Monday, June 30, 2008

The missing word from GAFCON's statement

Metacatholic in this post notices a missing word from the statement (actually, as you will see if you click on the link, Metacatholic works off another post).

That word is 'interpretation', in connection with understanding Scripture.

It's quite important!

If X says I believe in Scripture and submits to its authority; and Y says I believe in Scripture and submit to its authority; and X and Y disagree theologically, then their disagreement is not solved by impugning their lack of adherence to Scripture. It is solved by sorting out their difference in the interpretation of Scripture.

And conservative evangelicals know sorting such difference is not easy.

Everyone a winner in Jerusalem

This backgrounder by Tony Payne offers helpful insight into the streams of concerns which wound their way through the GAFCON listening process into the final statement.
For Kiwi readers of Anglican Down Under there is a special point or two of interest!

Archbishop Williams and Presiding Bishop Schori to make decision about schism

Various news reports and blogs (including Ruth Gledhill's accessible from the sidebar here) talk of the GAFCON statement in sentences which include the word 'schism'. The use of that word is not entirely unfair inasmuch as GAFCON does talk about a new North American Anglican Province. What might be unfair is the world and its journalists judging GAFCON's leaders being solely responsible for this state of affairs.

It will only be a schism if Williams and Schori refuse to recognise the validity of the new province. If they recognise its validity then communion among all Anglicans in North America remains possible and the Anglican Communion as one entity (albeit with considerable internal tension) remains viable. Williams and Schori ought to validate the new province: Williams should be agreeable to its theology (great patristics man that he is, etc) and Schori should offer agreement as penance for the wilfully aggressive approach TEC has taken to Anglicans seeking to be orthodox in creedal and BCP faith in North America. (OK I have not mentioned Hiltz, the Primate of Canada ... Presiding Bishop Schori is the key player. Hard to see Canada not following TEC's lead).

The ball is in Williams and Schori's court.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

GAFCON's Final Statement (Yes, No wait, Yes it is) and its implications

Below is the final statement from GAFCON - yes, after some initial uncertainty, it appears that it is THE final statement.

It will be pored over, analysed, and critiqued, from the left, the right, and the centre.

The point of it, of course, is beyond declarations that it is 'wrong' or 'unworkable' or 'missing this or that statement which it ought to have to really impress me'. It is a call to action and its a call to new direction for Anglicanism. People will respond to this. The depth and breadth of that response will determine how much Anglicanism is reshaped rather than the cuts of the critics on the blogosphere.

I suspect I will make a posting or two over the next few weeks about the significance of the statement, but three things stand out.

(1) The BCP, 39A, and the Ordinal as doctrinal rallying points for Anglicanism
(2) The explicit and clear endorsement of a future of Anglicanism in which there will be more than one bishop per territory
(3) The preferment of doctrine over the See of Canterbury as primary point of unity.

In respect of point (3): Archbishop Rowan Williams as current office holder of the See of Canterbury is not set aside by this statement but he is challenged: he has work to do to regain the confidence of a large swathe of Anglicans in the vitality of the role of the See of Canterbury in the future of Anglicanism.

That's enough for now.

To the statement ...


Praise the LORD!

It is good to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. (Psalm 147:1-2) Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, send you greetings from Jerusalem!


The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which was held in Jerusalem from 22-29 June 2008, is a spiritual movement to preserve and promote the truth and power of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as we Anglicans have received it. The movement is global: it has mobilised Anglicans from around the world. We are Anglican: 1148 lay and clergy participants, including 291 bishops representing millions of faithful Anglican Christians. We cherish our Anglican heritage and the Anglican Communion and have no intention of departing from it. And we believe that, in God’s providence, Anglicanism has a bright future in obedience to our Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations and to build up the church on the foundation of biblical truth (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:20).

GAFCON is not just a moment in time, but a movement in the Spirit, and we hereby:

- launch the GAFCON movement as a fellowship of confessing Anglicans
- publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of the fellowship
- Encourage GAFCON Primates’ Council.

The Global Anglican Context

The future of the Anglican Communion is but a piece of the wider scenario of opportunities and challenges for the gospel in 21st century global culture. We rejoice in the way God has opened doors for gospel mission among many peoples, but we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness. The vacuum left by them is readily filled by other faiths and deceptive cults. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches.

The Anglican Communion, present in six continents, is well positioned to address this challenge, but currently it is divided and distracted. The Global Anglican Future Conference emerged in response to a crisis within the Anglican Communion, a crisis involving three undeniable facts concerning world Anglicanism. The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel. This false gospel undermines the authority of God’s Word written and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation from sin, death and judgement. Many of its proponents claim that all religions offer equal access to God and that Jesus is only a way, not the way, the truth and the life. It promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony. In 2003 this false gospel led to the consecration of a bishop living in a homosexual relationship.

The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel. These declarations have resulted in a realignment whereby faithful Anglican Christians have left existing territorial parishes, dioceses and provinces in certain Western churches and become members of other dioceses and provinces, all within the Anglican Communion. These actions have also led to the appointment of new Anglican bishops set over geographic areas already occupied by other Anglican bishops. A major realignment has occurred and will continue to unfold. The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008. To make matters worse, there has been a failure to honour promises of discipline, the authority of the Primates’ Meeting has been undermined and the Lambeth Conference has been structured so as to avoid any hard decisions. We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’. Sadly, this crisis has torn the fabric of the Communion in such a way that it cannot simply be patched back together. At the same time, it has brought together many Anglicans across the globe into personal and pastoral relationships in a fellowship which is faithful to biblical teaching, more representative of the demographic distribution of global Anglicanism today and stronger as an instrument of effective mission, ministry and social involvement.

A Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world. Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.

The Jerusalem Declaration

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.

1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.

10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.

The Road Ahead

We believe the Holy Spirit has led us during this week in Jerusalem to begin a new work. There are many important decisions for the development of this fellowship which will take more time, prayer and deliberation.

Among other matters, we shall seek to expand participation in this fellowship beyond those who have come to Jerusalem, including cooperation with the Global South and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. We can, however, discern certain milestones on the road ahead.

Primates’ Council

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, do hereby acknowledge the participating Primates of GAFCON who have called us together, and encourage them to form the initial Council of the GAFCON movement. We look forward to the enlargement of the Council and entreat the Primates to organise and expand the fellowship of confessing Anglicans. We urge the Primates’ Council to authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations and to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith. We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons. We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.

We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.

Conclusion: Message from Jerusalem

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, were summoned by the Primates’ leadership team to Jerusalem in June 2008 to deliberate on the crisis that has divided the Anglican Communion for the past decade and to seek direction for the future. We have visited holy sites, prayed together, listened to God’s Word preached and expounded, learned from various speakers and teachers, and shared our thoughts and hopes with each other.

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

It is our hope that this Statement on the Global Anglican Future will be received with comfort and joy by many Anglicans around the world who have been distressed about the direction of the Communion. We believe the Anglican Communion should and will be reformed around the biblical gospel and mandate to go into all the world and present Christ to the nations.


Feast of St Peter and St Paul 29 June 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

This is why Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Rowan Williams has many critics. In the past few days a notable fellow Oxonian, J. I. Packer has even said he should resign if he cannot wholeheartedly lead the Communion by the light of Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10. Amid the criticism one might forget just why the British church appointments committee and government saw fit to appoint him in the first place. Primarily he is a great theologian. We need bishops who lead, administer, and give good interviews to the media. Woe betide us if we have no great theologians among the ranks of the bishops!

Here is an excerpt of a recent speech written by (though not actually delivered by) Archbishop Rowan, as selected and posted by Sarah Hey on Stand Firm:

"At the most basic level, every local church has a 'mother church' except for Jerusalem, where the Risen Jesus first directly establishes the company of witnesses to his resurrection and pours out upon them the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. From this point on, the church's mission moves outwards, and, as we see in St Paul's epistles, local congregations are equipped by the apostles with the essentials of belief and practice that allow them in turn to become in their own context communities of witness to the Risen Christ.

And one consequence of this is something to which St Paul more than once makes appeal: the life of the local congregation is founded on something received – not discovered or invented. The assembly of Christ's people, Christ's Body, in this place is the result of the active communication of tradition, in its widest and fullest sense (I Cor. 15). For a local church to come into being is for a community to arise that is part of a continuous stream of life being shared.

This may serve as a corrective to the idea that somehow each and every local church is complete and self-sufficient in a narrow and exclusive way. Understandably, the ecclesiology of recent decades, especially among those influenced by the brilliant work of Orthodox thinkers like Nicholas Afanasiev and John Zizioulas, has positioned itself in strong reaction against centralised models of ecclesial life and authority, against a picture of ecclesial unity that is ultimately somewhat secular – the unified organisation controlled from one focal point.

But the pendulum has swung too far if this means we lose sight of the interdependence of local churches and their bishops. The life of the local churches is constituted not only by internal communion, but by the giving and receiving of the gift of the Gospel between them and by the grateful recognition of each other as gifted by Christ to minister his reality to each other (as St Paul insists in II Corinthians). And the fundamental acknowledgement of having received the Gospel from elsewhere is a reminder to each and every local church of this dimension of its life, this gratitude for having heard and received and for being still involved in the economy of giving and receiving in catholic fellowship.

Hence the relation of local churches to a 'mother church' or a 'primatial church' is not a purely antiquarian matter. From very early in the church's history, certain local churches have been recognised as having had a distinctive generative importance. In the ancient Welsh and Irish churches, the great monastic houses from which missions went out were the mother churches for the 'family' of the saint who had founded the monastery; before the continental diocesan structures had arrived in Britain and Ireland, this was the usual form of church life. But this is only a more vivid example of something just as true across the Christian world. A local church is indeed at one level a community to which is given all the gifts necessary for being Christ's Body in this particular place; but among those gifts is the gift of having received the Gospel from others and being still called to receive it. Relation with the history of mission is part of the church's identity.

This, of course, has many implications for our understanding of the bishop's ministry. If it is true that, as Tertullian said, 'one Christian is no Christian', then by the same token we should be able to say, 'one bishop is no bishop', and so 'one local church alone is no church '. A bishop is not an individual who 'represents' the local church as if he is empowered to speak for its local identity like a politician for his constituency."

Spot some subtle points here about current Anglican difficulties?

The whole speech can be found here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Genuine Anglican Fellowship Conversing Openly Now

What is happening at GAFCON? What will emerge as its final 'statement', and beyond that as specific outcomes? So far the hints are that conservative Anglicans will be encouraged to remain within the Anglican Communion, but there will be reconfigurations which mean business will not be quite as usual. As we head to the end of the week further hints are emerging about the tenor and toughness of the final communique. I like this report by Robert Forsyth, and this report by Jim Oakes.

