Thursday, July 31, 2008

Out of Egypt

Bishop Mouneer offers this observation, reported here:

"I find that many of our North American friends blame us and criticise us for bringing in the issues of sexuality and homosexuality but in fact they are the ones who are bringing these issues in. Here at Lambeth, you come across many advertisements for events organised by gay and Lesbian activists which are sponsored by the North American Church. If you visit the marketplace at the conference, you will notice that almost half the events promoted on the noticeboard promote homosexuality and are sponsored by the North Americans. And in the end, we, the people who remain loyal to the original teaching of the Anglican Communion, which we received from the Apostles, are blamed. They say that we talk a lot about sexuality and that we need to talk more about poverty, about AIDs, and injustice. They are the ones who are bringing sexuality into this conference. It’s not us. We want to talk about the heart of the issues which divide us, not only sexuality. That is just a symptom of a deeper problem."

Why, indeed, is the marketplace 50% promoting homosexuality?

From inside the camp

Bishop Nick Baines (of Croyden within the Diocese of Southwark) is someone I had not heard of before Lambeth. But he can write! As demonstrated in his guest blogs on the Fulcrum site. Given my postings on ++Rowan and Chief Rabbi Sacks' addresses, these reports from Nick of reactions, along with some reflections of his own, are valuable:

"It was interesting that people responded differently to Rowan's interim address last night. Some I spoke with today thought he had polarised the positions, whereas others think he articulated clearly positions at the ends of the spectrum of responses to the presenting issues. It was also noted that his address followed video of the horrors of Burma and the slaughter of thousands of people. It makes polite and nitpicking debates about sex seem ridiculous.

It is good, then, that the Indaba Groups seem to have taken seriously Jonathan Sacks' call for a 'covenant of fate' to be considered by the Communion at this time - on the grounds that in the same way as the Church does not exist for the sake of the Church, but for the sake of the world for which it must give its life, so the Anglican Communion must be strengthened not for the sake of its internal happiness or purity, but for the sake of a world full of death.

Various proposals are emerging from these thoughtful conversations. There can be no quick fix when it comes to sexuality debates (that would be like thinking you could solve world poverty by having a march and making a statement) - the next decade could be used for education and information and learning through the sharing of experience as it has happened here at Lambeth. This came from an African conservative.

Another African called for an end to what he described as 'ecclesiastical Mugabes' - a new way of exercising leadership and authority in African churches.

A westerner observed that when we want to make big decisions we want to be Roman Catholics; but when we want to make little decisions we want to be Protestants. But we are Anglicans!

All of this reminded me of the lectures by Professor Nicholas Boyle (Oxford University) to the Church of England bishops earlier this year. He observed that nations try to justify who and what they are by appealing to their history. But we should be identifying ourselves by what we want to become. This has something to say to the Anglican Communion and the way we do our business together for the sake of God's world."

There are indeed no quick fixes. I myself will be working on patience as the conclusions to the Conference come out. In another part of the same post by Bishop Nick Baines he offers this reflection on patience:

"This morning's Bible Study focused on John 11:1-44. Much could be written, but the point that took my mind off into a place of deeper reflection was that of 'time' again. This passage (the dying and later raising of Lazarus) is enigmatic, to say the least. Jesus delays going to his sick friend, eventually hears that he has died, then decides to go, then has a good cry before raising Lazarus. Having been told, Jesus waits a 'further two days'. This brought to mind something I have written about elsewhere ('Scandal of Grace: the danger of following Jesus', St Andrew Press, 2008): the inability many of us have to wait and let things take their course."

God is faithful. We are called to be faithful!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thomas, where are you when we need you?

This blog places Thomas Cranmer in the pantheon of the greats of post apostolic Christianity. It would like to place Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks there to, but there are one or two difficulties to overcome! There is another Cranmer, a sort of reincarnation, who offers witty and erudite contributions to the discourse of political religion and religious politics. His bon mots are accessible from the bloglist to the side of here.

In a recent post he offers this view of the fate of the Communion:

"It may be concluded that efforts to hold the Anglican Communion together are simply going to protract the division, keeping the debate at the forefront of people’s minds, deflecting the church from it primary mission - the proclamation of the gospel. It may be time to acknowledge that one harmonious body may not be possible among dissimilar parts of the world, where different attitudes and traditions prevail. Ultimately, the discussion ceases to be about homosexuality, but about control and authority; power and politics. The homosexual debate has simply become the means by which that battle is being fought, with its absolute demand of ‘Which side are you on?’. While for many, this permits of only two answers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, seeking a via media, asserts that ‘it is really a matter of having a language in which to disagree rather than speaking two incompatible or incomprehensible exclusive tongues’. But his search for ‘reconciled diversity’ is, for many, an unscriptural if not an unattainable objective.

Let the Anglican Communion divide, by all means; it is a relic of Empire. But the Church of England, as the genius Hooker designed, shall hold itself together through this 'tension', just as it has done since its foundation."

My frustration is this: if the Church of England can hold together, why cannot the Communion? (What I do not mean by this question is something which can be answered 'the C of E is by law established, the Communion is not'. What I mean is that if one diversified, even divided part of the whole can find a way to hold together, through commonality going beyond 'the law', why cannot the whole do likewise?).

We could do with the genius of the original Thomas Cranmer, much as we appreciate the insight of his reincarnation. In many respects Rowan Williams has that genius. But, boy, he has some critics. Hard to work that genius when no one pays him respect.

A five minute standing ovation was too short for this

If you read this blog and have five minutes spare PLEASE PLEASE read this address to the Lambeth Conference by Chief Rabbi of Great Britain Jonathan Sacks.

Ruth Gledhill says it led to a five minute standing ovation. I think if I had been there there would have been tears streaming down my face for those five minutes!

Below I post excerpts from a superb address by ++Rowan. If I say the Sacks address is better it is in the sense that one might venture to suggest that Shakespeares sonnets are better literature than his plays!

Cutting the mustard

A variety of views exist about the quality of Archbishop Rowan William's leadership. This blog holds him in the highest regard (and thus does not share GAFCON's pathetic distancing of itself from Canterbury). What do you think? Here I paste excerpts from his second Presidential Address to the Lambeth Conference - excerpts which demonstrate both the excellence of his thinking, and the direction his thoughtful leadership is providing the conference. I offer in bold what I think are 'key' phrases:

" 'What is Lambeth ’08 going to say?’ is the question looming larger all the time as this final week unfolds. But before trying out any thoughts on that, I want to touch on the prior question, a question that could be expressed as ‘Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?’. I believe if we can answer that adequately, we shall have laid some firm foundations for whatever content there will be.

And the answer, I hope, is that we speak from the centre. I don’t mean speaking from the middle point between two extremes — that just creates another sort of political alignment. I mean that we should try to speak from the heart of our identity as Anglicans; and ultimately from that deepest centre which is our awareness of living in and as the Body of Christ."

"I spoke about council and covenant as the shape of the way forward as I see it. And by this I meant, first, that we needed a bit more of a structure in our international affairs to be able to give clear guidance on what would and would not be a grave and lasting divisive course of action by a local church. While at the moment the focus of this sort of question is sexual ethics, it could just as well be pressure for a new baptismal formula or the abandonment of formal reference to the Nicene Creed in a local church’s formulations; it could be a degree of variance in sacramental practice — about the elements of the Eucharist or lay presidency; it could be the regular incorporation into liturgy of non-Scriptural or even non-Christian material.

Some of these questions have a pretty clear answer, but others are open for a little more discussion; and it seems obvious that a body which commands real confidence and whose authority is recognised could help us greatly. But the key points are confidence and authority. If we do develop such a capacity in our structures, we need as a Communion to agree what sort of weight its decisions will have; hence, again, the desirability of a covenantal agreement."

"So first : what might the traditional believer hope others have heard? ‘What we seek to do in our context is faithfully to pass on what you passed on to us — Holy Scripture, apostolic ministry, sacramental discipline. But what are we to think when all these things seem to be questioned and even overturned? We want to be pastorally caring to all, to be “inclusive” as you like to say. We want to welcome everyone. Yet the gospel and the faith you passed on to us tell us that some kinds of behaviour and relationship are not blessed by God. Our love and our welcome are unreal if we don’t truthfully let others know what has shaped and directed our lives — so along with welcome, we must still challenge people to change their ways. We don’t see why welcoming the gay or lesbian person with love must mean blessing what they do in the Church’s name or accepting them for ordination whatever their lifestyle. We seek to love them — and, all right, we don’t always make a good job of it : but we can’t just say that there is nothing to challenge. Isn’t it like the dilemma of the early Church — welcoming soldiers, yet seeking to get them to lay down their arms?"

"And then : what might the not so traditional believer hope has been heard?

‘What we seek to do in our context is to bring Jesus alive in the minds and hearts of the people of our culture. Trying to speak the language of the culture and relate honestly to where people really are doesn’t have to be a betrayal of Scripture and tradition. We know we’re pushing the boundaries — but don’t some Christians always have to do that? Doesn’t the Bible itself suggest that?

‘We are often hurt, angry and bewildered at the way many others in the Communion see us and treat us these days — as if we were spiritual lepers or traitors to every aspect of Christian belief. We know that no-one is the best judge in their own case, but we see in our church life at least some marks of the Spirit’s gifts. And part of that is acknowledging the gifts we’ve seen in gay and lesbian believers. They will certainly be likely to feel that the restraint you ask for is a betrayal. Please try to see why this is such a dilemma for many of us. You may not see it, but they’re still at risk in our society, still vulnerable to murderous violence. And we have to say to some of you that we long for you to speak up for your gay and lesbian neighbours in situations where they are subject to appalling discrimination. There have been Lambeth Resolutions about that too, remember.

‘A lot of the time, we feel we’re being made scapegoats. Other provinces have acute moral and disciplinary problems, or else they more or less successfully refuse to admit the realities in their midst. But those of us who have faced the complex issues around gay relationships in what we feel to be an open and prayerful way are stigmatised and demonised."

