Sunday, November 28, 2010

Miners Memorial, Blog Boycott, Tune Trifecta

Keeping an eye on plans for a memorial service for the twenty-nine miners killed at Pike River Coal Mine, 2 pm Thursday 2 December. Update here. I think the nation will stop still, as the service will be telecast. It will be an intriguing sign that this nation is less secular than we sometimes tell ourselves.

Boycotting my own blog? Sort of. The penny dropped this morning that slow access to the internet might be because our ISP limit for the month has been reached. Checked the meter. Sure enough. Culprits easy to detect, and it wasn't me. Might be some students returned home from nirvana (i.e. university) where the internet is as limitless as sand in the Sahara. Anyway, what with slow internet and some research to do on Revelation for a teaching course next year, the next few days may see few signs of life here.

Tune trifecta ... that will be me on Tuesday night seeing whether my third induction in nine days yields a third time of singing a fave song. Will let you know.

Anglican Communion thoughts: thinking about what I would do if I were the Autocrat over the Communion. Post soon!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Last night was a momentous and lovely occasion at St Barnabas' Fendalton, the neighbouring suburb to the one I live in here in Christchurch. The Reverend Mark Chamberlain was instituted as Vicar of Fendalton. Archdeacon Peter Beck led the service (in the absence of Bishop Victoria who is in Capetown for an IASCUFO meeting) and Bishop Richard Ellena of Nelson preached. From July 2002 till the end of January 2010 Mark and I worked closely together on the staff of the Bishop of Nelson. When I left in January, one of the hardest things was leaving that successful working partnership behind.

But God moves in mysterious ways and ten months later Mark and Pip and family, having made the momentous decision to take up a new ministry challenge right here in Christchurch, are settling into a new vicarage and parish.

There was a good turn out of clergy, both locally and from the Diocese of Nelson. Always good to catch up with colleagues and friends! The music was outstanding and that leads me to make one observation. It concerns the extraordinary popularity of the hymn In Christ Alone. Last night was the second institution of a new vicar I have been to this week. On both occasions we have sung In Christ Alone. And, yes, it was the 'wrath of God' version each time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Praying with and for Greymouth

From Tim Mora and the Greymouth Ministers' Association re the Pike River coal mine tragedy

Press Release and Prayer Request for Denominational Networks - 25/11/2010

Firstly thank you for your prayers over the last few days. They have truly made a difference. Many have asked how I personally am holding up and I have genuinely been able to say very well, I'm fine and then it dawned on me. There are probably tens of thousands, if not more, people praying for myself and the pastors and clergy of this town. I am fine because I am being upheld by your prayers so please keep on praying. God is at work.
On Wednesday the 24th at the 4pm family briefing we were told of the second explosion and there was an immediate outpouring of grief as the reality of the news hit people. In itself this showed how much people had been holding onto hope, a hope which was now gone. There was also anger from a minority who felt that things could have been done differently and they expressed themselves loudly and vocally as they stormed from the building. The majority however supported Peter Whittall and the Pike staff because what they had feared all along happened. Imagine a rescue team in the mine when the second explosion occurred and the ramifications of that. The families and wider community are now in the various stages of the grief process and we along with many others are supporting them the best we can.
So on behalf of our community we request prayer for the following

- For the families who have lost their loved ones. For the Holy Spirit to come and bring comfort and peace to individuals and families, to ease their pain, to help them through the grieving process and that they would continue to seek out help and support as and when they need it.

- Give thanks for the wisdom of those directly involved in the rescue process. Their caution probably saved more lost lives.

- Continue to pray that God's people will follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in offering comfort, care and support to those in need.

- Pray for the recovery of the bodies. The families and wider community all want and need their men back. It will make the grieving process easier and bring a better degree of closure. Pray therefore for the efforts of Pike Staff and the Recovery teams as the seek to render the mine safe enough for the recovery of the bodies.

- Give thanks for our national media who have been excellent but continue to pray for the overseas media in particular that they will be compassionate and gentle in their quest for information. Not intrusive and invasive. To see the people and not just the story.

- Pray for the pastors and clergy of the community, for wisdom in handling the media, sensitivity and compassion in dealing with families especially now as they support families in their grief and in time begin to prepare for funerals. Continue to pray for strength and the Spirit's sustaining for the duration. Pray especially for Rev. Tim Mora chairperson of the Greymouth Ministers Association and for the clergy from each denomination who are ministering on the Coast.

- Continue to pray for those struggling emotionally, especially now with the news of no survivors for those with survivor guilt, unresolved and also for those with now re-opened grief from previous mining tragedies and for those providing counseling and comfort.

- Pray for the the work colleagues of those lost who because of the common bond are feeling this more than most apart from the families themselves. Some are struggling with the thought of returning underground to work and others because of their more informed knowledge will be wrestling with how that impacts what they say to people in relation to chances of recovering the bodies, the future of the mine and so on. Pray for wisdom here.

- Pray for all those supporting families that they would offer appropriate care and support that would be of real benefit to the families.

- Pray for our town as the Spirit leads. This will leave a scar and shape our identity for the future but we want the processing of our communal and wider grief not to leave us crippled and dysfunctional in the future but rather stronger and more resilient as a community.

- Pray for the "Community Remembrance Service" on Thursday the 2nd of Dec at 2pm at Omoto that it will be a fitting service for the families and the wider community as they wait for their loved ones to come home. That those organising and fronting the event will have real wisdom in shaping the service and in selecting the words they say. Pray too that there will be a fitting balance between local and national needs.

Tim Mora

Chairperson, Greymouth Ministers’ Association

Anglican Communion: Dissolved for lack of Strong Glue

Cranmer says some things about the Covenant and the future of the Communion very well:

'Perhaps the Covenant is un-Anglican, but the very fact that it is a development in the Church’s doctrine of ecclesiology actually renders it rather Anglican.

If we are to avoid the ‘piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion’, do we not need a bit of glue?

It’s a certain fact we’re out of whitewash.

And what on earth could be wrong with a framework which demands consultation?

How can one resolve disagreements without dialogue?

The bizarre thing is that the Anglican Church actually practises what the Roman Catholic Church pretends to: subsidiarity; notwithstanding that the very concept is a Roman Catholic invention. It is to do with governance at the lowest level, and the Anglican Communion has historically been constructed on devolved localism. Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell [two Euro-sceptic politicians] would be proud.

But it hasn’t worked.'

Future historians will judge the Communion failed because a mistake was made about the glue required to hold us together. A common heritage of roots in the C of E is insufficient: the church is not an historical association, it is the body of Christ guided by the mind of Christ. Some kind of shared understanding of and shared commitment to common doctrine is the glue we need. It is insufficient response to this requirement to dismiss it for fear of some kind of 'unhealthy dogmatism' shaping Anglicanism. If we do not wish to dissolve we need doctrine (commensurate with our heritage in the ancient and reformed church, consistent with creeds and Scripture). If we take doctrine seriously we will commit to some form of discipline.

