Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The wrath of God was satisfied (2/4)

This is a difficult phrase in various ways. Although the Bible speaks clearly about the 'wrath of God' (e.g. 'For the wrath of God is revealed ...', Romans 1:18), I can think of no passage where 'the wrath of God was satisfied' is found per se. It is a summary of what is being said through Romans 3:21-26 (bearing in mind the way in which Romans 1:18 is an introduction to Paul's exposition on salvation). Thus one can find the following explanation of propitiation/Romans 3:24-25 (my italics):

' "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation." The basic meaning of propitiation is "appease" or "satisfy." What did the death of Christ appease or satisfy in the nature of God? In his very nature, God is holy and righteous. He can have no fellowship with anything that is sinful, including sinful men. Thus, God's wrath burns hot against sin and sinners because he must judge all sin. If he does not do this, he is not acting according to his perfect character. But, in love, God sent his Son Jesus Christ to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. No mere human being could have atoned for the sins of men because all are sinners. But Christ, who was a perfect human as well as truly divine, became the perfect sacrifice for sin. God poured out his wrath against sin on the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, the death of Christ appeased God's wrath and satisfied his holy, righteous demands against sin.

God took out his wrath on Christ instead of on sinners.
Now anyone who will place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as personal Saviour from sin will receive the forgiveness of sins, and the wrath of God will never again come down upon that one because Christ bore God's wrath on that believer's behalf. Why? Christ satisfied the holy, righteous demands of God against sin. Now, through the death of Christ, a holy God and sinful men can meet and God can have fellowship with men.'

But one can also find uncomfortable responses to the phrase in question, such as this one:

'Our Easter service was raucous and I loved it. One of the songs that was sung that I dearly love was "In Christ Alone." This is such a beautifully moving song, but have trouble when we get to the line that states,

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

This line has always intrigued me and I am not quite sure what to do with it.'

Lest we forget that this is an Anglican site (!), it is also worth bringing to attention the words of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) Communion service:

'All glory be to thee,
almighty God, our heavenly Father,
who, of thy tender mercy,
didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ
to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption;
who made there,
by his one oblation of himself once offered,
a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction
for the sins of the whole world;
and did institute,
and in his holy gospel command us to continue,
a perpetual memory of that his precious death,
until his coming again.'

At this stage, 2 out of 4 proposed posts, I simply make the following observations:

(1) There is a way of explaining the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ which veers dangerously towards the caricature I mentioned yesterday of an angry God intent on hitting us with a cricket back but Jesus steps between us and says 'Hit me instead'. Thus in the first citation above we find this sentence: 'God took out his wrath on Christ instead of on sinners.' As Howard Pilgrim notes in a comment on my first post, we need to bring a Trinitarian understanding to the cross: whatever happened there in cosmic terms, God suffered.

(2) We live in an age when some Christians seem to be more troubled than comforted by language of wrath/satisfaction. Is God an angry being? How is that anger satisfied? Why does the death of Christ satisfy that anger?

(3) In Anglican terms we cannot and should not run away from the language of 'satisfaction' unless we wish to turn our backs on the BCP (1662).

More tomorrow ...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The wrath of God was satisfied (1/4)

Holy Week is a good week to think about the meaning of the death of Christ on the cross. One troubling word in talk of the cross is 'wrath': in a great modern hymn, In Christ Alone, for example, we come to this line, which apparently some Christian contexts have felt moved to change:

"The wrath of God was satisfied"

Is this true? What does this mean? Here I attempt to explore this line over the next few days. I begin with some introductory thoughts, excerpted from a day presentation I made last week on the themes of Cross, Covenant, Communion.

The death of Christ on a cross is central to the Christian faith; it is the focus of the gospel narratives; it was the content of Paul’s preaching (1 Corinthians 2:2); yet the meaning of the cross is much debated.

Let’s remind ourselves of the main lines of understanding of the meaning of the cross:

Demonstration of God’s love for us - Romans 5:8

“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

Example of sacrificial love - 1 Peter 2:21-23

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”

Victory over evil and the Evil One - Colossians 2:13-15

“And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.” (see also Colossians 1:13).

Bearing consequences of human wrongdoing (sin) – 1 Peter 2:24

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”.

Note how in texts such as Colossians 2:13-15 and 1 Peter 2:21-24 Scripture refuses to play one understanding of the cross against another understanding.

How do we respond to the idea of Christ being the sin-bearer for the world? That the wounds of our wrongdoing are healed through his bloody death?

Christ as sin-bearer is not an eccentric idea within Scripture. It is deeply embedded in John’s Gospel for example:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, cf. 1:36).

Later, according to John’s narrative of the cross, we find that Jesus died on the day of ‘Preparation of the Passover’ (19:14, 31), that is, he was on the cross dying as the lambs for the Passover meal were being slaughtered (cf. ‘For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed’, 1 Corinthians 5:7, also Revelation 5). When Jesus says ‘It is finished’ and dies (John 19:30) we conclude that Christ’s ‘passover’ work – bearing sins, redeeming God’s people – is now completed.

In John’s Gospel this work is described in terms of salvation:

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16-17)

In the First Epistle of John this work of sin-bearing is explained in language which troubles some (many?) Christians today:

‘But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation* for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.’ (1 John 2:1b-2 ESV).

*Or ‘expiation’ (RSV) or ‘atoning sacrifice’ (NRSV) from hilasmos. Arguably ‘atoning sacrifice’ is preferable because it neutralises the sharp, potentially unhelpful debate between ‘propitiation’ and ‘expiation’, especially where the former is defined as “appease” and the latter as “amend”.

Behind all such NT explanations of the significance of the death of Jesus lies Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Here I cite only words pertinent to texts given above:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed ... and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all ... like a lamb that is led to the slaughter ... stricken for the transgression of my people ... when his soul makes an offering for sin ... my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities ... yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Whether or not we wish to associate ourselves with ‘the penal substitutionary theory of atonement’ (which is easily caricatured into (e.g.) God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’) Scripture itself does not shy from presenting Christ as the One who sacrifices himself that we might live, who confronts the powers of darkness and fulfils the demands of God’s just justice.

We live in a world loathe to bring judgment against ourselves, reluctant to admit that we are wrongdoers, and disturbed by the thought that God might be angry (wrathful) with us (e.g. Romans 1:18-32) - though paradoxically a world which readily points the fingers at others, that divides the world into goodies and baddies, and expresses wrath through talkback radio, blogs, and tweets.

Note, incidentally, that John’s Gospel (“the gospel of love”) does not shy away from talk of God’s wrath (3:36) and judgement (3:19).

How might we make sense of this talk within Scripture that speaks of Christ being our substitute in receiving the judgment of God on our sins?

Continued tomorrow ...

Trusting the Communion's Common Mind

In the latest Living Church issue can be found this.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Christa in Holy Week

Sometime ago I promised a post on Christ as Christa, responding to a comment or two which insisted that Christ had to be male in order to save humanity. My thoughts are here, but by extraordinary coincidence, I am penning them on a day in which I read on Cranmer's Curate, written on the other side of the world, a post about Christa! In the days that follow through Holy Week I want to offer a series on the theme The Wrath of God was Satisfied.

I am aware in the broadest and shallowest of terms of a feminist theological theme concerning "Christa" the female Christ. Here I am not attempting to either forward or reverse that discussion; and admit that I am borrowing the name "Christa" from that theological movement in order to speak about the possibility that the Saviour of the World could have been a woman and not a man.

I am also aware that one could have a very long post dotting exegetical "i"s and crossing theological "t"s, but causa brevitatis I am going to offer as spare a post as possible!

First, then, something this post is not. It is not an attempt to suggest that the history of humanity and of Israel, as narrated through the pages of the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, was such that it did not matter when the Child was born to Mary whether it was a girl or a boy. That history, which is a theological history, has too much to say about Israel as Son of God for prophecy to have been endorsed as fulfilled through the birth of a female Child who would be Saviour.

Rather, the point of this post is that God could have organised the history of the world from before the beginning of time by having a Daughter rather than a Son. The sin of Adam, which is shorthand for the sin of Adam and Eve (heavily underlined by 1 Timothy 2:13-14), could have been undone by a new Eve as much as by a new Adam. For the equality of male and female, both created in the image of God, means that each sex has potential to yield the inclusive Saviour of the World (contra Cranmer Curate's post cited above).