"Can this Conference now put the same kind of challenge? To the innovator, can we say, ‘Don’t isolate yourself; don’t create facts on the ground that make the invitation to debate ring a bit hollow’? Can we say to the traditionalist, ‘Don’t invest everything in a church of pure and likeminded souls; try to understand the pastoral and human and theological issues that are urgent for those you are opposing, even if you think them deeply wrong’?

I think we perhaps can, if and only if we are captured by the vision of the true Centre, the heart of God out of which flows the impulse of an eternal generosity which creates and heals and promises."

"At the moment, we seem often to be threatening death to each other, not offering life. What some see as confused or reckless innovation in some provinces is felt as a body-blow to the integrity of mission and a matter of literal physical risk to Christians. The reaction to this is in turn felt as an annihilating judgement on a whole local church, undermining its legitimacy and pouring scorn on its witness. We need to speak life to each other; and that means change. I’ve made no secret of what I think that change should be — a Covenant that recognizes the need to grow towards each other (and also recognizes that not all may choose that way). I find it hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration."

Could any Anglican have captured the Centre and the binary divergence from it which troubles our Communion better?

Read the whole thing!

Windsor misgivings

Perhaps the best known 'Anglicans down under' are Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney) and Dr Jenny Te Paa (Auckland). Here is Dr Te Paa's response to the Windsor Continuation Group's 'Preliminary - its NOT a report - Observations':

"Maori Anglican theologian Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, the "ahorangi" or principal of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand, said she hoped that the continuation group "would have respect for the work and commitment that went into the production of the original report, and would realize the openness and willingness of all of us who were involved."

Te Paa said that the Windsor Continuation Group is "a curious title to give a group" that has no members of the original commission. She and the other 15 members of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, the formal name of the group that produced the Windsor Report, share an important and "unique historical memory" of the process, she said, adding that none of the WCG members have talked to her or the people with whom she was most closely aligned on the commission.

"Relationality was at the heart of the success of the Windsor Report and one would hope that there might be some recognition of that in the on-going work that needs to be done," she said.

"The spirit of Windsor was very much, I believe, an encouragement towards a respect for mutuality," Te Paa said."

As published in the Episcopal Life Online News Service.

Dr Te Paa, and the other NZer involved with the Windsor Report, Bishop John Paterson, Bishop of Auckland, have had a curious role in 'relation' to the Windsor Report. They signed to it, then back in NZ have increasingly distanced themselves from it. One wonders about 'mutuality' in a process which apparently overrides misgivings about where the process is heading. It is possible not to sign to a report, to seek a minority report to be published as well. Was there 'pressure' to conform which inhibited an 'open' process of contribution?

In the end I am confused about NZ's contribution to the Windsor Report given the comments since. I am now intrigued that the WCG did not talk to any Windsor Commission member (though they could hardly be unaware of the thoughts of (say) Dr Te Paa and Bishop Tom Wright who each in their own way has a considerable public 'voice' in the life of the Communion). One presumes that the soon to be installed Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, a member of the WCG, and Dr Te Paa will have interesting conversations in the corridors of our General Synod etc meetings!

For the record: Anglican Down Under is very keen on the Windsor Report and very supportive of the Preliminary Observations of the WCG ... and looking forward to the arrival of Bishop Victoria Matthews. Surely, of her, the phrase, 'a breath of fresh air', could not be more apt!!

A conversation in Aotearoa NZ continues

Recently I posted a reply to an open letter by Archdeacon Glynn Cardy on same sex blessings in our church. Here is his response:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Dear Peter,

Thank you for your response.

I think one of the major tenets of Jesus’ thinking was that the law was a servant of mission, rather than mission a servant to law. Jesus challenged and broke the exclusive purity laws that the ecclesiastical elite used to maintain power. In his breaking he touched, ate, and included a wide range of socially undesirable people – the sick, women, Romans and their lackeys, and children. Jesus’ praxis of inclusivity and table fellowship is the basis of a Christian understanding of the dignity and personhood of every human being, i.e. a Christian understanding of human rights. Jesus also pointed us towards an understanding of mission that broke the boundaries of exclusivity.

My belief, experience, understanding of the Bible, and medical reading has led me to see that by definition a same-gender relationship is not wrong or sinful of itself. Like all relationships it is to be measured by the love. Indeed, as for heterosexual couples, I think it is wonderful when people come to church to affirm their love and fidelity to each other and be prayed for. Affirming relationships of love, trust, and commitment is an important part of my priesthood.

I don’t expect all Christians to agree with me, or all churches to welcome and accept same-gender couples. I do however hope that the Anglican Church in this land will always be able to tolerate the diversity of belief and practice that St Matthew’s represents. As an aside please be assured that bishops of Auckland have been aware of and Auckland synods have regularly debated our gay/lesbian friendly policies. We have always been public about our beliefs and practice. We also think it is consistent with Scripture to not only pray with people but also to advocate for and with them.

I think the Church is currently in the midst of a liturgical seismic shift. As the technological development called the printing press changed the localized nature of liturgy into a centralized standard form [called the Book of Common Prayer], so the developments of the personal computer, Internet, and desktop publishing are decentralizing liturgy. Rather than argue about what Canon Law might allow we should instead be arguing about how to broaden our mission. As I mentioned above I think it is more consistent with Jesus to understand law as subservient to mission rather than have mission constrained by law.

It is therefore probably no surprise that I am supportive of the wide variety of ‘Praise and Worship’ services, Taize services, and other non-authorized forms in this archdeaconry of Auckland. Most of the ministry units don’t use the New Zealand Prayer Book for their services, although a number creatively adapt it. Despite varying interpretations of what is canonically allowed regarding liturgical forms in practice those forms are guides.

Similarly I am supportive of pastoral services where authorized forms are lacking e.g. a ‘retirement service’, ‘a renewal of commitment between two people’, ‘a blessing at the adoption of a child’, and a ‘service for a family who are emigrating’. I trust that licensed ministers will always will seek out or create appropriate liturgical resources for such occasions, as do other ministers when celebrating and praying with a same gender couple. I can’t make the distinctions you do between formal and informal services, church buildings and other settings. Mission is anywhere and everywhere. Style and venue are not the issues.

As stated in my first letter I simply believe that God’s blessing is an endorsement of the unconditional love and acceptance as shown in the life and teaching of Jesus. I do not believe that God’s blessing in the context of a wedding is a blanket endorsement of marriage as you seem to be saying. One of the influences upon my theology is that of the Reformed School as taught at Otago in the 1980s. Barth and others would be very wary of the Church endorsing, or saying God endorses, any human social, cultural, or political arrangement whether it is marriage, democracy, or the institutional Church itself. These arrangements do have the potential for and are often experienced as giving life, well-being and hope. However our histories also show that can be oppressive and hide oppression.

I think it is also problematic to use the Bible to support cultural arrangements like marriage. Most of the examples and thinking around marriage in the Bible are not what the Church would support today e.g. polygamy, the status of wives, the importance of male heirs, etc.

My understanding of mission, as shaped by my context, is not one that requires conformity. We don’t all have to think the same, act the same, believe the same, read the Bible the same, or relate to the same people. Such conformity indeed stifles mission. However I do think that we need the discipline of learning to live with diverse expressions of mission and trying to tolerate, even while disagreeing with, a number of those expressions.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poised on the fulcrum of the future

The Windsor Continuation Group – a significant body charged with taking forward the work of the Windsor Commission – has published its third set of observations to the Lambeth Conference (1,2,3 printed below).

If you do not wish to wade through it all, the key points are these:
- a reiterated call for moratoria on ‘gay ordination’, ‘same sex blessings’, and cross-jurisdiction episcopal initiatives
- a proposal to set up a Pastoral Forum chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury to work on broken relationships in the Communion
- endorsement for a ‘Communion Partners’ plan for those in TEC disaffected by the current policy/governance of that church
- a specific suggestion for treating North American issues around (a) separating Anglican churches/African-ordained bishops, and (b) litigation re church property in a different way: placing these matters ‘in trust’ pending actual and real attempts to find reconciliation as Anglicans.
Reactions and responses in the next few days will be a significant guide to the future coherency or deconstruction of the Communion

It appears to me that a rejection of these proposals would be a (further) descent into chaos. We are poised on the fulcrum of the future for the Communion.