We are free to reject doctrine and discipline. But there will be a consequence. The Communion will dissolve.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Communion as We Know It is Dead

From a GAFCON Primates Council release:

'5. For the sake of Christ and of His Gospel we can no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy and so we join with other Primates from the Global South in declaring that we will not be present at the next Primates’ meeting to be held in Ireland. And while we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.
6. We also acknowledge with appreciation the address to the Nicean Society meeting in Lambeth Palace on September 9th of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. We welcome his call to all churches of the Anglican Communion to step back from the abyss of heresy and reclaim the revealed truth that is at the heart of our historic understanding of Christian faith and moral order. We share with him the conviction that failure to do so will endanger our common witness and many important ecumenical dialogues but we would also point out that there are many within the Anglican Communion who have not ‘bowed the knee’ to secular liberalism and who are determined to stay true to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ whatever the cost. '

On the day when the CofE GS approves the Covenant provisionally, sending it to the Dioceses, major Global South provinces declare they are out of fellowship with ... basically TEC as the bastion of what is called 'secular liberalism.' There is no way back from this to the Communion as it was until there is repentance or an expulsion. We can be sure that TEC will not do the former and the ABC will not drive the latter.

I have been saying for a while now that the Anglican Communion will become a 'white person's club'. More or less that has happened. We have lost most of Africa and Asia.

Everything here is sad. Including the illusion of the GAFCON Primates Council that there will be a future global Anglican Communion to 'love:'

'10. We are also grateful for the recent conference sponsored by CAPA in Entebbe, Uganda, where we witnessed the growing strength of the Anglican Churches in Africa and their commitment to wholistic mission. We believe that GAFCON/FCA must expand its ministry through the inclusion of other Anglican provinces that share our faith conviction and love for the Communion. We also applaud the efforts of the Global South Provinces to find common ground and opportunities for common mission. We are committed to doing all that we can to strengthen our common witness.
11. We remain convinced that the unique character of GAFCON/FCA with its diversity of cultures and its embrace of the Jerusalem Declaration as a common theological confession is a vital contribution to the future of the global Anglican Communion. We are persuaded that we must offer new initiatives to more effectively respond to the crises that confront us all. We must strengthen our communication capabilities and we are also looking to build partnerships with other denominational churches that share our faith convictions.'

There will be two global Anglican entities going forward from here. Let's get real folks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A dark day for Greymouth

Today all hope of any miner surviving from the Pike River coal mine wa snuffed out when a second, and larger explosion occurred at 2.37 pm. Twenty-nine miners have been declared dead. Greymouth, the West Coast and Aotearoa New Zealand are in mourning. It is moving to find that the church is at the heart of the pastoral response to this tragedy, one report of which is below. Thank you readers for your continuing prayers.

'Hundreds of people have gathered at Holy Trinity Church in Greymouth, following this afternoon's confirmation the 29 Pike River miners are dead.

Those among the congregation include mine boss Peter Whittall. He has been hugged by Daniel Rockhouse - one of the two men who walked out of the mine after Friday's explosion. Daniel's brother Ben Rockhouse is one of the men who lost their lives in the mine.

The Reverend Marge Tefft says it is a devastating day and she has paid tribute to Peter Whittall.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn presented a message sent earlier from the Pope. The Pontiff says he shares the anxiety of the miners' families, and has them in his prayers.

The Prime Minister is now looking at the possibility of having two memorials to mark the deaths of the miners. Mr Key says planning has not yet started, but his intention is to have one memorial in Greymouth and another national memorial, probably in Christchurch. He says we are a nation in mourning and that needs to be addressed.

Parliament will rise early tomorrow and flags will be flown at half mast.'

NZ Herald

Yes, we Anglicans can discipline each other when we want to

Some opponents of the Covenant rip it because it is 'punitive'. Some proponents of the Covenant (myself included) prefer to emphasise the disciplinary possibilities of the Covenant: that is the ability of the Covenant to enable the Communion to insist on limits to diversity, consequences for moving too far or too fast in respect of matters of common life, all with a view to better learning what it means to be a Christian within the life of the Communion. But even such a considered perspective on being a disciple of Christ is opposed. 'Discipline' as well as 'punishment' can be made to sound like very bad things which Anglicans in particular should have as little to do with as possible.

The simple fact is that Anglicans do discipline each other, do understand that some things are intolerable in the conduct of Anglicans, and do hold to standards of behaviour and belief for which there are consequences if an infraction occurs.

Even an Anglican bishop can be disciplined, believe it or not. +Pete Broadbent, much reported around the world, as noted in posts below, has said things about the Royal Family which are intolerable and (IMHO) inaccurate and unfair. Despite apologising, he is now suspended* from his ministry according to this report in which a letter from the Bishop of London is published.

The question is not whether we are capable of discipline, or whether the will to discipline lies in our corporate Anglican character. We are and it does. The question is what we consider to be the line beyond which discipline lies and behind which it does not.

*Legally he has not been suspended as that would require a specific process according to church law, but the bishop's letter says, 'I have asked him to withdraw from public ministry until further notice.' That, practically, is suspension.

The extraordinary claim of the opponents of the Covenant

In a completely surprising move (not!) the Archbishop of Canterbury has come out at the General Synod of the Church of England with a powerful, knowledgeable, and clear address in favour of the Covenant!

The Covenant is not what its opponents constantly deride it as being:

'The Covenant text itself represents work done by theologians of similarly diverse views, including several from North America. It does not invent a new orthodoxy or a new system of doctrinal policing or a centralised authority, quite explicitly declaring that it does not seek to override any province's canonical autonomy. After such a number of discussions and revisions, it is dispiriting to see the Covenant still being represented as a tool of exclusion and tyranny.'

As often stated here at ADU, the alternative to the Covenant is continued disintegration of the Communion:

'It is an illusion to think that without some changes the Communion will carry on as usual, and a greater illusion to think that the Church of England can somehow derail the entire process. The unpalatable fact is that certain decisions in any province affect all. We may think they shouldn't, but they simply do. If we ignore this, we ignore what is already a real danger, the piece-by-piece dissolution of the Communion and the emergence of new structures in which relation to the Church of England and the See of Canterbury are likely not to figure significantly. All very well, you may say; but among the potential casualties are all those areas of interaction and exchange that are part of the lifeblood of our church and of many often quite vulnerable churches elsewhere. These relations are remarkably robust, given the institutional tensions at the moment, and, as I've often said, many will survive further disruption. But they will be complicated and weakened by major fracture and realignment.'

The Covenant is realistic: it offers the possibility of something better than division but does not promise that unity in the Communion is easily achieved:

'The Covenant offers the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult. And it also recognises that even after consultation there may still be disagreement, that such disagreement may result in rupture of some aspects of communion, and that this needs to be managed in a careful and orderly way. Now the risk and reality of such rupture is already there, make no mistake. The question is whether we are able to make an intelligent decision about how we deal with it. To say yes to the Covenant is not to tie our hands. But it is to recognise that we have the option of tying our hands if we judge, after consultation, that the divisive effects of some step are too costly.'

Lest we forget: Anglican opponents around the globe protest much about the Covenant. It is not what it seems, it is punitive, it is unnecessary to the future health of the Communion itself. Oh, and by the way, we are Anglicans through and through (and, in North America, we are real Anglicans, not like the ersatz crowd over at ACNA).

Interesting then to ponder this: these real Anglicans, these thoroughgoing Anglicans with the Communion's best interests at heart, know better than the Archbishop of Canterbury what those best interests require!

Given that the Archbishop of Cantebury is the cornerstone in human terms of the Communion, since it is defined in terms of communion with the See of Canterbury, and that the ABC by virtue of roles in the Communion and its meetings knows more about the Communion than any other living Anglican, it is an extraordinary claim opponents of the Covenant are making: we know better than the Archbishop of Canterbury what is good for the Communion!

