Friday, May 20, 2016

Order or chaos?

Pending reports otherwise, possibly the least debated matter on the recent #gsthw16's agenda was the passing of motions to complete the process of authorising change to our constitution and canons to make possible the authorising of services by our bishops. (Technically, this formalises in a watertight legal way something the bishops have been doing in past decades in an as-it-turned-out less than legally watertight manner - not because they acted illegally but because GS thought it had provided the necessary legality).

Bosco Peters has a report and reflection here, and the following is a direct excerpt from his post.

"Until now, an authorised service in our Church was one that had gone through what is nicknamed the “twice-round” procedure (it required passing at GSTHW; then by a majority of dioceses and hui amorangi; followed by a 2/3 majority at a newly-elected GSTHW; and finally a year’s wait for anyone to make an appeal). Let me be crystal clear: That process of authorisation, with its checks and balances, is as of now no longer required. 
In spite of some diocesan reservations and dissent, this GSTHW2016 altered our Constitution to read: 
Authorised Services” includes (a) Formularies, (b) Experimental uses as authorised by the 1928 Act, and (c) other services authorised under Title G Canon XIV. 
It is the new addition of (c) that abandons the twice-round process. As of GSTHW2016, this Title G Canon XIV now includes the following:
[Tikanga Maori bishops and Tikanga Polynesia bishops may determine their own conditions, and in Tikanga Pakeha] Diocesan Bishops and other Bishops with episcopal jurisdiction within a Diocese in New Zealand may authorise forms of service to be produced and used in individual ministry units, after consultation with the Vestry or equivalent body, and in other particular areas of the Church’s work, upon such conditions as they may individually determine in each case, and in consultation with their Diocesan liturgical committees."

Further, that Canon provides a brake on what bishops may so authorise:

"Now, the only limitation on what may be authorised “locally” is that it “must not be inconsistent with the teachings of the Formularies.”"

Now let me straight up park an issue which Bosco tackles: via this new mechanism for authorising services, Bosco sees a pathway towards the blessing of same sex relationships. I see that pathway too, though I also see a pitfall or three. But I am not discussing that possibility here, having sworn off discussing YKW (You Know What) for a while. You can comment on that possibility on Bosco's site.

My interest in this post is on other matters of order or chaos in our life as a church as a result of this decision (which I voted against in our diocesan synod).


There are many occasions in which one-off liturgies will be composed that require no particular involvement of the bishop and diocesan liturgical committee because they comfortably fit current flexibility already provided for in our formularies, due to something we agreed in 2006, as also noted by Bosco Peters:

"2006 An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist further extends options – the Eucharistic Prayer, now, may be one authorised anywhere in the Anglican Communion.A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word provides for a flexible framework for non-eucharistic services not covered by the two Forms for Ordering the Eucharist."

But there may be such occasions, or even services for regular occasions (think, a weekly Taize service or a monthly Celtic Communion) where the local vicar and parish worship committee feel they would like to be sure that what they wish to use meets the standard of a service "authorised" for use. It can be a challenge negotiating one's way through the liturgical maze - the intricacies of our liturgical rules and regs versus the subtleties of the latest Wild Goose liturgy and so forth.

The new legislation offers a pathway via the local bishop for this to be done for services which, likely, the whole church has no wish to come to an agreement on whether it constitutes or should constitute a "formulary". For these services we (the wider church) are happy that they are "not inconsistent with the teaching of the Formularies" and have no pressing to need to ensure that they are consistent with the teaching of the Formularies.

In this way we have great potential for liturgical order on the edges and margins of our life together. We can be liturgically diverse and relatively free as we explore special service for occasions or as we develop specific services for aspects of our life (e.g. Taize services to connect with youth), all within the limits of the constraint "not inconsistent with the teaching of the Formularies."

But there are challenges to consider.

This legislation (as Bosco Peters points out) places a considerable weight of theological authority, if not autonomy on the office of the diocesan bishop who becomes sole local judge of what is "not inconsistent with the teaching of the Formularies." (I say "local judge" because on any such matter there is always possibility of appeal to a higher doctrinal authority if the episcopal judgement is questioned).