Windsor Continuation Group
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS Part One A Presentation at the Lambeth Conference
This document is NOT a report by the Windsor Continuation Group. It constitutes their preliminary observations on the life of the Communion and of the current state of responses to the recommendations of the Windsor Report, and offering some suggestions about the way forward. These observations are offered to the Lambeth Conference for conversation and testing. Are they an accurate description of the current state of our life together?
1. Where we are: the severity of the situation
a. The reality of our current life is complex; presenting issues are not always the issues that we are actually dealing with. Doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, ethics, anthropology, culture, history, political and global realities are all dimensions. There are competing value systems at work and a lack of clarity about a shared value framework.
b. Much has been undertaken in the Communion through and in response to the Windsor Process, but as a Communion, we appear to remain at an impasse. There is inconsistency between what has been agreed, and what has been done. A gap between promise and follow through. Cf.:
 Resolutions at General Convention (June 2006), HoB at Camp Allen (March 2005), New Orleans (September 2007)
 Undertakings and affirmations of the primates (Dromantine, January 2005; Dar es Salaam, February 2007)
 Resolutions and responses by the House of Bishops and General Synod in Canada (2004, 2006, 2007)
The gap is manifested in:
 Inconsistency between the stated intent and the reality – including the use and abuse of language, e.g. moratorium, "initiating interventions".
 The implications of requests and responses are either not fully thought through or they are disregarded. The consequences of actions have not always been adequately addressed.
c. Breakdown of Trust
 There are real fears of a wider agenda – over credal issues (the authority of scripture, the application of doctrine in life and ethics and even Christology and soteriology) and polity (comprehensiveness, autonomy and synodical government); other issues, such as lay presidency and theological statements that go far beyond the doctrinal definitions of the historic creeds, lie just over the horizon. Positions and arguments are becoming more extreme: not moving towards one another, relationships in the Communion continue to deteriorate; there is little sense of mutual accountability and a fear that vital issues are not being addressed in the most timely and effective manner.
 Through modern technology, there has been active fear-mongering, deliberate distortion and demonising. Politicisation has overtaken Christian discernment.
 Suspicions have been raised about the purpose, timing and outcomes of the Global Anglicanism Future Conference; there is some perplexity about the establishment of the Gafcon Primates' Council and of FOCA which, with withdrawal from participation at the Lambeth Conference, has further damaged trust.
 There are growing patterns of episcopal congregationalism throughout the communion at parochial, diocesan and provincial level. Parishes feel free to choose from whom they will accept episcopal ministry; bishops feel free to make decisions of great controversy without reference to existing collegial structures. Primates make provision for episcopal leadership in territories outside their own Province.
 There is distrust of the Instruments of Communion and uncertainty about their capacity to respond to the situation.
 Polarisation of attitudes in the Churches of the Communion, not just in North America
 The symptoms of this breakdown of trust are common to all parties in the current situation – felt and expressed by conservative and liberal alike.
d. Turmoil in The Episcopal Church
 There has been development from individual members leaving congregations, to congregations leaving parishes and dioceses, to dioceses seeking to leave provinces.
 Parties within the Episcopal Church have sought allies within the wider Communion, who are seen as only too willing to respond.
 Litigation and interventions have become locked into a vicious spiral – each side seeing the actions of the other as provoking and requiring response
 At this time, it would appear that the divisions in the United States will play out in the wider Communion (particularly in Canada).
e. All this amounts to a diminishing sense of Communion and impoverishing our witness to Christ, placing huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion.
f. Such turmoil affects our relations with our ecumenical partners, many of whom face similar tensions. Some partners are beginning to raise questions about the identity of their Anglican partner. In the light of the ecumenical movement, there can no longer be tensions in one Communion that do not have wider repercussions across the whole Christian family.
Windsor Continuation Group
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS Part Two A Presentation at the Lambeth Conference
2. Where would we like to be: Towards a Way Forward
If we are to survive as an international family of Churches, then the Windsor Report's suggestion of a shift of emphasis to 'autonomy-in-communion' might yet require a further step to 'communion with autonomy and accountability' cf. recommendations in the Virginia Report of the International Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, and the Windsor Report. The covenant process is intended to bring the Communion to a point where its understanding of Communion is renewed and deepened. There are a number of fundamental questions which need to be answered:
i. Can we recognise the Church in one another?
 Anglicans are currently failing to recognise Church in one another;
 We value independence at the expense of interdependence in the Body of Christ
 We denigrate the discipleship of others
 This has led to internal fragmentation as well as to confusion among our ecumenical partners.
ii. What is a Communion of Churches?
 Recovering a common understanding of what it means to be a global communion
 A common understanding of the place and role of the episcopal office within the sensus fidelium of the whole Church.
iii. What is our shared understanding of the role of a bishop in the communion of the Church?
Towards the Shaping of the Future
(a) The Anglican Covenant
 The Covenant proposals are an important response to these issues. It is, therefore, crucially important that all Provinces engage seriously with the proposed Covenant. If the questions we have identified above are to be addressed they can be resolved most obviously by the implementation of the Covenant.
 In the past the Lambeth Quadrilateral provided Anglicans with a framework for understanding the identity and unity of the Church. The instruments of communion, re-thought and strengthened alongside the Lambeth Quadrilateral, will help us to regain a sense of Anglican identity and unity and thus recognise Church in one another.
 The approval of the covenant needs a definite timeline to ensure confidence that the process has credibility.
(b) Work on the Instruments to enable them to sustain communion
 There is currently a lack of clarity about the role of each of the instruments and their relation to one another
 The Archbishop of Canterbury - is described as having an 'extraordinary ministry of episcope, support and reconciliation' (Lambeth, 1988); 'the central focus of unity and mission within the Communion [with authority] to speak directly to any provincial situation on behalf of the Communion where this is deemed to be advisable'. (Windsor Report 2004)
 The Lambeth Conference – There are questions concerning the authority of a Lambeth Conference and the nature and of the authority of its Resolutions.
 While acknowledging that resolutions of one Conference have been reviewed, and directions changed at a later Conference, nonetheless, like the resolutions taken by councils of bishops in primitive Christianity, they are of sufficient weight that the consciences of many bishops require them to follow or at least try to follow such resolutions. They are taken after due debate and after prayer by the ministers who represent the apostles to their churches (cf Owen Chadwick, in "Resolutions of the Twelve Lambeth Conferences", ed. Coleman, 1992, p.xvii).
 The Anglican Consultative Council - ACC is not to be understood as a synodical body at the Communion wide level. It is 'consultative'. Its Constitution provides for the bringing together of bishops, clergy and laity in order to advise, encourage and inform the Provinces. It is particularly valued by those who emphasise the contribution of the whole people of God in the life, mission and the governance of the Church.
 There are questions about whether a body meeting every three years, with a rapidly changing membership not necessarily located within the central structures of their own Provinces, can fulfil adequately the tasks presently given to it.
 Not all believe that a representative body is the best way to express the contribution of the whole people of God at a worldwide level. There are many ways in which the voice of the whole body can be heard: diocesan and Provincial synods, networks, dialogues and commissions.
 The Primates' Meeting - recognising the need and importance for collegial consultation and support for the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is a body that could be called together as occasion requires in between Lambeth Conferences.
 Recognising that different models of primacy exist, a great virtue of the Primates' Meeting is that the Primates are in conversation with their own Houses of Bishops and located within their own synodical structures. They are, therefore, able to reflect the breadth and depth of the conversations and opinion in their Provinces.
In considering the future development of the Instruments of Communion it is vital to take account of their ecclesiological significance as well as whether they are fit to respond effectively to the demands of global leadership. There needs to be a process of communion wide reflection which leads towards a common understanding.
(c) Processes and Commissions:
ix. The Listening Process
x. The Hermeneutics Project – The Bible in the Church)
xi. The Principles of Canon Law Project
xii. A Faith & Order Commission
These four initiatives are already in hand, but we see them as vital for strengthening the life of our Communion. The Listening Process and conversation on issues of sexuality needs to continue. We also recommend the continuation of plans for The Bible in the Church. Such projects are urgent and vital if we are to regain a sense of common values and mutual understanding.

The Common Principles of Canon Law Project (Anglican Communion Legal Advisers Network) gives a sense of the integrity of Anglicanism and we commend the suggestion for the setting up of an Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission that could give guidance on the ecclesiological issues raised by our current 'crisis'.
Windsor Continuation Group
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS Part Three A Presentation at the Lambeth Conference
3. How do we get from here to there
The various initiatives set out in Part Two and the Covenant is a longer term process to reverse the trends described in Part One; to restore the sense of trust, fellowship and communion on which we thrive. In the period leading up to the establishment of a covenant, however, there are urgent issues which need addressing if we are going to be able to get to the point where such a renewal of trust even becomes possible.
The question of the moratoria
 The Windsor Report sets out requests for three moratoria in relation to the public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions, the consecration to the episcopate of those living in partnered gay relationships and the cessation of cross border interventions.
 There have been different interpretations of the sense in which "moratorium" was used in the Windsor Report. Our understanding is that moratorium refers to both future actions and is also retrospective: that is that it requires the cessation of activity. This necessarily applies to practices that may have already been authorised as well as proposed for authorisation in the future.
 The request for moratorium applies in this way to the complete cessation of (a) the celebration of blessings for same-sex unions, (b) consecrations of those living in openly gay relationships, and (c) all cross border interventions and inter-provincial claims of jurisdiction.
 The three moratoria have been requested several times: Windsor (2004); Dromantine (2005); Dar es Salaam (2007) and the requests have been less than wholeheartedly embraced on all sides.
 The failure to respond presents us with a situation where if the three moratoria are not observed, the Communion is likely to fracture. The patterns of action currently embraced with the continued blessings of same-sex unions and of interventions could lead to irreparable damage.
 The call for the three moratoria on these issues relates to their controversial nature. This poses the serious question of what response should be made to those who act contrary to the moratorium during the Covenant process and who should make a response.
New Ways of Responding
We make the following suggestions for situations which might arise in different parts of the Communion:
 the swift formation of a 'Pastoral Forum' at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion. Such a Forum draws upon proposals for a Council of Advice (Windsor), a Panel of Reference (Dromantine), a Pastoral Council (Dar es Salaam) and the TEC House of Bishops' Statement (Sept 2007) acknowledging a 'useful role for communion wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight'.
 The existence of such a Forum might be included in the Covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation
 Part of the role of a Forum might be for some of its members, having considered the theological and ecclesiological issues of any controversy or divisive action, to travel, meet and offer pastoral advice and guidelines in conflicted, confused and fragile situations. There is a precedent in the method of the Eames' Commission in the 1980s.
 The President of such a Forum would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would also appoint its episcopal chair, and its members. The membership of the Forum must include members from the Instruments of Communion and be representative of the breadth of the life of the Communion as a whole. Movement forward on this proposal must bear fruit quickly.
 We believe that the Pastoral Forum should be empowered to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life, especially through the ministry of its Chair, who should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury in the exercise of his ministry.
 The Forum would be responsible for addressing those anomalies of pastoral care arising in the Communion against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. It could also offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken.
 We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own Province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion.
 The proliferation of ad hoc episcopal and archiepiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion. We recommend that the Pastoral Forum develop a scheme in which existing ad hoc jurisdictions could be held "in trust" in preparation for their reconciliation within their proper Provinces. Such a scheme might draw on models derived from religious life (the relationship of religious orders to the wider Church), family life (the way in which the extended family can care for children in dysfunctional nuclear families) or from law (where escrow accounts can be created to hold monies in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Ways of halting litigation must be explored, and perhaps the escrow concept could even be extended to have some applicability here.
Windsor Continuation Group
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS A Coda A Presentation at the Lambeth Conference
Why bother with all this?
Much faithful witness continues – converts are baptised; disciples are nurtured; vocations are encouraged; the scriptures are studied; the Gospel is proclaimed.
Anglicanism as a distinctive global expression of Reformed Catholicism: not only in its content, but in its processes – diverse, patient, hospitable and tolerant.
"We believe in this Communion"; a Communion which contributes to the wider life of the Church in the ecumenical community, and gives witness in a world of many faiths.
The bishops at the Lambeth Conference need to take the opportunity to explore large questions concerning authority, accountability, Communion with Autonomy and discipline and to examine the Instruments of Communion and what relation between the instruments would most faithfully reflect and strengthen the ecclesiology of the Anglican Communion as well as taking the opportunity to affirm the direction of the covenant process.

