Thursday, October 21, 2010

The end is nigh, the Communion as we know it is over

I know lots of people diss David Virtue. But everything he writes cannot be wrong. In this report he sums up a message of ++Henry Orombi given at the Lausanne Conference in Capetown:

"Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi told several hundred Lausanne Congress participants at a special meeting on issues facing Anglicans that the Anglican Communion is torn at the deepest level with no hope of ever being repaired. A realignment is now well under way and will conclude with the birth of a new [Anglican] baby. It will be difficult, but all in good time."

A lot rings true about this. It fits with non-attendance of bishops at Lambeth, with GAFCON 2008, and with the recent CAPA meeting's communications.

It is not rocket science to suggest that this new 'baby' will consist of most of the Global South provinces (if not all of them) and ACNA. Nor is it rocket science to suggest that this new baby will be able to be joined by dioceses (and thus will include Sydney, whether or not the whole Australian province joins). It will, in short, be a rather large baby, with a membership by province and by individual Anglicans which is a majority of the current Communion.

The remainder or remnant Communion will not only be a minority of the current Communion, it will be mostly white, mostly aging, and mostly diminishing in numbers. It won't be poor, however, thank you America. So it will not meet any less nor make any less noise nor give up trying to be what it will no longer be, the dominant voice for global Anglicanism.

Incidentally, the new Anglican baby will have some teething troubles. In the same report Virtue notes this:

"Bishop Davies who stood in for Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said there had been a manifest failure of the Communion's instruments to exercise discipline. "The Archbishop of Canterbury failed to have that steel in his body to exercise that discipline." Davies said that being Anglican meant being Biblical and that GAFCON was the only authentic witness to the Anglican Communion."

That is Bishop Glenn Davies of diaconal presidency Diocese of Sydney speaking. He speaks with absolute accuracy: there has been a manfest failure of discipline and no more glaring example exists than the failure concerning those parts of the Communion where diaconal presidency is permitted!!

In this new baby I do not expect any better discipline to be enacted than is currently the case. There will be inconsistencies in respect of ministry, theology, and ethics. But do not write this new baby off. That would be a silly mistake.


Brother David said...

It is all most likely true.

However, the remnant is probably not as white as you think that it will be. The new creation will likely get the tiny Southern Cone and perhaps the West Indies provinces, but nothing else in the Americas.

I think that there are Asian provinces which will not stray from the remnant as well. They are way too polite for the toxic atmosphere created by loud mouthed, pushy Africans.

Sidney appears to be making itself unwelcome in either camp. The sooner they rid themselves of the Jensen Oligarchy perhaps the better.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I stand by my 'mostly white' prediction knowing that it will not be exclusively white because not all Asian, American, African, or Oceanic churches will go with it.

As for Sydney ridding itself of the 'Jensen oligarchy', while I appreciate that you may know more than I know about that (and what I know is not a huge amount), my reading of the Diocese of Sydney is that a significant amount of support exists for the theological, missional, and ecclesiological direction the Jensens have pursued. Thus when ++Peter and Dean Philip retire in a few years time, I do not expect their replacements to change direction.

Andy S said...

Which is "the new creation" I wonder David?

The one that is in step with the BBC, CNN and other out of touch liberal elitists or the one that is in step with the vast bulk of Christendom past and present?

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Rev. Ngira Simmonds said...

Kia ora Peter,

I also agree with your predictions.
He patai - a question:
Which side do you think Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will go with?

On the face of it I think most would assume that we wouldn't rush off to join ACNA and the Global South; however I think some in our Province would want to?

Your predictions?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ngira,

Some factors are unknown. For example would it be acceptable for a diocese to belong to this new Anglican baby when its province does not? If the answer is 'yes' then I think it possible, but not certain, that Nelson might consider joining. (But then it might be about "associate" membership rather than "full" membership).

To take another example: would it be possible to belong to both the new entity and the remnant Communion? If the answer is 'yes' then, perhaps, ACANZP would belong to both. If the answer is 'no' then I think we would go with wherever the C of E goes.

There is also the question of what Oceanic involvement there might be: if Melanesia and Australia belonged to the new entity would that persuade us to do likewise?

Howard Pilgrim said...

These two last posts testify that you must be feeling really torn, Peter. One the one hand you have people like David and me who rejoice that we will no longer be threatened by the bullying demands of those who cannot even accept women as equals in ministry, a cause dear to your heart. On the other hand you are loath to part company with those like Andy who believe that the past can be captured and the future assured by means of 16th century theology and language.

Tough call, for you but not for us!

Peter Carrell said...