On this line of thinking a number of things in the Old Testament would have been different were there a female Saviour. Most notable, I suggest, as well as perhaps the most obvious change, would be the emphasis on human imagery for Israel moving from "Son" to "Wife" or "Bride" (with any imagery re "Son" being omitted or becoming imagery about "Daughter"). That imagery is already there in the Old Testament, with Israel the wife of YHWH being the unfaithful and feckless wife whom YHWH would find a way to woo back to himself. To propose that Christ could have been Christa is simply, and biblically, to propose that the history of the world and of Israel could have been different in a modest way so that the Saviour sent by God could have been the perfect Daughter/Wife who redeemed Israel and humanity from its unfaithful and feckless ways. Just as the "Wife" or "Bride" imagery of Israel in her sin was inclusive of male and female sinners, so a female Saviour could be inclusive of all sinners, male and female.

That's about it really. A proposal, that is all, for the basic history of salvation is in reality different: a boy child was born to Mary, Jesus Christ, son of Mary and Son of God. Why bother speculating? Well, I have this unease that when we speculate in a different way, that the Saviour could NOT have been a woman, we maintain a subtle downgrading of women: women are equal to men except that they cannot ... and the "cannot" now includes, as Cranmer's Curate argues, that a female saviour could not be inclusive of male sinners, whereas a male saviour can be inclusive of female sinners. Let's avoid all "gynophobia"!!

Tomorrow, the wrath of God was satisfied. Why we can sing the great modern hymn, In Christ Alone, without the slightest need to change any words of the hymn, least of all a line in this verse:

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The mark of the lion

Stirring stuff by Bishop Mark Lawrence from South Carolina's Diocesan Convention:

"Finally, what is it we want for this great and historic Diocese of South Carolina?

I believe this diocese wants to be able to decide under God its destiny; to have a choice as to whether it goes down the same destructive path that has caused such statistical and spiritual decline as can be seen elsewhere among so many Episcopal dioceses and parishes across this country.

I believe what we seek for this diocese is stated succinctly in Resolutions R-1: It is to be a gospel diocese, proclaiming an evangelical faith, embodied in a catholic order, and empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit. To strive by God’s grace to remain unswerving in our belief that above all Jesus came into the world to save the lost, that those who do not know Christ need to be brought into a personal and saving relationship with him, and that those who do know Christ need to be taught by the Holy Scriptures faithfully to follow him all the days of their lives to the Glory of God the Father by taking their places as responsible members in His Church.

As your bishop I also want us to be able to do this while maintaining mutually enriching missional relationships with dioceses and Provinces of the Anglican Communion, all the while exercising a responsible autonomy. That should an Anglican Covenant emerge as adopted by the breadth of the various Provinces of the Communion that we should hope for full participation in such a Covenant. To this end I will be attending the Global South to South Encounter gathering in Singapore in April. Along with Bishop John Howe from Central Florida, I will be one of the Communion Partner representatives. We, along with Bishops from The Anglican Church in North America, will be present as observers. This is all comes under the rubric of what I have summarized in last year’s Convention Address, as Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age."

Bishop Lawrence's whole address, including his dispute with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori about the limits of the jurisdiction of her office, is here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A post most apt

"Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire is the new Senior Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, DC, think tank."

See further at The Lead/Episcopal Cafe

Where Fulcrum has got it wrong

Interesting to read responses to Fulcrum's stirring statement calling out TEC for its a-communion approach to belonging to the Communion and calling on ++Rowan to do something about it (reposted by me a post or so below). See also here.

Here are two paragraphs from Fulcrum's statement:

"The nature of the Communion’s structures at present is such that effecting this distancing will require clear and decisive action by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the very least he needs to make clear that bishops participating in the May consecration in Los Angeles will thereby exclude themselves from being invited by him to participate in the Instruments or to represent the Communion in any form.

Unless he does this all that the Instruments have repeatedly said in relation to TEC’s conduct will be undermined. The sickness of TEC’s inability to say what it means and mean what it says to the rest of the Communion will then have infected the Instruments and will surely destroy the Communion. The fact the Presiding Bishop of TEC and Ian Douglas are on ‘The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ (which according to the proposed covenant will have a crucial role in monitoring the covenant’s functioning) only highlights the need for decisive action if the Communion and the covenant are to retain any credibility."

We can agree with Fulcrum that there can be no misunderstanding of the bishops who consecrate Mary Glasspool, they are publicly aligning themselves with teaching which runs against the 'mind of the Communion', and we can agree that it is extremely difficult to envisage how ++Jefferts Schori and Ian Douglas can be on 'The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion' and discharge the (proposed) role of monitoring the covenant's functioning.

But can we agree that the next move is 'decisive action' along the lines envisaged? The fact is that decisive action in this kind of situation must be fair and just, following some process in which both protagonist and antagonist have a chance to explain what the problem is, or, as the case may be, what the problem is not, and to reach, if possible, some agreeable solution.

The blogotariat may be convinced that TEC is wrong and that exile is the only sentence, but that is not any kind of agreed Communion process!

I also continue to think that the best form of discipline is to let TEC continue its life and allow God to bless or discipline it as God sees fit. As best I can tell, TEC is not listening to the voices of the Communion which are calling for discipline.

Nevertheless that does not mean that nothing is to be done about difficulties in relationship between TEC and the Communion as a whole.

My own suggestion is that ++Rowan write a stiff, public letter to ++Katharine and the House of Bishops requesting an explanation (with explanation as to why it is appropriate to make such request), and proposing a review of the relationship between TEC and the Communion. It might require an emergency meeting of the Primates to endorse such a proposal.

It is not rocket science to work out where such a review might head in terms of its recommendations, something like this from Fulcrum's statement: "if the Communion is to keep wrestling with integrity in relation to its teaching and practice on sexuality then, despite the financial implications, it must now proceed in its common life without TEC."

But the question still hangs there, given the muddled nature of the roles of the Instruments and of the timing of their meetings, how would the Communion make a decision to "proceed in its common life without TEC"?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vindication of persistent requests that TEC handle property disputes differently

Regular readers here will know that I do not think much of the way property disputes are being handled in North America. Few seem to handle themselves with distinction whether trying to wrest property or protect property. I keep thinking about a friend who with his congregation walked away and sought nothing. That's one way. Here is another, involving All Saints, Waccamaw, Diocese of South Carolina, which, having gone some way in the court system, is now resolved through negotiated settlement. From Stand Firm:

"Dear Parish Family:

As Rector of your parish, I am writing to formally report that the long standing litigation involving our church, our diocese, the AMiA congregation and the national Episcopal Church, has ended.

Our Vestry has worked long and hard with the Vestry of the AMiA congregation to find a way to end the case forever while providing a way for both churches to go forward into the future in faith and service to our Lord.

While the final agreement provides for the AMiA congregation to own the real property which was in question, it also provides for a proper use of the property by the members of our congregation who have a heritage there. Beyond that, there are other very important and significant provisions for our congregation, which will provide assistance toward the acquisition of a permanent church home for our future, and which will provide us with some of the tradition and heritage treasured by so many among us.

This news will be a matter of rejoicing for some members of our church family and a matter of disappointment for others among us. Understanding that difference is crucial to the proper Christian love and care we need to be showing one another at this time. No one should be insensitive to the feelings of those who are disappointed that our church will not be returning to Kings River Road, and no one should put a damper on the enthusiasm and spirit of those who now see us free to finally pursue our Gospel ministries, free of litigation and uncertainty. Whether in gladness or sadness, in all things give thanks to the Lord. This is God's will for us in Christ Jesus and to do otherwise would be to quench the Spirit among us. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19

If you would like to know more details of the agreement, you may do one of several things.

First, you can call me (222-8166) or you can speak to me face to face privately if that would be of assistance to you.

Second, you may speak to any member of the Vestry as they all have the relevant information you might need. Since there are so many more Vestry members than just one Rector, you may have a much easier time reaching one of them than me.

Third, we will use the Sunday School hour, 9:15 to 10:15, on this Sunday, March 28, as Rector's and Vestry Forum to talk about what has transpired. I am also inviting all the Vestry to be with us at that time, as their own schedules might permit. This is not a formal parish meeting of any sort so please don't feel that you need to be there. It is simply a time and place to come to talk and learn if that would help you.

