Sunday, August 19, 2018

Writing theology before blogging?

I am introducing myself to the theology of Robert W. Jenson. He is seriously cool and I should have begun reading him years ago. He writes so clearly (unlike another modern theologian I dipped into recently) and yet with such profoundness that he must be read slowly (as advised by my friend and commenter here, Bryden Black).

But I have come across something he has written which (arguably) is written BB (Before Blogging).

In Systematic Theology Vol 1 The Triune God Oxford: OUP, 1997, p. 39, he writes:

"In one way, a reader is therefore more free - it may seem, indeed, omnipotent - over against a text than is a listener over against a speaker. A speaker is there to defend his or her intention against my interpretation. Once discourse has become text, it lacks this defense."

That was in 1997. In 2018 a blogger can post a text and can choose to defend it in the comments section. Or not!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NZ's Other Religion

On my sidebar I reserve the right to avoid theology and stuff and to "write about cricket and politics." The article I link to below is not about cricket. It is about rugby. It is written by Linda Burgess. And she can write! Her husband Bob Burgess was a brilliant first-five who I saw with my own eyes score two tries against the 1971 Lions at Lancaster Park. (I also saw one of the greatest tries of all time, Ian Kirkpatrick running 50m, fending off Lions' players  as though they were annoying flies, from an amazing viewpoint: the then "Boys Enclosure"on the south-west corner of the Park was in exact line of sight of his run down the field.) I digress. Back to Linda Burgess.

She writes about an era in All Black rugby which straddled changes in our society - to the role of women, to attitudes to sporting contact with South Africa, to rugby's religious role in society. I find her article to be both a walk down memory lane and an evocation of a different world. She also touches on a contentious subject in NZ rugby history, the treatment of Keith Murdoch, expelled from the 1972 rugby tour to the UK, Ireland and France. Indeed his biography sparks the article's writing.

I won't spoil the potential reading pleasure of the whole article by citing from it. It is here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The bread of life: a sermon on the eucharist

Recently I posted a couple of times on the eucharist (here and there) and promised to post on Brant Pitre's book on Jesus and the Last Supper which remains a sin of omission.

Below I post today's sermon, focused mostly on the gospel passage, John 6 and the bread of life. I don't normally post sermons I have preached. That is mostly because I write them on the back of envelopes. The sermon below is unusual: I actually typed it out on my laptop. I think the sermon below is worth a post, on two grounds.
1. While not directly citing Brant Pitre, my reading of his book is definitely influential on what I say below. I am - of course - responsible for what is written below; Pitre is not responsible for the sermon.
2. I was struck, while preparing the sermon, by the neat way in which 6:41-43 illustrates how the bread of communion can be simultaneously the body of Christ. Your feedback [bad pun] will be gratefully received. I am sure what I write below is entirely unoriginal, but it is a new-to-me insight from this passage.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and John 6:35, 41-51:

If we want to live we need to eat the bread of life.

How often should we have communion?
That simple question has had varied answers through Christian history.
From once or twice a year to quarterly to monthly to weekly to daily.
The New Testament, which faithfully reports to us that Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me”, doesn’t actually say how often we should do this.
Indeed the NT, perhaps to the surprise of Christians who put a lot of emphasis on regular communion, devotes very few words to the subject of “holy communion”.
But among those words are the words we find in John 6 as we read from this chapter over five Sundays – this is week three – if you have lost track.

John 6 – bread from heaven
Five Sundays on the bread, someone once complained.
But what bread it is to spend five Sundays on – the bread from heaven, the bread of life, the bread that gives eternal life.
Eat this bread, Jesus says, and you will never be hungry again.
Now we know, when someone talks like that, but our stomach tells us we are hungry, that this is not the bread we buy at the supermarket or cook in our bread makers.
What is this bread from heaven? Is it metaphorical – bread as a metaphor for spiritual union with Christ?
To be sure, there is an element of metaphor.
What counts is the life of Christ in us and our lives lived in union with Christ. We live this life 24/7, whether we share in communion that day or not.
Yet what Jesus says is very specific about eating him – eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
His flesh is the living bread, his blood is true drink. Jesus says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (53).
It has been impossible for the church not to join this teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum with the later Last Supper –
the supper in which Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples; shared a cup of wine in the same way.
So, alongside the element of metaphor is an element of material reality.
To eat bread given thanks for, broken and shared among followers of Christ, is to eat the body of Christ.
To drink wine given thanks for, shared around followers of Christ, is to drink the blood of Christ.

The bread from heaven is that bread which we eat together in communion.
And whoever eats of this bread will live forever.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” (56)
At times in our Anglican history we have had long seasons in which communion was (and in some parishes still is) an optional extra (10 am Mattins and 11.15 am Holy Communion for those who stayed).
I don’t think that approach is faithful to John 6 and its connection to what Jesus did at the Last Supper and commanded us to continue doing in remembrance of his death.
If we want to live, really live, to live the life of Christ in the world, we need to meet, to break bread and to eat it and to share the cup and to drink it.
Thus the spiritual life of Christ comes to us through the material reality of bread and wine:
in this way we eat Christ’s body – his crucified, risen and ascended body – and we drink Christ’s blood – in which the life of Christ comes to us,
the life which was given up for the sake of the world.
As the last words of our Ephesian reading puts it, urging us to love with the same love Christ has for the world,
“live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:2)

John 6 – bread from heaven = Jesus, son of Joseph (6:41-43)
We may wonder – as many Christians have wondered – how bread and wine from the earth can convey the heavenly body and blood of Christ.
Fascinatingly there is a strong clue in our gospel reading today.
Jesus says he is the bread come down from heaven.
The Jews who hear this complain: this man is no bread from heaven, this is Jesus the son of Joseph. We know his Mum and Dad.
As readers we know that Jesus is both.
He is the bread come down from heaven:
he is Son of Man and Son of God, come to us from the Father, descended to us from eternal, heavenly intimacy with God his Father.
He is Jesus, son of Joseph.
An ordinary and very material/physical human being.
Same as you and me.
Simultaneously, Jesus is heavenly and earthly, divine and human.
No scientist could have done a blood test and found Jesus to be from heaven.
No theologian, hearing the witness of the Jews who were Jesus’ audience that day, could have denied Jesus to be from earth.
The bread we eat today and the wine we drink cannot be taken to a lab at the university and be found to be the heavenly body and blood of Christ.
And no matter what we believe about the body and blood of Christ which we partake at communion, it is simultaneously bread and wine.

