there are Evangelicals who have scant respect for the authority of bishops in our Church - especially when such bishops pronounce on matters in a way that does not accord with their conservative stance. Respect for episcopal authority is not one of the first-grade marks of such people.

However, Bryden, as you must know, our Province of New Zealand was the first to institute lay participation in Church government by allowing them to participate in the decisions of diocesan and general synods, so ACANZP has an important place in the Communion's reliance upon synodical government - a point which, surely, ought to appeal to a good Evangelical like yourself.

Authority is a most precious taonga in the Church, but it ought, surely, to rise up from among the membership of the Body of Christ - a principle that Jesus in the N.T. would seem to have encouraged: "He who is greatest among you must be your servant". Saint Paul's descriptiuon of body ministry implies that each part is invaluable for the efficient working of the whole.

Bryden Black said...

Sorry Ron; Bowman not me...
As for your addressing correctly some of my own points: abstract typing of Law versus Mercy solves very little. Especially when + Jim is more Benthamite than Hosean Mercy.

Bryden Black said...

G’day Bosco! Thanks for your thoughts.

Some of us, especially those who have caught the logic of the Gospel of Life (an assortment of Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals and others in my experience), have for many years naturally combined issues of marriage-and-divorce, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. For indeed, they are something of a package deal, all manifesting such a Gospel of Life.

What is alarming is the failure to see this necessary package given the coherence of the issues one with another (as you perhaps hint). But then perhaps this is not surprising when religion in western culture becomes something of a consumer supermarket, with a pick and choose, mix and match mentality approach. That our own bishops again reflect something of this culture merely reveals the failure of the likes of Rom 12:1-2 to have any authentic, biting effect in our institution.

Kyrie eleison!

Bryden Black said...

Re your comments on holiness Ron, and notably the Eucharist.

If we were to attend more carefully to the manner in which God, the Holy One of Israel, has brought in his rule via his “two hands” (Irenaeus), Jesus, Word Incarnate, and the Holy Spirit, especially given the matrix of his mother religion of Judaism during the first C, we should note these features.

If we may summarize succinctly and briefly four main groups among first C Judaism (whose boundaries are not water-tight): Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots. Then each has their own answer to the holiness question:

1. Sadducees - participate in the central rites of the temple in Jerusalem, where we are based;
2. Pharisees - engage in Torah study and praxis; just so, their network of synagogues and schools, especially in “Galilee of the Gentiles”;
3. Essenes - engage in specific communal rules and rites of ceremonial purity as far away from that “Wicked Priest in Jerusalem” as possible - for our pesher hermeneutic tells us the Day is at hand;
4. Zealots - the Land is Holy, and so rid the Land of any and all oppressors, especially foreigners and their allies/quislings.

Jesus from the pages of the Gospels would seem to be saying carefully and subtly to each and all of them, “Yes; but ...”. I suspect we should be stating and practising very much the same approach. Even those troublesome Corinthians were called “saints” by their apostolic founder - even as they were being enticed left and right to not exactly “imitate” their Lord Jesus via their apostle in the faith. 1 & 2 Cor might just be a template/score for us to perform too, as we eschew those very things Jesus redefined from out of his own religion.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear ...

Anonymous said...


Bryden, Yoram Hazoni's Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture was a breath of fresh air, and this looks promising. A Cascade Companion.

https://www.academia.edu/21591953/_Chapter_Excerpt_Scriptures_Knowing

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Bowman; looks like fun - and fruitful (pun intended).

Anonymous said...


Speaking of fruit, Bryden, what are you growing down there? And on what?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Postscript-- From all the foregoing, perhaps it is clearer why I think Father Ron's comments about refusal of communion deserve much closer reflection.

The facts are as he states them-- GAFCON sources go out of their way to emphasise that their Primates did not recelve, and CoE sources confirm that Canterbury Cathedral had only its normally scheduled eucharists for any who happened to be in the complex.

Nor is this limited to Primates who bear a certain responsibility for the boundaries of communion. A book that I am reviewing for Fulcrum describes a year of "fierce conversations" between TEC and ACNA students at Duke Divinity School. Accustomed to a certain irenicism between TEC and ACNA at Harvard, I was surprised to find that in Duke's ethos, the second generation of that conflict does pray together-- at Duke they share a residence-- but does not receive communion together. The ordination to the diaconate of any of them is a bitter-sweet time.

