Monday, September 28, 2009

Come back

Will be off-line for a day or three. Come back!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Building cohesion in a diocese

A further reflection arising from our happy synod in Greymouth, but this time in digestible size sentences.

Our diocese feels very cohesive, and has done for a long time. What has contributed to this feeling? I imagine if I asked various people I would get different answers, but here are my list of contributions (in no particular order of importance):

- management and administration: for a long time we have had very sound management of our finances, good stewardship of all our resources, and a very happy administration staff in our Anglican Centre;

- communication: while acknowledging that we could do better in some aspects of communication, we communicate a lot of news and views through our website, bi-monthly magazine, monthly ad clerum, and ad hoc circulated emails - most of the time most people know what is going on, and why;

- team work: in my experience of two bishops, 1993-present, we have had episcopal leadership worked out via judicious appointments to the bishop's staff, and a series of relevant and effective permanent committees or ad hoc working groups, and, further, in most of our parishes good leadership has been expressed through staff teams and vestries;

- pastoral care: we have had pretty good pastoral care of our leaders - not perfect, for sure, but in ways which, necessarily, are sometimes hidden, our leaders have often found the diocese going the extra mile;

- shared goals: while differing in various ways over theology and worship styles, we all want our parishes to be healthy, dynamic expressions of the body of Christ, we all understand the importance of a missional approach to achieve these goals in this particular age, and we all understand the fact that change and adaptation may be necessary if we are to be effective in our mission.

Oh, and we have had some great bishops sowing vision and joy amongst us!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A sentence about the Synod of the Diocese of Nelson

Tired but happy after a lovely time at Synod in Greymouth which began with an unexpected cold snap which meant snow on the Hope Saddle as we drove over it, continued with bizarre natural events - a wind so strong that it blew the specs off a member's face, never to be seen again, and an overnight settling of red dust on vehicles and houses, blown all the way from South Australia - but ended in brilliant sunshine today, which was generally in keeping with a brilliant Synod in which we were privileged to hear superb Bible teaching from Tim Harris (Dean, Bishopdale Theological College), engage in great matters of the Anglican state (we approved the Ridley Cambridge Covenant draft, expressed a desire to be in communion with ACNA, and a concern about TEC's GC resolutions (actually we used the language of 'deep regret')), adopt a new Strategic Plan for the Diocese, and imbibe deeply of the spirit of West Coast hospitality while perfecting the art of the long sentence which means sneaking a bit more mileage out of the allotted time for speeches at Synod.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You can be sure of a warm welcome on the Coast

I think I have mentioned the West Coast (of the South Island) on this blog before. It is worth mentioning again! For it is there that I head for a day or two of synodical business ... and possibly restricted internet access and moderating-comments-activity. Whatever the business of Synod - we might support the Covenant, encourage, ACNA, critique TEC, extend our sabbatical study provisions, recommend a change to our annual leave, approve our budget for 2010, and, with more certainty I predict this, resoundingly approve our Bishop's proposed strategic plan for the next five years - there will be food, laughter, the smell of coal fires in the air, a spot of rain, some brilliant sunshine, and the breeze of the Holy Spirit.

And I will take a coat to keep the natural wind out, the famous Grey River Barber, which cuts sharper than any stroppy razor when it blows! Apart from that possibility we can be sure of a warm welcome on the Coast for our annual Synod.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A blockbuster for the Christmas tree?

I have yet to read Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography of Cranmer, but I enjoyed his book on the Reformation immensely. So, discovering this morning that he has yet another big book on the history of Christianity, has my Visa card quivering slightly. Actually this book is called A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and, bonus, it's being made into a TV series! (H/T to Thinking Anglicans).

A flavour of this book comes through in these excerpts from reviews and an article, the first by a man the equal, at least, of MacCulloch in intellectual stature, ++Rowan, in his review in The Guardian:

"MacCulloch's treatment of Augustine is just one instance of the excellence of this book. He is fair, remarkably comprehensive, neither uncritical nor hostile; what is more, he shows an extraordinary familiarity with specialist literature in practically every area. The sections on Christianity's expansion eastwards and the tragic history of the churches of central Asia, still a little-known and under-researched subject, are among the very best in the book. Also outstanding are his treatments of the achievements and limitations of European Christian mission (he describes India as the "greatest failure" of Protestant mission effort, given the political advantage with which it worked), of the intimidatingly complex stories of Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox in the borderlands of the Russian empire, from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and of the distinctive legacy of Calvin, whom he rightly sees as setting out not just to carry through piecemeal reforms of an existing institution but to reimagine the Catholic religion itself on the basis of the same biblical and traditional material that others used to defend the papal church."

Already you may be wondering why this history is of the First Three Thousand Years ... but William Whyte in a feature in the Church Times helps:

"THE first great surprise of the book is that it tells the story of three — rather than two — thousand years of Chris tianity. More than that, it begins with the history of ancient Greece rather than an account of the Old Testament. “It has to,” Professor MacCulloch maintains, “because the New Testament is in Greek — because Christianity begins in a Greek culture.”