In particular I like the sense emerging from reports such as this that GAFCON involves a genuine conversation with an authentic process for hearing the voices of all those gathered. It looks like whatever the final statement says, it will not be one which was pre-written back in December 2007!

Update: this in from Ruth Gledhill.

Love and hate in the Communion (1 John 2)

Key to koinonia (fellowship or communion) in the teaching of John, according to 1 John 2, is keeping the commandments (v. 3), keeping Jesus' word (v. 5), and walking in the same way that Jesus walked (v. 6). But what are the commandments? What is the word of Jesus? What is the way Jesus walked - thinking of the difference between the physical way of dusty roads in Palestine and the exemplary way of obedience to the Father, love for people, prophetic teaching, healing, etc?

John helps us in the answer to the question by writing in vv. 7-10:

'Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.'

Well, John "helps" us if we like living with paradox: 'no new commandment ... it is a new commandment'!! Note the way in which verbs in these verses directly correspond to important verbs in 2:4-6: 'abides' (v.6, v. 10), 'walks' (v. 6, v. 11). This suggests that 2:7-11 is John's own interpretation of 2:4-6, at least in the sense of drawing out the most important 'commandment'. Or, perhaps we are closer to the mark if we say that John in vv. 7-11 provides the key examination question for whether we keep/abide/walk in the commandments/word/way of Jesus: do you love or hate your brother?

(It would be presumptuous to make a conclusion about John's understanding of the Christian's attitude to the Mosaic law on the basis of these few enigmatic verses. What we can appropriately note is that the question of loving or hating one's brother, in the context of talk of commandments, is coherent with (but not the same as) Pauline theology of the Mosaic law, 'The commandments ... are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself".' (Romans 13:9); and consistent with Pauline understanding of disputes in church, 'for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized' (1 Corinthians 11:19).)

Back to 1 John 2. 'Brother' here means a member of the body of Christ, a Christian sibling within the family of God, a fellow participant in the fellowship of the church. At the level of pure logic, fellowship exists where there is love between fellows and fellowship is broken if there is discord between fellows. At the level of actual living some 'deception' is possible: 'OK, so I can't stand X or Y, but that does not mean I cannot call myself a true Christian and member of their church.' The 'deception' is that either I do not, in the end, hate X or Y, or I am not able (or they are not able) to sustain membership of the same church ... or, one of me or X or Y is not actually a 'brother'! Honesty compels, or should compel Christians to confront their own attitudes to fellow Christians: do I love X or hate X? If the latter, am I prepared to change attitude? No idle question as John points out that 'whoever hates his brother is in the darkness' (2:11).

These thoughts directly relate to goings on in the Anglican Communion through these days. The language of commenters on the internet, for example, is the language of 'love' and 'hate' ... love for those perceived to be in agreement, hate for those perceived to be in disagreement ... and oft-times it is also language about the validity of 'brothers', questioning whether (say) a person disobeying this or that commandments is a true Christian or (say) a person upholding this or that commandment (against homosex) is a true Christian.

The troubling thing, speaking as a conservative who haunts conservative sites (though not only conservative sites), is that the language of 'love' and 'hate' appears when discussing fellow conservatives as well as when discussing liberals!

Perhaps it could be important to presume all members of the Communion are 'brothers and sisters' in Christ, to not waste energy on wondering who is and who is not, and to Spirit-fully examine ourselves as to whether we love or hate our brothers and sisters in the Communion? If we only love those we think to be of common mind with ourselves, we are not making much of a demand on ourselves! (See Matthew 5:46). If we are tempted to hate those we disagree with, we run the risk of being in the darkness despite feeling that our adherence to true doctrine ensures we are enlightened.

John's challenge to us is that doctrine is demonstrated by deeds, communion is expressed through charity more than clarity. Creedal conviction is important to John (e.g. 1 John 5:1a) but it is never separable from commitment to fellow Christians (1 John 5:1b).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ephraim Radner and the Anglican Covenant

I think the Anglican Covenant is a good idea, as argued here.

But better by far on the Covenant is Ephraim Radner. His latest writing is A Short Primer in Defense of an Anglican Covenant. It offers concise, clear answers to questions about the Covenant.

What does the Bible say?

One is tempted at times to say of the evangelical centre site, Fulcrum, 'poor Fulcrum', as it gets pilloried by the left and the right. But I admire Fulcrum because it is unafraid to be bold in the course of following its centrist line. One example is publishing this paper by Robert Gagnon, entitled "Going in the Wrong Direction:A Response to David Atkinson".

Its relevance to Lambeth is this. David Atkinson, an evangelical C of E bishop and scholar, contributed a chapter to the book Other Voices, Other Worlds: The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality (edited by Terry Brown and published in 2006 by Church Publishing in New York), which offers bishops in the run up to Lambeth a view from the other (liberal) side of the (more or less) Global South to the (mostly) conservative voice experienced through media headlines - more or less because the book includes voices from our church which is not normally counted as part of the Global South! So Gagnon, responding to Atkinson's challenge to Gagnon within that book, offers a counter to Atkinson's piece which implies evangelicals might take a 'softer' interpretative line on Scripture.