Yet I am not without hope. In this last week the leading opponent of condoms offered a smidgeon of a sign of changing his mind :) If he can see the light, so can opponents of the Covenant.

Has +Pete Been Suspended?

According to Cranmer, +Pete Broadbent of Willesdon has been suspended from his public ministry as a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of London. But in the same post Cranmer notes that +Pete says he has not been suspended. We shall see. I find it extraordinary that a bishop of the C of E could be so naive as to (1) think that Tweets and Facebook comments would not be public, and (2) make deprecatory remarks out of sorts with his vows and obligations as a bishop of the established church.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Praying for Pike River miners, families, and communities

From Rev Tim Mora, Regional Dean of Mawhera (Greymouth and surrounds) and Chair of Greymouth Ministers' Association:

Press Release and Prayer Request for Denominational Networks - 23/11/2010

On Friday the 19th of November an explosion ripped through the Pike River coal mine between Greymouth and Reefton leaving 29 miners and contractors unaccounted for below ground. Because of the size and close knit nature of our community virtually everyone is affected in some way. Rescue efforts are ongoing but are dependent on various gas readings reaching safe and consistent levels. Despite the length of time already passed the possible convergence of a number of factors could mean that there are still survivors.

So on behalf of our community we request prayer for the following

- For the families of those underground. For the Holy Spirit to come and bring comfort and peace to individuals and families, to ease their anxiety, to enable them to persist in patience. To seek out help and support as and when they need it and not to give up hope.

- For those directly involved in the rescue for wisdom in their decision making in the way they go about the rescue, support the families, handle the media and so on. May they be ready to listen, consult and work well together and that they too are supported.

- That God's people will follow the leading of God's spirit in offering comfort, care and support to those in need.

- For things beyond human control for example for a supernatural reduction in gas levels, for a barometric high to develop over the area, for mist and wind to reduce to enable safer flying for the helicopters, and so on.

- For the media that they will be a compassionate and gentle in their quest for information. Not intrusive and invasive. To see the people and not just the story.

- Pray for the pastors and clergy of the community, for wisdom in handling the media, sensitivity and compassion in dealing with families and strength for the duration. Pray especially for Rev. Tim Mora chairperson of the Greymouth Ministers Association and for (enter here your own denominational details ... local Anglican clergy include those in Reefton (John and Dawn Stringer), Greymouth (Marge Tefft, Robin Kingston, Tim Mora), and Hokitika (Ruth Dawson, Vivien Harber, Elaine Richards, Norman Richards, Vivien Simkin, Frances Stapleton)).

- Pray for those struggling emotionally, for those with survivor guilt, unresolved and now re-opened grief from previous mining tragedies and for those providing counseling and comfort.

- And to pray for those trapped underground. Assuming that they are alive and together that they would support and sustain each other and make wise decisions of their own around survival and if they have not survived to begin preparing the hearts of families for the worst. That they will be surrounded by those who can support them if and when news of the worst kind finally comes.

At the time of posting there continues to be no change in the situation: poisonous gas remains in the mine and no rescue attempt is being made.

+Gene right and wrong

'Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad' springs to mind as a few days ago +Gene Robinson said that 'it is almost as if aliens have come and taken Rowan away from us'. This considered judgement was made in respect of the change between the professorial Rowan Williams and the archepiscopal ++Rowan Williams. But a few days later it is becoming clearer that +Gene was both right and wrong. The aliens have come and have abducted one of the British bishops, but it was not ++Rowan, it was +Pete Broadbent of Willesdon, London. As reported in this pillar of truth and bulwark of historical record (The Daily Mail), the aliens have entered +Pete's mind and deleted all knowledge that the Queen, her successor son and grandson, are present and future Governors of the church of which he is bishop:

'A prominent bishop has provoked a storm of outrage by likening Prince William and Kate Middleton to ‘shallow celebrities’ and predicting their marriage will last just seven years.

On his Facebook page, Church of England Bishop Pete Broadbent describes the Royal Family as ‘philanderers’ with a record of marriage break-ups who ‘cost an arm and a leg’.

'Disrespectful': The Bishop linked William and Kate Middleton to 'shallow celebrities', predicting that their marriage wouldl last just seven years

He also denounces the ‘nauseating tosh’ surrounding the ‘national flimflam’ of the ­wedding and says the basis of the Monarchy is ‘corrupt and sexist’.

In a reference to the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, he adds: ‘I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and I hope to avoid this one too.’

There is more in the vein, as you can read here. The aliens have been enjoying themselves! Unlike some people having a good time, the aliens know when to stop, so now they have made +Pete apologise:

'Pete Broadbent, the Church of England Bishop of Willesden in north London, said he was sorry for referring to the royal family as "philanderers" and sent his best wishes to the couple, who announced their engagement last week.

"I have conveyed to Prince Charles and to Prince William and Kate Middleton my sincere regrets for the distress caused by my remarks and the subsequent media attention about the forthcoming royal wedding," he said in a statement.

"I recognise that the tone of my language and the content of what I said were deeply offensive, and I apologise unreservedly for the hurt caused." '

What? No apology to the late, great Diana for calling her a Porcelain Doll?

The aliens have done their work. That bishop will not be ++Rowan's successor :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Waiting, hoping, praying

My friends and colleagues, Rev Marge Tefft and Archdeacon Robin Kingston are in the eye of the media storm around the Pike River Mine explosion. Lloyd Ashton of Anglican Taonga is running a story on their roles here. An excerpt:

"Marge and Robin – who was Vicar at Holy Trinity for almost 20 years – and who helped the Coast through the Cave Creek tragedy [when fourteen young adults died in a tragic accident in 1994], have found themselves at the epicentre of a media storm.

“We’re just getting slammed,” says Marge. “We’re not media savvy. But since Friday evening, we’ve probably done about 20 interviews.”

Mostly, those requests come from New Zealand media, hungry for new insights, new angles on the Pike River drama. But Australian radio, TV and newspapers want to hear from Marge and Robin too, and Robin has also been interviewed by the BBC’s Radio 4.

“We’ve allowed the media in to the church for the services,” says Marge.

“But a journalist asked me today: ‘Is anybody praying in there now?’ I said ‘No. But even if there was, I’d ask you to wait outside.

“This has to be a sacred place.

“’When people come out, and they want to speak to you, that’s fine.

“But inside is a sanctuary – and providing that seems to be really important.” "

Thank you readers for your prayers. Still no news as I write this, almost 72 hours after the explosion.

Paradox in Kiwi Anglican Objections to Covenant

Here in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia we have three member tikanga (or cultural streams of self-organising, limited self-governing churches) which are bound together to work interdependently on matters of common doctrine, liturgy, and order, while being free to work out ministry and mission autonomously among the differing peoples drawn to identify with our respective tikanga - to the point where in the city of Auckland there are three overlapping episcopal jurisdictions providing for the confluence of tikanga. These arrangements stem not from goodwill or bonds of affection but from a binding covenantal commitment to do so according to the revised constitution of our church. That covenantal commitment was provoked by decades of active reflection on the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, itself a form of covenant between Maori and Pakeha (NZers of European origin or descent).