John 6 – the wrap up
If we want to live we need to eat the bread of life.
We should not be vague about this and think of Jesus being all metaphorical.
We can be concrete, specific:
we should come – as we have done today – to communion – to eat the bread of life
– to be nourished and strengthened by Christ through the bread and the wine of communion.
And how often?
I am going to answer that question with another question ...
Can we ever have too much of Christ?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Staying the (impaired) course (updated)

LATEST: See now this post at Liturgy.

ORIGINAL: The following Tweets (re the Diocese of Nelson Synod meeting this weekend) speak for themselves:

There is more to report than this but I am awaiting some published news about another motion the Synod considered and, I understand, passed. I will update when some kind of linked news comes to hand.

UPDATE: please read this snipped picture of a Twitter feed this afternoon from the bottom to the top. In another motion the Diocese of Nelson synod has clearly signalled a couple of things re the situation in our church. I would welcome Nelson commenters filling us in on "impaired" and "support and recognition" ...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Making the inadmissible admissible and the admissible inadmissible?

Andrew Goddard - as usual - has an excellent discussion of the Pope's recent move re the death penalty (from admissible to inadmissible), here, with a multitude of links to Catholic writers and theologians. (Liturgy also posts on the decision and has some useful collation of key statements, here).

Goddard's discussion notes the trepidation some commentators have that a shift from admissible here to inadmissible could presage a shift from inadmissible to admissible over there ... if you get my drift.

One issue I am intrigued by, triggered by some things I read on the net before reading the Goddard post, is this: is change to ethical teaching best approached via a "development" conception?

On a development conception we change teaching on X bit by bit, perhaps taking centuries to do so.

An alternative conception could be we simply admit we got it wrong in the past.

With respect to the former: there is a charting of development possible with Catholic teaching about the death penalty, though wise people have pointed out that Francis shift from admissible in narrowly prescribed circumstances (as development previously had done) to inadmissible in all circumstances is not a development but a change. And by "change" those commentators mean, the church effectively now says previous popes/catechisms have been wrong.

With respect to the latter: I would argue that the church universally today recognises that it was previously wrong when it tacitly tolerated let alone explicitly endorsed slavery.

In response to my question, "is change to ethical teaching best approached via a "development" conception?", we could observe that the church - through history - has both developed its ethical teaching and changed its ethical teaching.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Making decisions: deciding how to make Christian decisions

Recently, in the post below the one below this, a very challenging (in the best sense of that word re theology sharpening theology) set of comments has raised questions about (variously) synodical powers, consensus, categories of decisions in the life of the church.

One important challenge has been whether "majority rule" is sufficient for decisions we make or should we aim higher, for consensus?

Naturally the higher aim of consensus rule is laudable but is it realistic? Very intriguingly, with a background discussion here being whether our GS 2018 did the right thing or not re SSB, for which clearly a unanimous decision did not occur (though 85:15(ish) is darn good), it is notable that four congregational votes in local parishes for the congregations to leave did not achieve 100% either. On some arguments advanced in the comments of the previous post, folk should be staying put. [This is an observation re the nature of the argument and its applications - not a proposition for debate in comments below - do not comment on these local matters directly.]

Further, responding to some examples in the thread below that some majorities in history have been majorities for oppression, we could also observe that some consensi have been unanimous votes for evil to occur. Neither the Klu Klux Klan nor the Soviet Communist Party under Stalin had minority votes in favour of "enemies" being let off execution.

But also important below has been the challenge of whether there are some matters the church should decide in one way and other matters in which it might decide in another way.

Recently, in 2017, our local diocesan synod decided to support the reinstatement of our permanent cathedral. The vote, as I recall, was 55:45%. I have heard no one since argue that it should have been unanimous. As far as I know, it has not turned out to have schismatic consequences. Might we take this example as evidence that in the life of the church, some matters are agreeably about majorities. Is there a majority for the proposition that such matters are generally nuts/bolts and bricks/mortar votes?

By contrast, our GS 2018 decision re SSB, involved matters of truth (what might be believed within this church? what might be blessed in God's name?). It is over matters of truth that people are voting to leave the church. There have been schismatic consequences to the decision. All this is ironic as the intent of the GS decision was that people's convictions about the truth of the matter would be respected and safeguarded by this decision! But should we have waited until we had a consensus?

A difficulty with "waiting" on such matters is that meanwhile real people's lives are affected. When some believed that the decision to ordain women should be held off until no further disagreement existed, there were women called of God to be ordained who were unable to be ordained. On another matter, capital punishment (see below), it very obviously affects lives whether we do or do not execute criminals.

Which makes me wonder, in response to a line in comments in the post below (in my words), on matters of truth, we should wait for an agreed discernment by the church (where "agreed" might be consensus, or reception of a teaching body's deliberation, or even of a papal declaration), whether we might consider two kinds of truth.

One kind could be creedal statements (which do affect us re salvation but don't affect us over who may be ordained, whom we marry, whether we will be hung at dawn or not): by all means, let's wait for the discernment of the church according to agreed process.

Another kind could be ethical statements: by all means let's not rush, consider all arguments, go away and think about it a bit more, pray even more, but, in the end, recognising that dawn is coming up fast, make a decision, if necessary by a majority.

What do you think?

The Pope has kind of thrown a cat among the pigeons pecking at this matter with his recent announcement about capital punishment being inadmissible and the Catechism changing accordingly.

Initially I thought that this was an example (i) of Catholic development of doctrine, (ii) of the Pope exercising power to make a decision in respect of a discernment of the consensus of the faithful. But these articles (National Review, Cranmer (actually Carl Jacobs, a sometime commenter here at ADU), First Things) have put me right on that score!

None dare call it "development" (more like "reversal"). Nor is it a discernment of the consensus of the faithful (because there is not a consensus of the past faithful and not of all present faithful in favour of this decision). Worse, it potentially opens the floodgates on other reversals and undermines the security of many matters of doctrine and ethics (although I think Rod Dreher is OTT here).

I realise, reading some articles here, that I myself am in disagreement with the Pope on this matter. Sorry Adolf and Josef, but I don't think capital punishment is inadmissible in your (and like) cases. But in my disagreement I am in agreement with the Catechism as it was the day before the Pope's announcement.

So, how should we decide matters of importance as Christians?

I think there is something to be said for synods! For gathering representatives of the faithful together and nutting out issues and then voting (in the Spirit!). I would be pretty surprised if Francis could swing his latest move through a global synod of the Catholic faithful. Synods may not be good at discerning (so arguments in the post below) but are they worse than ... popes ... bishops (note the mess the CofE is in re safeguarding at the moment) ... theological commissions ...

Churchillian readers will have spotted my mutation in the sentence above on his great point on democracy - "democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…"

I wonder if the problem with synods is not the form of such government (with the checks and balances of bishops/clergy/laity) but the content of it, that is, with the formation of the members of the synods of the Anglican Communion?