Either way, a bit of Gagnon is good for the biblical spine, stiffening it in a straighter direction. I concur with him that fundamental to understanding the Bible on human sexuality is engaging with the foundational, binary (i.e. male/female) character of human sexuality in the creation of humanity in the image of God.

(On the Terry Brown edited book, I offered this brief review around the time of its publication.

Terry Brown (ed.) Other Voices, Other Worlds: The Global Church Speaks Out on Homosexuality, London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 2006.

Twenty-six voices, most from the Global South, challenge the ‘dominant’ picture of Global South Anglicanism as pro-Bible, anti-homosexuality. Many of the voices effectively say, ‘in my country, in my Anglican province homosexuality exists, this information ought not to be overlooked.’ This is useful knowledge but is not always conveyed in a way which enables the current contretemps to progress to a rapprochement. Three voices stand out as required listening if some meaningful traction towards true communion is to take place among diverse Anglican theologies: David Atkinson, Charles Hefling and Sarah Coakley. In particular conservative evangelicals might find in the piece by David Atkinson, a published IVP author, some common ground for genuine dialogue on possibilities Scripture may be more open to than some of its conservative readers.

Incidentally the book provides evidence for those who claim that Gene Robinson is not the only gay bishop in the Anglican Communion!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ruth Gledhill sees the excellent qualities of ++Peter Jensen

Following up my post below, Miracle at GAFCON, I see that Ruth Gledhill, who is posting live from GAFCON, has noticed the leading role being taken up by Archbishop Peter Jensen.

I am not surprised. Ruth has a reporter's instinct for greatness; and Peter has greatness!

Commandments and Communion (1 John 2)

The question of secession from fellowship, later in 1 John 2, deserves a separate post. Here its the first part of 1 John 2 to which attention is paid.

'we have come to know him (Jesus Christ), if we keep his commandments' (v. 3).

There can be no fellowship or communion with Jesus Christ when we do not keep his commandments. This sets up some tension in the teaching of 1 John: what if we do not keep his commandments, that is, what if we sin? Has fellowship irreparably ended?
Intriguingly John offers not only assurance that sins are forgiven (1:7-2:2) but also acknowledges two levels of disobedience (5:16-17) while being clear that 'all wrongdoing is sin'. Yet, logically consistent with the connection he makes between fellowship and obedience, the author knows that a Christian person cannot keep on sinning (3:6; 5:18). One question of 1 John is whether, in the end, it satisfactorily resolves the tension between sin/confession/forgiveness and not continuing to sin. (If it does not resolve the tension that is no reason to ignore 1 John - it exists for us within the whole canon of Scripture and the more important question is the resolution of such issues by the whole of Scripture).

Moving right along from that difficult question (!!), and back to the Anglican Communion, 1 John supports the general case of conservative Anglicans that (a) sin is a significant issue in the life of the believer and of the church (b) sin is an issue for 'fellowship' or 'communion', and not just in terms of (say) unbalancing the moral equilibrium of the universe (c) sin is not only a general state of human fallibility but also concerns specific commandments which we either keep or do not keep.

Yet there is a further difficult question lurking in 1 John 2 and that is the question of what the commandments are with which we should be concerned about our keeping them or not. I shall post on that soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Phrase of the Week: His book is that of an advanced egomaniac

Only Monday (NZ time) and already this week's 'Phrase of the Week' has appeared, "His book is that of an advanced egomaniac". It occurs in a review piece by A. N. Wilson in the Daily Telegraph (London) on two books not disconnected with the sequence of GAFCON and Lambeth Conferences. To see which book and which egomaniac Wilson is troubled by, go here.

Of course this phrase has a bit of double-edge. With the slightest adaptation it becomes a judegment applicable to any blogger.

"His blog is that of an advanced egomaniac".

Yes, that's it!

Miracle at GAFCON?

I am not sure that I have ever seen Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney wearing a clergy shirt. But here he is wearing one at GAFCON in Jerusalem! Perhaps, being strictly accurate, its not a miracle. But is it not a sign of hope? Archbishop Peter is accommodating his dress code to fit with the requirements of (presumably) GAFCON as a mixture of anglo-catholic and evangelicals, and GAFCON as a very public media event in the life of the Anglican Communion. Such accommodation is key to unity emerging from Anglican diversity. And diversity there is aplenty, even at GAFCON.

Ruth Gledhill is in Jerusalem reporting on GAFCON. Her posts can be followed from the sidebar of this blog. (The official GAFCON news site is here.) In this post Ruth observes that outsiders looking in may misunderstand the complexities of conservative Anglicanism. It includes those who might swim the Tiber under some circumstances and those who would rather cross the Alps to Geneva. So far signs emerging from GAFCON of what GAFCON is driving towards is not Anglican schism but a reshaped Anglican Communion in which the fact that we are effectively a reconstituted extended family rather than a pretence of a tightly knit nuclear family is named for what it is.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Communion walking in the light (1 John 1)

Walking in the light, espoused in 1 John 1 as vital to fellowship with God and with each other, is understood in several ways.

Living according to orthodox belief, including the commands of God revealed through Scripture. (Incidentally, this is a point brought out in the GAFCON 'conference' book, now available electronically here).

Living transparently - hiding nothing about the truth of who we are.

Openly, publicly, and readily confessing sins - a feature, so I understand, of the East African revival.