And why? It looks to me as though a purity logic is being applied to the eucharist from both sides, and like Father Ron I cannot quite follow it. Yes, there is a scriptural warning to those who cannot recognise the Body of Christ for what it is, but it does not seem obvious that seminarians reciting Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer together every day are unable to recognise their respective churches as real, however disobedient they may believe either or both to be. I will have to make some inquiries about this for the review, but I wonder what those down under make of this.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


"All of the foregoing" seems to have vanished into the ether. But maybe someone at Sugar Creek, Waihopai, or Tangimoana will put it back.

Peter Carrell said...

Hello Commenters
Thank you one and all for comments, some of which are making my own points, so I won't repeat what you so adroitly say!
If some comment or two is missing, then I am not sure what may have gone wrong.

Bosco: thank you for getting my main point! On one matter you raise I have attempted to clarify matters at the end of my post with an additional comment.

Brendan McNeill said...

"Thus my argument/proposal is that the "least" change we could make to our current canons and liturgies, a change which kept open conversation between differing groups in our church about the possibility of including a liturgy of blessing in our church as a formulary of the church, would be to clarify what "chaste" means in respect of same sex relationships," - Peter Carroll

Peter, I was reminded when I read your update of a comment made some time back by a self declared 'Jewish lesbian' who said in an article something along the lines of 'what do you Christians think it means to be gay if its not about sex?'

Which was in response to what seems to be a uniquely Christian idea that homosexual couples can be 'couples' absent sex. Well, I guess it can happen.

To your point regarding clarification about the meaning of 'chaste', does it mean 'no sex' or 'no sex outside of marriage'? If it's the former, then one group within the church is offended and the other feels vindicated, if it's the latter the positions are simply reversed.

How then does that help?



Bryden Black said...

Bowman - “I will have to make some inquiries about this for the review, but I wonder what those down under make of this.” Herewith some thoughts ...

In the first place, I really do not think we Latin types have much consensus or deep agreement as to what this sacrament is truly about. As I venture in chapter 8 of my own “LDL Exploration”, the historical “solution of the Church” obviates any real operational theology of the Trinity, for which both ‘Church’ and ‘sacraments’ have become virtual substitutes, at worst; or at best, we’ve simply put the cart before the horse, and we need to imagine how to reverse the arrangement–and yet we are seriously short on imagination.

Then secondly, and related, the more recent history of the doctrine of the Trinity post Reformation has focused upon “assent” rather than “invocation”, to borrow the wise words of Jason Vickers’ book [viz. Invocation and Assent: The Making and Remaking of Trinitarian Theology (Eerdmans, 2008).] What this does is to emphasize that to which we give assent, or don’t give assent, rationally, volitionally, to the point that once more we lose the plot about the One Whom we are properly “seeking” (OT theology of worship) to invoke.

Thirdly, as beautifully adumbrated by Henri de Lubac, SJ, in his Corpus Mysticum – The Eucharist and the Church in the Middle Ages (ET SCM, 2006), and then explored by Paul McPartlan via The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue (T&T Clark, 1993), we are not sure how and whether the Church makes the Eucharist or the Eucharist makes the Church; and if both, then what of the feed-back loop, and/or the centre of gravity?

To be sure; our Eastern neighbours too need the injection of an Alexander Schmemann, whose The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (St Vladimir’s Press, 2003) has to remind even them of what treasures they are not quite seeing in all their beauty or splendour. And so for us mere Latins, whose memory recall and practice of the epiclesis is still in its infancy, it’s little wonder that my first two points gain greater endorsement.

In short, while there remains A Body Broken for a Broken People, I sense, Bowman, Ron’s comments only scratch the surface. For such a People still prefer their settled tribalisms and seem to have returned too comfortably to Babel rather than risk the adventure of Pentecost. After all; Pentecost throws us all into a future over which we’ve little control. And I’m forcibly reminded by the author of Unbaptized God, Robert Jenson, we actually still prefer Egypt ... Viz:

“Gods whose identity lies in the persistence of a beginning are cultivated because in them we are secure against the threatening future. The gods of the nations are guarantors of continuity and return, against the daily threat to fragile established order; indeed, they are Continuity and Return. The Lord’s meaning for Israel is the opposite: the archetypically established order of Egypt was the very damnation from which the Lord released her into being, and what she thereby entered was the insecurity of the desert. Her God is not salvific because he defends against the future but because he poses it.” (ST 1, 67)
Kyrie eleison!