Further, this legislation is another step away from the notion of "common worship" binding us together as one Anglican church. There is no constraint placed on the bishop and diocesan liturgical committee to only authorise a few new services but to otherwise insist on the use of Formularies. In theory a bishop could authorise a different service as submitted by each parish in the diocese!


Thus there is potential for liturgical chaos if a plethora of unique services are authorised across our thirteen episcopal units. But there is also potential for chaos of a different kind, or so it seems to me. That chaos is the possibility (as far as I can tell) that bishops might authorise alternative baptismal, confirmation and ordination services to those prescribed in our prayer book. Could we become a church in which we one day realise that this one's baptism might not quite have been done correctly and that one was ordained according to a rite which on close inspection appears to have overlooked elements regarded by other jurisdictions as vital to valid ordination?

Or, am I just a worry wart? Let a thousand variations reign, you might say!

What do you think?

Even if you don't follow the "technical" issues re legal validity of liturgies, you might have a view on whether our worship services should have greater commonality or the diversity in our worship services is just fine ...


Craig Liken said...

Hi Peter,

Yes not quite following all the technical stuff, but I do think diversity in worship is to be encouraged. I tend to prefer simple services where the preaching of the Word is the key feature - the other elements are there but don't dominate. From time to time I also appreciate some full-on modern praise. I've also have worshipped at a church (not Anglican) where we had a quieter more ordered style, with sung Psalms and the like and I really enjoyed the reverence of that approach.

As for ordination (which you mention at the end), I do think we need a bit of a rethink about how such services go (at least in our diocese) - it might not be the liturgy itself, but just the whole conduct of the thing. I attended one recently and was expecting a joyful, celebratory occasion but it was anything but - dull, lifeless, inpenetrable, too long, the sermon was poor (and read!) and offered no encouragement, challenge or anything much to the ordinands. We really can do better than that.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Craig
All noted!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, regarding the types of worship services that are consistent with our Constitution and formularies;

I presume there is a basic requirement of a Celebration of the Eucharistic incumbent upon each Priest-in-Charge to provide in a parish on at least a weekly basis on Sundays. Others of us, in the Anglo-Catholic Tradition may see this Celebration of the Eucharist as important enough to be provided on a daily basis - as provided for in our Lectionary.

The other primary listed worship services are those of Morning and Evening Prayer (incumbent on clergy for whom the Eucharist may not be a daily.
practice) - for which the lections are also provided in our Lectionary.

I guess that, whatever other worship services are already conducted in our Churches - as long as they comply with Christian Tradition (e.g. Taize worship) and Pentecostal Type worship services, with Payer and Songs (charismatic worship) - commonly in use - may not require special episcopal approval.

Regarding Services of Blessing - of Animals, Warships, new Babies, Armed Services Personnel, Homes, Ikons. Rosaries, or even Personal Relationships; are they not already permissible, without the special permission of a bishop? This does need clarification and I think this is what Bosco wants.

If there should be any conflict about any of these rites - for instance, for peace-lovers; the blessings of warships or battalions - we would have heard o them by now? Or does the Blessing of Loving S/S Relationship seem beyond the pale - even for Service Chaplains, who are content to bless people in the Armed Forces going into battle, and armed Warships?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Weekly or daily eucharist is desirable, as is the saying of the Daily Office, but you will have a challenge to find requirements for such spelled out in our canons!

As for occasional services, perhaps they do not need much in the way of approval, but regular services are a different matter as they present the recurring face of the Anglican church and should be conforming to her requirements for worship rather than dissenting from them.

As you know, I am not keen on blessing worships and not much else on your list is of great motivating concern. Take your pets to the next parish ... :)

Brian Kelly said...

Blessing of Animals? Balaam's Ass Says 'Nay!'

Father Ron Smith said...

Brian Kelly - obviously no contact with traditional Franciscans, then? You should read the story of the Wolf of Gubbio - tamed by the love of Francis.