Their views are not shared by this country

Two Canadian alt-right (white supremacist? anti-multiculturalism?) speakers in our country have been put in their places by our Prime Minister holding her baby: "Their views are not shared by this country."

A bit of a "free speech" debate has wound up some quarters of the MSM and social media, the very debate proving that (1) we believe in free speech and do not have an Orwellian police force suppressing it, while the outrage over the speakers proves that (2) we don't see a need to give a public platform to outsiders who denigrate what is important to us. This is not to excuse the hotheads and fruitcakes who have gone all OTT, even to the point of bomb threats. I simply point out to them that when the revolution comes which they seek they will not be in the vanguard but in the van ... heading to the Lubyanka, sequestered out of harm's way lest the revolution be less than gorious. :)

Meanwhile, true free speech is a choir from Nayland College which happens to be at Wellington Airport at the same time as PM Jacinda and babe Neve and father Clarke Gayford and sings Wairua Tapu - a prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide us!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Trinity Has Set Sail in the Visible Ark That is the Church

Christopher Wells has a great article here in The Living Church and the title of this post is excerpted from the article.

The article concerns the nature of the church and the investment God makes in the church as the instrument of God's plan for the world.

Now, to be sure, the specific locus of the article is the events of the recent TEC General Convention and of the recent GAFCON 2018 conference in Jerusalem and much technical detail in the article derives from these major Anglican events of 2018. And that provides an overwhelming temptation to keep arguing That Topic (which is carrying on quite nicely, thank you, here).

Please resist that temptation (e.g. by continuing to comment there).

What I am interested in are your comments on what it means to be "church" and to be "Anglican church" with respect to matters such as "catholicity," "authority", "order", and "visible communion." How can we Anglicans be a global communion when we present ourselves both as GAFCON and as "Anglican Communion." We are scarcely in that territory where outsiders will spontaneously say, See how these Anglicans love each other!

Consider these paragraphs from Wells' article (my bold):

"If God still has a vocation for Anglicans the world over, bound in love as one family to hasten wider unity and reconciliation within the one Church, praise the Lord. Just this hope should be our aim; that is, we must not fail to place even the steps of a General Convention within the comprehensive, world-historical frame of the gospel. Our church — I speak as an Episcopalian — is a very small part of the movement of Christ-followers across time and space, but it may still serve as a site for the formation of evangelical and catholic disciples. When we lose our way, repentance, conversion, and re-initiation should be sought! And this is a good word for us now: to pray for pre-catechumenal humility, in the hope of learning the way of wisdom and following it. 

To be clear, I am not asking, like some of my friends, “Is the Episcopal Church a true church, or part of it?” Yes, and yes. Given that God has placed me here, where I can still serve with real affection for my fellows and for our broadly Anglican tradition of holy teaching and saintly sacrifice, my question concerns how we may non-idiosyncratically answer the call of Catholic truth and unity, holding the two together. And how can we respect those with whom we disagree — and, respecting them, learn to enjoy and love them, not wishing they were other than they are — while at the same time giving one another sufficient space for potential “flourishing,” should the Lord desire it (1 Cor. 3:6)?"


"Faced with Donatist heresy, Augustine simply urged return to the visible communion of the Catholic Church for all seeking salvation — not because outward membership in the Church guarantees eternal life (it does not), but because “outside the Church there is no salvation”: broken communion is surely a deal breaker (see On Baptism 5.27.38–5.28.39). 
Had St. Augustine attended the recent GAFCON Assembly in Jerusalem, he could have agreed to its impassioned warnings against false teaching, and he might have spoken in favor of councils of the Church designed “to consult, to decide, and if necessary to discipline.” 
He would have blanched, however (supposing that an Augustinian understanding of Anglican ecclesiality is imaginable), at GAFCON’s encouragement “to recognize confessing Anglican jurisdictions” willy nilly, absent wider adjudication and authoritative consensus about visible boundaries. If the hand of God is indeed “leading us toward a reordering of the Anglican Communion,” as GAFCON’s “Letter to the Churches” asserts, it will be orderly, as an agreement about the Catholic faith by the instruments of Anglican communion. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13), truth and unity being identical in God. 
And we should say something more. 1,600 years after Augustine and downstream of countless divisions, we have learned to accept that the Church is wounded, with semi-permeable bounds. In a Roman Catholic idiom, multiple “communities” may faithfully bear their members unto salvation, though they be in less than full communion with one another. How so? Baptismal unity has grasped us, which bestows a character, and commonly shared faith follows. So far, so Augustinian. 
But because, “often enough, both sides were to blame” for our unhappy divisions, the sin of schism is transposed into separated brethren doing the best they can with what they have inherited (Decree on Ecumenism 3; Catechism of the Catholic Church §817). The communion of the Church is impaired, therefore, but we might say only in the sense that the normal rules of Catholic life apply (see Lumen Gentium 48). On the one hand, “there have to be factions [lit. heresies] among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine” (1 Cor. 11:19). 
On the other hand: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). The work of inter-ecclesial reconciliation is the work of intra-ecclesial reconciliation, and vice versa — a providentially imposed both/and to aid picking up the needed “discipline” that may save us from final “condemnation,” “but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 11:32, 3:14). A gracious, cruciform regimen, therefore, for formation in holiness. 
In this familiar Corinthian situation, Anglicans and others may find again an opportunity for imaginative charity in discernment, including discernment about faith and order, which require boundaries, permeable and otherwise, and a readiness to teach confidently about Christian things. Resolution B012 secured something of this in its ecclesial layering, called by the Communion Partner bishops a “helpful space of differentiation, set within the wider communion of baptism and faith that we continue to share, however imperfectly” (“Austin Statement” §9). GAFCON is right to seek common counsel and common standards in accord with Scripture, in service of the Church’s unity and orthodoxy, which go together (just as heresy and schism are finally indistinguishable). None of this is optional for any Christian church seeking apostolic authenticity. GAFCON is wrong, however, to try to button things up too neatly — even within the one universal Church, and all the more within the Anglican Communion — in lieu of the Lord’s subsequent sifting. “Let both of them grow together until the harvest” (Matt. 13:30)."

So Wells drives forward to a somewhat complex solution re global Anglican futures (which I won't cite here - you will have to read the whole article).

Is it too complex? Is being Anglican in the 21st century too hard? There is something admirably straightforward and (in the best sense of the word) simple re both GAFCON's vision for future Anglicanism and that progressive vision which drives TEC foreword, a vision which has no fear of marrying gospel with (the best of) liberal culture.