"Unless you understand the “con stant dialogue” between an “earthy, world-affirming Judaism” and a Hellenistic world-view, which seeks an unchanging, unearthly spiritual beauty, you cannot understand Christianity at all.

"The founders of Christianity — Jesus and St Paul — “jump in-between these two cultures”. The result is a religion that, from the first, offered a host of different, and even conflicting, accounts of God, of goodness, of human nature, and of salvation.

"The second surprise is just how global the book manages to be. In this story, the Western Church — the Latin Church of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism — is only one part of the puzzle. Indeed, that dominating and divisive figure St Augustine, the single most impor t ant theologian the West has ever produced, is deliberately introduced very late — some 300 pages in — “to emphasise how unimportant he is to most of the Church”.

"For the Orthodox, he is irrele vant. For the Eastern Churches, he is simply unknown. It is just a single example — one of many — but nevertheless a significant one. It highlights the effect of taking a truly worldwide perspective: a view that makes many of the preoccupations of the Western Church seem provincial — even parochial.

"That, in a way, is the key message of this book. Rather than revealing a clear, unified, and coherent Chris tianity, this is an account of the many different Churches and creeds that the Christian faith inspired. Professor MacCulloch’s account of Christianity shows it as a debate from the beginning: a constant argument between Greek thought and Jewish ideas, between hierarchy and equality, order and inspiration. Indeed, for him, “the history of Christianity is a history of division.”
This is not, however, a problem for Professor MacCulloch — much less something to be mourned. He rejects what he calls a “neurotic obsession with unity” in favour of a celebration of diversity: a history that reveals the ways in which the Church has changed and accommodated itself to historical circumstance."

In the Economist, incidentally, a heavier hand of criticism is present in its review:

"Some will be less happy with his treatment of Christianity’s early years, when basic doctrines were being hammered out. To this era Mr MacCulloch brings some baggage, and it can get in the way. A vicar’s son, he was ordained as a deacon but declined to become a priest in protest against a homophobic wave that gripped the Church of England in the 1980s. (He has been active in the gay Christian lobby.) More than once he makes the point that in telling the story of self-described Christians, one must look beyond texts by early Christian writers whose main purpose was to denounce heresy. Fair enough, but such is Mr MacCulloch’s preference for the heretical over the orthodox that a reader who relied on him alone might struggle at times to work out what the mainstream Christian view was, despite learning lots about those who were against it.

"Take one example: the Christian tradition—to which hundreds of millions of Catholics, Orthodox and Anglicans are heirs—holds dear the belief that Jesus Christ was both fully man and fully God, a single person with two natures, divine and human. It is a belief that generations of Christians have wept over, experienced mystically and died for. But Mr MacCulloch devotes little space to that teaching, and many pages (complete with his own misleading terms) to those who rejected it."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Judging Anglicanism

Somewhere in the midst of debates about evangelical Anglicanism (or Anglican evangelicalism), as represented, e.g., in the comments to Michael Jensen's recent 'nerve-hitter' post, lurks a mischievous hidden premise!

The hidden premise is that this thing called 'evangelicalism' provides the perfectly sound foundation upon which to stand and pronounce judgment upon the state of both Anglicanism and evangelical Anglicanism/Anglican evangelicalism. One knows something fishy is going on - terrible pun about to be unleashed - when the conclusion reached by many from this perspective is that the Anglican church is 'a good boat to fish from'.

The premise is questionable and many evangelicals do not understand this! Evangelicalism is not a sound platform from which to judge other theological positions because (a) it is not itself one uniform position, thus the judgment boils down to 'my group of evangelicals' perspective' or even 'my perspective'; (b) it is a doctrinal amalgam new to the history of the church from after the time of the Reformation (but often confused as being equivalent to either the original Lutheran Reforming theology or even the theology of Paul himself); (c) even when in Anglican circles the implicit claim is that (true) Anglican evangelicalism is more or less Cranmer's theology, the reality is that Cranmer can be ditched to suit the needs of our day.

In other words the supreme confidence of many evangelicals that evangelicalism (accepting for a moment that it is one uniform body of theology) is the true theology revealed by God misses the point that for some 1500+ years this true theology was missing from the church of God! There has to be a better way to understand what it means to be Anglican, to be evangelical, and to be an Anglican evangelical or evangelical Anglican!

My view, in sketch form is this: the church of God and the theology of God grew out of the experience of apostolic churches and apostolic teaching; part of that growth occurred in the British Isles; with some chopping and changing here and there (Celtic mission; Augustine of Canterbury; Synod of Whitby; Magna Carta; Henry's revolt against the Pope; Cranmer's theology-via-liturgy) a way of being Christian developed which has become known as Anglicanism. At certain formative points Anglicanism has been reformed according to Scripture, the most prominent, decisive and influential of these being the English Reformation. But all along the heartbeat of Anglicanism was the heartbeat of Christianity itself, which has been scriptural at its core, exemplified and constantly renewed through weekly liturgical worship in which the liturgy - the great liturgy of the ancient church - has itself been a way of worshipping God in the language of Scripture. The English Reformation lopped off accretions inconsistent with Scripture, and, in revising the liturgy, made a theological statement about the centre of theology, namely the atoning action of Christ dying once for all for all of us on the cross, but it was not the birth of a new form of Christianity!