In closing I ask you to hold onto these truths: Although some hopes and dreams may now be ending by this development, others are being born or liberated. What has happened is not so much the "ending" of something, as we honestly acknowledge that our time and participation at Kings River Road practically ceased about six years ago. Instead, what has been provided here are the resolution and finality we needed, whether good news or bad, so that now, either way, we may fully step out in faith and sacrifice for our Lord Jesus and the vision He is setting for us. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

The Lord has us in His loving hands and there is nothing but goodness before us. Peace and grace are ours.

God bless you all as we faithfully walk into the vision the Lord has set for us.

Ed Kelaher+

OK, every situation may not be quite as amenable as this one, but it is, I suggest, a vindication for those such as myself who think TEC could handle these disputes differently. It can be done where there is a will to do so.

Further comment on the detail and the implications? None better than Anglican Curmudgeon.

No kid gloves here

The team at Fulcrum are leading from the front with this statement: a direct challenge to TEC and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would be interested in responses, particularly from within TEC itself. Charges of dissembling against a Christian organisation are serious. The evidence seems strong ...

Where do we go from here?

Fulcrum Leadership Team

co-published with Church of England Newspaper (26 March 2010)

The bishops and Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church (USA) have consented to the election of Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the diocese of Los Angeles. That consent sadly confirms that TEC is determined to ignore all the repeated appeals of the wider Communion and, in the closing words of The Windsor Report, ‘walk apart’.

Since that report in 2004, it has been clear that the moratorium on same-sex blessings was being ignored in a significant number of dioceses, despite assurances otherwise. It has, however, been possible to claim that TEC was strictly adhering to the Communion’s repeated requests for a moratorium on “the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges”. Such a claim is now impossible. We are now indisputably in a radically new situation. TEC as a body has determinedly, perhaps irrevocably, chosen autonomy over “communion with autonomy and accountability”.

It is important that this is not simply a matter of disagreement about biblical interpretation and sexual ethics although these are central and important. It is now very clearly also a fundamental matter of truth-telling and trust. In September 2007, at the Primates’ request and after meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, TEC bishops confirmed they would “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”. They made clear that “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons” were among such candidates.

When asked recently how they could therefore now proceed to confirm Mary Glasspool in the light of that assurance, one TEC bishop said this simply expressed where the bishops were in 2007 and they may be somewhere different now. At least where they are now is crystal clear. Both moratoria have been rejected. In addition, TEC is pursuing legal actions, with widespread concern its leadership intends aggressive action against the diocese of South Carolina which upholds the Communion’s teaching.

The key question is ‘what happens next?’. This week a Fulcrum statement declared, ‘Actions have consequences’. The first and most obvious consequence of this development is that TEC as a body has revealed it is incapable of signing the Anglican covenant. This is not simply because they have once again categorically rejected the pattern of life together that it articulates and the shared discernment it presupposes. The more serious and deep-rooted problem is TEC’s particular polity (which allows for confusion and assertion in the place of coherent policy and practice) and their understanding of how the Spirit leads them. These make TEC as a province incapable of making meaningful or credible commitments to the Communion about their future conduct. The only hope now is for TEC dioceses to reject TEC’s path by committing to the covenant and for such commitment to be recognised by the Communion.

But what about TEC and the current Communion? This emphatic further breaching of the bonds of affection shows that not only TEC’s promises about the future but its apologies and expressions of regret for the past are worthless. In particular, their 2006 regret relating to the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire - which the Primates accepted and which Windsor said “would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion” - is now shown to be either fraudulent or short-lived. If the Communion is committed to the Windsor and covenant vision of communion life and if the Communion is to keep wrestling with integrity in relation to its teaching and practice on sexuality then, despite the financial implications, it must now proceed in its common life without TEC.

The nature of the Communion’s structures at present is such that effecting this distancing will require clear and decisive action by the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the very least he needs to make clear that bishops participating in the May consecration in Los Angeles will thereby exclude themselves from being invited by him to participate in the Instruments or to represent the Communion in any form.

Unless he does this all that the Instruments have repeatedly said in relation to TEC’s conduct will be undermined. The sickness of TEC’s inability to say what it means and mean what it says to the rest of the Communion will then have infected the Instruments and will surely destroy the Communion. The fact the Presiding Bishop of TEC and Ian Douglas are on ‘The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ (which according to the proposed covenant will have a crucial role in monitoring the covenant’s functioning) only highlights the need for decisive action if the Communion and the covenant are to retain any credibility.

In fact, the situation is now such that it may be better for the Archbishop simply to state – as one of the Instruments and a focus and means of unity - that TEC as a body has rejected the Communion’s repeated appeals for restraint, made false promises, and confirmed its direction is away from Communion teaching and accountability. It has thereby rendered itself incapable of covenanting with other churches and made it unclear what it means when it claims to be in communion with the see of Canterbury and a constituent member of the Anglican Communion.

Although decisive action is necessary, Archbishop Rowan’s limited powers within the Communion and his laudable desire to keep on going the extra mile to enable dialogue mean many think it unlikely. Some long ago gave up on him. Many, however, both within the Church of England and the wider Communion (particularly in the Global South which meets next month) have been patient and sought to work with him by supporting the Windsor and covenant processes. They need now to make clear that unless he gives a clear lead then all that he and others have worked for since the Windsor Report and all that is promised by the covenant is at risk because of the new situation in which TEC has placed us.

Fulcrum Leadership Team

A conciliar Anglican church

It is quite right and proper, given Anglican history, for Anglicans to voice concern that an evolution of the Communion into a world Anglican church would take us backwards to a papal-led church rather than forwards to fulfil the true glories of catholic and reformed Christianity. I do not think those concerns, however, should be accepted as an evolution stopping argument. We can do better!

Here are some things to consider as we contemplate evolution. The 'we' may be just Michael Poon and me, but that is a start. Here are three things.

Confidence in bishops

There is a tendency in some Anglican circles to dismiss bishops. There have been one or two odd ones through our history, true, but we can forget that bishops are elected or appointed to oversee groups of churches, and thus have extraordinary opportunity to mix and mingle with a wide variety of Anglicans, lay and ordained. Diocesan bishops are capable of representing their dioceses well. There is no intrinsic reason why a conference or council of bishops meeting together for the purpose of governing the affairs of the Anglican church cannot do so in a representative manner. Incidentally, I think consideration should be given to how bishops vote and would commend the possibility that there is but one vote per diocese.

The role of democracy in conciliar life

Democracy is not everything in the pursuit of wisdom. Parliaments in session, nations at a general election can get things wrong, as proven by the inexorable judgment of hindsight. But inevitably some agreed manner of making decisions is required within any human organisation whether small or large. Democracy has proven to be the most agreeable means of making decisions across the widest array of cultures and nationalities. Sometimes it is also agreed that for some decisions there should be a particular kind of majority (say, two-thirds in order to make a constitutional change; or, in recent news, we are aware of the 60/100 majority required for US Senate decisions). There is no reason I can think of why a world Anglican church council of bishops making decisions should not make them by means of voting on them, with the proviso that some decisions might require a two-thirds majority. Certain decisions might also required "twice round" approval: Lambeth proposes, individual General Synods/Conventions confirm, Lambeth confirms.

One of the ironies in the current situation in the Communion is that the considerable majority of bishops meeting in council at Lambeth 1998 to approve Resolution 1.10 has been so de-constructed: it was a bad meeting; I never should have voted the way I did; it does not count (though back in my own member church majorities count); and so on!! A world Anglican church would require a willingness to subscribe to rather than rebel against conciliar decisions.

Working regionally

I put a lot of store in the bishops meeting together at Lambeth as the best conciliar possibility for our Anglican future. For various reasons I won't waste time with here, I am not that fussed by the ACC or the Primates Meetings. Of course a conciliar approach to Anglicanism involves considerable respect and honour for the Archbishop of Canterbury, but one office of the church is not a council.

Lambeth, however, meets once every ten years. That can be a long time even in a glacial approach to decision-making. We could do more work during the period between Lambeth Conferences. In particular we could build greater work regionally. From what I can see, some regional groupings work quite well, at least in the sense that meetings are held, such as CAPA (Africa) and Global South (mostly Africa and Asia). But I know of no regional meetings of bishops in my part of the world (e.g. no meeting of Australian, Papua-new Guinean, Melanesian, Maori, New Zealand, and Polynesian bishops), and I have never heard of the Anglican/Episcopal bishops of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Europe meeting together. What if such meetings were held mid-point between Lambeths, both for the following up of Lambeth business, and for making proposals to the next Lambeth?

