Sunday, August 21, 2022

Reconfiguration of global Anglicanism (not "Reformation"?): And yet ...

Prelude re further Lambeth reflections

Many links at Thinking Anglicans.

James Hadley (including comment on Koch's "ecumenical emergency" and concise thoughts re authority).

Phil Groves on the complexity of the numbers involved in the GFSA/"global south"/"global north" axes.

Richard Peers (whom I met for the first time a week ago - I also met Phil Groves while in England).

News of the day - Anglicans Down Under

At the recent Australasian GAFCON conference the already announced, legally constituted (in Australian law) Diocese of the Southern Cross became an ecclesial reality with a congregation and a bishop: here, here and here. I note, incidentally, language in the reports about not being in communion with Canterbury.

Effectively, Australia now has an equivalent to the CCAANZ diocese based here in our islands. 

The Primate of ACA , ++Geoffrey Smith, has responded with this media statement, in which he says that a "new denomination" has been created.

Worth reading for a bit of wider background is this commentary.

Then, is this relevant? The Anxieties of Calvinism ...

But, maybe the best read is here, "The Anglican breakaway ‘cult’ – a swan that quacks like a duck must be a duck", by +George Browning, former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn.

What historical season are we in (globally, locally, Anglicanly)?

I confess that an initial response to the Australian news is to be a bit ecclesiastically grumpy - to describe why this development is wrong, etc, unAnglican etc. To wonder - again - why Anglicans who love Jesus but understand Scripture differently from each other cannot have fellowship together. To bewail the weaponizing of the word "orthodox" so that a huge bunch of Anglican laity and clergy who believe every word of the creeds, faithfully break bread together and read Scripture thoroughly (i.e. according to the lectionary) are deemed "unorthodox" by another bunch of, well, self-appointed magisteria.

But, would that get us very far?

Perhaps another way to respond is to try to keep the big picture (or biggest pictures) in view.

Here goes.

There has been some talk these past two decades that Christianity (at its most general) is in the midst of a regular 500-yearly reformation (the last one being, of course, the Reformation / Counter-Reformation. (Obviously the 16th century was about the Western church and not the Eastern church; but the present one - if it be one - is a convulsion across the globe). 

Within that framing of Christian tectonic plate shifting it is easy to locate global Anglican turmoils (e.g. from Lambeth 1998) in a similar if smaller frame. The church in England through the English Reformation became the Church of England: governed no longer from Rome but from Windsor, its senior bishop in Canterbury and not the Vatican, its supreme synod Parliament and not the Cardinals, the Bible in English and not Latin, and its prayer books moving through 1549 and 1552 towards 1662 and a substantive re-forming of the Mass. Critically, the text of Scripture, re-read with Lutheran and other European reformers' eyes, exposed various gospel-sized deficiencies in the apparatus of medieval Christian devotion and penitential quest for cleansing from sin and guilt. The reforming of the church was a refinding of grace in a context which had yielded to works a value in assuaging guilt at odds with both Jesus and Paul.

Run forward approximately 500 years to the beginning of the third millennium and we have an Anglican global church or network of churches in a turmoil familiar from the beginning decades of the 16th century and the church in England becoming the Church of England. Why not propose that we are in a new "reformation"? A new reformation that is into a reforming of the church into (kinda, sorta) two Anglican churches:

- one claiming true inheritance of the English Reformation status (only we are faithful to Scripture, only we submit to the authority of Scripture like Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley of old) and 

- the other - depending on one's perspective - claiming true inheritance of the English Reformation status (only we are making the changes necessary when we see things have gone wrong, when works has triumphed over grace, when law [aka Lambeth 1998 1.10] has lost mercy) or, perhaps more accurately, claiming to be at the forefront of a needed adjustment of Anglicanism as part of a needed adjustment of all Christianity if it is to have relevance for a changing world (cf. John Spong's writings as particularly imaginative on this score).

A challenge, in my view, with thinking in this way - well, two challenges are:

- this is binary and many Anglicans (including myself) see themselves as somewhere between (say) Sydney/Nigeria and the progressive edges of TEC, rather than belong to one or other of the binary;

- is this really "reformational" in the sense of the text of Scripture striking a blow against a church gone terribly wrong in its misunderstanding of grace? Are we not talking about movements within churches, Anglican and others, strenuously working out a new future in a world which has reformed itself away from Christendom to secularism, or raised up aggressive forms of Islam and other world faiths at rate of change which has shocked us all and left us gasping for gospel breathe?

Thus I suggest it may be more helpful to think of a reconfiguration of global Christianity rather than a reformation. Whatever else is going on, Anglicans and other Christians are reconfiguring the space they call church. There are convulsions in Eastern Orthodoxy, culture wars in Catholicism, and rises and falls of new churches in the West and elsewhere which can be described as global Christianity (and global Anglicanism) reconfiguring itself.

If we are reconfiguring, then what?

Painful though this latest GAFCON move is - the announcement of the new Diocese of the Southern Cross being operational - it may be helpful to see this move less as a shattering blow to hopes and dreams for a united-in-our-differences local church (Australia) and global Communion and more a next step in an evolution being determined by forces well beyond the control of synods and the persuasive powers of social media pundits.

In evolutionary theory, the fruitfulness of a species depends on its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Historically Protestantism has been adaptive to changing circumstances via a variety of strategies, including splits and new church plants. Also historically Catholicism has been adaptive to changing circumstances via a variety of strategies, including formation of new movements within the communion of those submissive to the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Further, both Protestantism and Catholicism have understood the need to evangelise, or die.

Surely, if we accept what we would prefer not to accept, that global and local Anglicanism is reconfiguring, is evolving into two species of Anglicanism, then the question before us is whether either or both Anglicanisms will flourish. (By which I mean over the next century, not just who has more "bums on seats" right now.)

This article, featuring the research of David Goodhew, draws attention to the challenges of (a) surviving, let alone (b) growing, for some bishops/dioceses.

Let's proclaim the gospel, let's share the Bread of heaven with the hungry on earth, let's welcome into God's family the last, the lost and the least.

Let's see which Anglicanism is, over time, most faithful to the gracious God who blesses God's church, who places our feet in a broad room (as the psalmist said).

And yet ...

It is somewhat market economics (let's see who does best under the prevailing circumstance) as well as "Gamalielian" (Acts 5:33-39, if it is of God), to say nothing of a salute to evolutionary biology, to end on the note above; and from those perspectives, it might be a satisfactory conclusion to reach. And yet ... is that good enough? Is it resolutely faithful to Jesus Christ?

Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, in the statement linked to above, rightly observes,

"“It is always easier to gather with those we agree with. But in a tragically divided world, God’s call and therefore the church’s role includes showing how to live together with difference”"

The problem with yet another Protestant split is that it is yet another split in the church which Jesus (a) envisaged as "one", and (b) envisaged as being in its unity, a strong witness to the love of God for the world (John 17:20-23).

Not only that: we are in a Christian era in which the world is seeing a lot of Christians at loggerheads with one another. Binary polarisations abound. Here is a partial list:

Trumpian US evangelicals v evangelicals not wishing to be described with respect to any politician or political party;

The turmoil within the Southern Baptist Convention;

Conservative Catholics v "Franciscan" Catholics;

Eastern Orthodox split re allegiance to Ukraine or Russia.