(BUT PLEASE NOT A RE-RUN OF "THAT ISSUE". We can discuss Wells' ecclesiology in general terms rather than particular. His great question concerns how the church lives with difference and disagreement. The issue at stake here, from my perspective, is how we do that with ANY ISSUE? How do we do that in an ordered manner, with respect for due authority (what is due authority?) while continuing visible communion?)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Does Dynamic Inspiration Entail An "Incarnational" Model of Inspiration?

Further to a note below re Michael Bird's post on "Dynamic Inspiration" (of Scripture), Bird has now also posted on why he doesn't think the "Incarnation" is a model for Biblical Inspiration, here.

Which is salutary for me, because I have often thought favourably of the idea of the Bible as similar to the Incarnation: the divine inhabits the human, the infinite dwells in the finite. And, possibly without ever thinking it through, I have associated the dynamic view of inspiration with the incarnational view: the living Word in the written Word is dynamic - not a dead letter!

Actually, I am not convinced that Bird does deal a final below to the Incarnation as a model for Biblical Inspiration.

So, yes, when Bird writes, after John Webster, he is definitionally correct:

"Incarnation is about hypostatic union, such a union is not the only mode of God’s gracious condescension to speak to human subjects nor God’s normative mode of self-communication. While Jesus is God and Man and Scripture is God’s speech inspired through human subjects, the differences in mode of divine communication here are so great that the analogy is tactless. While God identifies with his written word, he does not become the written word. This theory flirts with the danger of bibliolatry."

But is this the final blow? Sure, if we focus on "Incarnation" = "hypostatic union" then the Bible is not hypostatically unified with God. But Incarnation is not only about "the Word became flesh" (here, equals hypostatic union) but also "and lived among us" or, as commentators never tire of telling us, "set up his tent among us" (John 1:14). Might we properly speak of the divine words of God, the living word of Christ continuing to live among us via the Scripture as the written Word of God? Is it inappropriate to think of Scripture as the "tent" of the Word, the place wherein we find the words of God, and, via reading and hearing, meet the living word of Christ?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The end of the parish system or a new beginning?!

A few posts down I drew attention to an article by Christina Rees re the future of the CofE.

Rees called into question the focus on parish work - in effect, parishes have had their day.

Or have they?

Michael Bird, also from Down Under, in a village on the West Island, has responded here.

What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Keeping Up (4)

Some more from Catholicity and Covenant, this time on the richness of Cranmer's sacramental theology ... and very helpful it is, too, re the meaning of the bread and the wine of communion being the body and blood of Jesus ... with useful distinctions re natural/corporal, carnal.

I hope to write something more on the eucharist before the week is out ... beginning with Brant Pitre's argument about Johannine chronology for the Last Supper!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Keeping Up (3) - Dynamic Inspiration

Following on from a post noted below, Michael Bird has published an - IMHO - most agreeable post on The Case for the Dynamic View of Biblical Inspiration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Keeping Up (2)

Wesley Hill is an Episcopalian theologian, involved in TEC, a self-identifying celibate, gay man who does not agree with same-sex marriage (which TEC is rather keen on, recently deciding at its GC 2018 that rites for same-sex marriage must be available in all Dioceses where same-sex marriage is a civil right). Here he explains, in a manner at least agreeable to me, noting his focus on family and witness, why is is staying in TEC ... here.

Speaking of TEC and staying in it (or maybe not), the Communion Partner bishops have published a statement responding to changes for TEC as a result of decisions made at GC 2018, here.

Thinking about staying in the church and not leaving it, here is a fascinating article on ordinations under Delegate Oversight in the Diocese of London ... now they have a female Bishop of London. I post it here without comment - it may or may not be relevant to ACANZP's present situation. (In one way it is not relevant: each ordinand accepts the authority of the Bishop of London, whatever the gender of the Bishop of London.

Then, on a question of keen interest to some Christians - mostly "conservative" ones - Christians keen to conserve the power of Scripture and its authority in the church, sometimes we should think carefully about what doctrines underpin (explicitly or implicitly) our belief in the authority of Scripture. One such doctrine could be "the plenary verbal inspiration" of Scripture. Australian evangelical theologian Michael Bird critiques this doctrine here.

As previously noted in posts below, do not comment on the specific situation(s) the Diocese of Christchurch is working through at this time.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Keeping Up (1)

... with Pauline scholarship. Stephen Chester has written an important book which Michael Bird reviews here.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Future investment?

Two articles worth reading and reflecting on, with special reference to the future mission and ministry of ACANZP:

The Guardian first reports on the CofE spending 27m pounds on 100 new style churches, here.

Then, also in the Guardian, Christina Rees reflects on changes coming and needed for the new millennium, here.

This is the money quote for us Down Under to reflect on:

"But these initiatives need to be part of a bigger sea change in how the church approaches its work. The pattern of priests in single parishes may have served the church and the country well for hundreds of years, but society has changed.
This parish structure, with 16,000 churches, is failing because younger people are not joining churches. They do not have a pattern of going to services on a Sunday morning or evening. Rural areas recently have had some priests in charge of 12 or more parishes – with almost as many church buildings, many ancient and crumbling, all in need of heating and maintaining.
If the church wants to survive, and thrive, it will need to see itself in a new light – more responsive, and willing to embrace how people live today. Most people, especially young people, don’t want to have to step through the doorway of a church to engage with the big issues of life. They don’t want to sit in pews on Sunday mornings to listen to a sermon or a set, age-old liturgy. They want to know how to navigate the complexities of their lives and how to address their deepest longings, doubts and fears. And they want to feel safe.
So the whole church will have to become much more interactive and flexible. The pattern for the future may well look a lot more like the early church, with small groups meeting in each other’s homes."

And for someone in my role, as Director of Education in a Diocese, there is this challenge:

"A different way of working will demand different skills and talents, and therefore new ways of training clergy, who will need to learn to communicate without jargon and without any assumptions of a shared knowledge of the faith. They will need to be able to offer coherent Christian perspectives on contemporary issues and events, and expect lively debate."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Virtualism: key to 21st century Anglican eucharistic theology? [Updated]

UPDATE: Catholicity and Covenant has put a further post up, here. ALSO: Liturgy has a rejoinder here.

From it, and bearing on the matters mentioned below, I cite these wonderful words of Cranmer:

"His true body is truly present to them that truly receive him: but spiritually ... by whose passion we are filled at his table, and whose blood we receiving out of his holy side, do live for ever, being made the guests of Christ; having him dwelling in us through the grace of his true nature, and, through the virtue and efficacy of his whole passion, being no less assured and certified, that we are fed spiritually unto eternal life by Christ's flesh crucified, and by his blood shed, the true food of our minds, than that our bodies be fed with meat and drink in this life: and hereof this said mystical bread on the table of Christ, and the mystical wine, being administered and received after the institution of Christ, be to us a memorial, a pledge, a token, a sacrament, and a seal."