Heaps of details to fill in. Other issues to consider. But I think one could build a world Anglican church that was not papal but conciliar in the character of its government!

Such a church would permit Anglicans around the world of instant communication to have greater confidence that the character of world Anglicanism was securely grounded in commonality rather than subject to the distortions of individual member churches or the marginal views of headline-grabbing bishops.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An international Anglican church?

For much of my life I have read the Christchurch Press, the largest circulating paper in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Relative to, say, the New York Times and The Times of London it is an insignificant paper. Indeed quite a bit of its news is sourced from such international papers. In particular the Press often carries articles written by Ruth Gledhill about, you guessed it, events in the life of British and world Anglicanism.

That means that even in a tiny country with a small Anglican church (as some commenters often point out to me), parishioners reading their morning paper over their toast are liable to choking on the crumbs when they read the latest twist and turn to world Anglican life.

When those parishioners have recovered control of their vocal chords and ring their vicar to 'Please explain why I should continue worshipping in an Anglican church when X, Y, or Z is allowed to go on ...', the vicar, perhaps having been at Morning Prayer rather than reading the paper, wisely asks a holding question, 'Where is this taking place?'. Naturally the vicar hopes it is happening in the next parish because the resolution of the situation will be forthcoming from the local bishop :) But it is a forlorn hope because it is happening far away and the vicar is faced with the prospect of losing parishioners through events beyond his or her power to influence them via a quick email to the bishop!

Now we could weigh the merits of Anglicans ceasing to worship in one place because of events far away, but my point here is that the niceties of 'the Anglican Communion is not a world church' are lost on many Anglicans in this new age of instant communication. Citing Ruth Gledhill's reproduced articles is but one example of the multifarious ways in which international Anglican news can be accessed. What happens in Wichita can be known within seconds in Winton, the warts and all of the episcopal candidates for Rio Grande are now displayed on the internet for Rio de Janeiro Anglicans to see. If it matters to Anglicans in Perth, Australia what is happening to Scottish Episcopalians in Perth, Scotland, it might just be time to consider how Anglicans the world over can have some sense of ownership of the brand 'Anglican'. In a word, there is a simple reason to think seriously about the Anglican Communion of national churches becoming an international Anglican church: the world is now smaller; smaller, I suggest, than a nation.

Unfortunately detractors of this idea are troubled by 'bogeymen', the worst of them , apparently, is the Roman Catholic church. What would a world Anglican church look like? There is just one option, these detractors say, another Roman church ... and look at the news today to see what a bad option that is.

That is a bit silly really. Why should an Anglican world church not be an Anglican world church? But the bogeyman is always a good strategy to attempt to kill an argument. Unfortunately people more often act out of fear than out of faith.

So, let's just suppose we could send the bogeyman argument back where it belongs. Then I suggest that Michael Poon's article, entitled, "The Anglican Communion as Communion of Churches: on the historic significance of the Anglican Covenant" helpfully charts the way forward. Not least because it helpfully, with impressive scholarship, charts the way from the beginning of the Anglican Communion: there has been a trajectory towards the Communion becoming a church, if only we have eyes to see it!

But let us be clear, there is no secret plan within the Communion's inner circles to impose the conclusion of the trajectory on unsuspecting parishioners (as some internet comments seem to presume). There is a choice. But here's the thing, if we choose to pull back from a greater Anglican unity, are we conforming to God's great will for the world?

God's open plan for the world is this: "a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth' (Ephesians 1:10).

It would be good, from time to time, to read in the Christchurch Press how the Anglican Communion-becoming-church is fulfilling this plan.

Baker proposes new recipe

A very interesting article here by James A. Baker III. That's right, James Baker the national and international US politician.

Interesting because he is distressed at the thought of TEC melting down through further division and dwindling through further loss of membership.

Interesting because he calls on TEC leadership to stop litigating property disputes.

Interesting, most of all, because he puts forward a proposal to stop the fighting within TEC (and, implied, within North American Anglo-Episcopalianism) which would see the church being truly inclusive, that is, of both points of view on homosexuality.

Could it work?

Surely it could work better than what is currently happening!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We are fine as we are, thank you very much

Reading some reactions to the Poon paper, to say nothing of a comment or two here, I am struck by the amount of fear that talk of the Communion becoming a church generates. Interesting! But it would also be fair to say that a continuing line of rebuttal is that there is nothing wrong with the Communion as it is: a fellowship of national churches, none beholden to the other, all able to make appropriate decisions in their local contexts. We are fine as we are, thank you very much.

I will put off making comment myself on Michael Poon's paper for a day or so, and make a few observations here about the idea of the Communion becoming a worldwide church:

(a) 'the Communion is not a worldwide church' is a doctrine to suit the occasion: it was noticeable recently when the Ugandan parliament, with some church support, was moving towards a draconian law against homosexuals, there was a tremendous amount on international Anglican interest in persuading the Anglican Church of Uganda not to support this proposed law. Apparently that member church of the Communion was about to make an inappropriate decision in its own local context and needed to be told so by a body of opinion larger than itself.

(b) the arguments against the Communion becoming a worldwide church are noticeably negative in the headline and poorly thought through in the substance: it would be like Rome, it would be without precedent, it would mean we would all have to believe the same things. What happened to Anglicanism's unique ability to create and forge its own singular identity? Why would a worldwide Anglican church look like the bits of Roman Catholicism that we do not admire? (Would it be a bad thing if we looked like the bits of Roman Catholicism which we do admire?!) What is it with the 'no precedent' argument when Anglicanism's history is full of new precedents being created? Would it be such a bad idea to believe everything together? That used to be a definition of orthodoxy! And, why is it that there is a version of Anglicanism that insists that we all believe in diversity, tolerance, reading from the same lectionary around the world, and the virtues of local autonomy? That version gets a free pass by critics of the possibility of a worldwide Anglican church! Incidentally, try critiquing aspects of the uniform version of Anglicanism and see what the Anglican Magisterium does to you in response!!

(c) The one positive argument against the idea of a worldwide Anglican church is that everything is fine with Communion life as it is. But that is palpably absurd. As various commenters have observed from time to time here, our Communion is and has been for a long time an impaired Communion. We have an incoherent set of Instruments of Unity - none held to be primary over the others, only one with a constitution and representation from bishops, clergy, and laity, and the most important one (in my view) only meeting every ten years (and the last time it met, assiduously avoiding making any resolutions). While it is most unfortunate pastorally that the presenting issue through this decade which is most on our minds concerns human sexuality, the simple fact is that we have an issue on which we are divided and are struggling to find common ground on which to stand together in fellowship. The unwillingness, on several sides, to find a way forward, suggests that the Communion does not mean a fellowship of member churches, but a set of churches with a history of togetherness and a future of dispersal, unchecked by concern to hold more rather than less in common.

Do not worry, those who are fearful of the Communion becoming a worldwide church. It cannot happen if Anglicans do not want it to happen.

But my argument here on this blog is that the Communion is finished if it does not intensify its common life. Like any marriage, our relationships with one another cannot stand still, we are either growing forward into greater oneness or growing apart towards separation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Discipline TEC

One running theme in recent comments here, but also for a long time now on many blogs, is the plea to see some real discipline of TEC. Something which did not occur with any substance after 2003 (the closest was the suspension of TEC for one ACC meeting at which its suspended members were observers), and something which should now happen with the Glasspool confirmation. So the argument goes, and it is an argument with merit because the Glasspool confirmation has a deeper significance than being the confirmation of a partnered lesbian person to be a bishop. That deeper significance is this: following Gene Robinson's consecration a series of restrained decisions on the part of TEC's GC meant that there was plausible argument in response to calls to discipline TEC that TEC might not actually be walking apart from the Communion, the Robinson consecration being a temporary diversion from the one path of Anglican polity; now however TEC has effectively announced that no temporary diversion has taken place, it is walking apart from the Communion.