Locally, here in Aotearoa New Zealand we have the prospect of some turmoil as Franklin Graham comes to our islands in November as part of his current worldwide evangelistic outreach.

We are also seeing considerable distress within one significant Pentecostal church - the saga of Arise and its treatment of interns, other congregants, and the funds at its disposal.

Then, Destiny Church won’t stop protesting about what it sees as unwarranted Government intrusion into our lives as the Government seeks to save us from the worst effects of the pandemic!

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do in the household of God!


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishp Peter; you have given us all much to ponder upon with these words:

(1) At the recent Australasian GAFCON conference the already announced, legally constituted (in Australian law) Diocese of the Southern Cross became an ecclesial reality with a congregation and a bishop: here, here and here. I note, incidentally, language in the reports about not being in communion with Canterbury.

(2) Effectively, Australia now has an equivalent to the CCAANZ diocese based here in our islands.

(3) The Primate of ACA , ++Geoffrey Smith, has responded with this media statement, in which he says that a "new denomination" has been created".

Regarding (1); With its decisive legal action, the new Church in Australia has already 'cut itself off' (Schism) from the official Anglican Communion centred around Canterbury and Lambeth. As the Primate of the A.C.A. has rightly said (3): 'This is a new Church'. Despite the protestations of its leadership; the act of schism was perpetrated by the party that moved away - not by those who remain (whatever the reasons specified for the schism).

However, one has to recognise the FACT that the new Australian Diocese - as with the Gafcon New Zealand Diocese - can claim a fraternal link with the GAFCON/ACNA Primates who claim they are still part of the A.C.C., but this still does not give them membership, per se, of the Anglican Communion Provincial Churches that are not a part of the Gafcon Provincial Churches that have set up their own 'Confessional' basis of Faith in the 'Jerusalem Statement' - which is NOT PART of the Anglican Communion's official basis of faith, by which they themselves describe their basis if missional integrity.

The real conundrum here is GAFCON's claim to be the ''Orthodox' division of Anglicanism - which they clearly define for themselves as being based on Sola Scriptura. Whereas, in FACT, by definition, this is not the 'Anglican Way' as defined by the extant 'Lambeth Quadrilateral'; which has long been recognised in the equal valuation of Scripture, Tradition and Reason - the latter of which charisms seems to be singularly lacking in the intention and missional enterprise of the Jerusalem Statement (I say this because of Gafcon's explicit denial of the reality of the claims of the women and LGBT+ people to be equal shares in the life and ministry of the Church)

(I did notice that the new bishop of the Diocese of the Southern Cross, when challenged by a woman member of the Australia/Gafcon - shown in the video - whether the ministry of women would be fully recognised in the new church; said 'Yes!' - Bishop Davies was formerly head of the Sydney Anglican Diocese which does NOT recognise the priestly ministry of women!)

Here is the oddity - plain for everyone to see, but obviously not so plain to GAFCON/ACNA and their affiliates around the world; that there are now bishops around the world (at least one in New Zealand) who - though drawing stipends and acting under the authority of the local Anglican/Episcopal Church; are also involved in the encouragement of schismatic activity already being undertaken by the GAFCON Primates/Provinces. In the Australian context, there are at least several such bishops in Sydney and Tasmania such bishops in Sydney and Tasmania (whose open defence of their GAFCON separatist sympathies is evident in the various triumphalist videos now circulating in the social media.

One does wonder at the basic moral compass that allows such duplicity, while campaigning on another issue of 'morality' that many Anglicans consider adiaphora - little to do with the doctrine of Christ as Redeemer of the World

Anonymous said...

Reading ADU over the last few weeks it seems to me that the Anglican Communion has been reconfigured irretrievably in recent and not so recent times. And if the different elements can’t even take communion together on what basis can there ever be unity? That is at the heart of the faith! It is so sad…

Father Ron said...

Bishop Peter, it seems so obvious, from your link here to the Phil Groves' article, that geographical relevance in the title 'Global South Anglican' is no longer a reliable indicator/reference point for the 'Third World' (which may have been its originating ethos)

"This means that, rather than being a voice for the complex diversity of Anglicanism in the socio-economic global South, GSFA is claiming to be the voice of ‘orthodoxy’: an orthodoxy defined by a commonly-held view over a single key issue. This is reflected in almost every statement issued by the block for the last twenty years. The focus of these statements is on condemning the growing number of Anglican diocese and provinces where LGBTI+ people are included and their relationships celebrated, rather than issues that actually affect people in the socio-economic global south" (Phil Groves)

I remember the very early raising up of the Global South website and, quickly noting its very conservative evangelical provenance - largely directed against the 'naughtiness' of Anglican Churches in the socio-economic Western-influenced countries - I endeavoured to introduce another, more broadly-based, point of view into the conversation - until I was banned from the site.

There were, of course, both Australian and New Zealand fans of the G.S. website (which preceded the formation of GAFCON), some of whom were directly responsible for its being raised up after the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson and the fateful confection of Lambeth 1:10, which sought to outlaw any acceptance of same-sex related partnerships within the ministry of the Church. Ever since its on-line inception, the Global South web-site (later to embrace the ethos of GAFCON) has sought to discourage the opening up of the wider Anglican Church to any overt discussion of any other than the antique understanding of gender-sexuality differences other than the traditional binary (heterosexual).

At the root of this understanding is an umbilical connection to the 'Sola Scriptura' code, which, seemingly, will only accept a very narrow view of what the writers of the Scriptures knew about the complex issues of gender and sexuality in term of the Hebraic Code of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. - where sexual activity was seen to be solely connected with intentional procreation (even though Jesus, later on, having pronounced his New Commandment of Love, said that there would be 'eunuchs' who would not fulfil any potential for procreation - (the first category, 'from their mother's womb', might even have been gay!).

As most of the civilised world has now accepted the FACT that gender and sexuality are more complex than the 'binary' model, it seems sad that there are still Christian Warriors who feel the need to make 'A Line in the Sand', beyond which they are not prepared to go in order to fulfil the call of the Gospel to ALL people - irrespective of race, religion, gender or sexual-orientation - into a world created, loved and redeemed by God-in-Christ.

Anonymous said...

"Gafcon's explicit denial of the *reality* of the claims of the women and LGBT+ people to *equal shares* in the life and ministry of the Church"

ACNA has ordained women in some dioceses and has celibate gay clergy here and there.

But still-- Father Ron's formulation here has almost reached the crest of the watershed.

A raindrop falling from the clouds either believes that fairness is a criterion of theological truth or it doesn't.

If it does, it rolls down one side of the ridge into the creek, river, estuary, ocean where it is obvious that whatever people have previously thought about God, love, family, marriage, sex, biology, scripture, whatever they now (why now?) have a duty (to whom?) to change it into something adjudged (by whom?) to be *fair* (defined how?).

But if the raindrop doesn't-- if it believes that theological truth is wisdom, and that fairness is categorically irrelevant to it-- then down it rolls on the other side of the ridge toward another ocean where reality is understood first and evaluated, as needed, later. From the crest to the sea, it will pick up sediment here and there as it goes, never being asked to drop it all for some one imperious grain of sand.