The advantages of working together within this covenantal relationship include mutual support, encouragement, and people resources, as well as joint access to certain funds belonging to our whole church, these funds being administered by three tikanga committees and boards. The disciplinary consequences of failure to maintain a common life are difficult to define because, to date, such failure has not arisen. We have had some dramatic moments at our General Synods, but when tensions and difficulties have occurred we have found a way to move forward together. An important aspect of this resolve to continually find common ground is the simple fact of the power of our relationship as defined by the constitution: any one of the tikanga may veto a proposal. That is, generally our life together as interdependent tikanga works on bonds of affection but we work out a way forward when those bonds are strained because we know the way of effective veto would prevail if we did not agree together.

In sum: ACANZP works out its communion as three diverse tikanga in one church in a manner which has striking resemblances to the proposed Covenant-led life of the Anglican Communion. Paradoxically, some of the stronger voices objecting to the Covenant are Kiwi voices.

POSTSCRIPT: parallels, non-parallels between ACANZP's structure and the Communion

(1) We have multiple primates (three) who seek to work together and to speak with one voice, consulting and collaborating together.

(2) Our General Synod Standing Committee is proportionally unrepresentative of active Anglicans: it includes the primates and three Polynesian members, five Aotearoa members, and seven NZ Dioceses (Pakeha) members. But 3:5:7 does not represent the proportions re active Anglican involvement which would be more like 1:1:20 for the three tikanga. And, within the NZ Dioceses' representation, each diocese whether 'large' or 'small' gets one representative on the Committee.

(3) General Synod Standing Committee does function as 'synod in session between sessions' which is different to the AC's Standing Committee (which consists of ACC reps and primates, but is not Lambeth Conference in session between Lambeth Conference).

(4) General Synod and General Synod Standing Commitee have limited authority over the tikanga, and over the diocesan synods within the tikanga, but members of General Synod must ratify with a straight majority any nomination for bishop from an electoral synod.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to undo an Infallible decision: slowly!

The thing about Pope Benedict XVI is not to underestimate him. He has a brain, he has lived a long time, and he may just know exactly what he is doing when he says or writes something. In this report (being noticed across the world) he says something in a published interview which acknowledges the faint possibility that a condom might have its uses:

"Church teaching has long opposed condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception, although it has never released an explicit policy about condoms and HIV. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its opposition.

Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution. But he said in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

Benedict called it "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality."

He used as an example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not an issue, as opposed to married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even some church officials in Africa to condone condom use for monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from getting infected."

Note the careful wording here. Not condom use as a contraception but as a prophylactic. A risky move raising the hypothesis of a male prostitute using a condom, but steering clear of the context of married, potential-for-procreative sex. But why say this at all?

It has to be at least possible that wily Benedict is opening the door to a softening of the Roman view on contraception which is the least popular, least adhered to teaching of the church of recent times. He may not say anything more in his lifetime but he has thrown the next pope a lifeline. Bit by bit of undoing and reversing is the way to undo an infallible decision without looking too obviously like admitting to fallibility!

A Plague on Both Yer Houses?

That the Covenant might just be the right document for the Anglican Communion at this time is evidenced by its opponents. When a progressive and a conservative challenge to the Covenant agree in judgement that it is the wrong document for the Communion, there might just be something in favour of it. I call it 'the silent majority'!

Anyway, Andrew Goddard, whom I anoint as unofficial spokesperson for the centre of the Communion (and please direct concerns about how the centre is defined to him ... :), having recently taken on the English progressive challenge, takes on Sugden and Samuel's conservative, let's-hear-it-for-GAFCON challenge to the Covenant. Here are the final two paragraphs:

"One suspects that the authors may hope that GAFCON/FCA will benefit if the covenant fails but the weaknesses in that approach are already becoming clear in multiple ways. Its internal tensions are increasingly evident in, for example, the decision of AMiA to change its status in ACNA, the decision of a diocese in the Southern Cone to seek membership in another province following the province’s decision - on what is supposedly a ‘matter of indifference’in GAFCON - not to permit it to ordain women priests and the departure to Rome of some involved in the launch of FCAUK. It has also failed to build out from its original base and attract more Primates from the wider Global South to its Primates’ Council. More fundamentally, it is possibly fatally weakened by its failure to complement its proper confessional concern with the sort of practical commitments to patterns of common life and processes of common discernment found in the covenant.

If GAFCON and its supporters are genuinely seeking to be not an alternative Communion hoping for the breakup of the existing Communion but a reform movement within the Communion then rather than majoring on the covenant’s minor weaknesses and disparaging and distorting its content they should be embracing and working with the covenant as a reform which moves us in the right direction. Although not without its problems, by God’s grace and through our patience and perseverance the covenant holds out the prospect of gradually bringing greater faithfulness and order to global Anglicanism and so strengthening us to share in the mission of God."

The whole critique is here.

Coast Disaster

After the Christchurch earthquake killed no one, we Kiwis and others around the world wait anxiously for news about the fate of 29 miners in the Pike River Coal Mine on the West Coast. An explosion due to methane gas has occurred but so much poisonous gas remains that a rescue team cannot enter the mind. It is being pointed out that this is a different kind of mining disaster to the recent Chilean disaster which ended in all surviving. Pike River is near to Greymouth, a town at the south-western edge of the Diocese of Nelson. Last night a special service was held in Holy Trinity church. NZ Herald picks up the story:

"More than 200 people filled the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Greymouth last night for a special service to help people cope as they wait for news.

Vicar Marge Tefft said the large turnout was an incredible display of "uncertainty, concern, and sorrow and hope".

She told the congregation she had noticed how people were helping each other and giving support and "doing practical things" for others in the time of need.

Archdeacon Robin Kingston said he wished he could say it was unfamiliar territory, in reference to the mining tragedies that have hit the West Coast in past years.

"Coasters have experienced so many tragedies over the years, you would think we are hardened by it. But we never are."

Special services were planned at churches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch today.

Australia was sending a team of rescue experts to assist, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said.

Earlier in the evening, the police officer in command of the rescue effort said he had no option but to hold back the rescue team, consisting of experienced miners, many of whom had family inside in the mine.

District Commander Gary Knowles said: "I'm not going to put anyone else underground until I'm satisfied that it's safe and we're going to get people out."

Although they repeatedly referred to the operation as "search and recovery," Knowles and the mine's chief executive, Peter Whittall, insist they can find men alive.

"I'm the eternal optimist; that at the end of the day we're going to find these guys and bring them out," Knowles said.

The rescue attempt could begin as soon as tests showed the gases - including methane, ethane and carbon monoxide - were clearing.

"We don't work on gut feelings," he added.

Whittall, showing the strain of more than 24 hours without sleep, said the men's families were drawing comfort from one another at the local Red Cross emergency centre.

"They're spending a lot of time with each other and there's not much they can do," Whittall said. "It's much like the rest of us, they can only wait."

A source at Valley Longwall Drilling, a company contracted by the mine, said the more time they spent underground, the less likely they were going to be pulled out alive.

"The problem is the air is no good - when there's an explosion the flame sucks up the oxygen so we just don't know what they'd be breathing down there," the source said."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cavalcade of Comment on Covenant

There is a lot of comment around on the Covenant these days. Here are three things which have caught my eye, with gratitude to those who alerted me to them!