Actually I want to suggest it is walking apart from the Communion in two ways. The first is walking apart from the common direction in the Communion, that Anglican bishops who are neither single nor married are living contradictory to Scripture and tradition. The second is walking apart from an emerging direction that the Anglican Communion cannot remain as it is, essentially a meeting point of Anglicans, but must move forward to becoming a worldwide church. To me it is inescapable that a consequence of the Glasspool confirmation is confirmation that TEC under no circumstances will be beholden to any authority larger than itself and thus is deeply opposed to any movement of the Communion towards becoming a worldwide church.

While I do not see any time soon that the majority of Anglican churches will signal that they are walking with TEC re homosexuality, it is possible that TEC's actions will be acknowledged as highlighting the question of whether the Communion should become a church or not. At which point TEC could be joined by a number of other Anglican churches who for various reasons would prefer to assert autonomy over accountability.

Back to the possibility of discipline. Please challenge me if I have this wrong, but I see no meaningful way in which the Communion - not being at this time a worldwide church - can discipline TEC in a manner likely to yield a change in direction. Sure, some invites to meetings could be withdrawn, but I do not see that as effective discipline.

Besides which, I am not convinced that this is a situation where TEC should be disciplined. What they are doing is responsible, considered, adult decision making. It would be wise to allow TEC to follow their path and see whether it is fruitful or not in respect of the well-being of their future life. In short, they do not believe they are rebelling against God's Word, rather they are obeying it. If that is so they will be blessed; if not so they will be judged. But if the latter it does not require humans to enforce the judgement. As with many situations, judgement will work itself out as life unfolds. A possible clue as to how it is working out lies in this report. Of course TEC's defenders will vigorously challenge that take ... on all sides, however, some more time is required as to how this might pan out.

Meantime, in respect of the emerging direction that the Communion might become a worldwide church, we now have a paper by Michael Poon to consider. I shall try to find time to read it and reflect on it soon.

PS To head off one possible critique of my supporting this emerging direction, there is no necessity for a worldwide Anglican church to be more or less Roman in structure. We could, for example, be conciliar rather than papal. In fact it would be fairly simple for us to become a worldwide church: approve the Covenant, restructure the shambles of councils we do have into one world council!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oh, the irony for the Tiber swimmers and campers

One line of thinking at this time in the Anglican Communion goes like this: the Reformation was a mistake, and is now glaringly revealed for all to see as the Instruments of Unity fail to offer leadership of a meaningful kind; real improvement is not possible, but a really good church lies close at hand, a church with backbone and substance. For some that church is a swim across the Tiber, for others it can be associated with - following a recent generous offer by the Pope - by camping on the riverbank.

But in the last few weeks the Roman Catholic church has been, once again, exposed as failing to adequately deal with the ongoing and recurring problems it has faced in many countries in respect of errant priests abusing innocent children and youth. Even when acknowledgment is made of the great majority of priests who have been entirely laudable in their work through long ministries, and when acknowledgement is made of different perceptions in earlier ages of the seriousness of pedophilia (to my knowledge something other churches, including Anglican churches also were deficient about), there is now the problem that the usually admirable Pope Benedict XVI has offered a less than satisfactory approach to the present outbreak of news reports, especially from Ireland and Germany.

No church is perfect. No church has perfect answers to difficult situations. No church is a safe haven for people wishing to have sound leadership they never need be embarrassed about.

Perhaps the Anglican Communion could be seen in a better light by those who have left it for a church which cannot bring itself to acknowledge that Anglican ecclesial communities are churches.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Worth noting

"Fulcrum Response to Consents being given to the
Consecration of Mary Glasspool

This is a clear rejection of the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

We believe that it is vitally important for the Primates' Meeting planned for January 2011 to go ahead, and that for this to happen the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church should not be invited to attend. Actions have consequences."

I think this is well worded. The Anglican Communion is an organisation (if nothing else) with leaders and committees - the usual paraphanalia. It is light on universal canons but that does not mean there is no authority to be recognised by member churches in so far as they wish to meet, cooperate, and work with fellow members. To not recognise that authority does raise a question about membership. The question may or may not be best answered by expulsion, suspension, or demotion to a 'second tier'.

I say 'may or may not' because while the Communion is an organisation, it is also a family or fellowship of churches. From a family perspective it may or may not be fruitful for the long-term benefit of the family to banish a member of the family.

Now is a time for the Communion to focus on what it holds in common across its member churches. We should be considering how we might enlarge the family to include those who share those common things.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Future Communion

There are many families who bring their children up with the expectation that they will marry their life partner rather than live together outside of matrimony. Recently Teresa and I have had the joy of participating in wedding celebrations of three very fine young couples who have deliberately chosen to follow such expectations. But what are parents to do when such expectations are not followed? Eject their children from future family gatherings? Threaten to disinherit their offspring? These days one does not hear of such things happening. Rather parents bite their tongues, keep praying for their children, and try to treat their married and unmarried partnered children equally in warmth of welcome and depth of hospitality.

Now that TEC has not only confirmed the election of Mary Glasspool, but also confirmed its commitment to be a church teaching an extended doctrine of marriage to include both heterosexual marriage and homosexual partnership, the Anglican Communion, with or without a Covenant in prospect, will make a decision about the future inclusion of TEC.

That decision may only be implicit: diaried meetings will continue, no one will be turned away, thus, de facto, the Communion will continue to include TEC. Predictably this will be accompanied by the self-exclusion of some member churches. The decision may be explicit: member church after member church may reject the Covenant on the grounds that they believe its adoption will mean the exclusion of TEC. Or, ++Rowan could make a statement to the effect that - like parents in my narrative above - he will continue to be in communion with TEC even though he disagrees with their theology of marriage. Such a statement could also be reason for further self-exclusion, but it would set a direction for the future meetings of Communion bodies. Then, of course, the Communion could make a decision otherwise: TEC will not be welcome because it does not share in the common doctrine of marriage as generally espoused across the Communion. But either way, there will be a decision.

Here I want to suggest that the Communion carefully consider all possibilities. It should realistically consider the impact of not moving to exclude TEC, or at least to confine its involvement to a 'second tier' of the Communion. But it should also consider being like the parents above when faced with the reality of difference in understanding within a family: with some pain because of the difference, nevertheless inclusion will continue. To exclude TEC is certainly reasonable: a Communion works best where common doctrine undergirds it. But inclusion has a reasonable argument supporting it too.

I think that argument goes like this. It is desirable to have a church pure in doctrine and in practice. But church history shows us how rarely this has been fulfilled, and how often fulfilment has been temporary rather than permanent. People stuff up. An global example is before our eyes right now: the Roman Catholic church, much admired for its doctrinal purity by many conservative Anglicans, cannot gain much traction out of the quagmire of paedophiliac scandal. Should it be shunned by the remainder of the Christian global community? Or should we continue to work relationally on encouraging our Roman brothers and sisters to follow Christ, repenting whenever and wherever some among them need to do so? Of course we should, and we would be doing so conscious of our ongoing disagreements with aspects of Roman doctrine, and with the pain of being out of eucharistic communion with Rome.

TEC has chosen a path. Some of us in the global Communion think they should repent of it. All of us need to recognise that that is not how TEC understands the situation: they are boldly pioneering a new way in Christ! (For as fine an apologia of this way as anything I have read, read Mark Harris here). Are we to revile TEC (as various commenters seem to do without hesitation) and exclude it from fellowship? Or, like parents in the first paragraph above, do we now swallow hard and bite our tongues? Do we give TEC the space to continue their pioneering journey, even though within our hearts we have grave doubt as to where it will lead? Might we offer this grace, not because we do not care about their doctrinal difference with us, but simply because God affords us grace, impure and imperfect as we are, in our own doctrine and practice?

There are many issues here. Posing these questions with a bias towards continued inclusion is by no means a last word on a difficult situation. What fellowship will TEC offer those in their midst who do not agree with this now confirmed new doctrine of marriage? Why not also pioneer a new way of being Anglican in North America which includes ACNA as a province? (Yes, I know that ACNA would need to cease talking about replacing TEC and ACCan. But could those commenters on the internet who call ACNA "wannabe Anglicans" cease talking in that way also?!). What will the future of the Communion be? Africa and Asia-less?

To return to my first paragraph. Life can be much more complicated than imagined there. The parents may open their home at Christmas time to all their children and their partners, married or unmarried. But it is always possible that the married children will not agree with such an inclusive stance, and the Christmas table will have empty seats. Who would be a parent then?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is sufficient action to distance themselves from those who have chosen to walk in the path of disobedience?