There is some continental divide on every topic.

Must this ridge be the divide on That Topic?

In liberal democracies, the case for civil SSM is solid no matter how one evaluates homosexuality. That is, an argument against civil SSM must ultimately ground itself in an insurrection against liberal order itself. As has happened.

Given that a church is in such a state where justice has been done, what its members owe one another in Christ is honesty about truth, especially the spiritual truth that is beyond the ken of that sort of state. There-- well, here, for now-- churches are churches only insofar as the talk in them takes account of metaphysical and other realities beyond the mere rights that properly order liberal public life.

Not to put too fine a point on it, people need this: a good life cannot be motivated and ordered by civil rights alone. When we say, "be a Christian" we are alluring others into a conversation with the brethren that is good for their souls and lives because it inculcates a broader, deeper wisdom for life in the fallen jungle. What has fairness to do with that?

In a courtroom, demanding that every statement pass a test of fairness makes the court a better court. The process of truth-seeking is adversarial; fairness tightens the clash of argument and evidence before the judge.

In church though, it is hard to see how fairness can similarly help truth-finding. Prayer is not adversarial; scripture study is not adversarial; one believer's testimony may differ from another's but that is not adversarial.

What is the fair way to think about angels? What is an equal share of holiness? Who is robbed by a thought about the circumincession of the Three? Is it unjust that a tree is higher than a flower? If we only discuss spiritual matters that we first turn into a social justice matter, how much of the faith will be left to us?

And baptism being baptism, every single person gets to seek the truth in Christ from scratch and unhindered. There is no authority in a real church that can commit crowds of souls to opinions about much of anything beyond dogma. And there is very little of that.

Conservatives in societies like ours are fleeing persons who corrupt what is churchly about church by deporting themselves In the congregation as though they were Out in court or parliament. That is not my preferred response to them, but in churches on Sundays, among friends, and here at ADU, godspell people who seek grace and wisdom with others do need some *modus vivendi*.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
Take care please: your reference to "civilised world" could imply that our brothers and sisters in most of the Communion do not live in the civilised world. They do; and they are entitled to different views to yours.

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks for the tour of TEC. It's helpful and fascinating.

And of course so much more diverse than the global political characterizations

in which NZ is now being cast as part if the liberal, revisionist North!

My imagining is NZ is varied but basically pretty moderate. My previous church seemed to have a reputation in the diocese as Liberal - yet no one at our church spoke this way, had a consciousness or identity that was committed to this word or even theology really ...yet there was an ethos that was clearly different to the diocesan churches regarded as "evangelical".

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks for your OpEd Peter including the links to some great articles, especially Phil Groves' and George Browning's pieces.

And for including The Anxieties of Calvinism, which does feel relevant.

George Browning writes:

"It is bizarre that views on sexual orientation and gender orientation have been chosen as sufficient reason for separation, given that primacy of marriage between males and females has been upheld by the recent Lambeth conference and no Australian Anglican clergy person is currently licensed to conduct marriage for a same sex couple....

the bible has far more to say about the misuse of power, about inequality, about the despoiling of the natural order, than it does about sexual orientation. Please, if you are going to choose a moral or ethical line in the sand, at least choose one that has both biblical prominence and contextual urgency."

While I support the general argument here (obviously): do sexuality issues lack contextual urgency? I'm not so sure.

I've yet to see a piece of writing or speaking that really takes seriously the power and challenge of sexual issues for Christians. We're still not fully understanding something here.

Anonymous said...

"sufficient reason for separation"

(1) Those with conservative temperaments have been playing the long game for a long time. That, after all, is what they do. They have no epistemic reason to believe a policy statement from a moment in time over the processes they see in churches they know well on the ground. So individuals departing for conservative reasons will not be dissuaded by short-term actions that do not demonstrate deep, well-motivated change toward some spiritual home that they can dwell in.
Tellingly, when ACANZP went beyond statements to found its Community-- a structural change-- it met with partial success. This is too little discussed.

Anonymous said...

"I've yet to see... we're still not fully understanding something here"

(2) From distinct voices across several platforms, including this one, I've heard the same basic argument about Christians and sex from the departing: churches are churches *if and only if* they clearly, even abrasively, contrast the sexuality of a self in Christ in his Body from the sexuality of a secular liberal subject in the streets someplace. If a cheerful pagan does not experience bone-shaking culture shock on entering a congregation, that congregation is not a church whether it has a cross someplace or not. In other comments, I've referred to this as a high hedge between church and world.

So there are two arguments here not one.

The smaller argument is about what the sexuality of a self in Christ is like inside the hedge. On one hand, many conservatives-- eg Bryden back in the day-- have believed that SSM would be absent because only *secular liberal subjects* too worldly to be in Christ would have the beliefs that make it plausible. On the other hand, when proponents for SSM are arguing that the weddings of Christian same-sex couples belong in church-- that civil ceremonies are just not good enough-- they too are talking about sex in Christ in the Body inside the hedge.

Their arguments can be tested against evidence accessible to all. For example, philosophical estimates of the gap between a *secular liberal subject* and an *implied reader of the Bible as scripture* is studied across the human sciences. Alas, because this touches directly on the veracity of any given churchgoer's conception of his own self, most egos are too weak to face it squarely. Hence, although the matter is consequential, you are hearing about it here, not in a Sunday sermon someplace.

About this, I think both sides know more than will prove to be true.

But all along, the main dispute-- also the hot, angry, passionate, bloody-minded one-- has been about the hedge. Some are sure that there is a hedge, that it is a high hedge, and that seeing it clearly indicates that one is distinguishing between God and satan, heaven and earth, paradise and world, kingdom and anarchy. Others think that Jesus came to burn all hedges and dig up their roots because they are always planted by wicked, wicked Pharisees out to steal our pleasures.

These arguments can be tested against the scriptures. Persons with nuanced positions in this dispute have very often learned those nuances from their open bibles. But left or right, happy warriors are happy warriors because they bend the scriptures to fit liberal or conservative tempers of cognition. (We all have some such temperament early in life, and normally sanctification softens, complicates, and sometimes changes them through the lifespan. Abnormally, some bang their spoons on high chairs to the end of their days.) I have rarely seen a calm, bona fide conversation about the scriptures between high hedge and low hedge believers.

Moreover, those on both sides involuntarily trust others as believers *if and only if* their estimates of the height of the hedge match. Young high hedge believers hear no explicit Christianity at all when no-hedge believers speak from the heart. That sounds to the former like nihilistic praise of parking lots for having a space for every car. Raw no or low hedge believers hear high hedge believers as cruel, stupid Pharisees creeping in to steal the blessed liberty of the sinners of God. Their amygdalas listen for the footsteps of those who will throw them out the red door. Again, progress in holiness moves most serious believers well past these most bloody-minded reactions, but not often to another seat at the big table.

About this, I expect those departing for higher hedges to be joined behind them by most other believers, including progressives, by the century's end.


John Sandeman said...

I hope I am not being unfair to George Browning if I point out that the presenting issue for the debates at the Australian General Synod, and the formation of the Diocese of the Southern Cross was not conducting same-sex marriages but the blessing of same-sex civil marriages.

It's an important distinction that Bishop Browning may have missed.