ORIGINAL POST: In a recent series of three posts Catholicity and Covenant introduces readers to an Anglican understanding of the eucharist called "virtualism." The three posts in chronological order are here, here and here. I confess to previous ignorance of the term "virtualism" but what virtualism is fits with what some of us Anglicans pretty much believe about the eucharist, even if we have never tried to pin down a definition.

Here is a definition which Catholicity and Covenant gives:

"*The site Anglican Eucharistic Doctrine provides a summary of virtualism via the 1938 report Doctrine in the Church of England:
Virtualism is described as being intermediate between real presence and receptionism. The virtualist "maintains that a spiritual change in the elements themselves is effected through consecration". The bread and the wine therefore do not become the body and blood of Christ in substance (as if they were being identified with the natural body and blood of Christ on the cross) but in spiritual power, virtue and effect.  This means that through consecration the bread and wine are endowed with spiritual power or virtue which make them the sacramental body and blood of Christ, but not the natural body and blood of Christ."

Another way of expressing this, given in another post, is a citation from Bishop Seabury of PECUSA (as it was then called):

"When we say that the Eucharist is a spiritual sacrifice, we still mean that the sacred symbols of Christ's body and blood are a sacrifice, and we call them a spiritual sacrifice, with reference to the effects which are wrought on them, and which they work in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. For after the bread and wine are set apart, to be the symbols of Christ's body and blood, and after we have solemnly offered them to God, we then proceed to invoke on them the descent of the Holy Ghost, to sanctify them, and to make them, not indeed in substance, but in power and efficacy, the body and blood of Christ. And it is in virtue of the spiritual power and efficacy thus imparted to the sacred elements, that they are called a spiritual sacrifice."

Catholicity and Covenant is arguing through the three posts that in an Anglicanism which is increasingly evangelical rather than Anglo-Catholic, there is real danger of (in my words) a low-grade appreciation of the eucharist and an impoverished eucharistic theology, but this need not be so. Evangelicals wary of a Catholic understanding of the eucharist need not go the way of Zwingli: it is only emblems and memories. Rather, we can retrieve a common heritage, when evangelicals and High Church Anglicans agreed, pretty much, on what the meaning of the eucharist is. This is captured in another citation Catholicity and Covenant offers:

"Prior to the rise of Tractarianism there was near consensus between Orthodox [i.e. Old High Church] and Evangelical churchmen regarding eucharistic doctrine.  This consensus survived the early phase of the Oxford Movement, but thereafter, the Tractarians diverged ...The two main interpretations of eucharistic doctrine shared by the Orthodox were virtualism and receptionism ... Virtualists maintained that the bread and win, once set apart by consecration, while not changed physically into the body and blood of Our Lord, became so in virtue, power and effect ... The Real Presence was taught, but that presence was not located in the elements of bread and wine ... In asserting a 'heavenly' Real Presence, the advocates of receptionism were at one with virtualists.  According to both views, the bread and wine were set apart for a new purpose by means of consecration while not altering in nature or substance.
Peter B. Nockles The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship1760-1857, p.235-238."

I like what I read through these posts and in particular through the cited passages I have also cited here. Virtualism, I suggest, but welcome your counter-suggestions, describes some familiar phrases from NZPB. Consider:

"Send your Holy Spirit
that these gifts of bread and wine which we receive
may be to us the body and blood of Christ,
and that we, filled with the Spirit's grace and power,
may be renewed for the service of your kingdom." (p. 423) 
"Almighty God, giver of all good things,
we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food
of the precious body and blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." (p. 429) 
"As we eat this bread and drink this wine,
through the power of your Holy Spirit
feed us with your heavenly food,
renew us in your service ..." (p. 438).

Of course that is not all our NZPB has to offer: other phrases (e.g. pp. 467, 487) readily fit with an Anglo-Catholic understanding (whether that is Consubstantiation or Transubstantiation). Some phrases I find hard to pin any historic theology of the eucharist to such as:

"Bread and wine; the gifts of God
for the people of God.
May we who share these giftsbe found in Christ and Christ in us." (p. 472)

Back to Catholicity and Covenant. The following paragraphs summarise and express the argument he is making through these posts.

"What - if any - contemporary significance is there this series of posts on the Old High Church eucharistic doctrine of virtualism?  Readers might be forgiven for thinking that this is little more than ecclesiastical antiquarianism.
It's not.  It is, rather, to suggest that that the eucharistic doctrine of the Old High Church tradition - virtualism - offers a means of sacramental renewal for a contemporary Anglicanism that is becoming increasingly evangelical, in which Anglo-Catholicism is much less influential, and in which sacramental theology in notably weaker than a century ago.  In the words of Stephen Foster, the evangelical Anglican - now on the staff of HTB - who wrote the foreword to Andrew Davison's Why Sacraments?:
It is sometimes forgotten (not least by evangelicals) that the reformers saw both word and sacrament as the key marks of the true Church ... The contemporary amnesia of a theology of the sacraments within some parts of the Church must then be a matter of concern.
The eucharistic piety, practice and theological discourse of Anglo-Catholicism is highly unlikely to offer to evangelical Anglicans an acceptable means of renewing their own eucharistic thought and practice.  The virtualism of the Old High Church tradition, however, might do so.  It has its origins in the rich eucharistic teaching of Calvin.  It significantly shaped the Anglican Formularies and coheres with them.  It is flows from the historic Reformed critique of aspects of Roman Catholic eucharistic teaching and practice, while its emphasis on reception by faith - in the words of ARCIC I - is not "incompatible with eucharistic faith"."

As an evangelical Anglican, I see these posts as an inspiring challenge rather than as a challenging criticism: I love eucharistic worship, I am committed to a genuine ministry of Word and Sacrament, I want to see the eucharist led (or "performed") in such a manner that our love for Jesus, our thanksgiving for grace, our appreciation of the gospel of the cross is deepened and intensified.

But I am also keen to understand the eucharist - what did Jesus intend? what do we think happens when we participate in the eucharist? what are our reasonable expectations of the transformative power (virtue!) of eucharist?

The virtue of Virtualism is that it goes a long way towards answering such questions, without committing Anglicans to the dodginess of Aristotelian metaphysics or the barrenness of Zwinglianism.

I am not sure, however, that "Virtualism" is the best term in the 21st century for an understanding of the eucharist which evangelical Anglicans could embrace.

#suggestionsonapostcard ... or in the comments here :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

More on GAFCON 2018

Fulcrum has posted this week a balanced, comprehensive statement following, and responding to GAFCON 2018. It covers all my own appreciations, concerns and questions.