Archbishop Peter Jensen has responded to the Glasspool election confirmation (my italics):

"With the election of the Reverend Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a Bishop in Los Angeles in The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion reaches another decisive moment. It is now absolutely clear to all that the national Church itself has formally committed itself to a pattern of life which is contrary to Scripture. The election of Bishop Robinson in 2003 was not an aberration to be corrected in due course. It was a true indication of the heart of the Church and the direction of its affairs.

There have been various responses to the actions of TEC over the years. Some have been dramatic and decisive, such as the creation of the Anglican Church of North America, an ecclesiastical body recognized by the GAFCON Primates as genuinely Anglican. For others, however, the counsels of patience have prevailed and they have sought a change of heart and waited patiently for it to occur. Those who have sought a middle course may be found both inside and outside the American Church.

This is a decisive moment for this ‘middle’ group. Their patience has been gentle and praiseworthy. But to wait longer would not be patience – it would be obstinacy or even an unworthy anxiety. Two things need to be made clear. First, that they are unambiguously opposed to a development which sanctifies sin and which is an abrogation of the word of the living God. Second, that they will take sufficient action to distance themselves from those who have chosen to walk in the path of disobedience."

Any comments on what constitutes "sufficient action"?

For a little humour go to the source of this statement, and look on the right hand side of the web page. There you will find a video entitled, "Leaving a church? Think twice."


Does TEC prefer its churches become mosques rather than remain at the service of Anglicans?

Anglican Curmudgeon has an excellent resume of the fate of church property in the Diocese of Central New York. Once in the hands of an Episcopalian priest and congregation when they turned to become (so to speak) Anglican, they were shut out of church and rectory. (Fortunately the local Roman Catholic church came to their rescue with alternate church and presbytery). Now the church is up for sale and most likely sold to a Muslim group.

Well, one could say lots of things about this. "It's ironical" or "Life takes strange twists and turns" being the most diplomatic of them.

Of course I should not be commenting on these situations from a long way off ... except at Preludium one can read Mark Harris valiantly arguing that Mary Glasspool's election - now confirmed - makes no change to ACAWKI (Anglican Communion as we knew it). But I suggest it does make a difference to the Communion to which I belong: it cements in place various directions within the Communion. One of which is that a preferred usage of church property in some places is that Anglicans do not use them.


And for a postscript on one of these directions, the future of the TEC Diocese of South Carolina, read this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stretching spiritual muscles

This is not written by me. Can you guess by whom?

Easter 2010

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.
—Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16

The Diocese of Haiti has observed Lent in a very different way this year. When Bishop Duracin and I spoke just before Ash Wednesday, we talked about how this year would be different. He noted that the people of Haiti would need to practice saying Alleluia, so that when Easter came they could enter in with joy. In the midst of grief and darkness, it can be exceedingly difficult to believe that resurrection is a possibility.

Nora Gallagher makes a similar point in her book, "Practicing Resurrection."

We are not born with the ability to insist on resurrection everywhere we turn. It takes the discipline and repetition that forms an athlete – in this case, a spiritually fit Christian. We practice our faith because we must – it withers and atrophies unless it's stretched. We must continue to give evidence of the faith that is within us.

Easter prods and provokes us with an immense stretching exercise. God has renewed a life given to the evil of this world on behalf of those with no other helper. That earth-shattering and tomb-shattering rebirth has planted the seeds of hope in each one of us. Yet those seeds do not produce fruit without struggle.

The people of Haiti are finding new life in the midst of death and struggle. As a nation and a people they have repeatedly practiced resurrection through centuries of slavery, oppression, invasion, corruption, and privation. The joy of their art forms – music and painting in particular – gives evidence of the hope that is within them as a people. They know, deep in their cultural DNA, that God is continually bringing new life out of death. Yet each person must discover and nurture that hope. It is made far easier in community.

The shared hope of a community is essential. Most human beings cannot long survive the evil and death of solitary confinement or a concentration camp. It is the shared sense of suffering and the shared nurture of even tiny embers of hope that offers life. The greatest cruelty of places like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is the removal and destruction of such hope. The absence or disconnection from other people as sources of hope leads to suicide and even that mysterious ailment in young children called "failure to thrive."

The Christian community is about shared hope in resurrection. The citation at the head of this article first buoyed hope among a people exiled in a foreign land, without the support of familiar leaders or places of worship. That people developed a community that could practice its faith in a strange land, insisting that God was present among them even in exile. Jesus insists that that light is present even in the midst of Roman oppression, and that he will gather a community to remember that light and practice seeing and discovering it.

The Christian community is meant to be a mutual hope society, with each one offering courage to another whose hope has waned, insisting that even in the darkest of night, new life is being prepared. That work is constant – it will not end until the end of all things. And still the community persists, year in and year out, in time of earthquake and war and flood, in time of joy and new birth and discovery. Together we can shout, "Alleluia, he is risen! Indeed, he is risen, Alleluia!" even when some among us are not quite so confident as others. For indeed, the body of Christ is rising and risen when even a small part of it can rejoice and insist that God is renewing the face of the earth and light has dawned upon us.

Alleluia! Keep practicing that joyful shout. Someone needs to hear its truth. Alleluia!

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

The quality and depth of thought, as well as commitment to orthodox understanding of the resurrection are clear to see. TEC is well deserving of theological leadership of this kind.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Consent and dissent

We appear to be within a whisker of hearing the news that Mary Glasspool's election to episcopal office has been confirmed according to due TEC process.

It will be good if consent is given because it will clarify some matters. It will clarify, first, that TEC officially and formally has no theological objection to people living in partnerships which are not (heterosexual) marriages. (This, recall, according to TEC's own Bishop Pierre Whalon will be so without any TEC-wide theological commission providing any theological argument supporting this step which has received majority approval from the General Convention).

Consent to Mary Glasspool's election will also confirm that TEC's assertion of its autonomy as a member church of the Anglican Communion is unconstrained by any sense of accountability to the wider 'mind of the Communion' which, recall, at every stage and in any form of Communion meeting since 2003, has been against consent being given to the election of a partnered gay man or lesbian woman.

For the sake of clarity on my own part I completely accept that it is TEC's right to act in this way, to determine its direction whatever other Anglicans have to say within the boundaries of North America or outside of them. (It is, of course, also the right of Anglicans within TEC and outside of TEC to publicly dissent from their decisions).

BabyBlueOnline points to this report in Christian Today which includes two significant quotes which represent the poles of 'autonomy' and 'accountability'. First, Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles (the diocese in which Mary Glasspool will work):

"To not consent [Glasspool's election] in this country out of fear of the reaction elsewhere in the Anglican Communion is to capitulate to titular heads," Bruno commented earlier. "At our last General Convention, we said we are nondiscriminatory."

Then Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia:

'said earlier that confirmation of Glasspool's election "will make clear beyond any doubt whatsoever that the TEC (The Episcopal Church) leadership has chosen to walk in a way which is contrary to Scripture and will continue to do so".

"This settled path that the TEC chooses is contrary to the expressed will of the majority of the Anglican Communion," he noted.'

Thus final consent to Mary Glasspool's election will underline the fact that the Anglican Communion is neither a worldwide church nor a global ecclesial community on the way to being a worldwide church. For a worldwide church is a body in which autonomy of the local is subject to accountability to the global.

Whether or not history will one day demonstrate that TEC is or is not walking 'contrary to Scripture', the best guidance the global Communion can give to TEC at this time is that it is walking 'contrary to Scripture'. To disregard that guidance is TEC's right. But it cannot be without consequence. There are only two options. One, that the Communion as an ecclesial community on the way to being a worldwide church will act according to what it is becoming and discipline TEC (e.g. promulgating the Covenant and constraining some of TEC's rights of membership).* Or, secondly, it will acknowledge that local autonomy is greater than the 'mind of the Communion'. If the latter it will thereby signal that it is a Communion on the way to becoming something other than a worldwide church. At worst the Communion may unravel completely; at best it will evolve into two or more 'Anglican associations' where the associating factors will include 'like mindedness' and a shared willingness either to place autonomy ahead of accountability or accountability ahead of autonomy. But it will not remain the same as it has been: a Christ-centred Communion necessarily grows and develops towards oneness - Archbishop Williams' "intensifies" understanding of the role of the Covenant - or it moves apart and ceases to be a Communion with Christ at its centre.