In its own curious way the current controversy in the Communion is about 'walking in the light'. The first understanding above urges the Communion to refuse to bless same sex partnerships; the second understanding urges the Communion to refuse to keep, or return homosexual lifestyle to a hidden 'dark' state. 'Coming out' in a sense is about coming out 'into the light'. Conservatives wrestling with these matters perhaps should be - I should be - considering this feature more carefully.

In short (and a hat-tip to a correspondent) is there a moral difference between living a life of sexual subterfuge and living a life of sexual transparency (which, at the least, is what any marriage or declared/registered/blessed same sex partnership is)?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Phrase of the week: St Bartholomew's is not a personal fiefdom

I love it when someone says something witty, even better when its memorable. Amidst the great row swirling around 'the' service at St Bartholomew's in London, a (robust, take no prisoners) letter from Bishop Richard Chartres to the offending vicar proffers the following phrase,

'St Bartholomew's is not a personal fiefdom.'

Excellent. And not only of St Bartholomew's could this phrase be used. Next time your minister gets a bit uppity just substitute the name of your church and the phrase is yours to use as a tool to nip that uppityness in the bud.

Truth and lies in the Anglican Communion (1 John 1)

In the neighbouring district to our city, a row is flaring between the District Council and some of its ratepayers because the Council is offering substantial funding to a local church which is building a new church building. The reason for the funding is that the church is offering a large building which will serve both as a venue for worship on Sundays and an arena capable of hosting concert performances and the like for the public on other occasions. Naturally some ratepayers are questioning whether this is the right use of funds, and whether the District Council's agreement with the church provides adequate guarantees concerning public access to the proposed auditorium. I have followed some of the correspondence about this in our regional newspaper and have noted that one of the sternest critics of the Council's involvement with this church is a Christian who worships in another church. I mention all this to remind ourselves that sharp disagreement among Christians is not confined to the matters of human sexuality which trouble the Anglican Communion at this time!

But this local conflict highlights an aspect of the Communion turmoil. One line in the newspaper correspondence has been about 'truth'. What has the Council actually agreed with the church? Has the public been properly notified about the plan to invest in the building? How come this decision or that was taken behind closed doors? The Council has been diligent in responding to all such questions. Behind the questions has been a whiff of accusation: we, the people, are being deceived!?

Turning to the Communion's troubles, I have noticed a theme of 'deceit' running through many discussions. The recent controversial service at St Bart's (see posts below) is a case in point: "This was a 'gay wedding'" ... "No, it was not, it was a service of blessing for a same sex partnership." Or, in another matter, the GAFCOn conference in Jerusalem, which gets underway about now, has raised questions about the "real" truth of its purpose(s), not so much because anyone has made a statement about them which has proved to be false, but because so little has been said. Thirdly, we can cite in this context the various moves in which bishops, particularly in North America, boldly claim they have not authorised services of blessing for same sex partnerships, while knowing such services frequently take place in their dioceses and having no intention of stopping them. (Note, in citing these examples I am not seeking to accuse any individuals of making deceitful statements; rather I am drawing attention to a feature of the situation whereby many statements are being made which raise serious questions about their service or lack of service for the process of discerning the true state of matters through knowledge of all relevant factors.)

Opening up 1 John 1 we find themes of light, life, truth, deceit, sin, fellowship, walking in darkness / light expounded in a binary manner:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness we lie and do not practice the truth (v. 6; converse in v. 7).

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (v. 8; converse in v. 9; reiteration of v. 8 in v. 10).

There are no third ways here - the middle is excluded! Striking in the present Communion context is the possibility that Christians may deceive themselves about sin. At the heart of the turmoil is the question of whether certain actions are sin or not. 1 John 1 sharply reminds us that we have the potential to deceive ourselves concerning sin. In his original context of writing I presume the author was specifically responding to claims by some that they were now 'perfect' - there was no sin of any kind in their lives. But that does not change the fact that on specific actions deceit can take place: 'its not really stealing if I take just a little bit' or 'God won't mind if I stay in bed just this one Sunday morning' (as an old joke goes onto say, 'But you should be there, you're the Vicar').

To get a bit crunchy in conclusion: if the traditional, Scripture founded claim is that sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex is sin, 1 John 1 implies that the burden of proof lies on those who now claim otherwise to justify a change in teaching. The burden of proof is not only to justify the change, but also to establish that no 'deceit' is involved. I find the notion that two men who love each other should not be denied blessing for a public commitment of that love a plausible suggestion ... but when I ask, Is this justified by Scripture and the tradition of the church's teaching? its intriguing to find 'deceitful' arguments brought to bear. Scripture can be set aside on this matter (on what basis?) ... Science now supersedes Scripture on some matters (does it?)... Its love not law which counts (but Scripture never pits one against the other) ... Jesus never said anything against it (but he did say things which upheld Mosaic law).

Without here, in a very brief posting, attempting to draw up the last word on these matters, I find 1 John 1 challenging our Communion: are we living by truth or deceit? Can what was once walking in darkness, now be walking in the light? And where difference exists on matters concerning truth/falsehood, light/darkness, is fellowship possible?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Approaching 1 John in the midst of turmoil

I am sure study of 1 John is going to repay dividends in respect of understanding present Anglican Communion turmoil, and I am hopeful it might give some practical leads as to how to proceed from here.