At the Indaba on the work of the Windsor Continuation Group,
a focus question could be:
What might mutual accountability under God in life and mission look like at its best in the period between now and the completion of the Covenant process?
What personal sacrifices might it involve for each of us?


Ministering 'pastorally and sensitively to all'

-- The WCG note that the Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 included a call for "all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex."

-- We further note that in Dromantine in January 2005, the Primates stated that "the vicitimisation [sic] or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship."

-- We believe that the time is ripe for the bishops of the Lambeth Conference to reaffirm the commitments expressed in these statements, and to invite them to be committed to challenging such attitudes where they may exist in the societies, churches and governments of the nations in which they proclaim the Gospel as good news for all without exception.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh dear, oh dear

Sunday Sermon at St. Martin's, London
The following sermon was presented by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at St. Martin's in the Fields in London on July 27, 2008.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Good morning. I bring you greetings from Episcopalians in the United States and Taiwan, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, -- both the British and US – and a grouping of churches in Europe.

It has been a joy to be in this country for the last two and a half weeks. Two weeks ago I was in Salisbury, where we were celebrating the 750th anniversary of their new cathedral. Part of that celebration involved a pilgrimage – a couple of miles’ walk from the ruins of the old cathedral, which has been excavated only in the last few decades, and we walked down into the town that has grown up around the new one. While I was there, the dean drove us past Stonehenge, where archaeologists continue to discover intriguing things about what life in this land was like three and four millennia ago.

The burials that have been excavated are informative, both because of what scientists can learn from those bones, but even more so because of what is buried with the dead – implements of daily life, jewels, weapons – all that variety of items that are hidden in graves to protect, to ward and guide the dead on their next journey. In spite of looters, the treasures hidden in graves like those are valuable for what they teach us about the living.

I have found all sorts of fascinating things in other fields, in the Western U.S. I’ve found old crockery in a field around a house we lived in, in Oregon – left by settlers in the late 1800s. I’ve found Native American arrowheads exposed in other fields in Eastern Oregon. In the last 10 days while we’ve been in Canterbury, I’ve run past the Church of Sts. Cosmus and Damian in the Blean repeatedly and wondered about what is hidden in the moat and the fields round that ancient church. The days that the bishops spent in Canterbury Cathedral gave abundant evidence of the treasured bones buried in the earth and above it in that sacred place. Thomas Becket’s shrine there is a treasure of yet another sort.

What has St. Martin’s found by digging in this field? Your excavation right next door says something about the treasure to be found among the poor and the homeless, and the blessing that Jesus pronounced on the poor. The kingdom of heaven is indeed like the treasure hidden in the field, a treasure that you have gone and sold all you had – or convinced many donors to part with – in order to buy it.

Jesus’ parables this morning are so familiar that we’ve lost the sense of surprise and shock that their first hearers would have had. The kingdom of heaven is like a small seed that grows large and shelters the birds – the early Christians would have heard that speaking about Gentiles. This place and its work also shelter the unlikely and unnoticed and, sometimes despised, outsider.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that leavens everything around it. That would have been intensely shocking to Jesus’ hearers, for it compares God’s presence to something unclean that contaminates everything it touches. How would Jesus say it here? Maybe that the kingdom of heaven is like the odor of unwashed bodies, finding shelter at last in a well-heated room.

The kingdom of heaven is like finding something unexpected in a field, and selling all you have got in order to buy it. The kingdom of heaven is like searching the earth for a great treasure, and then giving all you have in order to own it. We can find that valuable thing accidentally or by diligent searching, but it will take all we have to possess it. It might be like letting your mission drive the use of these buildings, and the sacrificial giving that makes such remarkable work possible.

And finally, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish. At the end of time, those fish will be sorted into useful ones and trash fish – but not until then. The strong suggestion that, even if some smell better than others, it is not given to us to know which is which, and until the end of things we might cultivate a perception that sees pearls of great price in all the oysters around us.

The kingdom of heaven is all around us, and among us, in unsuspected places, in places where we might think to find it if we look hard enough, and growing in ways we may find distasteful or surprising. A couple of nights ago, a group of young people moved into the next dormitory on the campus of the University of Kent. They were partying quite energetically when I went to bed. The noise woke me up at a quarter to three, and the loud screams and laughter continued after 5 am. And I think Jesus would say the kingdom of heaven is like that, for their mirth and delight said a great deal about joy and peace, even if I had a hard time joining in.

In the last days, I’ve seen evidence of the kingdom of heaven among bishops who agree and disagree about the hot-button issues, bishops who speak different languages, and among bishops who come from vastly different contexts. One bishop in Madagascar has told of a diocese that is devastated every year by cyclones, sometimes several times – yet he continues his work to rebuild. He holds a vision of a cathedral and churches that will be shelters from the storm, both literally and figuratively, and used for schools during the week. He says, “I will build more churches and fill them with the poor.”

Another bishop in Sudan tells us about his people who are returning refugees, who have nothing, no ability to grow crops or feed themselves, and are struggling to reestablish their lives. He also tells us of the presence of Al Qaeda, and large guns being carried south by nomads, and he tells us of his fears that warfare will soon break out in even larger ways. Yet that bishop, and his brother bishops, continue to speak good news to their people, to tell their stories to others, and to seek our prayers and support, particularly from the more powerful nations of the world who may yet convince Sudan to care for all its people.

The kingdom of heaven is like 650 bishops marching through the streets of this city a couple of days ago, insisting that together we can end global poverty, if we have the will to do it. Your prime minister shares that hope, and has pledged his assistance in very concrete ways, as he told us in a powerful speech on Thursday. That hope is like a mustard seed that can grow into a tree of life large and generous enough to shelter all the people of this world, but it’s going to take lots of us to water and fertilize it.

Where and how do you look for the kingdom of heaven? Jesus would ask if we understood all this. It will take what is old and what is new – the good stuff from the past and the surprising possibilities of the present. As your priest told me before the service, the crypt downstairs was condemned for the dead in the 1940s, but it is open to the living now. This congregation already knows a great deal about where and how to look – you were the first radio broadcast of a religious service, you were the first lending library, you are building down into the earth in order to liberate and build up the people of this city. You claimed the reality that people of different faiths may come together here to pray and seek divine inspiration.

Where will you look for the kingdom of heaven in your own life? What treasure do you seek? What old thing must be preserved, and what new thing is the clue to the kingdom of heaven around us? The struggle to answer those questions goes on throughout our own lives, in the church, and all around us. The fish don’t have to be sorted until the end of time. So fear not, keep looking, and give thanks that when you find a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, it is around us, even if it smells pretty fishy or whether it sounds like a riot in the wee hours of the morning.

Comment: go to other websites and you will find all kinds of comments about this sermon, mostly highly critical. Some misunderstand the PB and criticise her unfairly (e.g. her comment re leaven being unclean and its effect being that of a contaminant - but I heard more or less the same approach taken yesterday in a local church, suggesting a modern analogy would be a computer virus with its ability to contaminate a whole machine, so one assumes the PB was following a good commentator). My concern is the low level of theology and application which permeates the whole sermon, rather than specific statements. Where is the linkage with the spiritual blessings of Christ which flow from his inexhaustible love or recognition that the grace of God which obliterates our sin and guilt is worth every human treasure and more (were we able to pay for such grace)? Where is the urgency that we might desire the kingdom of God more than anything else in this world, including for the reason that God's judgement is such that a right-minded person will do all they can to ensure they are a good fish and not a bad fish? Application by way of preaching the gospel of faith and repentance, as well as the good works of compassion (for which St Martins-in-the-Field is justly famous) then flows. But this we do not see.

In the end PB Schori is who she is. Her strengths may not lie in preaching so much as in leading. One must not expect what cannot be delivered. But I wonder if defenders of TEC realise the degree to which their Presiding Bishop provides more questions than answers to those critics of TEC concerned with the direction of its journey?

An interesting tension in Jesus' hospitality

Much is made these days of themes of hospitality and welcome in the ministry of Jesus. Attention is being given to all the meals Jesus participated in. Behind moves towards an 'open table' at communion, where, for example, the unbaptised are welcome, lies the Feeding of the Five Thousand with its eucharistic structure (took bread, gave thanks, broke it, distributed it). No one was turn away from that (eucharistic) meal, so why should any be turned away from ours ... and, anyway, Jesus did not eject Judas from the Last Supper, or, for that matter, Peter.

Here I do not want to tackle the 'open table' issue directly, nor to attempt to solve it by inference. But I have been thinking about Luke 14, and see there an interesting tension in the hospitality of Jesus.

This chapter is full of meals. Jesus dines one Sabbath with a 'ruler who belonged to the Pharisees'. The dinner group includes 'Pharisees and lawyers'. When he heals someone and sees their querying eyes, he goes onto tell some parables about hospitality. P1: taking a humble seat at a marriage feast (14:7-11). P2: when giving a dinner or banquet do not invite your peers but invite the poor and their peers, the maimed, lame, and blind (14:12-14). P3: the story of a great banquet in which the guests excused themselves and were replaced at the feast by the inclusion of the poor, maimed, blind, and lame (14:16-24). Its not hard to see the interconnections between these parables. Together they build a picture of the coming great feast of God's kingdom: if you wish to be at that feast, humble yourself, live lives now which model God's hospitality, accept rather than turn down God's invitation.

Its also not difficult to see the theme of 'open table' weaving through these stories: God's heavenly feast is open to all; your feasts ought to be open beyond your circle of friends and peers.