Jean said...

I do not bellieve the Euthanasia debate would be any less divisive if churches were preaching in support of its practice, or offering pastoral care in the form of supporting a person who has made this choice and working with them to plan a funeral.

I think the reason it is not yet so divisive is it is still in the realms of theory not practice for NZ society and churches. It is easier to live with me disagreeing with you if it is an opinion, harder when it becomes an action.

Like physicians I believe most Ministers of the gospel would be challenged by this topic because the heart of their work is to be life giving.

There is core Christian theology at stake in this modern day ethical dilemma also;
- Thou shall not murder (even oneself)
- I will preserve your coming in and your going out, our lives are not our own they were bought at a price (birth and death are not our perogative but God's alone, our time is in His hands)

I would imagine such theology amongst other scriptures would cause as much dissention between parties as there is over SSM.

Father Ron Smith said...

"we are not sure how and whether the Church makes the Eucharist or the Eucharist makes the Church; and if both, then what of the feed-back loop, and/or the centre of gravity?" - Bryden Black -

You may not be sure, Bryden, but I sense that the average Mass-goer understands this amazing reality: that, if the Church is the Body of Christ, and Jesus really did say "This is my Body" - of the Bread of the Eucharist; it must be that those who obey the Dominical commad - to "Do this, in memory of me" - then Christ being the Head of the Church, His Body is that which has carried out his command. Thus - the Church.

The centre of gravity remains the fulcrum - the Lord of the Church - who is its Founder, and in whose life-giving Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Jesus is the One into whom every Christian is Baptised. The Church is the extended Family.

Anonymous said...


Bryden,

Your theological reflections are, as usual, a pleasurable series of approaches to the problem. We've read the same books, and as on a spherical surface, one could probably get to the point of solution from any one of them. But I have an unpleasant suspicion that we are first confronted here with phenomena of moral psychology or cultural anthropology that are controlling the theological reflections of some who have also read at least some of these books and so already know better than they are doing. If that is the case, then (1) it may need to be exposed before a properly theological discussion can begin with any traction, and (2) it may explain why rationalistic techniques of mediated dialogue have been unsuccessful in changing hearts and minds. But of course, I would prefer that this suspicion be dispelled by theological rationales from the two sides that explain and predict their (in)actions better than eg shamanism does.

The rationale behind impaired communion appears to conform to a purity logic that medical anthropologists recognise in practises from any culture, including our own. A shaman would say this one way, a physician perhaps in this way--

To each side, the other is not just mistaken but sick. The symptomatic behaviour that manifests the disease seems reasonable and intentional to the patient, but that delusional confusion of the symptomatic and the asymptomatic is itself one of the symptoms of the disease. Because the symptoms are also seen in the world, it is reasonable to suppose that, because the sick lack a certain condon sanitaire from a pandemic around them, they have contracted a viral disease from those outside. The virus is highly contagious, and even those vaccinated against it are safe only if they reject the virus and avoid intimate contact. But sharing in a sacrament is both accepting the virus and engaging in intimate contact. So contact between the healthy and the diseased must be limited to brief meetings in which the healthy reject the virus and avoid sacramental sharing. Otherwise, the aim must be to construct and maintain one's own condon sanitaire. To do so, TEC has mechanically deposed 700 in ACNA from holy orders, and GAFCON primates did not receive communion in Canterbury. The depositions deprived some of their pensions, and the non-receptions weaken the Communion, but control of a pandemic requires strong measures that override ordinary human relationships.

Now one could object that this narrative is at many points close to the usual recital of the human fault. The Church, especially in the East, has often used medical metaphors to discuss sin. But that does not seem to be the native idiom of either of the parties in this conflict, and as described, their purity narrative does not seem to foreshadow a healing. Rather it is like Leviticus's mysterious prescriptions for *lepers* in which the priest visits but brings no healing. Indeed, it is not clear why both parties cannot agree with Father Ron that a rigid purity logic is inappropriate to the sacraments because it is only as confessed sinners awaiting transformation from God that we come to them.