(1) An enlarged Goddard exposition of the Covenant's virtues in reponse to the English campaign to expose its vices. Here for the whole (it is longish). An excerpt (from the conclusion):

"In summary, their response to the covenant reveals that they are far from being the authentic voice of Anglicanism or the Church of England. Instead, they are at risk of seeking to remake the Communion in their own particular Western liberal image and thus make it captive to what Oliver O’Donovan described as The failure of the liberal paradigm in his first Fulcrum sermon on subjects of the day (now published by SCM as A Conversation Waiting to Begin). At root, their ill-informed polemic suggests that ultimately they cannot accept that their own tradition in Anglicanism must – like evangelical and catholic perspectives – also learn ‘to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices’ if it is to be truly Anglican. As a result, they rail against a covenant one of whose main strengths is precisely that it prevents any one part of Anglicanism from heading where they sadly risk heading - ‘in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism’."

Then two provocative comments on Titus One Nine responding to posting +Graham Kings' Fulcrum/CiF column:

(2) From Sarah's comment:

"I certainly wish that it weren’t so. But since the Covenant does nothing to fix the AC’s issues—TEC will still be representing the AC with vim and vigor as a full member no matter what it does—it appears that there will simply be permanent division within the AC. The informed middle right has made it clear they aren’t leaving. So what we have is the informed middle right coupled with Sydney-type folks [by that I mean the folks who never needed “the center” to hold anyway] over there in one segment. And then the foaming raging heretics over here in one segment. And then the uninformed moderates just sort of standing about.

I look for those chasms to deepen and broaden, and for participation in the various official bodies of the AC to continue to greatly decline, since there’s no real reason to participate in such bodies with gangrenous TEC."

In posting this I am not agreeing to each and every adjective used! But I think Sarah captures well the sense that some observers have that nothing is going to change for the better, with or without a Covenant. We're doomed to disintegration!

(3) From Chris Seitz's comment:

"One thing I do not understand is the so called progressive position on this. I accept that they view with great caution/loathing the covenant (though one can wonder why, especially since the present SC is completely on their side). What is unclear is what kind of global anglicanism they envisage. It is not like default to the status quo, by killing the covenant, is workable. The communion is shattering. Is the point that this is all OK, and that then everyone gets to do what they want? Global associations will get reconfigured to track with this? The churches in various provinces will divide and splinter? This is the price for moving ahead with SSBs and it is worth it?

The covenant sets forth a vision for Communion, in continuity with what the Communion has been and reliant on healthy instruments (which aspect is now not present). If not this, what do the progressives want in terms of international anglicanism of a workable sort? One can get the impression that ‘all is well’ so long as the dreaded covenant is defeated. But all is not well. Unless one just wants to say those were arrangements we never liked anyway, and goodbye to them."

Chris Seitz (yes, the one involved with the ACI) makes a point well which I share. No Covenant could well mean No Communion. Are we happy with that? Some seem to be! Perhaps we should get used to the idea ... especially if Sarah is right and we are doomed.

Then, added Friday morning (NZ time), an article by Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel (H/T Virtue):

(4) "The current Covenant process interminably delays judgement and leaves little hope of discipline and thus of consistency. We are left in a permanent state of dialogue and conversation. This has practical implications at parish level when churches have to decide how to relate to same-sex couples requesting blessing and bringing surrogate children for baptism. If the covenant process in the Communion becomes the state of affairs in the Church of England, its practices could be so contradictory that chaos would result. Endless appeal could be made to conviction, openness, listening and time while practices and actions continue which go against the teaching of the church whether in a parish or whole diocese.

The above argument could therefore suggest abstention in the vote in General Synod next week for the following reasons:

The Communion needs recognition of orthodox teaching and for proper and appropriate boundaries. The Covenant does not achieve that purpose but substitutes conviction for truth. Some wish to travel further in the direction in which the Covenant is supposed to point, but do not wish to support the very weak approach of the current Covenant. Where the current Anglican Communion process is going today could be used to allow for English Dioceses to move in TEC's direction tomorrow on the grounds that this is accepted Anglican practice."

On this analysis we are doomed to (endless) dialogue! There could be worse fates, and disintegration would be one of those. But I am challenged here to think of an aspect of the Covenant process, that it could allow for even basic creedal beliefs to be put up for consideration (i.e. if and when one member church developed teaching contrary to the creeds) and thus plunge the Communion into a long, if not endless discussion over matters (apparently) settled many centuries ago. Whereas I had thought that S1-3 of the Covenant confirmed that settlement.

Better argument for Covenant today

A better argument for the Covenant is available today, courtesy of Bishop Graham Kings CiF article, also reproduced on Fulcrum. Here is a key part of his case:

"The model of the Covenant is drawn from family ties and kinship and bounded by mutually agreed norms of behaviour which benefit everyone. It is not a document of doctrinal specifications, like the conservative Jerusalem Declaration, drawn up mostly by those who boycotted the Lambeth Conference. Nor is it a contract, as feared by its liberal critics. It is truly a covenant.

In his address to the Lambeth Conference 2008, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, was pithily penetrative and perceptive in drawing out contrasts:

'A contract is a transaction. A covenant is a relationship. Or to put it slightly differently: a contract is about interests. A covenant is about identity. It is about you and me coming together to form an 'us'. That is why contracts benefit, but covenants transform.'

The four sections of the Covenant cover the themes of belief, mission, church and relational consequences. They provide for a delicate balance of communion with autonomy and accountability. It seems to me that the ‘unbounded’ is soon the ‘empty’ and we do not want the life of the body to drip out, dissipate and disappear."

As I continue to read across the internet I find it curious that some of the greatest vehemence against the Covenant is associated with the notion that being Anglican is being free to explore theology in an open-ended manner, and thus with the fear that the Covenant will end this freedom - +Kings 'unbounded' in the citation above.

Apart from the fact that it is very doubtful that the Covenant will precipitate the end of Anglican theological freedom, it is offensive to some Anglicans such as myself that, on these arguments, 'Anglican' is a synonym for 'liberal', and that the vehemence works from the certainty that this liberal way is the only way to be Anglican. (As an aside, it is curious that the liberal arguments against the Covenant are not at all 'open' to the benefits of the Covenant!)

There are, of course, many liberal Anglicans, including some who comment here, who are comfortable with a range of theological views intermingling in the Anglican Communion. But I am disturbed by those liberals who make comment on the Covenant as though to be Anglican is to be liberal and that is that!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ABC Unequivocally Promotes Covenant

Alyson Barnett-Cowan (i.e. 'ABC' but not 'the ABC"!) makes a simple, succinct point about the Covenant. One many NZ students appreciate in the month of November: read it then respond! (In their case 'read the examination question'). Alyson is Director for Unity Faith and Order in the Anglican Communion Office.

"The first thing to say is that for any Anglican or Episcopalian to be able to properly enter into a discussion about the Covenant it is vital that they first read it for themselves here "

She goes on to point out the role of the Covenant as the opposite of draconian, devilish, or deranged:

"The point of the processes outlined in the Covenant is precisely to encourage one part of the Communion, when seeking to respond responsibly in its own context in mission, to consider how that will affect other parts of the Communion It is not that one Province would exercise a veto over another, but that there would be collaborative discernment. In a globalised world, it is no longer possible (if it ever was) for one church to act entirely for itself; decisions have ramifications, and the intention is for these to be explored together. "

But, or BUT, ABC goes on to say some things which, frankly, this pro-Covenant covenanter does not find as persuasive as he would like!