Yet we must read on, to take in the whole chapter (which is a distinct section within Luke's Travel Narrative). In 14:25-35 Jesus turns to 'the great multitude' which is following him at this point, and lays down 'the law' about discipleship: 'If any one comes to me and does not hate ... whoever does not bear his own cross ... so therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple ... He who has ears to hear let him hear.'

Okay, its Luke who puts the chapter together, but I assume he is faithful to Jesus' own theology! Jesus appears to be teaching (1) the table at God's heavenly feast (i.e. the kingdom of God) is open to all (rich and poor, able and disabled, exalted and humble); but (2) those at God's table will have committed themselves unconditionally and sacrificially to Jesus. There is a tension between the openness and inclusiveness of God's invitation and the narrowness and exclusiveness of the way of Jesus.

Zooming forwards to our day, it could be that our talk of 'open table' and 'inclusive church' is an incomplete expression of the teaching of Jesus. The complete expression is invitation to follow Jesus in costly discipleship: the invitation is open and inclusive of all, but acceptance of the invitation which leads to participation in the great feast of heaven is costly: not all will take it up.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Worthy is the Lambeth posting to be posted here (3)

A conference like this can occasionally produce quite hilarious fun. A few evenings ago Maggie and I were sitting at supper with a bunch of Australians, including the McCalls who stayed in the diocese a fortnight ago and Stephen Pickard and his wife who some will remember from their Durham days, when a large nearby tableful of New Zealanders, including a dozen or so Maoris, began celebrating someone’s birthday by singing several national songs. When the Aussies caught on they responded with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and other bits and pieces, to which the Kiwis responded again, and so on. By this time a good many people in the dining room, a massive hall seating about 350, were looking in our direction, whereupon the Kiwis played their trump card, with the entire group of Maori bishops coming over to our table to perform the Haka at us. Even the Aussies have no answer for that. A good moment. New and old friendships, in worship or round a bottle of wine at the end of a long hot day, are the very stuff of Communion life.

That's from Bishop Tom Wright's mid-conference letter to his diocese. The whole is worth reading, but Anglican Down Under is keen to bring news of 'down under' Anglican influence at Lambeth. Beside, having lost the rugby last night, we Kiwis can bask in winning the 'Big Sing' at Lambeth.

Oh dear

From Ruth Gledhill's dispatches:

"I hear from conference insiders that there is real and deep unhappiness with the standard of the Bible study texts the bishops are being forced to study. I'll try and get some written examples of the unbelieveable banalities that have reached my ears here."

I wonder why this is so?

Of rising seas and spiritual limits

Archbishop Rowan Williams has written of the plight of Pacific islanders, brought home by out own Winston Halapua, a bishop of Polynesia, ordinarily resident in Auckland, NZ (where many Polynesians live):

"A new spiritual politics of limits
The Guardian

To meet the challenge of climate change, we need more than ever the recognition of human frailty that religious faith brings

Last Monday, at the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Winston Halapua from Polynesia spoke about a meeting of churches from various Pacific islands where the subject for discussion had been neither social justice nor personal ethics, but the bare fact of rising ocean levels. Within a very few years, the likelihood is that several small islands will simply become uninhabitable.

Nothing could have brought home more directly the issue that the conference discusses this Saturday – the church's responsibility for the environment. While scepticism about climate change is still given astonishing prominence in some western media, the day-to-day reality of rising water levels is not a matter of debate for our colleagues in the Pacific. Part of the importance of the Lambeth Conference to us all in the Anglican Church is that it lets us hear these things in first hand detail.

But this vignette of the global problem offers a potent image of one of the deep underlying issues in the environmental debate. We live in a world of finite space and finite resource. Endless trajectories of growth are not realistic; and our own rising 'oceans' of food and fuel prices are a stark reminder that scarcity is not someone else's problem in today's and tomorrow's world.

Somehow, conventional political discourse has not dealt with this very successfully. Time was when part of the wisdom of conservative politics was about limits, realism, adjusting to certain givens in the social and material environment, and moderating expectations. Unfortunately, this proved all too often to be a way of recommending the disadvantaged to accept their fate; and progressive politics was thus frequently allied to a passionate belief in endless possibilities of self-improvement and more sophisticated control of the environment. You have only to think of the utopian aspirations of the French Revolution or of the Soviet Union in the 1920s."

This is excellent. It is also intriguing. It includes language which precisely connects to the 'the other problem' Lambeth faces. Consider these phrases:

we need more than ever the recognition of human frailty that religious faith brings

Endless trajectories of growth are not realistic (Substitute 'diversity' for 'growth')

Somehow, conventional political discourse has not dealt with this very successfully. (Substitute 'Communion' for 'political')

Archbishop Rowan goes onto conclude:

"For believers, and very clearly for Christian believers, this is connected with the recognition that the world is God's before it is ours – never just a possession – and that we are in God's hands in life and death. But even a person who does not share the basic conviction might think what a politics would like that went beyond conventional "right" and "left" stereotypes to work out how we coped meaningfully with real, non-negotiable limits – not resentfully or in wilful disregard of reality, but meaningfully. The polarised categories simply don't work well here. Something more radical and more traditional is called for."

Here we could substitute "Communion" for "world". And agree wholeheartedly that 'the polarised categories simply don't work well here. Something more radical and more traditional is called for.

We await the application in what the WCG brings on Monday ...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Something more important than Lambeth

Yes. It is true there is something more important than Lambeth. Yes. I know I should say, 'Making poverty history' or 'Electing Barack Obama as next President of the United States of America' is more important than Lambeth. But tonight (NZ time) in less than 45 minutes I am off, leaving wife and children forlorn, to be with my friends, one of whom is dying. Yes. I know I should say I am going to 'be there' for Brian, in his hour of need. But that would not be true ... well, only partially true. It will be good to watch with Brian, a true and loyal Kiwi, determined in his weakness and discomfort to support the World's Greatest Cause (at least tonight)! But the fact is he has a SKY receiver and I do not!!!!!!!

New Zealand versus Australia: The All Blacks versus the Wallabies. That's what's important tonight. A rugby test with more build up and hype than a Hollywood blockbuster. And unlike the blockbusters, when the stars do their feinting and diving, and rucking and mauling, there will be no stunt guys filling in. Its the real thing. Raw violence. Sublime skill. Gripping emotion.

At least one of thirty players is an Anglican. But will the bishops - apart from our lot, of course - pause to pray for him and his team? (Happens to be the All Blacks!) No. Their minds will be on higher things, as they understand them. But one lives in hope that even bishops will enlarge their vision, and discern the Really Important Things in Life.

Update: we lost; the Anglican went to the sin-bin; the referee missed a crucial penalty try; and our players stuffed up more than playing sublimely (especially sublime was Super-glider, Dan Carter); if God was not with us, neither were the gods of luck and success!!

Listen to the Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Something is rumbling at Lambeth according to Ruth. The Windsor Continuation Group is on the verge of a big announcement, bigger than their Preliminary Observations Part Two. These include reference to:
(i) The Listening Process

(ii) The Hermeneutics Project – the Bible in the Church

(iii) The Principles of Canon Law Project

(iv) A Faith and Order Commission

Ruth Gledhill sees (iv) in terms of the rack of a star chamber inquisition, which would be excellent if true because (a) it would be the first Anglican Communion proposal in recent years to be taken seriously by everyone (b) it would give the grizzlers something to REALLY complain about!

Seriously, the WCG (which, NZers take note, includes the new Bishop of Christchurch) looks like a body which is tinged with a decent dose of reality: fence sitting is tiring; unity in the Communion requires bold change; stemming the slide into schismatic chaos requires action; the Communion, split or united, needs to know which side of the fence it is falling off onto, "So," they appear to be saying, "We are going to propose this direction rather than that."

Already, if, for example, you read on from Ruth Gledhill's posting to the comments, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has began. Why do some people not 'get it'? A Faith and Order Commission is not a new development in the life of the Communion: every church has such a commission operating. It may be the pastor, an executive committee, an unspoken rule, ethos, and culture which people are mysteriously bound to, or an explicit body named 'Faith and Order Commission'. The Anglican Communion had an informal/formal Faith and Order Commission until 2003: informal because it relied heavily on common assumptions rolling out of a huge shared heritage; formal because it included reference points such as the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, and the Instruments of Communion. The ordination of Gene Robinson shattered this approach to Faith and Order: prophetic action was offered by TEC as the new driver in Faith and Order.

That has led to a wake up: what is the 'Faith' which led to this ordination? Answer: a proud celebration of diversity as the ultimate value in Anglican theology. Response: A Barthian emphatic 'No - that cannot be our ultimate value. Our theology must be 'unity-in-diversity.'

Is prophetic action to be the arbiter of 'Order' in Anglican ecclesiology? Answer: No (even though it worked out in respect of the ordination of women, but the degree of reception of the ordination of women, notwithstanding disagreement, enabled this development in our Order to establish itself).

But a shattered consensus around how Anglican Faith and Order works cannot be restored: a new consensus needs to be rebuilt. Hence the WCG's talk of a Faith and Order Commission. A reasonable expectation about the 'big' announcement on Monday is that some concrete details about this Commission will emerge. It may be a 'bombshell' because it is challenges America more than Africa.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A reason for not trusting TEC

In the life of The Episcopal Church (TEC) there is one man more than any other man, possibly more than any other woman, who has contributed to the present policy and polity of TEC in which all are included except those Episcopalians who disagree with the present policy and polity. That man is Louie Crew. Recently a blog-worth-consulting-if-you-want-the-reappraiser-perspective, Preludium, blogged by Mark Harris, announced that Louie Crew (also known as Quaen Lutibelle) has a new blog, called Queer Eye on the Lectionary. Now Louie is both a learned man, and an excellent writer. The reflections offered on this blog so far are witty, insightful, and also interestingly autobiographical. Harmless enough, perhaps.

But there are other Crew writings on the internet. Explicit 'gay religious poetry' could be a description. No links here; but its not hard to find. These writings are ambiguous in respect of the ideology which drives subterraneously through the phenomenon which is the Louie Crew lobby in TEC. Is the ideology simply to be inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people? Or is it to 'queerize' the theology and christology of the church?