But I am conscious that Anglicans on all sides are claiming rights to be identified as 'orthodox' so 1 John may be (literally) two-edged as a piece of the sword of the Spirit. The modern counterparts to the Johannine secessionists could be (for instance) Anglicans leaving TEC or it could be TEC on its present path, which some commentators describe as a 'leaving' of true Anglicanism. Or, we could think of the themes of light and love in 1 John, and read the letter in such a manner that (for example) it is the bishops and dioceses in western USA currently embracing the State of California's recent decision supporting 'gay marriage' who are enlightened and truly loving a fellow Christian in need, and it is those opposing them who are, effectively, denying 'Christ', living in darkness, and 'hating' their brother and sister Christians.

Incidentally I have a book on 1 John on my shelves by one J. Darby, which is a reminder that in the past 1 John has not only served the cause of secession from the Church of England in a 'Brethren' direction, but also justified a continuation of such secession into an 'exclusive' ecclesiology, so that, here in Nelson NZ where I live, we have many Exclusive Brethren!

How to proceed? The only way I know is to engage in careful but also just study of the text, with an openness to rethinking any current belief in the light of that study of Scripture.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Understanding present turmoil in Johannine terms

Sometimes Anglicans have made a play for the correlation between John's Gospel and 'Anglican' theology. Think incarnation, eucharist, Spirit, and mission, with a touch of mysticism thrown in. But Johannine thinking is not confined to John's Gospel, or to the 'pleasant' themes listed above. In John's Gospel some interest is shown in the fate of Johannine Christians thrown out of the synagogue. And 1 John is seriously interested in issues concerning secession if not schism. Amidst talk of leaving the Communion, of people feeling pushed to the outer reaches of Anglicanism, and of inclusive / exclusive tendencies, it might be worth paying some new attention to Johannine writings. I am going to concentrate on 1 John for a bit. If there is something I think I would like to share - I will. Of course, since it is a Johannine writing I will be looking at, I am hoping some light will be shed into our present darkness!


Peter Ould quickly gets to the core of the significance of the reported 'gay marriage' at St Bartholomews, London (see What is not to like? below) with an (as usual) clear and concise critique entitled 'Gay Wedding - The Theology'.

I think he is right. The service used is so close to a wedding service for a man and a woman, yet so subversive of the analogy between Christ's relationship to the church and a husband's relationship to a wife (Ephesians 5:23-33) that it puts a doctrinal stake in the ground. Either the Church of England objectively distances itself as far as possible from this service and its intrinsic understanding that a same sex partnership may be understood to be a Scripturally-validated form of marriage, or it will be complicit in affirming this understanding is accommodated within its theological diversity. Silence would mean consent. We await the voice of Chartres, Williams, Sentamu, and co.

I feel strongly about this matter (if you cannot tell)! Marriage is marriage. Whatever a same sex partnership is, no matter how many common elements it has with marriage, it is not a marriage, for it lacks the prerequisite of two opposite sexes. This is not a head in the sand position, pretending the world is other than it is. Clearly there are an increasing number of publicly declared if not publicly registered if not publicly blessed same sex relationships. Whatever the Anglican church 'does' about this situation - whether it offers moral approbation (which I disagree with) or pastoral support (which I do not think we can escape) or creative ways of acknowledging (as we often find ourselves doing with those heterosexual couples who 'live together') - it should not deceive itself that it is dealing with a new form of marriage. Marriage is marriage!

What is not to like?

If GAFCON needs any goading to take whatever line it may take in contra-distinction to a Canterbury-orientated Anglican Communion then male Revs Dudley, Cowell, and Lord have provided it. A day or two ago Dudley (C of E priest) presided over a ceremony of commitment (aka 'gay marriage') for Cowell (C of E priest) and Lord (as it happens, NZ priest, but see disclaimer here) in full public view in famous London church, and trumpeted in media outlets here there and everywhere, as linked by Thinking Anglicans. Particularly provocative is the close wording of the ceremony to the wording of the BCP marriage service. Peter Ould provides a helpful comparison.

Ruth Gledhill begins her blog on this event with the question, "What is there not to like in the service of blessing billed as the Church of England's first gay 'marriage' between two clergy?" To which my response is that I do not like parodies of solemn, sacred rituals ordained by God. In the service of holy matrimony a wondrous event takes place whereby a man and a woman bound by their common humanity yet differentiated by their sexual distinction in both body and psychology are joined together to become one being, full of potency for the procreation of life, and full of promise for the fruitfulness their union of male-and-female brings to society.

Male-male or female-female couplings, whatever their merits, are not marriages - whether or not they are full of binding love which cannot be unbound (I agree with one commentator to Ruth's blog that one cannot 'unlove someone upon request') . The church has no business subverting its wedding liturgies in order to bless relationships which are not marriages. Of course the church should not be blessing relationships which are not ordained by God fullstop. But the error is compounded where the church treats same sex couples making public declarations about their commitment to each other as though a similar wonder to the holy mystery of a man and a woman being joined together in one union is taking place.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's good in the church?

Today is Sunday. I was in two churches doing ministry work, but preaching in neither. Both sermons were excellent. One was preached by a genuine young man (i.e. under 25, not under 40!!!). The other fellow, about my age, is far from old! On a day like today the church and its future, from a human perspective, appears to be in good hands!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Has the anti-Christ come to the Anglican Communion?

A peach of a row has flown around the internet as an article by an (as yet) unnamed member of SPREAD urging the immediate cessation of conservative Anglican involvement in the Anglican Communion has been responded to by Ephraim Radner. The simplest way into the argument is via this thread on Fulcrum. Follow the leads from there, and work out for yourself whether SPREAD is the friend or foe of Maxwell Smart.