In short, Mary Glasspool becoming bishop will seal changes in the Communion which have been emerging since 2003. Whatever actual changes take place in the years ahead, the one change that will not take place is the Communion becoming a global church of which TEC is a local member.

(*By 'disciplined' here I do not mean 'punished'. At the heart of disciplining is learning. In this context 'discipline' would mean both the Communion and the member church concerned learning that 'communion' and 'walking apart' are contradictory realities).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anglican bishops grossly underpaid

By comparison with NZ's best known bishop, Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church.

He is paid a million dollars a year salary, according to the Herald on Sunday/TV One. This figure includes his base salary, speaking fees when he visits his own Destiny Churches here in NZ and in Oz, and tithes from his pastors.

You can bet he learned this practice from his American mentors.

No wonder some people view the church as an obstacle to becoming Christian disciples.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

York Down Under Dinner: Secret Message

Last night I participated in a first in the course of my life. Well, two firsts actually. Wait, three! The trivial first was visiting the Addington Racecourse for the first time in fifty years. Only ever driven past it before. The second first was meeting an Archbishop of York. Indeed meeting John Sentamu himself was a first. Lovely bloke. The first first was going to a dinner for all the clergy and spouses of a diocese ('active' and 'retired'). Lovely meal. I think a public vote of thanks on this blog should go to Bishop Victoria Matthews for having this great idea (and quite a few votes of thanks to the people who put the plan into action, to say nothing of the chefs and waiters and waitresses). Speaking of the latter brings this post neatly to the secret message ++John shared with us in his after dinner speech.

'Take time out with Jesus'.

The story of Mary and Martha was his text. He said a few other things. But the main message was clear, inspiring, and simple. Being an educator/trainer I love experiencing examples of great communication. This was one of them because its key message was simple, memorable and profound. Fancy telling clergy to take time out with Jesus!!

But that is the secret of ministry fruitfulness. Is it not?

NZ's first Liberal Anglican Biblioblogger

Take a look here. Congratulations, Howard!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

York Down Under

Archbishop John Sentamu of York is due in our diocese tomorrow. He has been Down Under for over a week, principally invited to celebrate the consecration of St Mary's New Plymouth as a new cathedral - the seat of the Bishop of Taranaki. (In due course we look forward to the fulfilment of all requirements of Niceaean righteousness through Taranaki being promulgated a separate diocese)!

But no visit to Down Under (NZ Inc.) is complete without a visit to Christchurch, so ++John will leave our fair shores for the Mother Country (UK Inc.) duly satisfied. No doubt others, including our newly revamped Taonga news and views site, will report on the visit, as Taonga has done already on the Taranaki visit.

But here we simply offer the view that the Archbishop of York's position is one to aspire to (cf 1 Timothy 3:1) because you get to wear cool episcopal headgear!

Actually our weather today is such that I think that cap might be useful!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I didn't know that

I must be a bit thick. I have thought of the "Roman Catholic church" as a single, monolithic church (though understanding but not clear about how the 'eastern' and 'western' parts of the church relate together). But apparently it is not so, as Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne writes:

"These autonomous [Eastern rite] Churches are in communion with Rome, but their members are not “Roman Catholics”, that is, not Catholics of the Roman Rite. I now need to open up something essential that many Anglicans do not understand – that the Catholic Church is not a monolithic structure. She is a communion of Churches, led by bishops who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome and with one another, members of one apostolic college. This unity through a communion of particular or local Churches is set out in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. Lumen Gentium, 23.

"Every diocese is a “particular Church”, governed by a successor of the apostles. This is why we talk of the Church of Rome, the Church of Melbourne, the Church of Washington etc. Through a complex history beginning in apostolic times, most of these particular Churches today are grouped together within the Roman Rite. Not only are they in communion with the Church of Rome, the See of Peter, but they also use the liturgy of Rome. The members of these particular Churches may be known as Roman Catholics, or Catholics of the Roman Rite, or Latin Catholics."

I think to be fair to myself, when living in a country such as NZ and reading Catholic news articles which talk about the Pope appointing X as the next bishop of Diocese Y, I might be forgiven for my monolithic view of 'the Roman Catholic church'. Nevertheless I had mistakenly thought that 'the diocesan bishop' was in charge of his diocesan territory. But reading further in Bishop Peter Elliott's paper I find:

"Looking more closely into these Eastern Catholic Churches, we first find typical territorial dioceses in the home country: Ukraine, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, India, Iraq etc. But then we find a second kind of diocese for those members of these Churches who have emigrated and are now scattered across a country such as Canada or Australia. This kind of diocese is usually, not always, called an eparchy.

"In an eparchy an Eastern Rite bishop has jurisdiction over all the clergy and lay faithful of his Rite, within a country or within a region in a big country such as Canada. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic bishop with a fine cathedral in North Melbourne is the bishop of the Eparchy of St Peter and Paul, Australia. He has ordinary jurisdiction over all Ukrainian Catholics in Australia. His people are also known as “Greek Catholics” because they celebrate the liturgy of Constantinople, the Byzantine Rite.

"The same kind of structure also applies to the Maronite diocese of St Maroun, the Chaldean Diocese of St Thomas and the Eparchy of St Michael the Archangel for Melchite Greek Catholics, all based in Sydney. The territory of these bishops coexists with the dioceses of the Roman Rite in Australia and the bishops are members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference."

This paper is reproduced on Damian Thompson's blog.

Now the ultimate sign of my general lack of intelligence on these matters is that I am now wondering why we Anglicans cannot be that smart - ACNA as an eparchy in North America? Why not! And if TEC want to form an eparchy in the UK? Why not!

We could all be in communion with Canterbury, and our bishops could meet together in conference.

OK. I know. Some of those bishops just will not make the necessary compromises.

Fulcrum defies expectations

Shortcut post today. See my HHD latest.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More effective political pressure on the churches than the Soviets ever managed?

"But it is not the Conservatives who initiated this historic change, next to which arguments about disestablishment seem like a sideshow. It was Britain's first post-Christian government, presided over by Gordon Brown, a man whose ideological allies not only exude contempt for the Church but also know how to manipulate public opinion and European legislation to accelerate its decline. And so a thousand-year contract between government and religious believers begins to fall in on itself like the roof of a redundant church."

That's the conclusion. Read Damian Thompson's whole article here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

If the Anglican Communion does not become a universal church it will shrivel

Various readings in the last few days leads me to make this reflection: the Anglican Communion either continues moving forward to become a universal church or it will shrivel.

It has no future in which it looks like what it was before 1998. If, for example, the Communion wishes to insist on one episcopal jurisdiction per territory (certain territories such as these islands as exceptions), then it can only enforce this by becoming a universal church. The Communion as an informal fellowship with as few written rules as possible and intentionally weak authorities will never prevent rival Anglican jurisdictions. Failure to prevent these inevitably will create two or more Anglican networks, none of which will be as strong as the Communion pre 1998.

Similarly, a Communion which refuses to engage with the Covenant and where it might take us, will be a Communion asserting the autonomy of provinces which, in the end, will be a Communion unstitching itself. Provinces may continue to send delegates and representatives to meetings of Anglicans, but there will be no more pretence that any substantive meaning will be attached to the word 'Communion' for Anglicans. There may be 'Communion' among these (say, progressive Anglicans) or these (say, conservative Anglicans), but that will not have the substantive promise the Anglican Communion once held that we were an ecclesial community with something to offer the world, a modus operandi for very wide diversity being in union.

There is work to be done, to be sure, if we are to become a universal church: will we be led conciliarly or otherwise, what teaching will be common among us, what consistency of practice in ministry and in life itself will mark us out as distinctive? But there needs to be a will to become a universal church if the work is to be worth doing.

I do not wish to be pessimistic, but I struggle to detect that will ... whether on 'the left' or 'the right' ... and 'the centre' seems silent!