It is the inability of TEC to assure the remainder of the Communion as to what its 'deep' agenda is, and where its 'longterm' destination is, which is ramping up conservative opposition. TEC has an easy strategic response to that opposition: calling it 'homophobia', seeking to place opponents on an emotional back foot. I think it is 'ideology-phobia' which drives conservative opposition, who understand that when ideology drives theology, idolatry is not far behind. (To be sure, TEC is not the only member church subject to this critique: our own ACANZP in these islands runs perilously close when it talks about 'the Treaty of Waitangi' being of equal importance to the Gospel, or cements our 'Three Tikanga' arrangements as a permanent rather than provisional structuring of our common life). Our Communion's unity depends on a common mind. Finding that common mind is impeded when our theological conversation involves doubts as to whether the real agenda is being revealed or not.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Worthy is the Lambeth posting to be posted here (2)

"The world has been orphaned by religion which no longer answers its questions."

Bishop Nick Baines of Croyden is blogging Lambeth as it happens. One posting includes this report of Brian "Generous Orthodoxy" McLaren's address.

"Basically, he described the world as having moved from pre-modernism through modernism to an emerging postmodernism. The West spent five hundred years in modernism whereas Africa (and parts of Asia?) will spend five years in modernism before moving on. However, he says, Christian churches flourish where people/cultures move from premodernism to modernism and decline when modernism no longer addresses the questions posed by postmodern minds. Massive church growth in Africa has something to do with its move from premodernism to modernism, but the growth might not necessarily last. More importantly, it implies a sociological element in the growth of Christianity which must be taken seriously. Hence, the challenge for the Church in places of massive growth lies not in wielding power or thinking that numbers justify its methodologies or theologies, but rather in making disciples of Jesus. The same phenomenon cannot happen in the West because the conditions that make for such evangelistic 'success' no longer apply here.

... The point is that he challenged in an eirenic and supportive way the opportunity for the Anglican Church to take seriously its vocation to make disciples of Jesus who will commit to changing the world. However, we need to find appropriate (essentially relational) ways to engage and reach out to postmodern people. I will not quickly forget his statement that 'the world has been orphaned by religion which no longer answers its questions'."

That's food for thought!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Global South 1 USA 0

It had to come to this.
The Windsor Report asked for action (repentance, restraint, reaffirmation).
It never happened in ways which did not distort the meaning of the language of the Report; and certainly not in ways which upheld Resolution 1.10.
Now, in the middle of Lambeth, following a meeting of Global South primates and bieshops (including our own Bishop of Nelson), the Archbishop of Sudan has spoken.
Clear, crisp, coherent communication.
Gene Robinson and his cohort should desist from trying to get into Lambeth, and wailing about not succeeding.
The cohort should leave Lambeth in solidarity with Gene.
Let the Communion be a communion founded on theological truth.
Even Archbishop Rowan has confirmed that sex outside of marriage is wrong.

Read Ruth Gledhill's blog on the Sudanese plain speaking here. For related reports linked from Thinking Anglicans, go here.

And for the statement, read on:

In view of the present tensions and divisions within the Anglican Communion, and out of deep concern for the unity of the Church, we consider it important to express clearly the position of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) concerning human sexuality.

We believe that God created humankind in his own image; male and female he created them for the continuation of humankind on earth. Women and men were created as God’s agents and stewards on earth We believe that human sexuality is God’s gift to human beings which is rightly ordered only when expressed within the life-long commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. We require all those in the ministry of the Church to live according to this standard and cannot accept church leaders whose practice is contrary to this.

We reject homosexual practice as contrary to biblical teaching and can accept no place for it within ECS. We strongly oppose developments within the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada in consecrating a practicing homosexual as bishop and in approving a rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This has not only caused deep divisions within the Anglican Communion but it has seriously harmed the Church’s witness in Africa and elsewhere, opening the church to ridicule and damaging its credibility in a multi-religious environment.

The unity of the Anglican Communion is of profound significance to us as an expression of our unity within the Body of Christ. It is not something we can treat lightly or allow to be fractured easily. Our unity expresses the essential truth of the Gospel that in Christ we are united across different tribes, cultures and nationalities. We have come to attend the Lambeth Conference, despite the decision of others to stay away, to appeal to the whole Anglican Communion to uphold our unity and to take the necessary steps to safeguard the precious unity of the Church.

Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we appeal to the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada, to demonstrate real commitment to the requests arising from the Windsor process. In particular:
- To refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals as bishops or priests
- To refrain from approving rites of blessing for same-sex relationships
- To cease court actions with immediate effect;
- To comply with Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference
- To respect the authority of the Bible

We believe that such steps are essential for bridging the divisions which have opened up within the Communion.

We affirm our commitment to uphold the four instruments of communion of the Anglican Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council; and call upon all Provinces of the Communion to respect these for the sake of the unity and well-being of the Church.

We appeal to this Lambeth Conference to rescue the Anglican Communion from being divided. We pray that God will heal us from the spirit of division. We pray for God’s strength and wisdom so that we might be built up in unity as the Body of Christ.

The Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng Bul
Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and Bishop of Juba

The score Global South 1 USA 0 does not mean the victory goes to the Global South. This will be the first in a series of press release 'games'.

Nor, in keeping with previous posts on this blog, does this statement mean that the last word is said by reaffirming Windsor and Resolution 1.10. It is one thing to deny that a person in a sexual relationship other than marriage should be a bishop, it is another to find appropriate 'spaces' and 'places' where gay and lesbian Anglicans live their choice to be in partnerships with integrity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Anglicans from Down Under (Aotearoa NZ) at Lambeth

More intent on their listening than being photographed: Bishops David Capel Rice, Tom Brown, and Richard Ellena (check shirt) from Aotearoa NZ sit together in Canterbury Cathedral.

Why I am a critic of TEC

"The previous point is crucial to an adequate evaluation both of TEC’s goals at the present gathering of our bishops in Canterbury and the theology that lies at the base of these goals. The memo contends in the last supporting idea it offers, “the church has focused on its mission rather than its disagreements in order to remain faithful.” The implication is that the mission of the church has nothing to do with the matters that now so divide the Communion—that we can do mission while in fundamental disagreement about the content of the Christian gospel. Nothing could be further from the truth! To equate the Christian gospel with the moral agenda of peace and justice is as false as it is to say that the Christian gospel has nothing to do with peace and justice. It is precisely the nature of the church’s mission that lies at the heart of our present distress. To call for the communion to join in common mission and yet pass over divergent views of the gospel is in fact incoherent."

These words are part of a fuller examination of a memo from an episcopal member of the Presiding Bishop's office to his fellow TEC bishops, urging them to stay 'on message' during Lambeth. The examiner is Philip Turner - a remarkable Episcopal theologian, and one of the leaders of the Anglican Communion Institute. Read the whole. Its a reminder that the primary issue concerning Bishop Gene Robinson, at least on this blog, is not the consecration of an openly gay man per se. It is that this consecration, and the leadership he now offers the greater church from his office, represents a theology which at root is 'another gospel'. It is the iceberg and not its tip which worries many of us elsewhere in the Communion, as well as a significant minority within TEC itself. Imagine if New Hampshire was one liberal diocese whose direction and theology was eccentric relative to the rest of TEC. Would we be agitated about who its bishop was? Not by half, not even by a quarter of current agitation!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Worthy is the Lambeth posting to be posted here (1)

A few posts ago I said I would not post much on Lambeth as so much would be posted here there and everywhere. Inevitably something will catch my eye and here is one. Its written by Bishop John Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, notable in recent days for pulling out of the Network and aligning with the ACI, as a sign of his determination to be a voice for orthodoxy within and not without or threatening to be without TEC. Bishop John gives us a report on the ABC's 'take' on the Communion and its future, and gives reason to wonder whether the ABC can pull it off, because Bishop John sees TEC as intransigent. Read on, and big hat-tip to Kendall Harmon, Titus One Nine for posting this (and much other great stuff).

Bishop John Howe of Central Florida writes his clergy about Today at Lambeth 2008

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Conference has officially begun...with an absolutely spectacular service in the packed Canterbury Cathedral. No greeting from the government this time. (Ten years ago Prince Charles was with us.)

Former Archbishop George and Eileen Carey were in the front row in the Nave.

Canterbury Cathedral is a rather strange building: very long and (proportionally) narrow. It is divided almost in half by a rood screen that is very solid, with a doorway in the middle of it. It is wide enough that the organ console is actually located on top of it! On the East side of the screen is the choir ("quire"), and on the West side is the nave, and the organist can look down, either way, and see what is happening on both sides of the building. Further to the East of the choir seating area is the High Altar of Canterbury, and then a set of steps going up to the ancient stone throne of St. Augustine (the Seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury), and still further to the East are two more chapels.

At great ceremonial services like today’s the preacher uses a pulpit in the middle of the choir area - which means that s/he cannot be seen by anyone in the Nave! (Another pulpit in the Nave cannot be seen by anyone in the choir!)

The acoustics, however, are excellent. Singing resounds without amplification, and the sound system for reading and speaking from lectern, pulpit and altar is excellent.

The sermon was exactly what you would expect on the weeds and wheat passage from Matthew's Gospel, so I will not try to recount it.

This afternoon we had our first plenary session, and once again, the Archbishop spoke to us; very differently from the meditations in retreat. He outlined four possible futures for the Communion:

1) that we become a loose federation of churches, sharing a common heritage, but increasingly autonomous.

2) that we become a collection of even less connected national churches, each going its own way.

3) that we develop a strong centralized authority that will dictate uniformity in ethics and practice.

He rejected all of these as being "less than a Communion," and put his hope in the fourth:

4) that we become a Communion of "counsel and consent," held together by the bonds of affection and an Anglican Covenant.