(1) The Covenant will work for those who sign up to it and the Communion will still work as a mixed group of signers and non-signers

"It is also not true that non-signatories would no longer count as part of the Communion. There will be Provinces which have adopted the Covenant, and there may be (though one hopes not) Provinces which have not. They are equally members of the Anglican Communion, according to the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council. The difference would be that signatories will have made a commitment to live in that communion in a particularly enhanced way, and to a process of consultation and common discernment."

Is not this an articulate form of nonsense? True, if 35/38 member churches sign up, three non-signers could be 'carried' along in some kind of communion as a Communion while 35 work 'in a particularly enhanced way etc'. But what if 19 sign and 19 do not, or 31 sign and the 7 non-signers are TEC, ACCan, ACAustralia, ACANZP, CofE, ACWales, and EpCScotland, would the Communion really be able to operate as a (so to speak) mixed economy? I suggest the ACO works on clarity about the level of support the Covenant requires for it to be a meaningful rather than nonsensical document.

(2) The Covenant will make a difference (badly illustrated)

One of the arguments against the Covenant is that it is not needed as current structures are sufficient to deal with imaginable future developments. So I find a less than helpful point being made when we read this:

"The assertion is often made that the ordination of women could not have occurred if the Covenant were in place. It is not at all clear that this would have been the case. The consultative processes of the Anglican Communion actually resulted in the discernment that this was an issue about which Anglicans were free to differ. That is exactly the kind of discernment that is needed when any new matter emerges: how do churches in communion distinguish between that which may further the Gospel and that which may impede it? There are never simple answers, but the intent is that the Anglican Communion Covenant provides a way of doing this in a collaborative and committed manner."

The intent is one I agree with: to counter assertions about a hypothetical situation (if the Covenant had been in place then X would have/not have taken place). But the wording here undermines the Covenant. If the pre-Covenant Communion previously found a way to engage in common discernment on a tricky matter, why would it need a new way via the Covenant?

The better argument to make here is that the pace of communication around the globe today means that we are interconnected as member churches of one Communion in a different manner to the past. A formerly ad hoc approach to controversial matters, appropriately informal and patient over time, now needs a structured, clear, formal process able to be entered into with speed and efficiency (even if the process, once engaged, should take as much time as the particular issue warrants).

I imagine that both supporters and opponents of the Covenant might agree on one thing, at least, about ABC's post: it has a whiff of panic about it! We can be sure, by the way, that the ABC will have approved of ABC's action in writing and publishing this promotion.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's not 1951

Here is an intriguing argument against the Covenant, in the first of the CiF posts about the Covenant:

"Such a process represents a more developed system than archbishop Geoffrey Fisher knew. In 1951 he said: "We have no doctrine of our own – we only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic church enshrined in the Catholic creeds, and those creeds we hold without addition or diminution." Fisher was no woolly liberal. Why is his doctrinal standground no longer adequate?"

That would be "1951" as in the years before Robinson, Spong, and Cupitt; before the Jesus Seminar; before, well, quite a few developments which severely strain the notion that 'the Catholic creeds' are adequate as a doctrinal standard. What, we may ask with all the reasonableness of Hooker himself, does the church do when the creeds themselves are reinterpreted by teachers of the faith dressed as Anglican bishops?!

That would also be "1951" as in the years before the post-colonial expansion of the Communion as a group of Anglican churches no longer run by Oxbridge educated English bishops and missionaries. A year, in other words, when Nigeria would never have questioned whether England was truly Anglican, nor vice versa.

Anglican life has changed!

Guardian publishes column in favour of Covenant

Thanks to the Guardian (UK) we have a very helpful column in favour of the Covenant (H/Thinking Anglicans). Admittedly it is an argument in disguise, for it looks to all intents and purposes like the introduction to one of its series of answers to a question in the 'Comment is Free' section, the suggested answers being provided by a range of opinion-makers. I expect to see some well-known C of E names contributing over the next few days!

Here is what is written:

"Next week the Church of England's General Synod will be asked to take an apparently momentous decision. Should it sign up to a formal, international, disciplinary process which would allow other churches a voice on whether it is truly Anglican or not? The proposed Anglican covenant is presented as a means to deepen unity within the Anglican Communion, but it will do so by strengthening discipline.

It has grown out of the schism of the last decade, and the desire of the conservatives to exclude, and have declared un-Anglican, and in fact un-Christian, the inclusion of of gay people on equal or comparable terms to straight ones. The question really does divide the church. Globally, there is a clear majority against it. In this country, there is probably a vague majority of Christians in favour, and certainly no strong sentiment for a purge of gay clergy. So why should the Church of England sign up to a document which can only be either another piece of toothless waffle, or something that one day will turn round and bite it, painfully?"

I have boldened words which seem quite outrageous in their claims. Quite how the writer estimates that globally there is a clear majority 'against' the Covenant, I do not know. Even within England itself, presumably best known to the writer, there is the uncertainty implied in the word 'probably' which gives lie to the certainty expressed in the previous sentence.

Italicised by me are the words which I think neatly sum up two arguments for the Covenant! (1) That in a global Anglican entity it is a good and necessary thing for all members to have the right to choose to have a say in what any one member body proposes to be an assertion of what it means to be Anglican. (2) That in a body keen to deepen unity, it is (again) a good and necessary thing to have a clear means of discipline in order to reject those things which work against the deepening of unity. It would be folly to work on deepening unity while having no means of countering forces working against unity!

Crossed out by me are words which undermine the credibility of the writer's accurate understanding of the Communion's situation. Quite how they slipped by the editor, I do not know. Conservatives do not wish to exclude anyone from the church but they do want to uphold the church's teaching on marriage. The tension is not about inclusion/exclusion but about what our common doctrine on marriage is. Perhaps in the next few days as further columns in Comment is Free are produced, we will see greater accuracy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Play with Marriage and Divorce is Likely to Follow

It was a lovely wedding on Saturday - see 'Perfect Day' below - and the weekend turned into a rich experience of Anglican diversity as Sunday morning's worship was experienced in a lively, informal, family communion service in a suburban parish, and Sunday evening's service was a pitch perfect choral evensong in the Cathedral. A thread through the diversity was the commonality of doctrine pervading the three services, all sermons (only one of which was delivered by moi) being orthodox in interpretation and application of the Scripture readings.

The Communion's life as a common entity of connected Anglicans around the globe is not threatened by many manifestations of diversity within our common life, but it is affected by some. Much as some Anglican pundits seem averse to doctrine featuring in any account of that common life, in the end what we believe does affect the Communion. ACNA, for one instance, is not admitted as a member church because we do not believe (or do not yet believe!) it possible to have two distinct Anglican members of the one Communion drawn from the same geographical region. The Communion itself is not yet drawn into greater communion with the Church of Rome because a uniting belief of Anglicans is that communion with the Bishop of Rome is not a prerequisite of validity of sacramental ministry.

So emerging reflections on a recent decision in the Diocese of Toronto have drawn me to consider a post made recently but overlooked by me. Two concerns arise. Is the doctrine of marriage, as understood commonly by Anglicans, capable of fundamental change (i.e. marriage is a man and a woman to marriage may be any combination of man/woman, man/man, woman/woman)? May Anglican polity change fundamentally so that obedience to the decisions of bishops can trump obedience to Scripture as received by the whole Anglican Communion? In the post below, assuming its representation of the promulgation of the bishops in Toronto is accurate, it is strikingly revealed that the bishops do not have the confidence to take their desire for change even to their diocesan synod to endorse a decision for change. Read for yourselves what Catherine Sider Hamilton and F. Dean Mercer have written. If they are correct in their reading of the situation we have a diocese of the Communion playing with marriage. We should not be surprised if this play becomes yet another blow of the wedge in our Communion life leading to divorce!