Evangelicalism, in all its varieties, is a special concern to do theology based on Scripture, with an organising centre for this activity in the doctrine of the atonement. From this perspective some aspects of Anglicanism today may be critiqued, but Anglicanism itself should not be judged as to whether it conforms or can be conformed to the requirements of evangelicalism so much as praised and appreciated as a way of being Christian which is soundly Scriptural and, with some failures, always has been through history. If evangelical Anglicans wish to speak to the Anglican Communion it should be to call the Communion to be true to itself - an ancient church founded on and continuously shaped by Scripture - not to question whether the particularities of evangelicalism are well served by the Communion or not.

The latter questioning has already answered the question 'where is the true church of God to be found, in Anglicanism or evangelicalism?' With that answer there will always be turmoil and tension for evangelical Anglicans, and the distinct possibility that the tension will be resolved by ceasing to be Anglican (as, say, the Puritans settling in America, or the Plymouth Brethren did). My suggestion is that a different way of looking at the core of Anglicanism resolves the tension in a different way: to be Anglican is to be evangelical!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who are the Anglicans who will be signing the Covenant?

I hardly need to comment these days when More than a via media draws attention to vital and interesting matters. This post is headed Sydney's identity crisis. For those interested in the affairs of the Diocese of Sydney this post is very interesting, not least because it draws attention to a blog post by one Michael Jensen which raises interesting questions about the future character of Sydney Anglicanism. Joshua Bovis also posts on this.

However my own interest is piqued more by what MTAVM says re the role of liturgy in the life of the Anglican church. I agree with him.

Our identity is bound in our liturgy; denude ourselves of our liturgy and our identity changes. At first sight the change may not be apparent - for example a non-liturgical Anglican church may continue to call itself 'Anglican'. Also change may be complex: an apparently non-liturgical Anglican church may, in hidden ways, continue its liturgical tradition, for example via its staff using the daily office.

Anyway, in some parts of the world of churches named 'Anglican', there may be change occurring such that the name 'Anglican' has less and less meaning.

In this (long) essay, A better future for the Anglican Communion?, by Savi Hensman, and posted on Ekklesia, a clever critique is mounted, attacking by turns both Canterbury and the Covenant.

In the course of Hensman's essay the point is made that while some parts of the Anglican world may be agreeable to signing the Covenant if it is a 'discipline TEC' measure, they will be resistant to abiding by the Covenant if it is applied to their own situation!

Even a Covenant supporter such as myself must recognise that there are interesting questions about just which Anglicans are going to sign the Covenant and which ones will abide by the Covenant (these two groups may not be co-terminous)!

Then there is the question of the genuine Anglicanness of the signers: could an Anglican signatory find itself a few years later more or less 'no longer Anglican'?

Lurking somewhere in all of this is the question whether being Anglican involves interdependency with other Anglicans, and whether this interdependency extends beyond the bounds of national churches? Critics of the Covenant, even sophisticated ones such as Hensman, may be missing the point that this is God's time for the Anglican Communion to take an important step towards becoming a world church as well as being a world communion.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

100 years young

Off today to the centenary of my former parish, St Christopher's, Blenheim South (Marlborough). It's a tricky centenary to explain!

It's not the centenary of the beginning of ministry in the locality (1906), or of the Parish of Blenheim South (formed in 1989), or of the current church building (built 1984).

It is the centenary of the opening of the Redwoodtown Sunday School building, which later was named St Christopher's, and still later was burned down, then replaced by the current modern church. For many years the ministry on this site was part of the ministry of the Parish of Blenheim, which at one stage had four church buildings in four different parts of Blenheim, Marlborough.

Sunday School teaching, the foundation of this particular church, began near to the current site in 1906. I personally know of no other church whose beginnings so distinctively lie in children's work!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Would the Covenant shut down this conversation? No

More than a via media picks up on a notice that a group of Canadian and African theologians have begun a conversation about human sexuality via an exchange of essays - read here and follow the links herein.

MTAVM makes the point that this kind of conversation is in accord with the Covenant, indeed may be required by it.

Another reason to like the idea of the Covenant and to not be afraid of it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The paradox of the Covenant

Some Anglicans are saying with straight faces and confident hearts:

(1) It is un-Anglican to have a Covenant (because, e.g., its not the way we have done things before, or we already have enough binding documents, or Anglican simply have fellowship together without basis in written documents).

This seems to imply that there is something about being Anglican which is unchangeable.