There will be at least five opportunities during the next two weeks for us to consider the various sections of the proposed Covenant. These will be in "self select" optional sessions, alongside dozens of other options (everything from "Jews and Christians: Are we still getting it wrong?" to "Never Say 'No' to Media" to "Microfinance" to "Ethical Issues of Climate Change" to “The Response of Church Leaders to HIV Stigma and Discrimination" to "Towards Peace in Korea" - and those are just a few of the possibilities from the first two

It is, as I said earlier, only at the end of the Conference will the Covenant will be discussed in Plenary.

But for me, and for many of us, I think, the several sessions devoted to it over the next two weeks will be extremely important.

My sense is that the Archbishop totally underestimates how myopically focused the American House of Bishops is on "the full inclusion of LGBT persons” as a "Gospel imperative." This is not just a significant PART of the Gospel for most of our Bishops; this IS the Gospel - it is THE great issue of our time: as abolition and civil rights and women's rights were in their times.

I don't think our House is prepared to be limited by counsel, consent, or Covenant.

But, to quote him again, "A failure in leadership is a failure to hope in Christ."

So, we shall see what emerges in the next two weeks.

He spent a fair amount of time defending a very different approach in this Conference from that of any of its antecedents. In previous Conferences there have been heavy-duty scholarly papers produced and distributed for study beforehand, and the Conferences themselves have produced reports and resolutions- hundreds of them.

He commented wryly, that most of the resolutions have never been enforced. (He cited a request from the very first Lambeth Conference in 1867 that an international court be established to settle disputes of doctrine. We are still waiting.)

So, the next two weeks will consist of Bible Studies every morning in groups of eight (these have already been happening every day), and then the "Indaba" groups which will be composed of five Bible Study groups being joined together (in larger groups of 40), where we will talk about such things as "The Bishop and Anglican Identity," "The Bishop and Evangelism," "The Bishop and Social Justice, "The Bishop and...Other Churches...the Environment...Human Sexuality...etc."

This is billed as "an opportunity for every voice to be heard." How it will all be drawn together as an expression of the "Mind" of the Conference is quite unclear at this point.

And then, in the evenings, all that multiplicity of options I mentioned above.

So, I think we are at a hinge moment in the life of the Communion. No one knows where we will be two weeks from now, but I'm pretty sure that, like Star
Trek, we are headed to some place "where no one has gone before." Your prayers continue to be much needed and very much appreciated.

Warmest regards to all of you,

--(The Right Rev.) John W. Howe is Bishop of Central Florida

Did an Anglican bishop say these words?

"My dear friends, God's creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created anew at Baptism and strengthened through the gifts of the Spirit at Confirmation. Let this be the message that you bring from Sydney to the world!"

The clue that it was not an Anglican bishop but the Bishop of Rome lies in the word 'Sydney'!

Benedict XVI does not miss a beat. And he does not use ambiguous phrasing, unlike some Anglican prelates.

You can read his whole speech here.

Oh, and given the failure of the Roman church in the 16th century and the success of the Protestant church ever since, we all recognise that 500 000 pilgrims to the World Youth Day would be easily beaten if we organised a similar festival ... er, which Protestant leader would we be uniting behind to get the festival off the ground?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Anglicans from Down Under (Aotearoa NZ) at or near Lambeth

Obviously our bishops are there. OK, that's not obvious for this particular Lambeth, but they are there, including about to be installed as the Bishop Of Christchurch, Bishop Victoria Matthews. But also 'spotted' there are: Sue Burns and Jenny Te Paa, as noted by Thinking Anglican's News From the Big Blue Tent (3).

And not far away, since I am sure the bishops read The Times, is Cathy Ross, NZer working in missiology at Oxford, who has written this with Lambeth in view.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why revisionists might pause to acknowledge conservative concerns

My letter posted below concerning Archdeacon Glynn Cardy's open letter re the blessing of same sex partnerships has led to a challenge to me to consider the danger of emphasising the law over the love for one another which Christ taught and modelled. That's quite fair. The law is always about people, and for Christians people are never mere case studies in the advancement of the law. The law is to serve people in the name of the God of love.

Yet I do not resile from seeking to secure (if possible with my brain of a small size) clarity on matters of theology and canon law through rational discourse, impersonal though that may be. In the end the love of God and our understanding of it is deepened and widened through foundation in the truth rather than wishful thinking.

One concern which conservatives make (noted in a comment on a post below, but also in many other posts across the internet) is that the church formally giving ground to the claims for formal blessing of same sex partnerships opens the door to moral incoherency. The ability of the church, for example, to sustain a scriptural argument against polyamory or incest, would be weakened severely, if not disabled permanently, is something we worry about.

I simply do not know what revisionists of traditional moral positions have to say about these concerns. But I would like to know, because these concerns are not abstractions from real human lives. In the Christchurch Press today (Saturday, July 19, page B4) an article is carried with this heading: 'I had sex with my brother but I don't feel guilty.' It was sourced from The Times (London) and you can read it here (warning: some detail may offend). Quite why the Press or the Times is carrying such an article I have no idea (other than the obvious one of selling a few more copies). But I am tempted to think about secular humanist conspiracies ...!!

That is, (a) incest is a fact in Western society (b) it is not obviously wrong to some who commit it (c) major cultural influences (the media) are prepared to print a substantive testimony in favour of the hypothesis that incest is not wrong. What do revisionists have to say? Is it not wrong? Is it right in some circumstances? If it is wrong, why?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick link to How to Conduct a Debate on Sensitive Matters

The post below is quite long ... so click here to get to a recent post that has generated some comments/debate!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A conversation in Aotearoa New Zealand

A Response from Canon Peter Carrell to
An Open Letter by Archdeacon Glynn Cardy
15 July 2008


On June 25, 2008 Archdeacon Glynn Cardy responded with an open letter to a pastoral letter by Archbishop David Moxon and Bishop Philip Richardson to the Diocese of Waikato.

The pastoral letter of the two bishops, while not an open letter to our whole church, received a wide distribution.

It is not the purpose of this response to make comment directly on either the episcopal pastoral letter or the specific circumstances which gave rise to it. This response is prompted by concern that a number of the points in Archdeacon Cardy’s letter pertaining to the general question of the blessing of same sex partnerships are contestable, and that without contesting them in an open manner, readers of his letter might be tempted to accept that his conclusions are correct.

[NOTE: The following appears in the e-circulation, but does not pertain to the posting here] Archdeacon Cardy’s letter is provided in full below, in Times Roman font, and black typeface. I have added numbers within parentheses which correlate with my responsive comments printed below the letter in Verdana font, and blue typeface (with relevant excerpts from Archdeacon Cardy’s letter in Times Roman font, and black typeface).

I appreciate Archdeacon Cardy’s encouragement for my response to be a public one.

Peter Carrell
Diocese of Nelson
June 25, 2008

Dear Archbishop David and Bishop Philip,

Your recent pastoral letter to the Diocese of Waikato regarding same-sex blessings has been circulated around the Province and I wish to make a response.

Early on you state that all licensed ministers in our Church are accountable to the Canon Law of General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui. That of course is true. However ministers also have other accountabilities. Our baptismal vocation is one. For the ordained there are also ordination vows. In particular these accountabilities impact on services of blessing of gay/lesbian couples in two regards. Firstly, in the name of Jesus a number of Christians have over the centuries worked for human rights and continue to do so. It is not a case of being ‘conscious of our responsibilities under NZ Human Rights and Privacy Laws’. Human rights are a gospel imperative. (1)

Secondly, prayer is at the heart of the Christian vocation. When Canon Law prohibits a minister praying with people maybe it is the Canon Law that needs to be revised or ignored. (2)

My first point is therefore that licensed ministers need to be accountable in a variety of ways, and so does Canon Law.

In your letter you then proceed to comment on the Canon on Marriage. I am not aware of anyone in this Province involved in services of blessing for gay/lesbian couples who is justifying their actions by reference to this Canon, or who wish this Canon to be altered or amended. (3)

My second point therefore is that the Canon on Marriage is for heterosexual couples and is not relevant to the debate on same sex blessings.

You then talk about the Canon on Forms of Worship and state that ‘we agree to use only the authorized forms of service approved by the General Synod’. You seem to think that the authorized forms are parameters on what is permissible for worship. Another view is that the authorized forms are guidelines for relevant, creative, and pastoral expressions of worship. On your reading it would seem no minister can use prayers other than those in the NZ Prayer Book or contemplate leading worship in a situation not stipulated in the Prayer Book. In my experience most clergy draw on a range of resources outside of the Prayer Book, or write their own. Indeed it is often from this creative work that revisions in time are made to the authorized forms.

It is worth noting that even in the Church of England a minister is entitled to use non-authorized material when there is no existing form of worship that fits the situation.

I am also aware that the Revd Bosco Peters of the Christchurch Diocese has mounted an argument that there is provision within our authorized forms for a blessing of a relationship.

My third point therefore is that the Church in this Province is not of one mind regarding the role of the authorized forms of worship in determining what is permissible. (4)

In your letter you go on from the Canons to state as your second point that due to current state of the Anglican Communion all Provinces are ‘encouraged to exercise deep care and restraint’. This seems to imply that conservative disquiet over Bishop Gene Robinson’s election and the authorized services of the Diocese of New Westminster are reason to suddenly deny the New Zealand gay and lesbian community ministries that have been offered to them for many decades. Priests for three decades at St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland, have prayed with and blessed gay and lesbian couples. Priests in other parishes have done so too. Conservative reaction in other Provinces should not be a reason to deny pastoral ministries with a minority in our land who have suffered a huge amount of discrimination and abuse from the Church over the centuries. There is truth in the maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. I am also concerned that the two specific issues of electing a gay man in a committed relationship to the episcopate and the authorizing of a rite for gay blessings are being used as a reason to be overly cautious about any gay/lesbian ministry and the selection and appointment of gay/lesbian deacons and priests.

