Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Turning Point for TEC?

Following a post below re TEC I have been criticized in a series of robust comments which have included a detailed, knowledgeable critique of the failings of my own church, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. It has never been my view that TEC is beyond hope of transformation and this excerpt from an article from Christianity Today - about the failure of Thew Forrester's nomination to be Bishop of Northern Michigan to secure sufficient confirmatory votes - notes the possibility of that hope being realized (see especially words I have emboldened):

"In addition to rejecting orthodox Christian teachings about the Cross, Thew Forrester denies that Satan exists, calls the Qur'an the Word of God, describes sin as being blind to our own goodness, and questions whether Jesus is truly the only begotten Son of God. A student of Zen Buddhism, Thew Forrester took Buddhist lay ordination vows and adopted a new Buddhist name—Genpo—meaning "way of universal wisdom."

Critics charged that Thew Forrester had also altered Christian liturgies to add Buddhist, Unitarian-Universalist, and New Age principles.

In a message posted on his blog, Bishop of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) Paul V. Marshall warned that the denomination's failure to uphold historic Christian teachings had made it an embarrassment.

"As a Church we are increasingly a laughing-stock … because we do not consistently proclaim a solid core, words as simple as 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,' yet 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,'" Marshall wrote.

Thew Forrester's theological and liturgical innovations are too extreme for a majority of the Episcopal Church, said Greg Griffith, founder of the conservative Anglican website But that doesn't mean that the Episcopal Church is ready to embrace the faith once delivered to the saints, he added.
"All the Episcopal Church has done is to say that someone who is clearly not a Christian may not be one of its bishops," Griffith said. "It may be history in the making, but it's hardly a grand or noble achievement, and certainly not a signal that the Episcopal Church is returning to orthodoxy."

"In any other church—evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal—this person wouldn't get to go to seminary, let alone be able to lead" an entire regional body, said Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. The fact that a diocese chose Thew Forrester and that nearly 30 standing committees have voted to confirm him is troubling, Harmon said.

Harmon and other theological conservatives also noted that the opposition to Thew Forrester is fragmented. A few oppose him because he was the only candidate for bishop on the ballot. Others say he should have gone before the proper channels before rewriting the Apostles' Creed and baptismal covenant. Only a minority oppose Thew Forrester because they believe the changes are contrary to Christian teaching, Harmon said.

"This is not something to celebrate. It's something to be sad about. It reveals a deeply, deeply unhealthy church," he said.

But Bill Carroll, rector at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio, says the vote may be a turning point for his denomination. "I think history will remember this as the point when the Episcopal Church began to show some backbone about basic Christian doctrine," he wrote in a comments thread at "For too long, we have allowed our respect for difference to mean anything goes. There are boundaries.""

So, what about ACANZP? I have disagreed with the commenter about his precise description of our failings (e.g. I would not use the word 'chaos' to describe our liturgical diversity) but we are far from perfect, and many parishes are in decline as measured by falling numbers and/or an aging congregational profile. What could our turning point be?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking my critique seriously. Although, having responded to my comment point by point you omit a response to one paragraph. Why?

This praise of TEC is a rather backhanded compliment. Remember that what you describe as “rewriting the Apostles' Creed” was actually using your creed from New Zealand. It is your prayer book that is the source of much “Buddhist, Unitarian-Universalist, and New Age principles.” Once again, is it not preferable to be setting your own house in order first before you embark on asteism against TEC?

I see your latest post finally has a reference to the Athanasian Creed, present in TEC’s BCP but omitted from your own. I had wondered if in exploring this heresy you had actually read the BCP, one of your binding formularies. There is little place there for this heresy. You make no response to Rosemary’s suggestion of a “mixture” – again someone hasn’t read their BCP. It doesn’t say if Rosemary is from New Zealand, but if you knew her to be from TEC she probably would have become another of your examples of TEC’s unorthodoxy.

You continue to suggest that because your province’s liturgical regulations are not being breached, and because no one is being disciplined, and because “many” of your parishes use your prayer book once a Sunday (but you know of no parish using it and growing – and have had no one suggest one) that your province is not in chaos (not mentioning the paragraph you have stopped responding to). It is precisely the confusing options of your liturgical regulations (just look at today’s for example – which option did you choose for your morning prayer – Oh I forgot – it’s not obligatory in your province to pray morning prayer), the total flexibility of what your regulations allow (options provided – or find or make up your own), and the lack of training your ministers have received in worship, particularly as you highlight yourself in a recent post, since the publication of your prayer book (your previous scandal being a significant explanation of that).