(2) It is Anglican to embrace change - we did it in Henry VIII's day and have been doing it ever since - so it is merely another change to embrace a revised doctrine of marriage.

Propositions (1) and (2) cannot be reconciled. Either Anglicanism contains within itself mechanisms for change or it does not!

It is in fact true that to be Anglican is to embrace change. But change, according to the model laid down in the Reformation, should not be repugnant to Scripture. Thus when disagreement arises about what is or is not repugnant to Scripture, then some arbiter needs to be found. The events of 2003 exposed the lack of an Anglican arbiter. It is proper for Anglicans to respond to this deficiency and seek to remedy it.

The Covenant is the Anglican response; it is a proper Anglican course to pursue it's establishment. We should agree to it, and then embark on a comprehensive discussion of the doctrine of marriage held in common across the Communion according to the parameters set by the Covenant.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is there more to life than sublime sport?

On this blog I try to keep focused on Anglican, and theological matters. No sick cats, or stupid politicians hitch-hiking to Argentina will be written about here. But occasionally certain things are, surely, worth sharing, at least as an expression of the greatness to which humanity can aspire in reflecting the greatness of God who created us. Sublime sporting prowess is something humanity unites in admiring without demur - it creates a form of communion among us!

(H/T to Titus One Nine for this link)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Religion, spirituality, secularism

"But there is a lineage here in which each of these so-called secular ideals clearly comes out of a religious tradition. I think that is Taylor’s whole point, that secularism as we know it would make no sense in a society that was not rooted in a Christian history. It’s the reaction to it and, in some ways, a fulfillment of it. As Taylor says, the Enlightenment, modernity, has fulfilled elements of the Gospel that were never fulfilled when the church had more power.

MARK JUERGENSMEYER: In a curious kind of way, it’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s vision of religion as Christianity, his complaint that the problem with Christianity was the church. The church often got in the way of the expression of religiosity in a more fundamental moral and spiritual way.

ROBERT BELLAH: That gets us into another theme. En route to that, we should remember
George Bernard Shaw’s saying that “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it.”

But the attack on the church, or on what in America today is often called institutional religion, has become very widespread among people who still consider themselves “spiritual.” I’m not religious, which means I don’t go to church, but I’m spiritual, which means I read a book about Zen Buddhism or something.

So that’s another way of slicing up the conceptual pie here, which doesn’t really get away from religion as a sociologist would look at it. But on the other hand, it says something about the nature of our society, that even dignitaries of the church will often attack the “institutional” side of the church as oppressive.

But as a sociologist, I would tell you that if there were no institutional side, there would be no religion in short order, and these people that have their private spirituality—that’s going to disappear with them."

This is an excerpt from an illuminating interview of Robert Bellah, linked from this blog by Mark Juergensmeyer (the interviewer), noted by Andrew Brown. It forms a nice counter-point to my post below about Dave Tomlinson's visit to Nelson a few days ago.

The excerpt picks up a couple of ideas pottering about in the back of my mind. One is the idea that if we look at the New Testament and ask, 'where is the visible expression of an ever-growing concordance between the world and the kingdom of God (or, if you like, God's plan to bring all things into unity in Christ, Ephesians 1)?' then one non-answer is that it is the visible church, which is an ever-fracturing parody of the New Testament vision of the bride of Christ; and one answer is that it is the world slowly, two steps back and three steps forward becoming a more humane, more united world expressed (as noted in the full interview) in an increasing consensus about global values concerning human rights and ecology.

This ties in with Dave Tomlinson's point that the (Western) Christian tendency to understand the world around us as 'secularized' should be revised so that we see the spirituality of this world.

Another idea is that the distinction between church and kingdom of God, and (closely related) between church and mission, is vital to the future of Christianity. On the one hand we (often) miss the point of Jesus that he came to inaugurate the kingdom, not the church; and that the church is a vehicle for re-forming and re-newing Christians' involvement in the mission of God. On the other hand, we can work from this distinction to minimise or even deny the importance of the church, but, in fact, the church is vital to the future of Christianity for it is the vehicle which carries forward the gospel. A point well made in the interview is that 'private spirituality' is lost in a generation. Thus (in a somewhat crude formulation): if the future fulfilment of God's plan for the world is not to be hijacked by (say) extreme religious terrorism or extreme consumerism, it is vital that the gospel continues to be proclaimed, and the church (even the church as 'institution') is necessary for the continuing proclamation.

Something we did not have time to explore with Dave Tomlinson is where the spirituality of the secular age is heading. Is it possible that it is (in Corinthian terms) a 'wisdom' that is closed to the 'foolishness of the cross'?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Light on Back to Church Sunday

For various reasons, our Diocese has not gone along as a Diocese with 'Back to Church' Sunday, though one or two of our parishes (that I am aware of) have gone with the programme. I do not yet have feedback from them yet. But Kelvin Wright has posted a very encouraging post on how Back to Church Sunday went in the Parish of Roslyn, Dunedin.