So when he says "no Australian Anglican clergy person is currently licensed to conduct marriage for a same-sex couple" is a reason to be surprised at recent developments, it seems as though he has not grasped what happened at General Synod.

Same sex blessings (rather than marriage) was the presenting issue in the north and south islands leading to the split there, was it not?

John Sandeman said...

"Whereas, in FACT, by definition, this is not the 'Anglican Way' as defined by the extant 'Lambeth Quadrilateral'; which has long been recognised in the equal valuation of Scripture, Tradition and Reason"

The Lambeth Quadrilateral is not as described. It consists of
• The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
• The creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
• The dominical sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion;
• The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

On the other hand the "the equal valuation of Scripture, Tradition and Reason:is derived from a missreading of Hooker's "three legged stool".

Here's what Hooker wrote "Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other [matters of doctrine or matters of order], what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever."

Father Ron said...

". That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever."

"Must in congruity of REASON overrule all other inferior judgements whatsoever" (including those of Sola Scriptura, which so often ignores any advances in social and biological sciences!). Presumably the modern Church is not devoid of the REASON that Hooker mentions.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter I had no intention to insult anyone in my comment on 'civilised society'. My deep intention was to indicate those societies which no longer legally use persecution, criminal prosecution and sometime mandatory execution of people whose sexual/gender-attraction is different from the binary norm. Agape.

Mark Murphy said...

"These arguments can be tested against the scriptures. Persons with nuanced positions in this dispute have very often learned those nuances from their open bibles. But left or right, happy warriors are happy warriors because they bend the scriptures to fit liberal or conservative tempers of cognition."

For hundreds of years, all Christians believed that slavery was intended by God and found scripture didn't need to be bended very far - or not at all - to corroborate this.

Interestingly, the Christian anti-slavery movement had its roots in Quakerism which holds that the contemplatively-derived inner light of Christ - and not the Bible - is the pre-eminent theological 'authority' and inspiration.

= The three-legged stool is still missing an important leg

Anonymous said...

"in **this** dispute"

Mark, I was referring to the dispute whether the hedge between church and world should be high or low. Formulations of **those positions** we can and should test against the scriptures.

If we instead test them against the history of slavery in America, the high hedge wins.

Among the high hedge groups are the Anabaptists (including my maternal ancestors, the Quakers you mention, and several other groups) who did not permit their own members to own slaves. For them, the trans-Atlantic slavery industry posed a relatively simple internal question-- is it good for a soul in Christ to be part of this? Their discernment was shaped by the scriptures, of course, especially the texts on non-violence emphasized in their respective traditions, but it was empirical and directly about sanctification or spirituality.

Nobody in these groups argued from the Bible to slavery to a grandiose theory of society at large that required it. Nor did anyone in these *historic peace churches* argue from the Bible that a bloody continental war would bring racial harmony from sea to shining sea. Unsurprisingly, the Bible is not so suspect today among their theological descendants.

The larger churches that differed on slavery as public policy were low hedge churches of Christendom. As such, they reached past the sanctification or spirituality of their members to try and fail-- on both sides, it must be said-- to ground a path for the dividing nation in the Bible. Mark Noll has written the book on The Civil War as a Theological Crisis for such churches.

What the high hedge churches did well may be clearer than what the low hedge churches did poorly. But then that would be the high hedge point: it is much easier for churches to be what God has actually called them to be. Which returns us to the question, what did God call the Body to be?, which is a scriptural question.


Anonymous said...

Though I guess the inner light of Christ (to which I am firmly committed) is informed by Scripture, tradition, reason and also emotion, as we are human beings to whom the light comes…

Mark Murphy said...

I like hedges with lots of animals living in them.

In Aotearoa, the English settlers planted hedges made of gorse or furze. But everything grows doubly fast here, so now gorse goes crazy and throttles hillsides and pastureland with its thick, spiny bushes.

Spring is just coming in and soon our hills will turn yellow with gorse and broom, the gorse flowers smelling like toasted coconut.

Mark Murphy said...

By "high hedge" churches I think (I think) you mean Christian communities with a greater separation between church and world. I'm not quite sure how this impacts the SSM question as there are enough LGBTQ people on both sides of such hedges.

The clients I've worked with in therapy who have come from contemporary high hedge churches have typically had much more abuse to deal with.

How do churches decide on theological truth? This often comes up with That Topic with conservatives accusing liberals of not upholding the "authority" of scripture, while liberals point out that conservatives are very filtered in what parts of scripture they emphasize as authoritative and what parts they accept as 'in the past' - and what do these filters consists of?

Of course Quakers (I have a few on my maternal side too) were steeped in the Bible, no one more so than George Fox, and some more than others as the years went on. The Bible was a tradition that informed Fox, but, as a radical Protestant, he saw the potential for it to become idolatry, a Paper Pope. And so on matters of theological truth and inspiration he appealed to the Inner Light of Christ which he claimed the Bible bore witness to but was not to mistaken as coterminous-with. Of course, the inner light of Christ wasn't just anything that came into your head, but the "peace" and "power" that experientially arose after a period of gathered, focused silence together (actually the Quakers didn't develop silent meetings but took this practice on from other radical English dissenting groups).

Of course you probably know all of this better than I, Bowman.

Is same sex marriage, what the church is called to be etc., ultimately "scriptural" questions? And then the alternative to that isn't only secularism, as the neo-Calvinists assume. Our Protestant tradition is much broader than that.

Anonymous said...

Mark: The inner light of Christ is not "reason" either. Meetings for Worship are not rational endeavours.

Your example of the inner Light is corporate :-)

We may slip up on language for a while, but this is a worthwhile conversation.

Are you, like St John the Evangelist, distinguishing exercises of the intellect that are self-willed from those that are inspired from beyond conscious awareness? Any such exercise can have either the lower or the higher motivation.

Or are you projecting a more Romantic distinction between calculation and imagination into Christian spirituality? Again, the Spirit can lead the spirit of a person in either process.

Traditionally, the inner light of Christ is precisely Reason (= logos, phos in St John i 1,9; Colossians i 15-20) in the pre-Enlightenment sense in which Hooker was using it. For a recent revival of that, see Benedict XVI's simple lecture to his old faculty at Regensburg.

Moya: Though I guess the inner light of Christ (to which I am firmly committed) is informed by Scripture, tradition, reason and also emotion, as we are human beings to whom the light comes…

Yes, spiritual guides in any Christian tradition usually assume that the Holy Spirit is already at work on the soul, and that the backbone of guidance is discernment and support (counsel, exercises, teaching, intercession) in that work. Even the most structured formation that I know, the hesychast one at I. M. Dionysiou on the Holy Mountain-- many tens of thousands of Jesus prayers with ritual prostrations daily in a monastic round that is already rich and intense-- is all the more aimed at discernment of thoughts according to the Philokalia. Which takes practice, which itself takes the guidance of someone already practiced, which takes a tradition of practice.


Mark Murphy said...

Yes, a very interesting hedgerow this one. Thank you for opening this, Bowman.
How do we translate Hooker’s three-legged stool into post-Enlightenment, present-day language? Any takers?

I do take your point regarding the pre-Enlightenment history of Reason (and Logos). However, Hooker and the (scholastic? neo-platonic?) discourse of Intellect and Will is still quite rarefied, categorical, scholarly.