"On September 14, 2010, Archbishop Colin Johnson ordained priest in the Diocese of Toronto a woman married (by civil law) to another woman. On November 3, the College of Bishops issued “Pastoral Guidelines” for the formal and liturgical blessing of same gender commitments in the Diocese of Toronto.

These actions are problematic both in their content and in their form.

The first action contradicts the doctrine, discipline and worship of the church and disregards its marriage canon. The second does one of two things. In one case, it gives the church’s formal blessing to a civilly married same-sex couple. In the other, it blesses a sexual relationship that is not a marriage. In either case it departs from the historic teaching of the church and its moral vision, both as to the nature of marriage and as to the role and limits of sex.

The bishops have described both actions as pastoral. But in fact they affect the doctrine of the church. The ordination of a person in a same-sex marriage hallows that marriage and names it the ideal, a worthy example for all to follow, properly belonging within the Christian definition of marriage. This is to challenge the marriage canon of the Anglican Church of Canada. This is an act, that is, with concrete legal and doctrinal implications.

Likewise, to bless a civil same-sex marriage in a service complete with scripture readings, hymns of the church, and (if the couple wishes) a Eucharist, is to declare this a Christian marriage. There is no distinction between a civil same-sex marriage blessed in a church and a civil heterosexual marriage blessed in a church. To be sure, the guidelines prohibit the exchange of marriage vows and rings; but the couple has already exchanged vows and rings before a magistrate. If the nuptial blessings currently printed in the prayer books cannot be used, what of that? A new blessing can be written.

If the couple is not civilly married, then we are blessing sex outside of marriage. Whatever the current social mores regarding sex, this is a formal innovation in the church’s ethical teaching and practice.

These are not pastoral actions. They strike at the heart of the faith that has been handed on to us, and at the Christian moral vision regarding sex and marriage.

Indeed, far from being pastoral, these actions are pastorally irresponsible. They introduce substantial innovations in the teaching and moral practice of the church without adequate preparation for the people of the diocese, without adequate theological rationale, without public defense. Further, they put clergy in an unenviable position. Clergy are bound to be loyal both to the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, and to their bishops. The two are now in conflict.

Is this what it means for the bishops, chief pastors, to shepherd the sheep?

In all this, it is perhaps the failure of truth that is most damaging. It is not just that the bishops have introduced doctrinal and moral innovations under the guise of “pastoral response.” It is also the way they have done it. For the sake of public peace, the bishops have proceeded without synodical debate, without public defense, so quietly – in the case of the ordination – that, though due process was followed, virtually no one except those present at the ordination knew that it was occurring. The bishops in this way have sought to prevent public opposition and have avoided public explanation. Surely actions carried out thus in disregard of the Christian calling to speak the truth in love cannot lead us into the truth."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Primatial prognostications

As news, views, and counter-assertions about the Primates' Meeting in January, 2011 circulates, it may be worth pondering that this is a significant meeting in the life of the Communion. If it were to be cancelled that would signal that the Communion is unable to assure itself of the viability of one of its four 'Instruments': a telling moment in the unfolding future of the Communion, and the telling would be of disintegration, not of renewal. I think we will see the Meeting going ahead.

It would not be helpful for the assurance of the viability of this Instrument if a significant number of primates did not attend, especially if those primates were drawn from just one or two regions. What kind of global entity cannot secure global representation? It makes sense that ++Rowan, according to a George Conger report, is exploring an alternative way of meeting via a set of small groups of primates meeting together in order to have all the primates in the same city.  Inevitably the eyes of the Communion will be searching any alternative proposal for signs that the primates gathered in the same city also gather, at least for a moment that matters, in the same room. I imagine this could happen if, say, the moment was to hear a report from each of the small groups.

A third prediction: the Primates' Meeting will be geared in such a manner that the outcome (report, recommendations, press release) is something that can be followed through and implemented. Recent meetings have suffered, it appears, from the perception that the Anglican Communion Office has found ways to ignore the outcomes. The perception looks like reality: the Primates have said one thing and another has been done (or not done). In the end this perception damages the reputation both of the Primates' Meeting and of the ACO. Expect to see a reputation saving outcome.

What is impossible to predict is whether the Primates' Meeting will be able to be viewed in February as 'successful'. It is possible to plan for such a meeting with blinkers on: if we do X and Y we can secure outcome Z and that will be well-received. Outcome Z might be received, in reality, with outrage, disbelief, or hollow laughter. ADU hopes that there are no blinkers on ++Williams, Kearon, and co.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Better than one might suppose

Stats for TEC, 2008/2009 out (H/T Titus One Nine). Table here. A bit of loss but less than one might think reading some naysayers?

Perfect Day

The sky is blue and the day is good for many things, but not posting prolificly! Must dash to Sister Eveleen Retreat House for a meeting. Those familiar with SERH will know that a blue sky day there means being overwhelmed by the extraordinary beauty of the place from which sea, mountains, beaches with ever shifting sands and rolling waves are seen in one vista. It's tough, but someone has to do it! Then back to the inner city for a wedding. Could be a corker day for a wedding, and a challenge for a priest sweating under an alb! I am sharing in the service with a Baptist pastor who will have the advantage of dressing more simply and lightly :) It's already 15 degrees C and predicted to reach 27 degrees.

Meantime quite a bit of comment wending its way round the Communion - check out some blogs on the sidebar - as the Primates' Meeting holds the prospect of yet another twist in the ever turning ways the Communion travels along under ++Rowan's guidance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More chance of Scotland beating the All Blacks than ++Rowan winning this one

The All Blacks are on tour in Britain as we speak, gearing up to play Scotland on Sunday morning (NZ time). Scotland have never beaten the All Blacks in nearly 100 years of games, though they have managed two draws, but only in years ending in '3' (1963 and 1983). Right now Scotland's playing record is not the best and the chances of them beating the All Blacks are less than zero. Another sort of game is being played out in the upper echelons of the Anglican Communion the goal of which is to get through the planned January 2011 Primates' Meeting with the Communion at least as intact after the meeting as before it. As with rugby, various manouvres are being carried out in the attempt to secure a win. George Conger, ace Anglican journo, lays these out in this report which I repeat in full from his site (as also published in the CEN. H/to Episcopal Cafe):

'First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has proposed suspending the Primates Meeting—the fourth ‘instrument of unity’ in the Anglican Communion—in favour of holding multiple small group gatherings of like minded archbishops.

In a letter to the primates dated Oct 7, Dr. Rowan Williams suggested that given the “number of difficult conversations” and the threat of a boycott of its meetings, a regime of separate but equal facilitated small groups sessions might better serve the primates’ “diverse” perspectives and forestall the substantial “damage” to the communion a full-fledged boycott would entail.

Dr. Williams also called for a reform of the structure of the meetings, suggesting that an elected standing committee be created and the powers and responsibility of the meeting of the communion’s 38 archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators be delineated.

Lambeth Palace did not respond to a request for clarification about the Oct 7 letter, while a spokesman for the Anglican Consultative Council said it could not address the question of a potential boycott as “the content of correspondence between the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury is private.”