Any other reports? I would be happy to share them via this blog!

Kelvin's whole post is here - but here is a brief excerpt:

"In terms of its stated aim, Back To Church Sunday has been a rip roaring success for St. John's Roslyn. In terms of the bigger issues, it has been a success as well. Firstly it has encouraged us to look at ourselves and make changes where necessary. Most importantly it has encouraged people to think about why they themselves come to church and to talk about those reasons with people they live and work and share bits of their lives with. Of course we will be signing up for next year's Back To Church Sunday, but I hope we can translate the learnings into the other 51 Sundays until then."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Follow up to what God might find odd

In contrast to the wild musings of Jim Naughton (two posts below) some sanity emerges through two sensible posts, one by Graham Kings and one by Dan Martins, each touching on questions of Anglican identity, and conservative character, with a specific point about TEC being made by Dan Martins.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dave Tomlinson visits Nelson

Paul Fromont of Prodigal Kiwi(s) has posted several times on well-known British author, pastor, and church leader, Dave Tomlinson's visit to the Diocese of Waikato. Dave's home community is St Luke's, Islington, North London.

Today, on an unfortunately wet, miserable Nelson day - normally we are the sunshine capital of NZ - Dave shared with us his thoughts, stories, and musings on the future of the church, mission, and kingdom of God in a world which we, perhaps, fail to understand. Speaking personally, my thinking on church was challenged in numerous ways. I will just mention three.

(1) Is my conception of God too small?

God, Dave reminded us, is bigger than Christianity, is at work ahead of the church which is always running to catch God up, and never set up the church to be a club with tight borders.

(2) Is the Western world secularised as we Christians often observe, or is it deeply spiritual in ways we do not see?

With some lovely, and sometimes heart-rending stories, Dave shared with us his experiences of talking to people Christians would label as 'non-Christian', indeed some of whom might even label themselves as 'atheists', and yet who are deeply spiritual, searching and questing for something outside of themselves, yet not instinctively thinking life in the church is the answer they seek.

(3) What kind of orthodoxy, and what kind of historical faith do I think I subscribe to?

Dave reminded us that orthodoxy that is ossified leads to sterility, and proposed 'progressive orthodoxy' as a way of being orthodox which was open to the ever-changing context in which the church finds itself. He also pointed out, following Maurice Wiles, that 'historical' can both refer to our past as something fixed and which we mess with at our peril, and to the character of Christianity as something which has adapted to changing patterns of history since its inception. He did not urge the latter over the former, but suggested keeping both in mind is important.

There was more much more, including this gem about the nature of ministry: 'the pre-requisite of ministry is that we like people'!

... and then the thought, shared more than once, that Jesus never asked anyone to follow him by believing in propositions ...

In sum the day reminded me of this text:

"My dear friends, let us love one another because the source of love is God." (1 John 4:7)

I wonder if God finds it odd

that all these troubles in the Communion attract writing such as below? Or, perhaps, and I find this quite a cheering thought, God might be watching other developments in the universe such as these extraordinary stellar events recorded for us by the repaired Hubble telescope!

Here is another virtuoso performance from Jim Naughton of Episcopal Cafe, but on the pages of the Guardian's Comment is Free:

"Yet if Rowan Williams succeeds in his misguided effort to establish a single-issue magisterium that determines a church's influence within the communion, a significant risk remains. That risk is run not by the Anglican left, which has nothing practical to lose, nor by the Anglican right, whose leaders embarrass less easily than Donald Trump and don't fear public opprobrium. Rather, the parties at risk are the Church of England and the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which may find themselves at the head of a communion synonymous with the agenda of the American right."


"The loudest and most frequently-quoted voices in the Anglican communion, then, would be stridently anti-gay and anti-Islamic; supportive of American military adventurism; against a two-state solution in the Middle East; in favour of teaching creationism or intelligent design to school children; sceptical about climate change; and adamant that homosexuality can be cured."

Some saliant points are made in Naughton's piece, but I find these paragraphs bizarre. A 'single-issue magisterium' is not on the agenda of anyone with serious thoughtful contributions to make to the acceptance of the Covenant (e.g. ACI); and the possibility of a magisterium for the Communion concerns multiple issues, not all of which are confined to North America, and (as readers of this blog will realise) some Anglican observers think the direction TEC is taking is not a matter of being misguided on a single issue. But, and this small point is worth pausing at, it is not particularly clear to dimmed wits such as myself that the establishment of the Covenant will necessarily involve a 'magisterium'!

In the second paragraph Naughton runs together all the 'out there' issues of the American right, elides them into the concerns of leading voices on the conservative side of the Communion, and, magic, the future of the Communion is going to be summed up in a primatial figure evolved from Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh and Palin (not one of whom, incidentally, as far as I know is either Episcopalian or Anglican!). The reality is that the Mark Lawrences, Kendall Harmons, Ephraim Radners, Chris Sugdens, Nazir Alis, Tom Wrights of the Communion and Covenant interface have no known views on (e.g.) supporting American military adventurism, though I imagine they have some thoughtful views about the best strategy for containing if not eliminating the threat of Islamic terrorism, as, indeed, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Hilary Clinton have!