Umm, Howard, it is you I am worried about. I think history will be most unkind to the progressive/liberal wing of the Communion who have driven this division hard, unrelentingly hard in the direction of a theology and ecclesiology which will not sustain the life of the remnant Communion for long. I know you and others think differently, but no liberal/progressive church has grown. Just look at the Methodist Church of NZ ... yet even now some within it delude themselves that its best days are yet to come :)

Howard Pilgrim said...

The Anglican Church, for at least the last 1000 years, has always been a liberal and progressive church, Peter, which is why you can be so happy that we have now thrown off our former denigration of women, just as we earlier outgrew other forms of social servitude ... and we have waxed and waned numerically as we sought to adjust to ever-changing missional challenges.

It is too early yet to be so confident about the numerical success of conservative ecclesial responses to at post-Christendom social environment. Did you see the news clip about the Crystal cathedral going bankrupt? Did you hear about the latest financial emergency in the Sydney archdiocese? Early days, friend!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
I don't think I actually mentioned 'numerical' success. I talked about 'sustaining' the life of the church.

Conservative numbers wax and wane too; and some parts do not survive. But, generally speaking, conservative theology is closer to orthodox theology, and it is orthodox theology which has been important to sustaining the church through two millenia.

As for the Anglican church being liberal and progressive for a 1000years ... well, I hate to think how many cuckoos are chirping up in the land where that summary of history came from. But none of them will be called 'Wycliffe' or 'Tyndale' :)

Howard Pilgrim said...

Whoa, Peter careful about what you say about my head and its cuckoo population. Especially when you deny me my liberal heritage in Whycliffe and Tindale, two of my shining examples (not shining cuckoos either) of those who challenged the religious conservatism of their day, making the living Christ visible and available to the multitudes who hadn't been able to see him amidst the dissembling of the established church ...

It is the living Christ who has sustained the church throughout the ages, not any tendency of theology to oppose or support change. Sometimes he leads us to support change, sometimes to resist it, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,

I had not realised that the land where that idea of 1000 years of unabated Anglican liberalism and tolerance was contiguous with your head :)

Wycliffe and Tyndale as examples of liberal progressiveness of their day? Possibly. But you did not talk about 1000 years of shining examples of contemporary liberalness; you said 'the Anglican Church'. And that church did unspeakable things to Wycliffe's dead body, so intolerant were they of him!!

Orthodox theology is the mind of Christ as work in the church so there is no distinction betwee orthodox theology and Christ sustaining the life of the church.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, they do err who consider:-

1. That your head contains significantly fewer cuckoos than mine. :-)

2. That the true church through which we all trace our genealogy is ever well represented by those who exercised power within it. (Those Reformation era martyrs only got through by identifying with some version of the "invisible church" concept)

3. That in any dispute between defenders of established doctrine and practice and advocates for change, the living Christ may be presumed to back the former.

Howard Pilgrim said...

One further line of questioning, Peter. You write, "Orthodox theology is the mind of Christ at work in the church ...". How does that work? I can understand your dictum in two ways:-

1. Jesus came to replace one historical orthodoxy (roughly equivalent to emerging rabbinic Judaism) with a new orthodoxy, imparted to his church. When did this new orthodoxy settle in? As he taught his disciples? After Paul had finished challenging Peter and the Jerusalem apostles over his issues? / At some later point, such as when the NT canon was established? The difficulty in establishing any fixed historical point beyond which received doctrine could not be reviewed is a major obstacle to such an identification of Christ and orthodoxy.

2. Orthodoxy is an emergent tradition in which older understandings of truth are valued but modified as the living Christ leads his faithful people to reflect more deeply on their mission in the light of God-given changing circumstances. I think this is more in line with Paul's understanding of his own role in changing received tradition. If this is what you mean, we are in essential agreement!

An alternate, bi-polar formulation might affirm, "Both orthodox and liberal theologies are the mind of Christ sustaining and renewing his church."

Peter Carrell said...

I can see Howard that the book The Witticisms of Howard is going to be much thicker than The Theologisms of Peter Actually Worth Thinking About!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
In response to your serious-without-witticism point about orthodox theology.

I see (2) as the subject upon which to explore agreement.

I notice however you do not mention Scripture in (2). I see Scripture as a gift from God which helps safeguard the development within the tradition from veering to the liberal left or the Roman right, as brilliantly recognised by the Reformers.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
As I understand it, the GAFCON movement has committed itself to remain within the Anglican Communion. I haven't heard anything official or otherwise to suggest that they are moving towards a separate entity. The Global South certainly hasn't been talking about schism - they insist that "we are the Communion".

For sure, they will continue to absent themselves from the official structures and meetings of the Communion, and will develop alternate structures and meetings. But I haven't seen any plan, timeline, or statement to say that there will be a new, breakaway Anglican Communion.

