Friday, September 3, 2010

Anglican order requires an Anglican magisterium

That title is something I am thinking about, but have little time at the moment to develop. Here is a sentence or two in the meantime: the one thing which Anglicans around the Communion seem to value as being in common and not different is the validity of our orders; if a Bishop of Member Church X in Good Standing ordains Y and Y moves to Member Church Z in Good Standing then Y is an ordained minister acceptable without question in both places (other things being equal around being 'safe to receive' because Y has not run off with the offering or the parish secretary). But why is it 'without question'? I think the answer is that there are a series of presumptions involved about the character of Member Church X: it is faithful to the doctrine of Christ, it is an Anglican church on at least some kind of broad definition of Anglican and that definition is agreeable to X and to Z, it follows common order re the orders of ministry (e.g. the 'bishop' is a bishop and not, say, a 'lay president for ordination'). These presumptions, in fact, constitute an informal magisterium. My question, whenever I can return to it, is this: can the informal magisterium of the Anglican Communion  continue ad infinitum? Does it need to become a formal (and therefore transparent) magisterium?


liturgy said...

I think this is a very helpful post, Peter, in identifying some people’s presuppositions and beginning to make them explicit.

1) Our General Synod does not have “some kind of broad definition of Anglican” – there is a specific list of churches with whom we are in full communion. And a list of churches whose orders we recognise as valid.

2) The validity of someone’s orders, and our recognition of the validity of those orders, in no way assures us of the orthodoxy of the person so ordained.

Hence, there is no “magisterium” involved – either formal or informal – certainly no “informal magisterium of the Anglican Communion “. Sorry.



Anonymous said...

Prayers for everyone in Christchurch and Lyttelton.

Roscoe Mishmack said...

Aha! (I thought) the ghost of Erastus stalks the shattered streets of Christchurch. But then I read further and saw that it's not that sort of magisterium you have in mind. My vote on your two questions, then, without much reflection and for whatever it might be worth, is 'no' and ýes'.

Brother David said...

I am confused Peter about your use of the word Magisterium, which in regard to Roman Catholicism relates to the teaching authority of the RC hierarchy and I do not see where it would have a relationship to transferability of RC orders to another affiliated church, such as a Latin Rite priest transferring to the Maronite Church. (I am not even sure this is allowed!)

I think that you are looking for a different faculty. I think that you are looking for a formal world wide Anglican hierarchy, an Anglican church in the RC universal sense, as opposed to the particular autonomous Anglican churches which constitute the present Anglican Communion.


Praying that you, your family and other loved ones and friends are safe.

Andrew Reid said...

Firstly, my prayers for everybody affected in Christchurch and elsewhere by the earthquake. May God's grace and mercy be with you.

I think you're in dangerous territory with this magisterium idea, Peter. It sounds a bit too close to taking away the authority of individual Christians to interpret the Scriptures for themselves, under the guidance of the Holy Sprit. Could we do with more coherence between our bishops about the church's teaching on various issues? Aboslutely. Should invidual Christians submit their opinions to the body of Christ for discernment? Absolutely. But unless I'm misunderstanding the nature of the magisterium, it sounds dangerously like a mediator between God and people, ie it is the sole authoratative interpreter of God's word for the church. I think we can all agree Jesus suffices in the mediator role.

What would a magisterium give us that a properly run Lambeth council of bishops, and the Primates' Meeting in the intervening years, does nto give us? These bodies, if allowed to do so by the ABC and ACO, have the capacity to speak clearly and authoratatively on matters of faith and church order.

Also, I'm not sure the recognition of orders across dioceses is as absolute as you think. From the Australian experience, some bishops refuse to accept ministers from other dioceses because of significantly different theological beliefs and understandings of the nature of ministry. Might not be how it should work, but it happens.