Bowman Walton





Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for your calculus, presented as always with a surety. YET, it does not avoid the dilemmas ably chronicled by de Lubac AND Zizioulas, or even myself (dare I say). As I've said before: those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. And there are some serious gaps in the form of calculus you engage in - even tho to be sure you might be in reasonably good company!

Bowman; your language of dis-eased minds and hearts is right up Leanne Payne's alley! And on account of that cultural separation between head and heart endemic of western cultures, self-diagnosis is always really rather tricky, let alone the cure. Time to encounter that Living Laboratory of the triune God, her Schools - well; those of her successors; she died last year. Mercifully, there REALLY IS an avenue available to re-enact 2 Cor 3-4. Yet again; horses and drinking applies, as do Jesus' words re ears.

Anonymous said...


Yes, Bryden, but it's warm down there, and snowy up here: what are you growing this year?

I mainly know Leanne Payne from her critics, so as you can imagine, I think rather well of her work ;-) Have you attended a Pastoral Care School in New Zealand that you particularly recommend for Anglicans working through their estrangements? Are you saying-- have you been saying for months?-- that such Anglicans should place her *Crisis of Masculinity* narrative alongside the standard Indaba testimonials to understand their differences?

Do you also read the late great Dallas Willard?

https://youtu.be/DCJ-qYsRbM0

"It looks to me as though a purity logic is being applied to the eucharist from both sides, and like Father Ron I cannot quite follow it. Yes, there is a scriptural warning to those who cannot recognise the Body of Christ for what it is, but it does not seem obvious that seminarians reciting Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer together every day are unable to recognise their respective churches as real, however disobedient they may believe either or both to be." BW

"...we are not sure how and whether the Church makes the Eucharist or the Eucharist makes the Church; and if both, then what of the feed-back loop, and/or the centre of gravity?" BB

"You may not be sure, Bryden, but... The centre of gravity remains the fulcrum - the Lord of the Church - who is its Founder, and in whose life-giving Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Jesus is the One into whom every Christian is Baptised. The Church is the extended Family. ... if the Church is the Body of Christ, and Jesus really did say "This is my Body" - of the Bread of the Eucharist; it must be that those who obey the Dominical command - to "Do this, in memory of me" - then Christ being the Head of the Church, His Body is that which has carried out his command. Thus - the Church." FrRS

To me, the inverted order makes more sense. [Election -->] Christ/Spirit --> Baptism --> Eucharist --> Church [--> Witness]

"Thanks Ron for your calculus, presented as always with a surety. YET, it does not avoid the dilemmas ably chronicled by de Lubac AND Zizioulas, or even myself (dare I say). As I've said before: those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. And there are some serious gaps in the form of calculus you engage in - even tho to be sure you might be in reasonably good company!" BB

Are HdL and Zizi leading Anglican seminarians astray? I'll listen with an open mind. But I suspect that the dilemma that I'll hear is the American one chronicled by Mark Noll's account of Civil War exegesis about slavery.

One side brackets modern moral notions to faithfully retrieve others in the scriptural text that they expect to be counter-intuitive; the other uses modern moral notions as a hermeneutic to make the text legible in the present with every expectation that God's will is continuous with their common sense. One side views the Church as an elect society distinct from the world, especially in its maintenance of a sacred moral discourse; the other views church as the unruly world at prayer and pragmatically uses whatever profane notions the present generation understands to urge it to be better. One side has a father's demanding but transformative love for sinners; the other has a mother's accepting and affirmative love for the same. But neither side recognises the legitimacy of what seems to be its complementary opposite.

Apologies to any who did not recognise the mistyped phrase *cordon sanitaire*.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

“I mainly know Leanne Payne from her critics, so as you can imagine, I think rather well of her work ;-) Have you attended a Pastoral Care School in New Zealand that you particularly recommend for Anglicans working through their estrangements? Are you saying-- have you been saying for months?-- that such Anglicans should place her *Crisis of Masculinity* narrative alongside the standard Indaba testimonials to understand their differences?

Do you also read the late great Dallas Willard?”