The Methodists came to add “experience” to reason, tradition, and scripture. Why was that? A post-Enlightenment addition? Or a sense that their own “heart-warming”, grassroots faith was not well conveyed in the language of Anglican Reason?

I don’t remember many references – if any – to Reason in George Fox’s writings. He offers a more earthy, suffering-man contrast to Richard Hooker and Thomas Aquinas. Fox’s approach is very much in terms of the experiential, of a body fallen to the earth, rather than an intellect ascending the heights. I guess I’m saying he sounds more Jesus-like *to me*. He speaks of The Light and in doing so he’s speaking of Christ, but it isn’t Christ Pantocrator, or the Son as the divine Logos, or the Head of the Church.

Yes, you could call Quaker spiritual process quite “corporate” but before this it is resolutely inward and individual (in Fox’s way, others became more tradition-oriented): “Stay inside. And when they say, “Look here’, or ‘Look there is Christ’, don’t go out from there, for Christ is inside you….For the portion is inside, the light of God is inside, and the pearl is inside, though hidden.” (Fox, Journals and Letters).

Reading George Fox last year, it struck me that the best modern word for what he means by The Light could be consciousness, but perhaps this is too rarefied: “The light is what enables you to see.” (Fox, Journals and Letters). This seeing then activates what Fox calls conscience (I suppose this isn’t a million miles from intellect and will, huh?).

“As the light illumines and activates your conscience it will…let you see things that can’t be seen [by the physical eye], but can be seen by the invisible [eye] within you…And this invisible [source of seeing] is the light inside you, which you have been given a portion of the one who is invisible. This will let you see your heart.” (Fox, Journals and Letters).

Seeing your heart is not all kumbayah for Fox, but a deep confrontation with our own wickedness as well as the portion of God hidden inside.

I would dare say that liberals in actuality are more motivated by Fox’s sort of method than by bending the bible this was or that, but the final destination is far from certain. Or far from final too. What one calls wickedness, the other calls a That of God.

Anonymous said...

The  difference seems to be conveyed best by saying that the Reformed Christian thinks theologically, the Lutheran anthropologically. The Reformed person is not content with a exclusively historical stance but raises his sights to the idea, the eternal decree of God. By contrast the Lutheran takes his position in the midst of the history of redemption and feels no need to enter more deeply into the counsel of God. For the Reformed, therefore, election is the heart of the church; for Lutherans, justification is the article by which the church stands or falls. Among the former the primary question is: How is the glory of God advanced? Among the latter it is: How does a human get saved? The struggle of the former is above all against paganism—idolatry; that of the latter against Judaism—works-righteousness. The Reformed person does not rest until he has traced all things retrospectively to the divine decree, tracking down the “wherefore” of things, and has prospectively made all things subservient to the glory of God; the Lutheran is content with the “that” and  enjoys the salvation in which he is, by faith, a participant. From this difference in principle, the dogmatic controversies between them (with respect to the image of God, original sin, the person of Christ, the order of salvation, the sacraments, church government, ethics, etc.) can be easily explained. 

-- Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 276-77.

Peter Carrell said...

And there, thanks Bavinck, and BW (I assume), lies the whole and complete explanation for all Anglican troubles over That Issue. we are both “reformed and catholic”, “Reformed and Lutheran”, and thus and so have we a camp bent on decrees, a camp not so, and some (of us) in the middle …

Mark Murphy said...

Oh, George Fox does talk about reason:

"But you who rely n your own wisdom and your own reason, you make out that silent waiting on God would leave you famished. It would indeed be a strange life to you to learn to be silent; you would have to enter a new world. Now you have to die in that silence, you with your wisdom, your knowledge, your reason and your own understanding." (Journals and Letters).

Anonymous said...

"By *high hedge* churches I think (I think) you mean Christian communities with a greater separation between church and world."

A hedge-- thank you for your word picture!-- is not a wall. Greater distinction, yes, but not the greatest separation. The important story is what happens behind the hedge.

Then why talk about the hedge?

Today, a low hedge church is so totally public-facing that it is like one of those old sets for Hollywood westerns-- wooden facades a mile long but but with no buildings behind them. Everything happens *to* a low hedge church from the outside because there is no inside from which something could emerge to happen to the world. At an extreme we see here up yonder, “evangelical” is now so divorced from actual piety that the word has migrated from the religious lexicon to the political one.

A high hedge church has some public face, modest or fancy. But most of its attention is on the actual religion that is happening inside it. Like a traditional Iranian neighborhood, that inside has several modes of interiority-- alleys, fountains, courtyards, gardens-- between the public street and the private front door. The exemplary Christians are sometimes hermits because they accomplish so much in the Lord.

Ideally, today, the inner lives of churches should be--

independent of the worldly kaleidoscope, but not irresponsible or world-hating;
differentiated to serve a few ways of loving God; and
optimal for the *secondary emotional development* proper to disciples in Christ.

"The clients I've worked with in therapy who have come from contemporary high hedge churches have typically had much more abuse to deal with."

Arrange religions by social cohesion along an x-axis from least (eg Unitarian Universalists, Episcopalians) through middling (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, conservative Judaism) to most (eg Hutterites, traditionalist Mormons). Then plot their suicide statistics on the y-axis. You will get-- Durkheim got, for a century everyone who has seriously tried this has gotten-- a U-shaped curve. The curves constructed for other social pathologies-- divorce, child sexual abuse, etc-- seem to follow it.

Low on the x-axis, individuals are facing the terrors alone with Marcus Aurelius or a bottle. They are on a church-roll, or they would not have been counted, but their belonging does little for them.

High on the x-axis, churches are so close-knit that they are obstacles to individuation. Members do little to cultivate their own resilience. The demands churches make are stressful. And that high degree of social cohesion is maintained with fear of the world.

There is a sweet spot in the middle where the porridge is neither too cold nor too hot. Is any piety so splendid that it is worth a higher rate of suicide or divorce than that?

Anonymous said...

At about the turn of the century, the U-Us in New England were a sort of natural experiment. For over two centuries, the model U-U minister had been a public intellectual preaching with a sonorous masculine voice on the affairs of the day. The U-Us were proud of their princes of the pulpit, but as membership declined their pay could not keep pace with that of other professions. So although they have long ordained both men and women, their pool of candidates for positions contracted to just women. This was not much noticed until suddenly all the old men retired at once.

When women replaced them something interesting happened: the sermons got shorter and much more personal. There was less advice on the future of NATO or the National Endowment for the Arts and more on real life-- how to manage alcoholism, how to get a better relationship with your pre-teen, how to forgive bad people who happen to be your parents-- and religion-- how to pray when you resent every god-image in your head, how not to hate the Bible for being old, how to see what is divine in the religion of people who drive you crazy with it. And for the first time in their lives, some people had conversations with pastors that were not polite chit-chat. The women planted a hedge where there had been none, and care began to happen behind it.

Someday, an Asian country will tax each religious body for its rates of suicide, childlessness, divorce, and dechurching. To avoid these taxes, churches will hire actuaries. The actuaries will track the rates of pathology of local churches. Bishops will try to improve their numbers. Seminarians will ask their teachers about the human science implications of what they teach. Etc.