My fourth point therefore is that ‘deep care and restraint’ does not need to be interpreted as stopping ongoing ministries and directions of our Church. (5)

Regarding the word ‘blessing’ it seems that in many people’s minds the word is understood to be an endorsement e.g. in a marriage the Church is endorsing the couple's relationship. In other words a ‘blessing’ is merit-based: it is the good character or act of the couple, or the good character of the marital/civil union institution, that is being endorsed. I think this is a theological misunderstanding. Rather I think a blessing is a declaration of God's unconditional love for us. It is that love/blessing the priest is declaring. It is not based on the merit of the couple, the institution or the priest - but solely on God. The blessing says in effect: God loves you, has always loved you, and will always love you no matter what lies ahead. The church is not endorsing, by means of the priestly blessing, marriage, civil unions, heterosexuals or homosexuals.

My fifth point therefore is that in any service the blessing is not an endorsement but a declaration of God’s love. (6)

Lastly, I am concerned that you did not share your views with the recent General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui. In particular as one of our archbishops David you had the power to initiate a discussion and clarification on these important matters.

My final point therefore is that theological and legal opinion across the whole Church needs to be brought to bear on your view.

Yours faithfully,

Archdeacon Glynn Cardy,
Vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City,

Response from Peter Carrell

(1) “Human rights are a gospel imperative.” (Cardy)

Comment: ‘Human rights are a gospel imperative’ is ambiguous. It could mean that securing all human rights is an obligation for gospel people. It could mean that securing some rights (for instance, basic, universal rights to food, water, shelter, and dignity) is an obligation for Christians. The former opens a large discussion on the extent of human rights, on which there is not universal agreement (e.g. does a human embryo have a right to life? Does any human being have the right to any conceivable medical treatment, no matter the cost? Does a terrorist suspect have the right not to be imprisoned on mere suspicion?) It is simply not true that the gospel can be interpreted as providing an imperative to secure all possible human rights. The latter –securing some rights - arguably is a gospel imperative (I would so argue, but some would not), but it is quite unclear that basic, universal human rights includes the right to have a relationship blessed by the church.

(2) “Secondly, prayer is at the heart of the Christian vocation. When Canon Law prohibits a minister praying with people maybe it is the Canon Law that needs to be revised or ignored.” (Cardy)

Comment: This is disingenuous. Prayer is at the heart of the Christian vocation, but that does not mean that prayer cannot be constrained by canon law. Are licensed officers of the church free to pray for members of the Klu Klux Klan, that they might have a good night out persecuting? Is it permissible to pray for demons to be expelled from people who are psychiatrically ill? Might one pray for God’s blessing on a son or daughter determined to take the law into their own hands and hasten an elderly parent’s death? I offer these examples not to equate praying for people in partnership with any or all these situations but to make the point that constraint of prayer ministry by canon law (here I think of Title D on the Maintenance of Ministry Standards) does not necessarily imply canon law needs revision or ignoring.

(3) “I am not aware of anyone in this Province involved in services of blessing for gay/lesbian couples who is justifying their actions by reference to this Canon, or who wish this Canon to be altered or amended.” (Cardy)

Comment: That is a helpful clarification on a matter which may not be obvious to all observers.

(4) “You seem to think that the authorized forms are parameters on what is permissible for worship. Another view is that the authorized forms are guidelines for relevant, creative, and pastoral expressions of worship. On your reading it would seem no minister can use prayers other than those in the NZ Prayer Book or contemplate leading worship in a situation not stipulated in the Prayer Book. In my experience most clergy draw on a range of resources outside of the Prayer Book, or write their own. Indeed it is often from this creative work that revisions in time are made to the authorized forms. […]

I am also aware that the Revd Bosco Peters of the Christchurch Diocese has mounted an argument that there is provision within our authorized forms for a blessing of a relationship.

My third point therefore is that the Church in this Province is not of one mind regarding the role of the authorized forms of worship in determining what is permissible.” (Cardy)

Comment: Again, I think this is disingenuous. The question we are engaging with here is whether or not clergyperson A is authorized to lead a formal service X in respect of context Y. I shall return to this shortly.

The law of the church is that we are required to lead services according to authorized forms or as allowed by lawful authority. (“In public prayer and administration of the sacraments I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by lawful authority.” (Title A Canon II Declaration)). Nowhere is this law formally granted the ambiguity that some may treat ‘authorised forms’ as ‘guidelines’. It is because the ‘authorized forms’ permit flexibility that many services in parishes have the character of ‘relevant, creative, and pastoral expressions of worship’. But it is also true that services are taking place which go beyond the flexibility of the ‘authorised forms’. (Incidentally ‘lawful authority’ is not necessarily the permission of the local bishop to use an otherwise unauthorized service (though there seems to be debate about this). It does refer to the possibility that “Each Tikanga is authorised to approve forms of service not inconsistent with the Constitution / te Pouhere, or with the Formularies of this Church” (Title G Canon XIV Clause 1)).

Thus, in theory at least, canon law provides for the possibility of discipline in our practice: not anything goes. If canon law offers only ‘guidelines’ then anything is permissible.

Reference to ‘an argument that there is provision within our authorized forms for a blessing of a relationship’ requires further explanation which you do not provide. This argument concerns the Template which, in its original state, as approved by General Synod, appeared to offer liturgical ‘carte blanche’; but General Synod has subsequently in 2006 made an addendum to the Template, constraining us back to ‘authorised forms (while underlining the flexibility of these)’.

Where clergyperson A is invited to lead a formal service X in respect of context Y, the obligation under canon law is to ensure that the service follows ‘authorised forms’. Thus, with respect to leading a formal service of blessing for a civil union (whether of a same sex couple or a mixed sex couple), we cannot so ensure since (a) our church has no authorized form (b) neither our Tikanga Pakeha nor any of the other two Tikanga have allowed such forms.

(Where I think a clergyperson could proceed, without further canonical ado, is with offering informal prayers for two people, particularly in a context where people present were not confused as to whether a ‘formal service’ was being offered; e.g. prayers led in a domestic rather than parish church setting).

(5) “My fourth point therefore is that ‘deep care and restraint’ does not need to be interpreted as stopping ongoing ministries and directions of our Church.” (Cardy)

Comment: It is always possible that circumstances arise in which the church recognizes a need to reflect on current practice and evaluate its canonical and theological validity.

It is arguable that the practice Archdeacon Cardy describes above (a) should not have been happening (b) has been so discreet as to be episcopally unnoticeable, but in a context precipitated by events elsewhere is (c) no longer unnoticeable and thus (d) subject to ‘deep care and restraint’ while reflection and evaluation takes place.

It is also arguable that the controversial events elsewhere were the culmination of a series of ‘facts placed on the ground’, similar to the facts being placed on the ground here in Aotearoa NZ, as described above, which were tolerated for far too long.

The ‘yelp’ of the Communion in respect of New Hampshire etc, is the cry of a church whose willing toleration was misjudged in respect of its limits. Here in ACANZP it is timely that we ask ourselves whether there are or are not limits to our toleration, and a time of ‘deep care and restraint’ gives opportunity for that discussion to take place. (Speaking personally: I acknowledge the quiet and helpful ministry offered over many decades by St Matthews-in-the-City etc, as an expression of diversity within the pastoral pragmatics of Anglicanism, as described above, providing it is indeed ‘pastoral’ rather than ‘political’ in character. But any attempt to ‘politicise’ this practice, e.g. by arguing that because it has been happening without objection, so now we ought to be able to (a) publicly and formally bless same-sex partnerships, or (b) ordain people in same sex partnerships, will lead to a ‘yelp’ within our church).

(6) “My fifth point therefore is that in any service the blessing is not an endorsement but a declaration of God’s love.” (Cardy)

Comment: I think there is imprecision in what is said here about blessing/endorsement. Blessing through a priest can be of a general kind (e.g. the blessing given at the conclusion of a service) or of a particular kind (e.g. the blessing of a couple in a marriage service). I agree that blessing of a general kind is neither merit-based nor based on any other requirement. It is a declaration of God’s unconditional love, peace, and joy – though we could note that in formal Anglican services, it is the conclusion of services in which confession and absolution precedes the blessing, which means that the reception of that love, peace, and joy is unmarred by brokenness in the relationship between God and the blessed.

The blessing of a particular kind is different. In a marriage service, for example, the priest blesses a couple on behalf of God on the basis that the church believes that God blesses marriages (having been instituted by God from the beginning of creation; having been endorsed by Jesus). This blessing is not merit-based if by ‘merit’ we mean the good character of the couple, but it is an endorsement of marriage: at the point of blessing the priest does not bless everyone present, s/he blesses the couple who have vowed and declared their lifelong, permanent, faithful, exclusive ‘one flesh’ commitment to each other, and does so on the basis that God is pleased with this particular form of human commitment. Would a priest bless a couple who made conditional or time-limited vows to each other? Would not this particular blessing be withheld on the basis that God does not endorse such relationships?

This line of analysis of blessing-in-relationship-to-marriage (as an example of blessing of a particular rather than general kind) does not mean that a priest cannot declare that God unconditionally loves people. That declaration might be made in a number of particular circumstances: during the course of a pastoral visit, in a funeral service, within a sermon about the love of God, and so forth. But a declaration of God’s unconditional love in some circumstances could be misconstrued by the recipients of the declaration in respect of God’s approval of those circumstances. In particular, such a declaration in the course of a service marking a civil union could be construed as implying God approves of civil unions when in the case of a heterosexual union God might be disappointed that a marriage was not being entered into; and in the case of a same sex civil union God might not approve of such a union full-stop. (Similar analysis applies in the case of the church’s involvement with the armed forces: the blessing of troops before they go into battle is easily misconstrued as implying that God favours their side rather than their enemies)!

In other words, the theology of blessing is highly contextual. I do not think the words here offer a sufficient account of the contextual character of blessing when performed by the church in the name of God.

Concluding comment: beneath the issues Archdeacon Cardy challenges the archbishop and bishop on lies a moral question about the probity of certain relationships. Currently our church is not of one mind on the answer to that question. I share with Archdeacon Cardy a certain curiosity as to why the recent General Synod 2008 did not include an intention to secure some progress on reaching agreement. I presume reasons for that lack of intention include our commitment to a series of hermeneutical hui, and a desire to see what, if any clarity emerges from the Lambeth Conference 2008.

Peter Carrell
Diocese of Nelson