On Sydney, surely you are not suggesting that diaconal presidency is even in the same ball park as preaching a false gospel of inclusion, and ordaining and consecrating practising homosexual people?? I don't think they should do it either until the Australian General Synod allows it. But it hardly requires the ABC or anybody else to exercise discipline upon them. It's a matter of church order and maintaining Christian fellowship with others, not straying from the apostolic faith.

To declare my interests, I am from Melbourne rather than Sydney. But most bishops would love to have the support that Peter Jensen enjoys in his diocese. His agenda represents the diocesan agenda. The diaconal presidency vote at Sydney Synod this week was very clear, although there was debate about going it alone or trying to take the national church with them.
And internationally, he is appreciated as a Western Anglican leader who hasn't succumbed to the liberalism and false gospels propagated by so many others.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
(1) In 2007 I was at an international Anglican conference where a similar 'plans are well underway' remark was made about the North American scene ... yay, and behold, ACNA emerged soon after. And Bob Duncan was at that conference too!!
(2) I have immense respect for the gospel ministry and mission of Sydney, and for ++Peter (whom I have met and fellowshipped with over a meal). But I ask and will keep on asking whether 'diaconal presidency' is not a change in the definition of 'Anglican'. And I wouldn't be the first person to wonder if Sydney's definition is not just different to the Communion's, but an ever-increasing distance from it.
(3) Breaking the 100 kph speed limit by 5 kph and driving dangerously while heavily intoxicated are both traffic offences. They are of different kinds, and one, potentially, is defensible (e.g. my speedo is a little inaccurate). But they both incur the discipline of the law.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, I am glad we agree on my second option for reading your dictum identifying orthodoxy as the work of our living Lord. There is no significant reason for my omission of Scripture in that remark, apart from brevity. I see scripture as equally important to both advocates and resisters of change - it is our differences in reading it that divide us - hence the importance of hermeneutics in the exploration you recommend. Two further corollaries:-
1. I wish change-resisters would generally give change-advocates a little more credit when they claim scripturally-inspired motivations for that advocacy, and give themselves a little less credit for being purely scripturally-inspired in their resistance.
2. Most of us have personal experience on both sides of such processes. You, for one, clearly regard yourself as faithful to the central principles of scripture in your advocacy for the leadership and ordination of women, although those who resist that particular change will be reluctant to acknowledge that in you.

For this reason, it is unhelpful to claim the titles "conservative" or "liberal" for ourselves apart from particular issues, as it obscures our commonality in Christ, and tends to ascribe permanent states to one another that then become identified as spiritual states. It only encourages people like Andy to trot out their proof-texts by which they too-easily identify others as the false teachers spoken of in the Pastorals - and by default assume for themselves the status of unalloyed truth-bearers. My challenge to such people is this:- How are you so sure that the text you quote so blithely is not talking about you, either as a teacher or a gullible follower? I for one know that in the past I have been both, and it was because I was too conservative!

liturgy said...

Before we start making up a completely new religion, let’s at least be clear that from at least the Donatist controversy Christians have accepted the validity of sacramental ministry independently of the sinfulness of the minister (cf Article 26). The validity of the sacramental ministry of diaconal Eucharistic presidency is qualitatively a different issue.

Ps. I’m intrigued by the different perspective on history in the thought that the English Reformation found the via media between the “liberal left and the Roman right” – and here was I thinking it was between protestant subtractions and Roman additions ;-)

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments Howard and Bosco.

Not much to add, but, appreciating the smile at the end of the sentence, my Scripture-safeguarding-the-middle was meant to be more about some very long trends within all theological discourse, not simply about Anglican theology starting at the Reformation ... bearing in mind that Howard sees liberal and progressive theology at work in the world for a 1000 years :)

liturgy said...

"it is unhelpful to claim the titles "conservative" or "liberal" for ourselves apart from particular issues, as it obscures our commonality in Christ, and tends to ascribe permanent states to one another that then become identified as spiritual states...."

Amen! Amen! AMEN!

Howard Pilgrim said...

What a wonderful concurrence of hearts and minds, Peter and Bosco! I have only two things to say in reply. The first is to acknowledge Bosco's rejoicing as at least in part a celebration that I am acknowledging the wisdom in his resistance some time ago to my adopting a self designation as "liberal", among other appellations.
The second is a small correction, Peter, to your statement, "Howard sees liberal and progressive theology at work in the world for a 1000 years :)". That was just 1000+ years of Anglican: church life. In the world at large, or at least the Judeo-Christian part of it, I see a creative tussle between progressive and conservative theologies going back to the very dawning the scriptural traditions. Our failure to recognise that as a literary and historical truth is one factor behind our present estrangements.