I am happy to post comments about this statement and/or about GAFCON 2018. I will not post comments which mention, even slightly, our local, unfolding situation in the Diocese of Christchurch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Personalism v individualism ... euthanasia

Reading this - as usual - brilliant paper by Rowan Williams, "What is a Person? Reclaiming Relationality in an Uncooperative Age," is a timely link to a unique experience on Monday ... I was part of a presentation, led by Dean Lawrence Kimberley, to the Justice Select Committee on the Right To Choose euthanasia bill which is being considered by our Parliament. "Unique" means I have never been in front of a Select Committee before.

Anyway, the Committee was kind and heard our Diocese's voice, which was centred around the content of the speech Dean Lawrence made to our recent Synod when we agreed to a motion which asked our then Bishop, Victoria Matthews, to write to parliament stating our position and our concerns. (Some news reports about the role of our Diocese and Bishop in speaking against the proposed bill are here and here.)

But a news agency, Newsroom has spotted that our bishops are divided on the matter of whether people should be assisted to die or not. This is not unexpected  - we do not have a specific doctrinal position on euthanasia which binds the bishops to a common teaching - and there are, of course, sentiments worth considering when considering how best to assist people towards imminent death in the midst of great pain. I support best possible palliative care but that does not mean I dismiss those who think there are some circumstance in which it is reasonable to move beyond assisting people towards inevitable death by actually assisting them to die.

Nevertheless, I am against assisting people to die. Two reasons are particularly significant for me.

First, once we breach the principle of respect for life, for extraordinary reasons (e.g. great pain), and become used to making decisions to assist people to die and then actually being part of the ending of life (killing?), it will be very easy to continue the breach for ordinary reasons (there are too many elderly people, this treatment for depression just isn't working, health resources are limited, if Grandma died we could pay off the mortgage with the inheritance). We will become a society with a cap on the length of life and guilt for living a long life will drive people to an early end.

Secondly, what ++Rowan says. If we believe we are persons and not individuals then we will take account of our families and friends before asserting the right to choose as an individual to do what we want with our lives. Their loss of us, their distress at our going should be important. They have a right, if we use the language of rights, to have a say in our choice. But these personalist considerations, I fear, for a bill being driven by the party leader of the party most insistent on the sovereignty of the individual, could be lost.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Disaffiliation in the Diocese of Christchurch

On Wednesday a meeting was held in our Diocese, involving senior Diocesan staff, Archdeacons, and vicars and wardens of four parishes in which votes have been hold and overwhelming majorities for disaffiliation from ACANZP have been secured. These votes have been prompted by GSTHW 2018's decision re permission for blessing of same-sex partnerships to take place.

Following that meeting we have been able as a Diocese to communicate the fact of these votes and the outline of what will now happen. That communication can be found here.

I was a part of that meeting as one of the Archdeacons. Two of the four parishes are in my archdeaconry.

I cite the opening and penultimate paragraphs from the communication for your convenience:

"On Wednesday 27 June Archbishop Philip, with senior leadership of the Diocese, met with representatives and clergy from four parishes within the Christchurch Diocese. The meeting was to discuss how members of the four congregations could disaffiliate from the Diocese in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.

Archbishop Philip opened the meeting recognizing the time, energy and cooperation from both sides in seeking to find a way forward together up until this point, and hoping that this spirit will continue now that members of four congregations had voted to disaffiliate. “This is a broken and painful place to be. But we need to find a way to walk through this uncharted land that is gracious, hospitable and realistic.” The meeting finished with an agreement to seek to work together on the way forward and in a time of prayer."

"The four groups were led by the Reverends Jay Behan from St Stephen’s Shirley; James De Costobadie from St John’s Latimer Square; Dave Clancey and Chris Spark from St Saviour’s and St Nicholas’, South Christchurch; and Steve McNabb from St John’s Woolston.

It was discussed that a resignation or exit process allowing three months for logistics to be sensitively managed was appropriate and that these three months will be used cooperatively to ensure the disaffiliation happens in good faith. 

It was agreed by all present the way forward needed to be respectful, orderly and should allow people time to make appropriate decisions. In some cases it was acknowledged that although the majority of the people attending these churches intended to leave, some might remain. And the Diocese is committed to care for those remaining as well as enabling as smooth as possible exit for those choosing to leave.
It was agreed that clergy and lay representatives who are disaffiliating would voluntarily not take part in the upcoming Electoral College. Furthermore, it was agreed in principle that there was a desire from both parties to part on good terms and to communicate with and about each other respectfully."

This announcement means we now enter a period of careful and respectful conversations about these disaffiliations, as planning and arrangements take place over the next several months.

Consequently, and in the spirit of a request within the meeting for care in use of social media, I am going to do the following:

(1) Accept NO comments in response to this post. (By all means send me a comment to tell me what you think. But I am not going to post it.)

(2) Publish no posts for the time being which relate in some close degree to our local situation.

(3) Reserve the right to post on the international Anglican situation, providing it relates to our local situation only in some distant degree (or not at all).

Friday, June 29, 2018

Momentum towards reinstatement

News just out re the Christ Church Cathedral steps towards reinstatement, here.

I am delighted that Justin Murray will be chair of the joint venture - I have had the privilege of working with him in governance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dark days for ACANZP ... a new denomination is being birthed?

[Rewritten from original posting]

Yesterday I was sent a link to an article (i.e. "statement") on the FCANZ website, here. Since then the linked article has been withdrawn and the link now takes you to an "About" page for the FCANZ site. I am keeping my post below as it was written, including citations from the article I saw, on the basis that what I read, even if now not an official FCANZ webpage, nevertheless reflects sentiments swirling about our church through these days. Nothing cited below is out of keeping with things being said or written in some of our parishes at this time in respect of this being a difficult period, there is deep disagreement with the decision of GSTHW 2018 re permission for same-sex blessings to take place and there are moves afoot to form a new network of churches.

[Remainder of original post]

This period is described as "dark days" and ACANZP is spoken of in these terms,

"our General Synod has abandoned the authority of Scripture and distorted the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I commend the statement for one piece of illumination: that a new denomination is going to be formed.

"Our goal is to ensure Bible-believing Anglicans work together, as part of a new denomination, wholeheartedly committed to reaching our nation for Christ."

It is helpful that this is out in the open.

Funnily enough, this is very close to what I myself think, slightly plagiarising:

My goal is to ensure Bible-believing Anglicans work together, with all denominations, wholeheartedly committed to reaching our nation for Christ.