I think conservatives in the Communion deserve better than this from media pundits on platforms such as the Guardian's Comment is Free. Naughton's piece waxes on about Akinola (with salient points well made) but the implication of the waxing is that Anglican conservatism is summed up in his approach to things Anglican and Nigerian. It is not. In particular, conservatives concerned to work out the theology of being Anglican in the twenty-first century, with that working out anchored into careful reading of Scripture, sensitive to the cultural ambiguities of discipleship (what to affirm? what to counter?) would like to be part of public discourse which kept doors to fellowship open ... but its hard to 'agree-to-disagree' with fellow Anglicans when opponents in debate resort to caricature.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

As the oak weathers the storm from all around

Does apostasy warrant leaving the church?

A week or two back I posted on Bishop Mark Lawrence of South Carolina leading his diocese into a period of stiff resistance to the storm winds blowing from GC 2009, TEC head office at 815, and so forth. Part of the 'so forth' has been the winds blowing from pundits who have already left TEC to become North American Anglicans of one kind or another and who, more or less, accuse Lawrence, and other 'Communion Partner' bishops within TEC of being say much, do nothing, go nowhere, whistle in the wind leaders ... all being forgiven if they would see rhyme and reason and leave TEC.

Now another wind is blowing against the Lawrencian oak. One of his parishes, St Andrew's Church, Mt Pleasant, South Carolina, also as it happens, one of the largest parishes within all of TEC, is engaging in a period of 40 Days of Discernment about whether to stay in TEC or to go. You can read a press release here and it's vicar's letter here. The gist of the discernment quest is that TEC is apostate and this raises the question whether this parish should stay or go.

In theory this would appear to mean that this could happen: the Diocese of South Carolina as a whole remains within TEC (but mostly unhappy with the direction TEC is pursuing via its GC resolutions, and hoping that it can, eventually, achieve some kind of turnaround of TEC), one of its largest parishes leaves the Diocese to (presumably) join ACNA (and followed by others?), thus the Diocese when it needs to be strong in its internal unity is weakened, ACNA is modestly strengthened, and TEC blinks momentarily.

It could get worse: TEC's HQ might attempt to force South Carolina to take legal action against a departing St Andrew's ... though that would be a whistling in the wind!

There are, of course, other scenarios: the discernment leads to St Andrew's remaining in the Diocese; the Diocese follows St Andrew's lead; etc.

The oak is going to need deep roots into the wisdom of God!

This week I have personally encountered an intriguing twist to the question of apostasy and leaving the church: in a conservative context I and other church leaders who do not subscribe to a creationist interpretation of Genesis 1 have been described as 'apostate leaders'. I do not think the person making this description is about to leave our diocese; I do not think I am about to leave (or be ejected out of) our diocese. Ergo, it is possible to remain in fellowship with apostates, and for apostates to remain in fellowship with those who think themselves pristinely orthodox!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Caption competition

Any captions for this photo? (H/T Ruth Gledhill)

Mine is: York begins overland journey to New Zealand - due here March 2010 - in all terrain, all situations vehicle

Go the Covenant!

[This from Cotton Country Anglican. H/t to Stand Firm.]

"A Report of the meeting of the Bishops of Albany, Dallas, North Dakota, Northern Indiana, South Carolina, West Texas and Western Louisiana with the Archbishop of Canterbury on September 1, 2009.

As seven representatives of the Communion Partner Bishops, we are grateful to have met with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss our concern in light of the recent actions of the General Convention and the subsequent nomination of candidates "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on Communion" (General Convention 2006, B033).

At this meeting we expressed our appreciation for his post-convention reflections, "Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future," and were especially interested in his statement about whether "elements" in Provinces not favorably disposed to adopt the Anglican Covenant "will be free ... to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with parts of the communion."

Given our commitment to remain constituent members of both the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, we are encouraged by our meeting with the Archbishop. We agree with him that our present situation is "an opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one another - and also Our Lord and his Father in the power of the Spirit." We, too, share a desire to "intensify existing relationships" by becoming part of a "Covenanted" global Anglican body in communion with the See of Canterbury. We also pray and hope that "in spite of the difficulties this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage."

We understand the divisions before us, not merely differences of opinion on human sexuality, but also about differing understandings of ecclesiology and questions regarding the independence or interdependence of a global communion of churches in discerning the mind of Christ together. However, we also shared our concern that the actions of General Convention have essentially rejected the teaching of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as the mind of the Communion, and raise a serious question whether a Covenant will be adopted by both Houses at General Convention 2012.

At the same time we are mindful that General Convention Resolution D020 "commended the Anglican Covenant proposed in the most recent text of the Covenant Design Group (the "Ridley Cambridge Draft") and any successive draft to dioceses for study during the coming triennium" and invited dioceses and congregations to "consider the Anglican Covenant proposed draft as a document to inform their understanding of and commitment to our common life in the Anglican Communion."

