Is there too much going on in Anglicanland right now?
Among various items of news and issues of the day, several matters stand out for a wee bit of Antipodean commentary.
(1) The [latest] row in the Church of England
Ian Paul on Psephizo has a bracing response to Giles Fraser's column provocativly titled "The Church is Abandoning its Flock." I seem to be noticing on social media some Kiwi Anglicans approvingly drawing attention to Fraser's words.
Such to and fro in the CofE blogosphere over recent weeks started with the publication of a church planting strategy associated with Canon John McGinley, a priest in the Diocese of Leicester and a leader in New Wine, who proposes thousands of lay-led church plants and unfortunately described buildings and trained clergy as "key limiting factors". Then there has been a paper, from Archbishop Stephen Cottrell himself, along somewhat similar lines, and much CofE angst resulting thereof - all told in one handy article by Catherine Pepinster.
While I want to be, and must be sensitive about wading into an internal ruction thousands of miles away in another Anglican church, I wonder if a couple of observations might be in order, noting in my own church the popular reception of the Fraser column, and the parallel observable fact that we have rather a large number of greying, quantitatively diminishing congregations here in the Blessed Isles? Here goes:
On the one hand: when safeguarding of ministry performance (i.e. maintaining of high ministry standards) is in the spotlight (both in the Blessed Isles and in the British Isles), isn't there a renewed importance on educating, training and formation of missional leaders such that "key limiting factors" is a "what do you not get about investing in clergy" clanger of the highest clanging and clashing of cymbols?
On the other hand: when actual numbers of Anglican congregations, when proportion of growing populations identifying as active Anglicans are so low and plummeting lower (in both the Blessed Isles and in the British Isles), isn't there an urgent need for open minds and open hearts to any and every possibility of growing congregations? And, relatedly, what do we (especially the "we" of clerics) not get about the unlikelihood of younger generations of new Anglicans turning up en masse to existing congregations of older Anglicans?
Put differently: the likelihood of new Anglican growth by new Anglican initiatives alongside and/or beyond existing congregations and current structured ways of doing things is intrinsically much higher than the likelihood of new Anglican growth by doing things the way we have been doing them for the past half or even whole century.
In sum: here, there and everywhere in the Anglican Communion, we need great clergy; and here and there, there is desperate need for re-growing Anglican churches; and we may or may not be able to regrow our churches with the clergy we are currently recruiting and training with current methods.
(3) Anyone for virtual communion?
One of the lovely challenges of Anglicanland issues is that I have lots of friends to be even handed to, on various sides of multi-faceted matters of debate :).
In this case, Bishop Tim Harris (Diocese of Adelaide) has had an article published recently on virtual communion and Bosco Peters (Diocese of Christchurch) has made a series of responses (one, two, three, four, [update from original post] and now five) which take up the questions +Tim raises (see citation of Tim's paper in the first response).
Here I don't wish to take up the matter beyond one observation, but encourage you to head to Bosco's series of posts (where you will see a couple of comments by me).
My observation is this: sometimes in responding to a situation we respond to a crisis which drives a very pragmatic approach, but such approach is not likely to then be taken as some kind of new norm; and other times we are responding to a situation conscious that our response will determine a new norm.
With respect to the former, and the eucharist, in circumstances such as Japanese prisoner of war camps in WW2, there are stories of communion being celebrated using water and rice instead of wine and bread. This seems a reasonable pragmatic response to a crisis and we can assume that no one participating in that particular crisis of deprivation of a number of norms was going to propose when back in normal life that water and rice should replace wine and bread.
With respect to the latter, and the eucharist, within our own ACANZP, we have liberalised reception of communion at certain points in recent decades: for instance, to no longer require confirmation as well as baptism as a prerequisite to receiving communion; and to no longer require that a communicant be a member of our church. By making such changes we have formulated a new normality and it is unlikely that we will go backwards on these changes.
With respect to discussion about virtual communion (for want of a better description of the matter under discussion), I think one question (among, it turns out, a large number of questions) is the question of whether we are discussing a pragmatic response to the crisis of being in lockdown (i.e. unable to physically gather in the normal way for congregational worship in one physical space) or a (new normal) response to having the facility in the modern age of gathering a congregation virtually via Zoom and the like, with bread and wine handily available in each of our own kitchens?
Then, if lockdown is a crisis justifying a pragmatic answer to the question(s) re virtual communion, how long is required for lockdown to be a crisis? Seven days or seven weeks (2020's first NZ lockdown) or seven months?
(3) Evangelical Anglicanism is somewhat indebted to Calvin, is it not? So what about Calvin on ... indirectly ... That Topic?
Does Calvin's attention to justice and equity point the way forward for evangelical Anglicans in the controversy on That Topic? A little while back Bowman Walton drew my attention to an article by Andrew Goddard which I have only this weekend found time to track down and to read. The article is called "Semper Reformanda in a Changing World: Calvin, Usury and Evangelical Moral Theology."*
This article has occasioned - a few years ago - some debate between Goddard and Crockett, then Bishop of Bangor - links at this Thinking Anglicans post.
I note the following to readers here:
- The author of the original article, Andrew Goddard, is a consistently pro clarity of tradition and Scripture opponent of liberalization, often writing in evangelical contexts (but with reason and charity).
- The linked "Semper Reformanda" article clearly carries 1 along; yet
- The second half of the article, on Calvin’s revision of formerly clear tradition and Scripture teaching on usury, is not – in my reading – as easily dismissed as Goddard does in respect of Calvin setting out a pathway for present day re-reading of Scripture. Consider for example the somewhat blithe way in which he finds no moral qulams in the use by Anglicans of contraception in the modern age. The more he articulates what Calvin did re usury, in the face of Luther and co to the contrary, the more he presents a case against his overall thesis! (You could check out what Bishop Crockett has to say via the links in the Thinking Anglicans post).
- Whether Calvin (on usury) or Goddard (on Calvin’s exegetical example for today) is right or wrong etc etc, my surmise is that, at the least, Goddard effectively presents the circumstances under which evangelicals might agree to disagree on tradition and Scripture on homosexuality.
- Calvin's key hermeneutical approach to usury/Scripture/his present context was to invoke considerations of justice and equity. Now, are not "justice and equity" considerations in 20th and 21st century Anglican debates.
- And for any Anglicans reading here who are not familiar with the influence of John Calvin on Anglicanism's Reformational foundations, there is more Calvinism than Lutheranism in the BCP and 39A.
"Pope Francis cracked down Friday on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on them and the ancient liturgy.Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict relaxed in 2007, and went further to limit its use. The pontiff said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church and been used by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy."
*(Originally published in Sung Wook Chung (ed), Alister E McGrath and Evangelical Theology: A Dynamic Engagement, Paternoster Press, 2003, pp235-63. Reprinted [at the link above] with the kind permission of Paternoster.)