Who are Bible-believing Anglicans? All of us Anglicans - I have never met an Anglican who doesn't believe the Bible, who does not read and hear the Bible Sunday by Sunday. We are (to pick up a phrase elsewhere in the statement) a "Bible-based Anglican church" (noting this post today).

I would like to remind readers that General Synod's decision means that every Anglican contemplating leaving ACANZP could stay, continue to believe, teach and practice what they have always believed, taught and practiced, including teaching that the authority of the Bible means this and not that.

The only reason for departure is not that ACANZP has abandoned the authority of Scripture etc but that it has dared to permit faithful Anglicans, on one matter, to teach, believe and (if their local bishop authorises) practice differently. This exercise of conscience, of interpreting Scripture differently is beyond FCANZ's pale.

Anglicans do not have to stay together and if the exercise of conscience and of interpreting Scripture differently is too much, if it means "dark days" have come, then there is not much to be done except to generously converse with each other about the process of separation.

I will do my best to contribute to that generous conversation but it is not easy when things are said about ACANZP which ... well, what can I say?!

LATER: Wise words from George Sumner about the global Anglican situation post GAFCON with specific reference to ACNA/TEC/ACCan.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

GAFCON and (or "versus"?) LAMBETH reflections

The GAFCON III Conference is over and below I give a link to the Final Communique and make some comments.

But before getting to that, a couple of posts on the question of whether the Anglican Communion/conferences is about GAFCON or Lambeth [which is bishops only] or is there room for both?

On the Lambeth Conference, whether it was or is or could be a "synod", or otherwise lead?
Also Archbishop Moon Hing - a man I have met and admire tremendously - speaks up on the value of the Lambeth Conference.

And Kenyan Archbishop Sapit makes some subtle but important distinctions and commitments. I like what he says!

On GAFCON and the Anglican Communion New Service: fake news? fun and (stealth) games? (Though I note that ACNS has not yet linked to the Final Communique, 2 pm Saturday 23 June, as I write.)

GAFCON III Final Communique: Letter to the Churches.

Eternity (Australia) has a news report here.

Via Twitter I made the following three comments last night:

We who were not at GAFCON must reflect deeply on what it means to be in mission as Anglicans, to evangelise as Anglicans, to envision a renewed Anglican Communion. How might we work with GAFCON, in what ways has GAFCON made working with GAFCON difficult, if not impossible (e.g. for TEC, SEC, even ACANZP)? Surely no one reading here thinks belonging to some kind of remnant Communion is a good thing? How do we form and inform ourselves with mainstream Anglicanism in the 21st century?

Nevertheless, a caveat: what does GAFCON working within the Communion ("we are not leaving") and against the Communion (disinvite these provinces, welcome ACNA, exclusion not inclusion, either/or rather than both/and) mean? Are we at a late 18th century moment when one form of Anglicanism (= Methodism) and another form (established Church of England) parted ways? Or are we at a Catholic renewal moment when (say) the Franciscans work mightily for renewal within the Catholic church?

It is all very well for GAFCON to say it is not leaving the Communion and that it is working for its renewal but that staying effectively asks others to leave unless they repent. What if they want to stay also? There is no sense from GAFCON of an inclusive Anglicanism, of a willingness to live with profound disagreement, of an openness to the actual state of global Anglicanism which is that more than one view of homosexuality exists among us. GAFCON is absolutely assured that there is only the GAFCON view, that that is the genuine Anglican view, and there is no place for dissent from this view. There is an unfortunate totalitarianism in this approach to difference which seeks to exclude those holding different views. (I use the word "totalitarian" advisedly. As I have followed GAFCON this past week I have been struck by the strength of the party line on homosexuality and the lack of any sense of critique and debate about it. It is quite extraordinary in this day and age of theological enquiry that no sign has emerged from GAFCON of a responsible critical consideration of matters here, including an ecclesiology which seeks to exclude on the basis of difference of view).

Following on from the comment above, the Communique offers no sense of how same sex couples might exist in the renewed Communion unless repentance occurs and I can only assume this means the break up of such relationships. Nor is there any sense that "pastoral care" for homosexuals means listening to their experience. The sense rather is that homsexuals will be told what is good for them. Perhaps that is right and proper but that is out of step with what many Anglicans around the world, not only in the West, think and feel about these matters.

In the end, where will this all end? I am not sure. I am not going to make a prediction. I am hopeful! I am glad about staying and not leaving: that creates shared space for conversation, that keeps alive possible futures which are not as divisive as the present, that offers time to reflect.

In the meantime, the organisers of Lambeth 2020 will have their work cut out: to ensure maximal attendance possible and to ensure that the event does not become a pale shadow of the colourful, energetic reality of GAFCON III. (Spoiler alert: ACNA bishops, don't bother packing your bags on the basis that TEC and SEC will not be invited).

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 22, 2018

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

On the theme of living within the culture of our world but also not being subsumed by that culture, two posts of recent days are worth a read:

Tim Keller, speaking to British parliamentarians, here. Tim's major point is that post-Christian culture is much, much more Christian than most post-Christians realise. In explaining the difference Christians made to ancient Rome/Greek "shame-honour" culture, he offers insight into how we might make a difference today.

Ian Paul, writing about women speaking/being silent in church, here, makes a great point about a so-called "historic" reading of Scripture (in this case 1 Timothy 2). It may not be an historic reading. It may, in fact, be a modern, innovative reading, driven by a cultural bias in the way we think Christians ought to live today. If we do not actually want to read 1 Timothy 2 in an "historic"manner (and Ian gives some citations from that reading which, surely, no reader here would want to subscribe to), in what manner will we read it so that we are "in the world but not of the world"?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Engagement key to remarriage?

Previously I have noted an important survey of NZ attitudes to faith and today the NZ Herald makes a report, here.

I see no need to extensively comment on the report - it has engaged some key NZ thinkers and shakers on these matters and I commend their comments to you. You may wish to comment further here. In a time of crisis, all ideas welcome!

Two comments from me:

1. We were once a society in which, metaphorically, church and society were married, joined together. Through evangelism Maori became extensively Christian in the 19th century. Through intentional settlement in the mid 19th century Otago was a Presbyterian settlement and Canterbury an Anglican settlement. Churches old (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Baptist) and new (Brethren, Associated Churches of Christ, and, in the 20th century, Pentecostal) were planted through our islands, in city and in rural areas. Census stats showed a highly Christianised country. Now we are moving through phases of separation, even into divorce (cf. news this week re a court challenge to the teaching of Bible in Schools). Within the article Chris Clarke talks about the need to "re-engage" with society, but in different ways to former times. Others cited effectively say "Amen" to new engagement. That engagement is the key to any possibility of remarriage.