Therefore, at this time we make the following requests of Communion minded members of the The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion:

1. We encourage dioceses, congregations and individuals of The Episcopal Church to pray and work for the adoption of an Anglican Communion Covenant.

2. We encourage dioceses and congregations to study and endorse the Anglican Communion Covenant when it is finally released and to urge its adoption by General Convention, or to endorse the first three sections of the Ridley Cambridge Draft and the Anaheim Statement, and to record such endorsements on the Communion Partners website (

3. We encourage bishops, priests, deacons and laypersons of The Episcopal Church who support the adoption of the Anglican Communion Covenant to record such endorsement on the Communion Partners website.

4. We encourage dioceses and congregations, in the spirit of GC2009 Resolution D030, to engage in "companion domestic mission relationships among dioceses and congregations within The Episcopal Church."

5. We encourage Bishops exercising jurisdiction in The Episcopal Church to call upon us for service in needed cases of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.

6. We encourage relationships between Communion Partners and primates, bishops, provinces and dioceses in other parts of the Communion, in order the enhance the ministry we share in the life of the Communion.

7. We invite primates and bishops of the Communion to offer their public support to these efforts.

+Mark J. Lawrence, South Carolina
+Gary R. Lillibridge, West Texas
+Edward S. Little, II, Northern Indiana
+William H. Love, Albany
+D. Bruce MacPherson, Western Louisiana
+Michael G. Smith, North Dakota
+James M. Stanton, Dallas

[I wonder if it is because of this that Mark Harris of Preludium has yet another attempt to say why the Covenant is a bad thing?

(Later)In which case I expect an additional response soon to this discussion document from ACI on the polity of TEC in relation to the question whether individual dioceses can sign up to the Covenant].

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wright in the thick of it

Over on Hermeneutics and Human Dignity I offer a few remarks about N.T. Wright's tour de force on justification called Justification: God's plan and Paul's vision. Richard Burridge has a few thoughts too in a Church Times review.

Burridge offers the provocative idea that Wright (and Paul) is 'the Marmite Man' - one you either love or hate - with nothing in between!

Certainly Wright's role - one of a collective of writers - in the latest Anglican Communion Institute essay on the Covenant is a Marmite Man role, if this riposte by Jim Naughton is anything to go by.

Included in the riposte is this paragraph:

"If, someday, the first things unchurched people think of when they hear the word Anglican is homophobe, Rowan Williams and these fellows will be the reason why. Their efforts to make the Communion safe for the most vicious sort of anti-gay bigots, and unwelcoming to those who make even timid moves toward full inclusion of GLBT Christians may be clumsy and transparently self-aggrandizing, but that doesn't mean they may not succeed."

Unfortunately this kind of rant is self-defeating for the purpose of making the Anglican church safe for gay and lesbian Anglicans. First, it contributes to a militant unfriendly culture in the church in which every disagreeable idea is subject to scorn and ridicule. We need a church which has a culture of fair consideration of difference and disagreement - it is not always easy to do this (I get accused myself of unfair reception of ideas I do not agree with) - but we could try better than Jim Naughton does here.

Secondly, what is it with making the simplistic equation from the ACI stance which is "honest belief that Scripture requires of Anglicans that we be married or single" to "homophobe"? Essentially this equation is dishonest and unfair. There is further dishonesty in assessing the work of ACI (which, let us remember includes some of the leading Anglican academic scholars of our generation) as making the Communion 'safe for the most vicious sort of anti-gay bigots'. That is not their work, nor is it their aim or intention for that work. They are, in fact, trying to make the Communion safe for Anglicans being, believing, and belonging to each other as Anglicans. Again, in what way is a church which cultivates dishonesty a safe place for anyone, let alone gay and lesbian Anglicans looking for respect for being honest about who they are? This kind of remark by Jim Naughton represents an abusive and scornful sub-culture in the church which, apparently, understands itself as representing the best interests of the widest and most inclusive array of Anglicans possible.

Thirdly, the Anglican Communion will be a safe place for gay and lesbian Anglicans when its understanding of homosexuality is well-balanced on its foundation in Scripture, supported by reason and tradition. As long as we have not done the necessary work together on interpreting Scripture towards conclusions held in common about the nature of inclusiveness in respect of homosexuals, the Communion will be a quarrelsome environment, unsafe for many people, including the 'GLBT community'. The point of the ACI essay, and of the Covenant, is that we should be a Communion working together on common discernment of Scripture. But of the importance, and necessity of this we find nothing in what Jim Naughton writes.

Keep up the good work +Tom, Chris, Ephraim, Mark, and Philip!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It is not a war I want to join. Do you?

Mark Harris at Preludium draws attention to various movements and messages making their presence felt, at least on the internet, at this time, with potential impact on the future of the Anglican Communion.

