Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is Tom Wright our Thomas Cromwell?

My knowledge of the English Reformation is a little sketchy but I think Thomas Cromwell was something of a 'Mr Fix It' for an important stage in the Reformation.

++Rowan's recent response to TEC's GC decisions is exciting much comment, not all, shall we say, as complimentary as I myself make. But now +Tom Wright offers a Mr Fix It supportive interpretation, here at the ACI. It is a bit convoluted for my taste (and small brain). What do you think? It does not much excite Charles Raven of SPREAD, who draws this conclusion:

"That such an able and respected theologian [Wright] has to stretch both credulity and church polity so far is symptomatic of the inherent contradictions, increasingly difficult to suppress, in trying to be loyal to the historic Anglican faith and operate within the old wineskin of Lambeth orientated structures. As those contradictions become ever more obvious – as they will on this side of the Atlantic as well as in North America – it must be hoped that while the ‘two tracks’ of Global Anglicanism diverge, there will be grace extended between the ‘two tracks’ of Anglican evangelicalism so that they can converge. An Anglican Covenant which adopted the Jerusalem Declaration might be a good start."

This adoption would be only a beginning, however, of Anglicans getting to grips with a workable authority structure in the 21st century for global and local decision-making (and determining which is which). Charles Raven overlooks the sleeping dog issues such as Sydney's determination that deacons may preside at the eucharist as examples of matters not able to be sorted by the Jerusalem Declaration, nor by GAFCON structures.

Much as I admire the energy and the acumen from +Tom Wright through these days, we actually need something better able to fix the mess we appear to be in!


Anonymous said...

Is Wright a new Thomas Cromwell? For his sake, I hope not:
"He was executed at the Tower on 28 July 1540, the same day that the king went on to marry Catherine Howard. After his execution, Cromwell's head was boiled and then set upon a spike on London Bridge, facing away from the City of London. Edward Hall, a contemporary chronicler, records that Cromwell made a speech on the scaffold, professing to die, "in the traditional faith" and then "so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged Boocherly miser whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the Office". (wikipedia - where else?)

Wright's tergiversations are a wonder to behold, but his task since his appointment has basically been to keep the evangelicals on board and moving in a moderately liberal direction (leading to women bishops). The esteem he enjoys for his earlier work on the Gospels and the resurrection certainly gave him an entree into the evangelical world, but his over-ready assumption that he was the natural leader of the evangelicals has led him into intemperate attacks on more conservative and traditional evangelicals. This has unnecessarily alienated many, both in North America and Africa, where he is seen as Rowan Williams' 'gofer' and not his own man (as Michael Nazir-Ali is). Many liberals jibe that he doesn't do anything about gay clergy in his own diocese - not that they want him to, they just enjoy charging him with insincerity.
I don't think the bogy of Sydney "lay celebration" frightens many people, perhaps because Holy Communion isn't all that important in the regular worship life of many evangelicals, whereas it's the be-all and end-all of catholics and liberals.

Doug Chaplin said...

You need to remember though that Charles Raven lost his licence for failing to do as he had sworn to do in his ordination and licensing oaths – which was to obey his bishop in "all things lawful and honest".

He may complain of the treatment he received at the Bishop of Worcester's hands. OTOH, the priest who followed him in Kidderminster told me of many parishioners who were returning to the church where he had served, claiming that Raven told them when he was their vicar that if they didn't agree with him they should leave his church.

OK, that's at second hand and refracted from those who felt hurt by his ministry (so there may be an alternate account), but it suggests that anything that disappoints Charles Raven has a good chance of pleasing a great many ordinary Anglicans.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Doug
I am aware of the situation re the 'independency' of Charles Raven (and understand that it may have been a difficult situation he was in ... but has the bishop then now changed and thus one might wonder about a return to the fold)?

Some of what Charles writes is not to my "moderate conservative Anglican" taste ... but this piece is a little different, though not, in the end, the perfect rejoinder to N. T. Wright!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anon1
Yes, they knew how to silence opponents in those days!

Why does the "bogey" of Sydney/lay celebration (and, particularly, matter they have actually changed, diaconal presiding) not "frighten" people more?

One answer to that question is that conservative Anglicans are obsessed with sexual issues and not with being Anglican!

Anonymous said...

Charles Raven's former bishop, Peter Selby, was a former academic with no pastoral experience who denounced Lambeth 110.1 and called the atmosphere there 'as being like Nuremburg'. (Gadamer's Law, anyone?) Raven wanted Selby to affirm his loyalty to the resolution and to the traditional Anglican teaching before letting him conduct a confirmation service in Raven's church, or agreeing to another bishop conducting the service. He wanted the bishop to maintain his oath as well, to maintain the doctrine of the Church of England as it had received it, and not undermining it in his public words and actions.
Selby didn't 'sack' Raven, he just used his power of not renewing Raven's time-limited license when it expired, so Raven lost his post and tied house.
I've never heard of any vicar or pastor (however 'good' or orthodox)who didn't alienate some parishioners by his in/actions, preaching (too long, too short, too pointed etc) or even his haberdashery, so I wouldn't put too much store by hearsay.

Doug Chaplin said...

Peter - the bishop has changed. However, although I have no first hand knowledge, I wouldn't imaging the situation has.

Simply put, no senior manager will employ a junior manager who insists on the right to tell his bosses how to do their jobs while refusing all instruction on how to do his.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous and Doug
A certain impression forms in one's mind by reading what both of you say and forging that into one' own reading of Charles Raven's writings ...

Anonymous said...

"Simply put, no senior manager will employ a junior manager who insists on the right to tell his bosses how to do their jobs while refusing all instruction on how to do his."

Aye, there's the rub. Are bishops "managers" (CEO's) or pastors? Is the Church a "business" or a fellowship? Are local pastors "junior managers" or partners in the Gospel? Why is asking a Ugandan bishop to conduct a confirmation service an actionable "offense"?
Much of the affair reads more like a power play between unequal forces in a three center parish, which Raven lost when Selby threatened to call the police unless Raven left the vicarage. When Raven left, he took most of the parish with him.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Anonymous for further information and insight.