Might I suggest the reaction to Forrester is not a turning point at all, but the continuation of the normal life of TEC. Such an interpretation does not imply that your province is not in need of a turning point – so I will wait to see what your readers respond to your challenge to your province.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Yes I omitted one paragraph, partly because of the way you worded it, and I felt I did not want to specifically engage with that wroding. But let me put a response this way: if there is a continuing hidden scandal(s) in the life of ACANZP then the truth will come out and those involved will regret any cover up. But I am choosing at this stage not to be the whistle-blower. Think ill of me if you will but that is my decision.

I am now enlightened re the rewriting of the creed by KT Forrester, but I gather that has not been his only offence against TEC polity. On the other point you make in that paragraph: our prayer book contains material I wish was not in it but I myself would not go so far as to describe it as Buddhist etc.

I am confused when you say that the Athanasian creed is 'present in TEC's BCP but omitted from your own': as far as I know it remains present in the BCP (1662) which remains in use in our church (while, yes, not being in our 1989 NZPB). Indeed there is little place, indeed none at all in the Athanasian creed, for 'eternal subordinationism'. ... I will consider making a response to the word 'mixture' in Rosemary's comment.

Your point re chaos in my province would have more force if you could come up with examples of ministers in our church who agree with this charge.

Perhaps our liturgical regulations are confusing, especially for a day such as today (Corpus christi, St Barnabas day etc). But why single us out re 'flexibility'? I use for my daily diary 'The Parson's Pocket book' whose provenance is in the Church of England. It supplies a lectionary and what does it offer for today? Flexibility as to whether Corpus christi or St Barnabas' day is observed.

You may indeed suggest that the rejection of KT Forrester as a bishop is not a turning point. You will have noticed, of course, that I took this possibility from a reported comment from a priest within TEC itself!

With all good wishes

Anonymous said...

Previously you understood that to which I refer, now you are adding an “if” to your understanding and implying that you will regret your own decision.

I appreciate as each response you acknowledge an area in which my comments were correct and yours in error, yet each time you dig your hole deeper. Having branded TEC as not Anglican or Christian, you now state that Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the contributors to your prayer book, you “would not go so far as to describe as Buddhist”!

Little should I be surprised then to find in your latest post that you consider the incarnation a temporary event. The incarnation apparently ceased for you, the human Jesus no longer exists, and as you struggle through your heresies discussion here as if you are teaching others – you clearly do not accept Chalcedon.

Finally you now challenge me to find ministers in your province who notice the chaos. (1) that many do not notice the chaos is due to the poor training they have had - how would they know Anglicanism ought be different to what they experience (2) ministers are mostly involved in their own context – they are hardly going to state their own leadership is chaotic; bishops generally see parishes behaving at their best, regularly not using the prayer book they dust it off when the bishop comes (3) why do you get so few comments on your site from them in any case – you keep asking for responses and getting none (4) the fish in the bowl is the last to notice the water, if you place a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat they don’t notice and slowly die (5) should I really list off ministers and bishop(s) who would agree with me?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
Whatever the source of prayers in our prayer book, their acceptance and approval by General Synod with the concurrence of the Dioceses implies that their wording and meaning are Christian. So, no, I do not subscribe to the view that there are any 'buddhist' prayers in our prayer book.

Perhaps I should have said the incarnation is a non-eternal event (or did it begin before time began?). In a certain way the incarnation is a temporary event for the incarnate Son no longer walks beside us and talks with us in bodily form. I do indeed accept Chalcedon and am also am trying to find words, inadequate heretic that I am, to ward off the challenge of eternal subordinationism. How would you ward it off? Do you wish to see women permanently subjugated as second class citizens of the church which is what will happen if eternal subordinationism triumphs?

I entirely agree that many of our ministers do not understand how dire things are in our church from the perspective of 'forms' but I continue to deny that chaos is a precise descriptor of the situation. Not least because many of our ministers are trying desperately hard to lead churches in mission in a difficult secular climate. In many cases they have congregations which would not exist if some staid prayer book recipe had been stuck with; or at best would be the three people plus vicar I came across recently on a visit to another diocese. Better a church trying different ways to stay alive than be perfect and non-existent, I say. Nevertheless in my role I try to teach good liturgy, adherence to authorised forms, and thinking smartly about what it means to be dynamically Anglican!

You do not have to list names of ministers who would agree with you about chaos in our church. If you can assure yourself that you have a couple of bishops and ten vicars in support then your case is strengthened ... and I shall look forward to their representations for change in General Synod!