One message comes from the ACI which has another carefully considered reflection on the Anglican Covenant and the relationship of TEC to the Covenant and thus to the Communion. This message, combined with the recent meeting between seven TEC bishops and our Dear Leader, ++Rowan (see post below), could, conceivably, lead to a nudge towards dioceses being able to sign to the Covenant. The pressure of this presence is respectful of ++Rowan.

Another message comes from Bishop David Anderson of the American Anglican Council. It is quite disrespectful of ++Rowan. I am not quite sure what +Anderson thinks he will achieve by comparing ++Rowan to Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain on the eve of the Second World War. Apart from the ineptness of the comparison of the two people (one was a Prime Minister who sought to avert war, and when it could not be done, declared war because he had the power to do both, and arguably was wise to do the former as it cleverly bought time to build more Spitfires; the other is not Prime Minister, has no power to marshall forces or deter forces, and even less power to declare war), it is simply outrageous to make the implicit comparison between Nazi Germany and TEC which is involved in +Anderson's message about the need for a 'war chief' at this time. Susan Russell underscores this point with her commentary on +Anderson's message: she is a Christian believer in disagreement with other believers. She is not a German Nazi saluting the Fuhrer in September 1939.

Last time I checked in, the Anglican Communion I am involved in is a Christian fellowship. We are in a battle with the devil (Ephesians 6): Yes (always, on many issues)! But our enemy is never our brother and sister in Christ.

Again, ++Rowan's Two Tracks Communion, much denigrated by +Anderson, demonstrates great wisdom and Christian love: there is a huge disagreement between Anglican siblings, it is as serious as a couple who feel separation is the only way to be married for the time being (hence Two Tracks), but it is not a divorce, nor is it war (hence still a Communion).

King James where are you when we need you ...

... to authorise a brilliant and lastingly satisfying Bible translation!

OK, in our lifetime there will not be one such translation, but in some of our lifetimes there was a candidate with "prospects". It was the New International Version (NIV) which, at least in my memory, and in my circle of Christian experiences, say, through the 1980s, was widely popular (and produced in some very nice, readable, easy-to-open formats).

But something happened ... I do not quite know what ... and the NIV has both become less widely used, outsold these days (I am told) by the New Living Translation, and succeeded by the Today's NIV (TNIV) - an inclusive language version (but sold side by side with the NIV slightly revised).

But there has been great controversy in the more conservative circles of American evangelicalism about NIV v TNIV v other translations. So we come to this (H/T Titus One Nine) announcement.

Confused after reading that?

On a brighter note, there is a seemingly endless supply of leaves or fragments of leaves of Codex Sinaiticus to excite aficionados of the very first 'full' Bible, as you can read here!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An inside track on Communion tracks?

Pop over to Confessions of a Carioca for an intriguing post re a current meeting between our Dear Leader and some American bishops whose surname is neither Duncan nor Schori.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I cannot find the word 'marriage': can you?

The following has been signed by 3500 leaders representing 50 religious traditions. This link, pointed out by Stand Firm, lists who have signed it, including many people from the Anglican Communion.

Please read below. I cannot see the word 'marriage' mentioned among its sentiments and statements (many of which are unexceptional, some of which could be controversial in some quarters). Can you find this word?

Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

Sexuality is God's life-giving and life-fulfilling gift. We come from diverse religious communities to recognize sexuality as central to our humanity and as integral to our spirituality. We are speaking out against the pain, brokenness, oppression, and loss of meaning that many experience about their sexuality.

Our faith traditions celebrate the goodness of creation, including our bodies and our sexuality. We sin when this sacred gift is abused or exploited. However, the great promise of our traditions is love, healing, and restored relationships.

Our culture needs a sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. All persons have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent, and pleasure. Grounded in respect for the body and for the vulnerability that intimacy brings, this ethic fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.

God hears the cries of those who suffer from the failure of religious communities to address sexuality. We are called today to see, hear, and respond to the suffering caused by violence against women and sexual minorities, the HIV pandemic, unsustainable population growth and over-consumption, and the commercial exploitation of sexuality.

Faith communities must therefore be truth seeking, courageous, and just. We call for:

Theological reflection that integrates the wisdom of excluded, often silenced peoples, and insights about sexuality from medicine, social science, the arts and humanities.

Full inclusion of women and sexual minorities in congregational life, including their ordination and the blessing of same sex unions.

Sexuality counseling and education throughout the lifespan from trained religious leaders.

Support for those who challenge sexual oppression and who work for justice within their congregations and denomination.

Faith communities must also advocate for sexual and spiritual wholeness in society. We call for:

Lifelong, age appropriate sexuality education in schools, seminaries, and community settings.

A faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STD prevention and treatment.

Religious leadership in movements to end sexual and social injustice.

God rejoices when we celebrate our sexuality with holiness and integrity. We, the undersigned, invite our colleagues and faith communities to join us in promoting sexual morality, justice, and healing.