2. In a week when a significant number of lay and clerical Kiwi Anglicans have travelled to Jerusalem for GAFCON 2018, a conference which deep down is driven, among other things, by opposition to Anglican acceptance of same-sex couples, we are reminded again in the article of  sobering statistics:

"Most New Zealanders positively connect Jesus with love. Perceptions towards Jesus are often quite positive; non-Christians suggest he is relatable, approachable and gracious.But there are major hurdles.Church "teaching on homosexuality" is the biggest blocker to engaging with Christianity, cited by 47 per cent. Almost as many are influenced by the idea that a loving God would allow people to go to hell (45 per cent)."

That is, internally, we Anglicans are engaged in a debate about the theology of homosexuality (what does the Bible say, how do we understand it, what does the constitution of our church permit, etc) but externally, should we not be debating, How do we engage Kiwis with the gospel of God's love, forgiveness and welcome? And, How do we Kiwis find the language (not only words but ideas, images, actions) which communicate the Gospel over the hurdle of the 47% who will not listen because of "teaching on homosexuality"?

Among conservative Protestants, including among fellow conservative Anglicans, could we find words which at least say what Cardinal John Dew says? These are his words, relevant to the external challenge (my bold):

"Cardinal John Dew, the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington and vice-president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), said the Catholic Church and its counterparts were mindful of the challenge posed by declining attendance."However, the study also points to opportunities for faith communities, with recognition among both non-Christians and Christians that the Church is involved in areas of social good and that faith too has a role in contributing to the wellbeing of our society."Dew said the members of the NZCBC, which co-ordinates the national activities and ministries of the Catholic Church, "humbly acknowledge our shortcomings, especially with regards to particular groups in society, such as the LGBT community who have felt a very real sense of rejection through the Church, or perhaps in falling short in fully meeting the needs of our recent migrant communities"."We hear, too, the call of those who want to see our actions speak louder than our words, by living out the values that Jesus represents."The findings from this survey speak to Pope Francis' latest exhortation, in which he says 'we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves'.""

[I won't publish comments which re-run our churches' "internal" debates and arguments. I am happy to publish comments which reflect on the external challenge we face as churches re the society we live in, the nature of the gospel and how we communicate it to 47% who are unwilling to listen.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lest it be said

... that ADU makes no mention of GAFCON 2018, let's mention it!

David Ould muses on his blog whether the Anglican Communion News Service will get around to acknowledging that the largest Anglican gathering for 50 years is taking place this week in Jerusalem.

I cannot speak for the ACNS but I can speak on this blog. GAFCON is happening. And ACNS should recognise that it is happening. GAFCON is the major global movement of Anglicans today. I cannot imagine any other part of the Communion announcing a conference and getting 2000 people to gather from the four corners of the earth. (Later: ACNS has a story!)

And I am doing my bit - leading services in a parish while its priest is at GAFCON!

GAFCON news can be followed on Twitter (@gafconference ); also via the Twitter hashtag #gafcon2018

For a feel for what GAFCON generally and GAFCON 2018 is about, read Archbishop Glenn Davies here.

Quite rightly ++Glenn states what is the sole driving force for GAFCON's existence as a separated set of Anglicans who, nevertheless, wish to remain at the heart of the Anglican Communion. It is all to do with this, the first sentence in his article:

"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the momentous resolution concerning human sexuality adopted by the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops from around the Anglican Communion."

It is difficult to imagine that GAFCON would exist without the motivating force of difference in the Communion over sexuality.

Nevertheless ++Glenn argues otherwise when he writes near the end of his article,

"They [the 1100 who met at the first GAFCON Conference in 2008] believed the gospel had been compromised by the renunciation of the doctrine of Christ, and specifically Resolution I.10, plainly seen in the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first bishop living openly in a same-sex relationship.  

Yet the movement did not form solely for this reason. It is mission focused."

I agree that GAFCON is mission focused; that once it had come into being as a movement, it has readily embraced a mission focus rather than a sexuality focus. Though the sexuality issue is not far away: not agreeing with change in Western Anglican churches is becoming a significant identity marker for many Anglicans, both in the West and not in the West; and energy for a different form of Anglicanism - it seems to me - is being derived from the conflict over sexuality.

I suggest that if, generally, an Anglican conference on "mission" was announced, and if there were no conflicts among us, then there would not be 2000 Anglicans motivated to travel across the world to conference over mission.

So GAFCON represents Anglican rumblings, it is a sign of godly discontent about the state of the Anglican church around the globe, or perhaps it is only discontent about the state of the Western church.

That at least is one reason why ACNS should be reporting on GAFCON 2018: the conference represents not just a very large number of Anglicans, it also represents a future direction for global Anglicanism. That this direction is not (so to speak) under the control of the ABC, the ACC, or the Primates makes it more newsworthy rather than less!

From an historic perspective this direction is fascinating. We know that early Reformational and post-Reformational Anglicanism involved tension between Puritan tendencies, (in the language of the day) Papist tendencies, and the Hookerian vision of a Church of England which was neither. Largely the Hookerian approach has driven Anglicanism so many Anglican provinces have successfully incorporated, in more recent terminology, evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism, to say nothing of moderate as well as progressive Anglicanism.

GAFCON, it strikes me, noting the drivers of both sexuality and mission, is a fusion of both Puritan and evangelical tendencies, as well as a strongly missional Anglo-Catholicism, with the latter closer to Roman conservatism on sexuality than its modern counterpart, liberal Anglo-Catholicism.

To the extent that the Anglican Communion remains committed to a Hookerian vision of Anglicanism as a grand coalition, it has its work cut out (e.g. in the run up to Lambeth 2020) to gather all members of the coalition in one place.

Conversely, it is reasonably clear that GAFCON is not committed to that Hookerian vision. GAFCON has willingly fostered and supported Anglicans breaking away from (so to speak) Hookerian-vision Anglican provinces. Thus GAFCON represents an evolution or development in what it means to be Anglican.

What fellow Anglicans must eschew is any talk of "unAnglicanism" in respect of this development. Hooker's writings as the Elizabethan settlement settled during the late 16th century were themselves a development of the stringency of the Edwardian Reformation. Laudianism was another development. Anglicanism is a history of such developments and only history determines which developments survive (e.g. by becoming, as evangelicalism, Anglo-Catholicism, and liberalism have done, embedded in the mainstream of Anglican life).

GAFCONism and (so to speak) non-GAFCONism will jostle along through the next decades. The future of Anglicanism may not be a new Hookerian holding together of the two directions. The future of Anglicanism may be what might have happened in the 16th and 17th centuries: the Puritans and the Papists dividing and heading in quite different directions.

UPDATE: important reflection on GAFCON in the Communion here.