Bull’s Eye BW! Her successors have now come four times to NZ, as it seems our Courteous Good Lord has particularly placed NZ in his Purposes. I have attended all four, and have even been kindly invited now to be our local Officiant on two occasions. Their Schools are quite simply living laboratories of the triune God. And yes, re DW: I have had the privilege of sitting at his feet even; giant of a human being - RIP!

Your “inverted order” is not only ‘acceptable’ but more Scriptural - at least, so runs the NT Catechetical Form. The trouble I sense is not exactly that dear folk have been or are being led astray, but that quite simply it’s hard to get out of one’s own skin. That only occurs when the desert sands blow really hard and strip one - ala Anthony & co! Thereafter; we’ve to humbly acknowledge that perhaps we’re little better than Ezek 37 after all, due to preferring the likes of Egypt or Babylon. So; with Jeremiah, let us pray for a renewed wooing by Yahweh in that wilderness, wind and manna and all.

Sadly; I am ignorant of Mark Noll’s particular exegesis re your Civil War - although I have read some of his material and respect him greatly. So; that’ll require unpacking for us Kiwis ... Though I do hope you’re not suggesting we play Jungian animus/anima games ...!

Father Ron Smith said...

"ust as human life is sacred - so sacred that euthanasia is close to blasphemy - so human identity is sacred. Our present culture, having lost any sense of the transcendent, simply fails to compute we humans are to image the Creator, who sources our human identity." - B.Black

Dear Bryden, going over this conversation, I've noticed this pericope from one of you contributions that I did not pick up on at the time.

My question, of you, on this particular statement, is this: Do you think that the intentional denial of intent to procreate - by the use of artificial contraceptives - is as "close to blasphemy" (your own phrase) as, say, euthanesia? And if not, why not?

Bryden Black said...

Thanks for your question Ron. But I too have a question in return.

What is the supposed analogous link between the two acts you cite, between using human technology which has as its sole purpose the denial of life, and using other human technology which, as is the case with pharmacological medicine since Hippocrates and Plato, has the power both to heal and to kill (just so, the double meaning of the Greek, pharmakon)?

Indeed, your question reminded me of those two questions put to Jesus in Mark 12, firstly by “some Pharisees and some Herodians”, and then by “some Sadducees”, vv.13-17 and 18-27 respectively.

Father Ron Smith said...

Very Jesuitical of you Bryden: to answer one question with another. however, the R. C. Church at this point in time believes that the act of sexual congress must always contain the possibility of producing human life. That being the case (although I know you are not a R.C.), I suggest you have a similar view about the 'sanctity of life'. In this particular instance - avoidance of possible pregnancy by the use of artificial contraception - would seem (for rule-abiding Roman Catholics) to equate to another form of blasphemy, do you concur

Now, can you answer my question (put here in a somewhat modfied form, so that you might better understand it): Do you think the use of artificial contraception is a sin?

I ask this question, because it seems to me that the Roman Catholic banning of artificial contraception seems to have the same premise for the protection of 'sanctity of life' that pertains to their views on abortion and euthanasia - which you seem to advocate.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It strikes me that the Roman position is more nuanced than you blanket statement at the beginning of the above comment. I say that because natural methods of contraception are happily promoted by those who will not promote the use of artificial contraception. Either way, the relative scarcity of large Catholic families these days in countries such as our own suggests of all the "rules" promulgated by Rome, the one most observed in the breach in some countries is that pertaining to artificial contraception. My strong suspicion is that blasphemy is the last thing on their minds!

Father Ron Smith said...

"the relative scarcity of large Catholic families these days in countries such as our own suggests of all the "rules" promulgated by Rome, the one most observed in the breach in some countries is that pertaining to artificial contraception. My strong suspicion is that blasphemy is the last thing on their minds!" - Dr. Peter Carrell -

That's precisely what I think too, Peter. But what the R.C. Law-makers (dogmatists) think, is perhaps more important - for the coherence of dogmatic pronouncements and 'sanctity of life' advocates, like B.B.

Anonymous said...


A conservative Roman Catholic canon lawyer on an alleged exception to the RC teaching on birth control--

https://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/misunderstanding-the-alleged-congo-contraception-case/

Bowman Walton