Mark Murphy said...

Ecumenical comparisons on That Issue:

As with slavery, *certain* Quakers were among the first Christian communities to take a inclusive position on homosexuality.

London Meetings began discussing this issue in the 1960s.

In New Zealand, the yearly meeting Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri resolved in 1992 "to seek formal ways of recognizing a variety of commitments, including gay and lesbian partnerships".

However, like the Anglican communion the majority of Quakers (52%) live in Africa, and as with conservative Quakers in the U.S.A., take a more hostile view. The Friends Church in Kenya, for example, "condemns homosexuality.

"Liberal" meetings and regions tend to run their Meetings in an "unprogrammed" way (unstructured silence with spontaneous verbal contributions) whereas conservative or evangelical Friends often follow a "programmed" worship structure.

That's another question, one that might interest Bosco: does our liturgy affect our authority affect our views on That Topic?

I wonder if Amglucan leaders....bishops?...sometimes have escapist Quaker fantasies: holding a diverse diocese and communion together is hard.

Anonymous said...

"How do churches decide on theological truth?"

Very strictly speaking, they don't. The small body of ecumenical dogma, properly so called, was settled by AD 787. That is the truth. Very hypothetically, the Second Vatican Council or the recent Great Council of Orthodox bishops or even the Lambeth Conference could have proposed some new dogma to the ecumene, but none did so.

For emphasis, the Great Council was the first gathering of the world's canonical Orthodox bishops in 1200 years. In that time, their world has been devastated several times over, so if any bishops have seen radical change, they are the ones. But they early decided against the promulgation of any new dogma or even doctrine. If they don't need it, nobody does.

What churches do debate, not always fruitfully, is not truth per se but reasonable conjectures about its reception, presentation, and application in some local church. As we have seen, such interventions excite people.


Father Ron said...

Here is another wise Word from another Tradition:


“Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Lk 13:24). The narrow door…this is an image that could scare us, as if salvation is destined for only a few elect, or perfect people. But this contradicts what Jesus taught us on many other occasions… Therefore, this door is narrow, but is open to everyone! Do not forget this. The door is open to everyone!” - Pope Francis

The parsimonious among us, however, would rather emphasise the word narrow as if to exclude those who do not interpret the Bible as they do. The 'narrowness' can mean the 'difficulty' of believing that God is kind and forgiving to ALL who draw near. I'm often reminded of the lovely hymn of father Faber:

"There's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea........" Agape!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, 'twas I who submitted Bavinck.

And yes, it is "the whole and complete explanation for all Anglican troubles over That Issue." Or anything else.

Concretely, Luther-ish Anglicans find assurance of salvation in baptism and eucharist because back of those sacraments is a *universal* offer of divine forgiveness and in those sacraments *Christ objectively mediates* it himself.

Simple. Works. Every parish in TEC I know. Catholic enough for Josef Ratzinger.

But Calvinist Anglicans hypothesise that divine forgiveness is *limited* to only some, not all. On that view, since baptism and eucharist are gracious for some and empty or even damning for others, receiving them supplies no assurance that one is not damned. They might have received bogus baptisms, poisoned chalices. Understandably, our CAs seek that assurance elsewhere. Hypothetically, never does the *Holy Spirit immediately apply* grace to souls predestined to the bad place. So discerning such grace in oneself could show that one is not among the damned, and so must be among the saved.

Complicated double negative. An anti-vaxxer sacramentology with empty signs rather than visible words. Introspection is unconvincing, and failure leads to despair and apostasy. Bizarrely, no Christ in the presentation of grace in baptism and eucharist. Correlative confusion about the reception of the faithful, the faithless, and the unworthy. Not seen in a parish in TEC.

So from time to time hereabouts, I note that Anglican software runs only on a Luther-ish operating system. By which I mean an OS with *universal forgiveness* and *Christ mediating grace*.

-Ish? Lutherans are Luther-ish. So are Reformed who have incorporated Amyauldianism, Hypothetical Universalism, or Mercersburg Theology to patch the holes just noted.


Anonymous said...

Classically Lutheran Insight: "The 'narrowness' can mean the 'difficulty' of believing that God is kind and forgiving to all who draw near."

Yes! Hence the twin emphasis on *universal forgiveness* and *Christ mediating grace*.

Souls Have No Windows: "The parsimonious among us, however, would rather emphasise the word narrow as if to exclude those who do not interpret the Bible as they do."

So the Reformed facing heaven and hell themselves are thinking more about how to exclude sexual minorities from heaven than about their own eternal destinations? This projection seems not to recognise their humanity.


Anonymous said...

Quick Quaker Question

Sticking here to very early Fox to Barclay Quakers, is this their soteriology?--

In principle, the Father wants to save all. The Son died for all.

So word and sacrament offered to all in CoE steeplehouses are reliable for provisional assurance, until...

The Holy Spirit fatefully accuses one's heart of some complicity with cruelty.

Which compels a choice between (a) remaining in that cruelty thereby losing the Spirit's mediation of saving grace and (b) materially disentangling oneself from the cruelty thereby stepping through the Holy Spirit's opening to spiritual progress.

Which leads one into worship and mutual support with others who have also renounced cruelty to be lead by the Son...

As he is known in the joint illumination of souls in the meeting.

This is justification, sanctification, and vocation.


John Sandeman said...

At Moore College I was taught an Amyraldian position. Here on the eastern firing of the west island the answer to your question "So the Reformed facing heaven and hell themselves are thinking more about how to exclude sexual minorities from heaven than about their own eternal destinations?" is definitely not.

Anonymous said...

The question was gently rhetorical, John.

What a pleasure to know more about your theological background!

From here up yonder, thank you for your tours d'horizon down under.


John Sandeman said...

The Diocese of the Southern Cross is the smallest of four waves of church planting out of the Anglican Church of Australia with various links to the mothership. Some networks are curiously half in and half out. (I post the link to avoid the world's longest comment)

Mark Murphy said...

Hey Bowman,

No, that’s not how I read George Fox’s soteriology, but it might be closer to the later “evangelical” (Orthodox, Beaconite, and conservative) stream of Quakers.

When I think of Fox’s approach the words of Jeremiah come to mind (I can never remember all those numbers to the texts, but a friend had told me it’s Jeremiah 31 and onwards):

The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors…

33 …“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbour,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”

(In a similar vein, Fox himself quote the punchy dialogue between Jesus and the woman from Samaria at Jacob's Well - 'God is a spirit', and he will be worshiped in the spirit, not on the mountain or in Jerusalem).

Fox himself preached salvation by turning inwards to discover the light within, the Teacher within, Christ within. He distrusted all forms of mediated presence, sacrament or pulpit. He had tried this way and it didn’t work: “Just as I gave up on the priests, I left the ‘separate preachers’ also, and those called ‘the most experienced people’, for I could see that there was no one among them who could speak to my condition. And when all hopes in them and all human beings were gone…I heard a voice which said, ‘There is someone, Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.’”

Under his inspiration, Quakers would stand up in Anglican sermons and start shouting: On whose authority do you speak! (Warning: I might try that at the Cathedral, Peter).

He certainly spoke and acted out of a knowledge of scripture, but he claimed that this came to him directly and only later he found it backed up in scripture.