Radner is particularly passionate in his response as he adroitly defends Arhcbishop Rowan from scurrilous attacks in the SPREAD article, including an implied charge that he is (at worst) 'the' anti-Christ or (at best) 'an' anti-Christ.

The first article is very well written, clear, and cogent in its argument. Also utterly flawed! Why do I say this? With Radner I accept that the core biblical issue facing the Communion is not 'the authority' of Scripture but 'the interpretation' of Scripture. This is not to say that there are not elements in our Communion who deny the authority of Scripture, but to say that, even if we all vowed submission to the authority of Scripture a la the 39 Articles, there would still be difference among us over what Scripture means. Our challenge is to come to agreement where possible and to live with disagreement where agreement is not secured. The SPREAD article is flawed precisely because it offers no proposal for how to live with difference. It presupposes that all conservatives in agreement with Scripture on homosexuality and in disagreement with other Anglicans simply need to withdraw from the Communion, form another, and all will be well.

But it will not be well, as Radner recognises. Now Radner, whom I have had the privilege of meeting, is a very very bright fellow, but it only takes a sliver of his intellect to recognise that a GACOM (Global Anglican Communion of the SPREAD envisaged kind) will fail unless it develops an agreed methodology for living with difference. Consider these scenarios.

At the first of the 10-yearly meetings of GACOM in Lagos, a noted British female evangelical theological teacher (e.g. Jane Williams, as it happens, also wife of ++Rowan), is invited to teach (yes, sic, teach) the gathered throng of male bishops. A phalanx of these bishops spot this on the programme and signal that either they will not come to GACOM fullstop, or will at least absent themselves from this female-led teaching session. 1 Timothy 2:12 is invoked as the definitive reason for this absence.

(Of course, it could be that astute organisers of GACOM never invite women to teach men ... but that would, I both hope and dare to presume, be a problem for those conservatives such as myself and colleagues in the Nelson Diocese who value and esteem the ministry of ordained women, and see no difficulty in having a lay or ordained woman teaching the orthodox faith to men).

Or: at the conclusion of GACOM a great final and festive eucharistic service is organised. The anglo-catholics have been somewhat missing from the teaching programme, so the service arrangements are placed in their hands. Presuming some charity from the evangelicals they proceed to plan an order of service which uses fairly unambiguous language about the bread being the body of Christ and the wine being the blood of Christ. Keen to appeal to the multi-sensory nature of our bodies they bring out some icons, lots of candles, and prepare some incense. Unfortunately this is more than some evangelicals can sope with, and there is a walkout. GACOM concludes with a eucharist which is not, so to speak, a communion.

Or: a leading GACOM figure is invited to teach or to preside, but some present know that this figure has been divorced and is now remarried. This state of affairs is objectionable to some ... out the door they go.

My own simple point, which I came to a year or two ago now, is that if I have to find a way to live with difference with fellow conservatives, can I not employ the skills and attitudes required to do so - yes, even some compromises - in finding a way to live with difference with fellow Anglicans of whatever stripe?

An alternative point is this: is agreement on the ethics of one aspect of human sexuality sufficient basis to build an ecclesiology?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Do Christians understand Christianity?

There are almost as many blogs in the universe as there are stars, as John the Bloggist once predicted on the basis of something his namesake once said (John 21:25). But few match the beauty in writing and illustration as Kelvin Wright's Available Light. In a recent post he reports on a discussion with some Buddhists, including some who converted from being Christian, and quotes one of them:

"Buddhism produces enlightened people," she said. "Christianity doesn't."

Kelvin's reflections on this comment are worth reading; and I have little to add to them. For me the comment comes in the midst of a period of encountering some of the weird, wacky, if not downright wicked aspects of Christian behaviour. Why should people seek enlightenment through Jesus when his followers bear witness to forms of Christianity which appear to collude with, rather than overcome people's anxieties, fears, and eccentricities?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Adam and Eve and Steve

Its sometime said in the course of the debate that dare not speak its name that God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. But we can exclusively reveal here that Steve was there in the Garden of Eden, for 'Steve' is the real name of the temptor. This hitherto undisclosed exegetical insight relies on the 'typology' in the story, which is speaks to every age. The tempting fruit, which technically is never described as a particular fruit, is popularly understood to be an apple. In our generation this is the apple. Thus the temptor's name is Steve!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Could Wright be Wrong?

Not that Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, UK is a protestant pope (cf. my last post) but, arguably, he is as bright a theologian as Benedict XVI. Some evangelicals view +Tom with incredible suspicion because of his 'perspective' on Paul which is at variance with Luther's perspective. +Tom's point is that he thinks his perspective is Paul's and that must count for something!

If you have a moment you might be interested in this letter by +Tom commenting on this review of a book on +Tom's approach by noted US preacher and scholar John Piper.

Personally I find it difficult to understand what the fuss is about since Wright and Luther and co seem to be agreed in believing in (a) the necessity of Jesus' death on the cross for our salvation (b) the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ. If it be proposed that +Tom's theology means its more important to be baptised than to have faith I would simply say that those with faith should be baptised, so if we are all faith+baptism then we are all on the same page.