Perhaps there is no will to become what we have the potential to become. But do not be deceived about that: the Communion without the will to become a universal church will shrivel on the vine.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Covenant: Noll on void

Stephen Noll has posted a critique-and-improvement article on the Covenant. He is particularly concerned that the Covenant in its present form makes void the great historical role of bishops in the governance of the Anglican Communion by placing so much Covenant-led governance in the hands of 'the Standing Committee'. Presupposed here is the virtue of conciliarism rather than curialism (i.e. bishops-in-council led churches are better than papal led, bureaucracy administered churches). An excerpt:

"I believe the Anglican Communion Covenant is a positive development in the history of Anglicanism. In a sense the Covenant has emerged from a theological identity crisis just as the first Lambeth did. As the GAFCON Statement forcefully points out, this crisis is more than just about church politics. It is about Gospel truth. The problem with the Covenant proposal and process, from its first appearance in the Windsor Report to the “final” draft, is that it skirts the crisis of truth in the Communion. I believe the Covenant is adequate in what it affirms – “Our inheritance of faith” – though I think that affirmation could be strengthened in a number of ways. However, the “two-track” idea is going in precisely the wrong direction, building into the governance an impossible paradox: that a portion of the Communion agrees to abide by a certain doctrine and discipline and another portion does not. The end result of such a polity will be another decade of chaos.

There must be only one track: those who adopt the Covenant are members of the Communion; those who do not adopt it are not. Bp. Mouneer Anis is right: when a sufficient number of Provinces have adopted the Covenant, the ACC and its Standing Committee should stand down and be constituted solely from Covenant-keeping Provinces.

This paper is not intended to give a precise proposal for how these two imperatives – the restoration of episcopal governance and the consolidation of the Communion under the Covenant – be incorporated into the Covenant text. It does strike me, however, that two simple but critical amendments could be made to the latest draft to put the Covenant process on the right track:

1. Replace references to “The Standing Committee” in section 4 with “Primates of churches that have adopted the Covenant.”120

2. Change the wording of section 4.1.4 to read: “Every Church of the Anglican Communion is expected [instead of “invited”] to enter into this Covenant according to its own constitutional procedures.121

These changes are minimal but crucial. Some will say: “Sign on to the Covenant now and perfect it later.”122 I myself made such an argument after the Ridley Cambridge Draft was published.123 The utter manipulation of the ACC Meeting in Jamaica, the revelations of the secret ACC Constitution, and the make-over of the Standing Committee have convinced me that I was wrong. Those who would buy into the Covenant hoping to change it from within, I fear, are like “the young lady from Niger, who smiled as she rode on a tiger.”124

The autonomy of the Anglican Provinces actually offers an alternative to the “sign now, change later” position. Since the Provinces of the Communion have the final say to adopt a Covenant, they also have the final authority over what text to adopt. There is nothing sacrosanct about the covenant drafting process set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, especially given its final outworking. The “final” Covenant draft is not final. The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed it; the Standing Committee has endorsed it – without any independent authorization by the Primates‟ Meeting or the ACC.125 But Canterbury and the Standing Committee have no authority to command the Provinces to adopt it as it stands.

Adoption of the Covenant is necessarily a political process itself and as such may result in an amended version. There is a relevant analogy in the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The draft of the Constitution was approved by the Convention of 1787. However, it became clear as ratification was taken to each state legislature that the Constitution would not pass without certain guarantees of personal and states‟ rights. Therefore the supporters of the new Constitution agreed to add the first ten amendments, the so-called Bill of Rights – as part of the overall adoption of the Constitution.126

I see no reason why a Province or a group of Provinces and their Primates should not exercise their autonomy by adopting an amended form of the Covenant. I think that a large number of Anglican bishops and churches would have no problem with the gist of the changes I have suggested. If enough Provinces and Primates adopted an alternative text, there is no reason it could not supplant the present version within the wider Communion. The Global South Provinces and Primates, or the FCA Provinces and Primates alone, could take the lead in this matter and render a great service in restoring the proper relationship of authorities within the Communion and the integrity and effectiveness of the Covenant."

The whole is here. (Numbers above refer to footnotes which are not included in my post).

I had not thought of the possibility that member churches might propose amendments to the Covenant ... but for them to be agreeable to the whole Communion they would need to line up with each other.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not all wisdom resides in Anglicans!

Clayboy is an engaging blogger. Sometimes I disagree with him, and he with me. But he always says something worth pondering. One of his series he is posting on is the 39A - very good it is too. His latest is on Article 18.

In the course of it he shares this piece of Sufi wisdom by Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya:

"O God! If I worship you for fear of hell, burn me in hell,

and if I worship you in hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise.

But if I worship you for your own sake,

grudge me not your everlasting beauty."

Somewhat distant, this insight, from the driving motivations of suicide bombers ...

Speaking of a female Sufi saint, my mind is still cogitating about Christa. Post coming soon.

POSTSCRIPT: Carl Somers-Edgar has a beautiful post on the Light, not a million miles in sentiment from this Sufi stanza.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fair's fair

Late last year I was as critical as anyone (short of defacing posters) when Glynn Cardy, Vicar of St Matthew's-in-the-City, posted and reposted a billboard depicting Joseph and Mary in bed with supporting wording which I suggested diminished the glory and honour of God, by anthropomorphizing our understanding of God.

Glynn Cardy is now in the news again, publicly supporting a proposed 'atheist bus ad campaign', that is, a rerun in NZ of the UK campaign in which buses carried the advertisement, 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'. A company called NZ Bus had initially accepted the advertisements but has backed away after pressure from staff and the public.

In general terms I support Glynn's argument that the principle of free speech in a democratic society means we should permit such advertising rather than suppress it. Many Christians have seen this kind of ad campaign as a positive thing for evangelism and public theology and will not disagree with Glynn when they read,

""Many in the Christian community welcome a debate about issues of the existence of God and, also, I don't think there's anything to be afraid of in that debate," he said."

However I think a company's staff are important voices here: if drivers of the buses felt uncomfortable with such ads adorning their vehicles their voices should be heard if not heeded.

But fair's fair: if I publicly disagree with Glynn on one issue then on another I should not keep my support private!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Our first blogging bishop has blogged

Kelvin Wright has been consecrated bishop and installed as Bishop of Dunedin. Prior to being bishop he was blogging at Available Light. In my personal, subjective view, Kelvin is a superb writer of distinguished prose. God's bestowal of artistic gifts does not end there: he is also a brilliant photographer and his photographs set his blog apart from many others. In a church without blogging bishops some of us have been keen to see the drought broken. Who better to do it than Bishop Kelvin! You can read the drought-breaker here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

One swallow does not a summer make

A lot of ink gets spilt in the quest to either rebut or further the cause of Dawkinism. Here I shall try to restrain the spillage!

On the one hand I have been fascinated recently to hear people's stories of journeys in faith which bely the classic strategy of atheism, to elegantly and rationally explain the world without invoking 'God' as cause, creator, or curator. In several cases God has become present in their lives unexpectedly and (in a sense) irrationally: as the Hound of Heaven, God has chased them into a corner from which the only escape was to place their lives in God's hands. In one case the surge of atheistic literature through Dawkins, Hitchens, etc, has actually provoked thinking about whether God does or does not exist and yielded an 'aDawkinist' answer!!

On the other hand I am concerned about New Zealand, and especially about fellow 'birth NZers'. I am fascinated by the number of accented voices I hear in church these days - that is, voices of those not born in NZ. I wonder whether something about being an enculturated Kiwi from conception means some resistance to believing in God. Positively this could represent a life so good and wonderful in our fair islands that little need for the helping hand of God is required. Negatively it could represent antagonism to God and the gospel of grace: "I'm all right, Jack", "She'll be right", "Need help? No, thanks, I can stand on my own two feet", "Silly so and so got caught" ... our language is often the language of independence, innate belief that no problem cannot be solved by a mixture of hard work and Kiwi ingenuity, and minimisation of the significance of wrongdoing.

So Richard Dawkins will come this summer to our shores. I am sure he will be an effective evangelist for his cause (which he truly believes is good news for the world) who clinches the conversion of a number of people to full blown atheism. But there is a deeper and wider movement towards atheism in our culture irrespective of famous visitors. One swallow does not a summer make - actually it is already made.

I wonder, by the way, since cricket is very much in the news here as we slew the mighty Australians the other night, if Dawkins knows his Darwinian history? In 1835 (I think it was) Charles Darwin visited the Bay of Islands on his voyage which led to the Origin of the Species. He was entertained by the missionaries and watched them playing cricket!
(Some links on atheism/antitheism - thanks to Bosco Peters and to an anonymous commenter on the post below: this, this, and that. Plus, from Bosco again, this particularly helpful post).