Yes, the Spirit would bring a knowledge of a person’s “heart” that would “rip them up” to quote Margaret Fell (who married Fox after her husband had died), but it also brought great ‘light’, ‘peace’, ‘refreshment to our souls’, and ‘power’. Above all it brought the knowledge that there was 'That of God' inside all human beings, which is probably the great height of Quaker soteriology.

Fox’s own priority was to go inward first as an individual so that one truly finds the teacher within, God within, and after that to congregate with other like-minded brethren. Actuality, of course, it far more mixed-up.

Foxian Quakers are to Christianity what Zen is to Buddhism – salvation through direct presence (transmission), not through scripture or tradition.

Though Fox rejected Anglican holy orders and sacraments as much as he rejected Papist ones, and preached a direct encounter in the inward depths of the individual, if we step back we can see he was brought up by devoted Church of England parents (his father was known as ‘the Christer’), and had a deep knowledge of the scriptures. His ‘ground’ was well-prepared.

Contemporary Quakers still debate to what extent “tradition” is necessary for one’s experience of the Light, hence the variations between “programmed” and “unprogrammed” forms of liturgy/worship.

Fox practiced in the unprogrammed style; but some 89% of contemporary Quakers are in the evangelical or programmed worship bracket.

Quick question: long answer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark.

As you likely know, the early Friends used both George Fox's Autobiography and Robert Barclay's Theses Theologicae and Apology for the True Christian Divinity to present their cause, yet these writings rather differ in emphasis. One hopes for binocular vision someday.


Mark Murphy said...

Oh thanks for those links, Bowman.

The best anthology of Fox's writings I've found is Truth of the Heart (2007), selected and annotated by Rex Ambler. Ambler used to teach theology, and his selections include Fox's original English alongside modern English translations by Ambler.

Your ancestors were Quakers in the evangelical tradition?

A great aunt of mine lived in the Lake District (Cumbria) in an old stone house called "Beaconview". Up the road was the old stone circle, Long Meg and Her Daughters. Down the road, not far away, was the River Eden. Beaconview had an older name, 'Sepulchre Cottage', for out in the back garden was an old, unmarked, Quaker cemetery.

Anonymous said...

"Your ancestors were Quakers in the evangelical tradition?"

No. We all have many forebears.

Broadly speaking, my father's side left the south of England for towns in the Virginia counties of the Tidewater in the C17. Like most Episcopalians thereabouts, their churchmanship has been low from the colonial era and evangelical from the early C19.

My mother's side left the Rhineland early in the C18 for the Blue Ridge of the Appalachians, then the western frontier of the first British empire. Their ethos has been *radical pietism* (eg Soren Kierkegaard), which has affinities with the Quakers and indeed influenced some of them, but emerged as the heirs of Hussites and Rhineland mystics sought a path through the German Enlightenment.


Father Ron said...

In direct contrast to the current culture of revival of 39-articular Religion that is currently prompting the GS/GAFCON sodality to move away from the 'semper reformanda' reforms of the Lambeth/Canterbury Anglican axis; here is news today of a movement in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, recognising the need of further ecclesisatical and pastoral measures that, hopefully, will bring more credibility to the ministry of the Roman Catholic Church in our modern world.

Speaking at a meeting of people in Germany who are preparing for further meetings of the new Synodical structures advocated by Pope Francis, that will include the voice of the laity in matters concerning priestly celibacy; clericalism, and the acceptance of LGBT+ people, here is the opinion of one of the speakers - a woman - who speaks of the ongoing need for reform.

"In an interview with KNA, Julia Knop, a theologian from Erfurt who is a member of the Synodal Assembly, called for reforms:

"Church teachings and structures did not fall from the sky; they have grown historically. That is why they can also be developed further. If they no longer prove their worth in faith and life, they must be corrected. That is because they are not an end in themselves," she told KNA.

With speeches like this - from a woman in the R.C. Church - is it any wonder that the Vatican Cardinals, who are resisting the intentional reforms of Pope Francis, are getting worried about the Catholic Church in Germany being ahead in the race for pastoral and spiritual relevance if the Church in the modern world?

I pray that the Anglican Church keeps its eyes on the ball - resisting the call to turn back the clock to a time that was very different in the history of our world, in a bid to protect itself from the exigencies that are needing to be addressed - for us to remain alive and active on the ground. (Of course, this will require a degree of humility).

Anonymous said...

"Church teachings and structures did not fall from the sky; they have grown historically. That is why they can also be developed further. If they no longer prove their worth in faith and life, they must be corrected. That is because they are not an end in themselves."

-- Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)

It's good to find things on which everyone agrees.


Anonymous said...

On your OP, Peter, I sometimes imagine an Anglican world in which today's differences of policy have been subsumed into a more charitable but firm difference of discipline.

So, Cockaigne and Parador each have two Anglican churches. In each country, one church has closed communion; the other has open communion. Each collaborates freely with its counterpart overseas but somewhat less with its immediate neighbor. However, subject to the distinction between closed and open practices, all are in Communion.

Why? Because this is the pattern of relations among Anabaptist, Lutheran, and Reformed churches here up yonder. Each relatively closed church has a more intentionally stable ethos than some related church nearby that takes more risks. These churches differ, not in identity, but in their resistance to liquid modernity.

Nowhere has a Protestant or Orthodox tradition successfully corralled all its adherents into a single pen that is always either traditionalist or adaptive. Anglican (and apparently Roman) churches are not immune to the forces that have shaped other churches. Perhaps it is time to think through the shape of "the Historic Episcopate, adapted to local conditions?"


Peter Carrell said...

Isn't the challenge whether different churches/movements will talk to each other, will meet with each other?

Here in ACANZP we provided a specific way for something like what you are referring to to be held together in one church corral ... but it wasn't good enough for those who chose to leave.

That is, if a set up offers the possibility of X, Y and Z being in some sense together, and we all agree that it is a good proposal; it is still up to Z to join/participate rather than walking away.

Anonymous said...

"Isn't the challenge whether different churches/movements will talk to each other, will meet with each other?"

Hi Peter.

Not quite.

Different tendencies (a) can blissfully talk and meet about the tradition they have in common. Lambeth Conferences!

But (b), by self-definition, they are not mentally capable of imagining or experiencing social change as others do it in their own bones and skins. Here at ADU, we see this when person X can only account for the motivations or reactions of dissident Y in some way more weird and hateful than common sense would support.

So if people voluntarily sort into groups that do not agree about how to navigate the world, they have made that costly effort because it was less stressful and exhausting than trying to reach an unattainable agreement.

Moreover (c), the tail of (b) wags the dog of (a) as people fall into *motivated reasoning* and *magic thinking* to force the synod, the bishop, the 39A, the pope, the angel with golden tablets, the Bible, etc to agree with the only adaptation that makes grounded sense to them. If they can't get that agreement, they toss out the authority, not their adaptation.

And worse (d), the least secure hate any whose divergent or even independent thinking exposes the unsoundness of their *motivated reasoning* and *magic thinking* about the authorities in their lives.