If it be proposed that Paul's actual theology was 'imputation' and false variants are 'impartation' I would say that Paul should have been clearer, and in particular should have used one word rather than the other. The fact that he used neither might mean that (a) there is legitimate room for variance in our understanding of Paul (i.e. between Wright/Luther, Protestantism/Catholicism), and (b) we should not be attacking true brothers and sisters in Christ over the matter with 'imputations' of false teaching being 'imparted'!?!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Could the Pope be Wrong?

Benedict XVI is a very smart theologian. Zenit has published this Benedictine papal piece on Gregory the Great. One great theologian on another great theologian is worth a look. But this paragraph particularly caught my eye:

'In wishing to consider these works briefly, we must note, however, that in his writings, Gregory never seems concerned to delineate "his" doctrine, his originality. Instead, he seeks to echo the traditional teaching of the Church, he wishes simply to be the mouth of Christ and of his Church on the way that must be followed to reach God.'

One of my theological ambitions is to not delineate 'my' doctrine but to teach what the church has taught. So mentally I am giving Benedict and Gregory a big tick in this paragraph ... until the last three words, 'to reach God'. Is there a way that must be followed in order to reach God? I understand enough Catholic theology to recognise that there are themes within it which support Benedict at this point. But is it true to say what he has said? Is not the thrust of the biblical message from Adam and Eve through to John the seer that God reaches us? Does Jesus teach 'the way that must be followed to reach God'?

I suggest its truer to the gospels with their stories of Jesus' call to the disciples, 'Follow me', and his great 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me', to say that when we follow Jesus we have already reached God ... because God has reached us and drawn us to himself.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nasty orthodoxy

A few posts earlier I noted the possibility that - in real time living out of Christian belief, behavious, and belonging, as opposed to ideal abstractions - orthodoxy is messy. But observing another aspect of real time orthodoxy, as attested to by comments made on various blogsites which fit within any notion of a messy orthodoxy or a generous orthodoxy, it is difficult not to conclude that there exists a 'nasty orthodoxy', exhibited when people swoop on the latest statement of this or that bishop or theologian, especially in connection with the Cs of Communion, Covenant, Canterbury or Conference, and textually yell 'I told you so' or 'See, X cannot be trusted' or 'Y is the worst incumbent to hold office as the (Arch)bishop of Z'.

Behind these yells lies some biblical basis for unvarnished addressing of false teaching, warnings about hospitality being given to heretics and so on. But the possibility of biblical justification for nasty comments decreases proportionally as teachers of the faith stand close to the centre of orthodoxy. There is no justification, for example, for vitriol being poured out by 'orthodox Anglicans' on (say) theologians/bishops of the calibre of Tom Wright, Rowan Williams, Mouneer Anis, and the like. And, please, or should that be 'puh-lease', do not start swinging the 'Satan disguises himself as an angel of light' sword for brothers and sisters in Christ such as these.

In order not to be misunderstood re justification for vitriol, I am not arguing that vitriol is justified for those who stand some distance from the centre of orthodoxy. There is a difference between plain (but gracious) speech and nasty (and ungracious) speech.

But what puzzles me, in the end, is how nastiness can have crept into orthodoxy? Is it through fear, exasperation, falling for a particularly cunning temptation of the devil?

On a completely different note, but a good example of pleasant-while-being-provocative orthodox writing, check out this piece by Bishop Andrew Proud.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Karl Barth's surprising dogmatics

One of my ambitions in life is to read all of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. Its taken me some 12 or 13 years to almost get to the end of the second part of volume one. I must think I am going to live forever!

Barth is reasonably hard going so I often do my reading on holiday when my mind is less distracted than usual. A few days away over the long weekend enabled a few more pages to be read. My experience, incidentally, illustrated a point Clive James makes in his book Cultural Amnesia (which I am also slowly making my way through): even works by geniuses have their pages or stanzas which are ordinary, but persistence in reading pays off because the extraordinary soon jumps off the page again. After some ordinary - let's be more precise, boring - pages on the role of dogmatics in the life of the church, Barth suddenly sparkled into genius mode. Drawing out the relationship between 'dogmatics' and 'the Word of God', he made a slashing point against all Reformation church confessions, warning that they are always insufficient (some doctrine or other important today gets under-emphasised or even ignored in a previous different age), and, worse, they constrain the hearing of the Word of God today by more or less telling us in advance what the Word of God cannot mean.

In the midst of setting this out Barth makes a statement which is as refreshing as it is challenging, especially at this time for Anglicans:

'Essentially dogmatic method consists in this openness to receive new truth, and only in this.' [CD 1/2 p. 867]

Here 'new truth' is essentially 'new insight and new emphasis in our understanding of God drawn from the Word of God inscribed in Scripture'. Earlier on p. 865 Barth defines dogmatics as 'ecclesiastical science which presupposes only the Word of God self-attested in Scripture'.

Personally I find Barth challenging at this point because I like to look back to documents like the Thirty-Nine Articles and to reflect on the boundaries they set for theology. Barth's point is not that the Reformation confessions are of no further use, but that they are of limited use. Be open to God's Word for today, unbound by yesterday's understanding. But lest we abuse Barth's heady freedom at this point, I also understand him as asking the church to be open to all of God's Word and not to that which is congenial to us. One of the cherished notions he also slays through these pages is the distinction between fundamental articles of faith and non-fundamental articles.

Now that is an interesting thought in these days of Anglican controversy in which some like to make much of the difference between core and non-core doctrine or between first order and second order issues!