(Decades ago, at an ecumenical retreat on ministry, I saw a mild-mannered Lutheran seminarian reduce his poor bishop to a sputtering rage by admitting that he could not follow the latter's argument that the C16 Book of Concord *requires* the ordination of women. The emperor was not wearing clothes. But to be fair, in that church at that time any leadership argument about church had to be pitched as a theorem from axioms of the Lutheran confessions, so bishops and pastors were adept at making the old Lutherans think whatever they needed for them to think on a given occasion.)

So the spirit can be willing to meet and talk, but the mind is too weak to reliably bridge deep preferences for safety or excitement. Giving the cautious and the restless their own corrals allows each to live the common tradition without frustration with the safety-settings of the other.

"Here in ACANZP we provided a specific way for something like what you are referring to to be held together in one church corral ... but it wasn't good enough for those who chose to leave."

It was good enough for those who chose to stay! Since that is the best that any church in the Communion or out of it has yet done, I think it deserves much more attention than it gets :-D Was it discussed at least informally at the Conference?

About the refuseniks, my guess-- obviously it is only that, and my memory of faraway events does fail-- is that the proposal came much too late for most of the herd. The provocateurs were already on a trajectory-- had an organizational meeting organized, no?-- when the Way Forward report was released. Moreover, a vague and unpredecented innovation was probably less exciting to them than "heroically" forming a new synod with like-minded friends. Finally, didn't these events unfold in the run-up to a GAFCON gathering? It would have been natural for them to want to belong fully to that *permission structure* when they attended.

The outcome might have been different if those opting into the Community had been stepping into a fully-developed and globally-defended ecclesiology of identity-in-difference. This would have made it much harder for detractors to frame it as a local conscience clause for those being dragged along by a national synod on the run. Because there will always be more controversies to induce divisions, it would be well worthwhile to think this through.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
There is much in what you say; and all of what you say may be on the money, but we would need some other voices than mine - GAFCONesque ones - to confirm that.

On the matter of "the NZ way" possibly being a way forward for (e.g.) Australia or England, very informally, there is conversation. Whether anything comes of commentary such as a senior English cleric saying to me that We have so much to learn from New Zealand remain - of course!! - to be seen.

Father Ron said...

'Anonymous said...
"Church teachings and structures did not fall from the sky; they have grown historically. That is why they can also be developed further. If they no longer prove their worth in faith and life, they must be corrected. That is because they are not an end in themselves."

-- Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)'

au contraire, Bowman. I believe that Gafcon is misrepresenting the 'future' characteristic in one of the initials of its adapted mnemonic. Rather, it seems to me, though they may be 'looking through a glass darkly', it is more like a rear-view mirror than a window on the future of classical Anglicanism. Antiquity is good as a base from which to make progress. Is should not be looked upon as an end in itself - especially is a world dynamic like that of the prospect of Salvation and Redemption for ALL God's children. The former (Christian) understanding of the ethic of slavery, has been proven antithetical to a modern-day ethic of race relations). Jesus himself re-oriented the old understanding of the Sabbath. Law has been reoriented to include the charism of grace. Need I go on?

Anonymous said...

Hi Father Ron

You have missed the point of my 10:35.

When you do see it, you may like it.

Meanwhile, every tub sits on its own bottom.

Tubs that can hold water do hold water.

They say nothing about the other tubs.

A leak in one does not make the others water-tight.

Any who know the future for certain should manage the clergy pension fund.

Time is a kaleidoscope.

It does not have a direction.

It has an End.


John Sandeman said...


to my mind the Community of St Mark has a fatal flaw, It requires a bishop to be visitor/protector for the body. What if no bishop takes on that role? What if the community has a policy that no bishop agrees with?

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, John, I cannot believe that across Australasia we could find no one suitable :)

Anonymous said...


Absent the gentle partition suggested, we see four pathologies--

Differences of discipline escalate into purported differences in doctrine.

Figures of unity are taken to be covertly partisan leaders.

Grievances against churches are exaggerated into grounds for schism, as if those existed.

Authorities that should be common ground for good faith discussion are perversely interpreted or rejected.


Father Ron said...

Sorry, Bowman, I did get your point. I just didn't thein that Gafcon was agreeing with the sentiments expressed by the R.S. theologian, Julia Knop.

I think that Gafcon people DO believe that 'Church teachings and structures' DID fall from the sky, and that they were irreversible throughout eternity. I don't think the following quotation from the writing of the Prophet Amos (which was in my daily reading for today) has yet gotten through to them:

"I hate - I despise your festival days, and your solemn convocations stink. And if you send up burnt offerings to me as well as you grain offerings, I will not accept them. Nor will I consider your peace offerings of fattened cattle. Spare me your noisy singing- I will not listen to your musical instruments. BUT LET JUSTICE ROLL ON LIKE MANY WATERS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, LIKE AN EVER-FLOWING RIVER (Amos 5:21-24)

John Sandeman said...

"Oh, John, I cannot believe that across Australasia we could find no one suitable :)"

I would be happy for my local bishop to volunteer for the role but as read the canon the visitor must be a bishop of your province. You could do it, but Kaniska Raffel could not.

Peter Carrell said...

Canons can be changed when needs arise, John!

Peter Carrell said...

Canons can be changed when needs arise, John!

Anonymous said...

It does not matter to anyone, Father Ron, but you clearly have not understood my 10:35.


Anonymous said...

Now I don’t think I have understood 10.35 either. I thought you were being ironic? It matters to me to understand so please enlighten me…

Father Ron said...

In the light of the angst we are in as members of the Body of Christ today, on a day when we hear the call of Jesus: 'Friend, come up higher' we look forward to our inheritance with Christ and the Saints - "When all our strivings cease!"

Words from a friend of us ALL:

"SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2022

“The Risen One lives in God’s world, where there is a place for everyone, where a new earth is being formed, and the heavenly city, man’s final dwelling place, is being built. We cannot imagine this transfiguration of our mortal corporality, but we are certain that it will keep our faces recognizable and allow us to remain human in God’s heaven. It will allow us to participate, with sublime emotion, in the infinite and blissful exuberance of God's creative act, whose endless adventures we will experience first-hand.” Pope Francis

Anonymous said...

Hi Moya

GAFCON innovates in ecclesiology just as Fr Ron's friends innovate in sacramentology. Of many dreams for the future, those are two.

One can approve either, both, or neither of these dreams. But the rationale for each is abstractly like that for the other.

Dreamers of both kinds are responding to human needs obvious to them yet invisible to others. Wisely or foolishly, they place those needs slightly ahead of some received tradition because they think that Jesus himself would do that.

Dreamers of both dreams imagine repairing some injustice unrecognised by the other. None think that they are working for a future that is actually bad for those who disagree with them. Haters aside, none wake each morning with a plan to do evil to others.

Yet haters on the two sides get most of our attention. Why? There are saner people on both sides, and indeed, on neither side. And all can see from experience that those who hate a thing cannot know it truly, whilst those who love it see more of it, and see it with the eyes of its Creator.

So truth-seekers would be wise to listen only to those who can make it plain that they want the best for all.


Anonymous said...

Oh thank you. Truth AND grace must be kept together as in Jesus Christ. I once meditated on the word ‘and’ in Scripture and received the insight that what God has joined together must not be separated!

Anonymous said...

And thanks for taking the time to explain so clearly the way we so easily get out of dialogue with each other. Bless you