On Oct 24 Canadian Archbishop Fred Hiltz warned a joint meeting of the Canadian Anglican and Lutheran House of Bishops of the boycott threat. “There is a lot of tension within the group,” he said, as some primates were “unwilling to come to the table with everyone present.”

The Anglican Journal reported that Archbishop Hiltz believed Dr. Williams “might try to deal with this problem by arranging prior meetings of smaller groups of like-minded primates.”

The African primates attending the All African Bishops meeting in Entebbe on Aug 24 told Dr. Williams they would not attend future primates meeting if US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Hiltz were there. The African primates voiced their concern over unilateral actions taken by the North American churches and also upbraided Dr. Williams for what they saw as his pusillanimity in responding to the ensuing crisis of doctrine and discipline.

The Archbishop of Canterbury answered his critics in Entebbe by stating he did not have the authority to withhold invitations, CEN was told by those present at the meeting. However, a formal boycott of the meeting has not been announced by the African primates, as further consultations with the Gafcon coalition and other like minded primates are scheduled.

The following month, Dr. Williams published notice that the next primates meeting would take place from Jan 25 to 31, 2011 at the Emmaus Retreat & Conference Centre in Dublin. On Sept 21 Bishop Jefferts Schori stated she had received notice of the meeting, and was planning on attending.

Subsequent meetings of the GAFCON primates in Oxford in October and a second meeting of the CAPA primates on Nov 8-9 in Nairobi have yielded a common resolve to oppose the North American block, but a common tactical response to the threat has yet to be decided, sources tell CEN. Suggestions under consideration range from a boycott of the Dublin meeting, the convening of a rival primates meeting, the withdrawal of the Global South from all pan-Anglican gatherings for a season, or accommodating Dr. Williams and his pleas for restraint one more time.

What was certain, one primate told CEN, was the resolve of the Global South/Gafcon/CAPA coalition not to walk away from the Communion, but seek its reform and renewal.

Established in 1978 by Archbishop Donald Coggan as an opportunity for selected primates to meet for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation,” the primates meeting has grown haphazardly in recent years. The heads of the communion’s 38 provinces are currently invited to participate in the gathering, while Dr. Williams has added the Archbishop of York to the meeting’s current roster. The two-diocese Church of Bangladesh’s senior bishop attends the gathering, but not the senior bishop of the two-diocese Church of Ceylon.

The meeting has traditionally elected a standing committee from regional blocks: the Americas, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and East Asia, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as its chairman. The five regional members also serve on the newly formed standing committee with members from the Anglican Consultative Council. The primate from the European block drawn from the Church in Wales, the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church has the same standing as the member for Africa, even though the African churches is over 50 times larger.

The appointment of the Archbishop of York to the meeting’s membership and the structural inequality of the regional blocks have prompted criticism from within the meeting, while its attempts at exercising authority over the wider communion have been attacked from without.'

Will some reform of the Primates Meeting prove a winner? Can anything work here so that every primate turns up AND every primate is happy? Small groups may enable the primates to come to the same convention centre, but the eyes of the Communion will be on the point in which the Meeting meets around the Lord's Table in eucharistic fellowship. Will there be one communion service or many? This 'game' will not be won if there are multiple communion services at the Primates' Meeting!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One will be converted, the other will be cheesed off

OK, the title is not exactly what Jesus said. But 'one will be converted' refers to John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar who has woken up to the fact that if Thinking Anglicans thinks there should be no Covenant, then perhaps there should be a Covenant! And 'the other will be cheesed off' refers to Mark Harris at Preludium ruminating about the ABC having a meeting with some primates ahead of the Big Show (or No Show?) in January, 2011. I would like to assure Mark that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be trying to do the one thing many Anglicans seem intent on not doing these days: hold the Communion together. I am afraid that insisting that ++Jefferts Schori goes to the Primates Meeting has a low chance of holding the Communion together. She does not have to be disinvited. There is another way which involves making a choice not to go ...

Can the ABC hold the Communion together? Will the PB stay away from the Primates Meeting? Will thousands of progressive Anglicans be troubled if the Communion suffers its final fracture in January, 2011? I think the answer is the same to all three questions, and it consists of two letters and not three. But I trust the ABC to do his best to answer the first question affirmatively.

The verdict on the Covenant was

9-1 in favour. Actually, last night's meeting at Theology House on the Anglican Covenant:Progress or Stalemate? was more interesting than 'for' versus 'against' (though both views were represented across those present). The evening's short presentations and much longer discussions indicated the vitality of the 'autonomy has priority over interdependence'  and 'interdependence has priority over autonomy' views of Communion life. It offered evidence of the extent of lack of knowledge about the Covenant (i.e. some had come specifically to find out more about the Covenant). The discussion underlined some of the most repeated concerns about the Covenant as the e-discussion of it continues around the globe: renewed Communion stuctures will be under-represented by women, lacking in the voices of laity, liable to mistrust on the basis of past performance, etc.

It was good to be reminded that there should be a common life possible for Anglicans because we belong together by virtue of our life in (the one) Christ. Why can we not share a common life together?

For me, one of the best things said was that the Covenant should bring us together. There are many signs that the Covenant is not doing that - are we considering with care why we are not being united by the Covenant? The question also arose, however, about what alternative proposal is emerging from those against the Covenant as to what will undo our disintegration.

As to the question of 'progress or stalemate?', there was serious recognition that we seem to be closer to stalemate across the Communion than to progress.

This wasn't said last night, so I will add it in this morning: the Primates Meeting in January could be the game-breaker, the momentum mover towards progress or the moment when we all realise we are at a stalemate.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Covenant approach permutations

Getting my head around some things to say tonight about the Covenant I am wondering if these are the main approaches being taken to the Covenant these days (in no particular order of perceived strength of support):

- Disinterest By many conservative Anglicans who see it as achieving nothing; by many Anglican worshippers who have no idea what it is about.

- Opposition to the Covenant (i.e. all of it) Reasons include that it is designed only to exclude people (gays, lesbians) and churches (TEC) from the Communion; that it will prevent any reasonable development in Anglicanism which responds to changes in Western culture; that it will invest power in the hands of bigoted, extreme conservative Anglicans; that it will lead to a pope-and-curia led Communion.

- Opposition to the 'teeth' part of the Covenant (i.e. Section 4) The first three sections are seen as harmless enough in their restatement of Anglican essentials, but Section 4 is viewed with concern because it could actually have effect on the life of member churches of the Communion. Some of the concern is whether the body with power according to this section, the Standing Committee of the Communion, is the right body to make decisions or is a trustworthy body to be invested with such power.

- Support for the Covenant Without the Covenant the Communion will disintegrate further. Some may view the Covenant as a 'magic bullet' which ensures survival of the Communion, but most understand there are no guarantees which come with the Covenant - it will strengthen the Communion to the degree that the Covenant is embraced and honoured in years to come.

- Open to the Covenant with questions For reasons such as respect for ++Rowan, recognition is given that the Covenant is an important proposal, not to be lightly dismissed nor to be shown disinterest. But questions are posed which reflect arguments for and against the Covenant: will the Covenant be a control over the member church to which I belong? Is it really necessary for the Communion's future: can't we all get along? Are current processes for dealing with disagreement really broken? Wouldn't the Covenant - if operating decades ago - have prevented the ordination of women?

Currently I am of the view that the key question is not whether we should have the Covenant or not, but what kind of Communion do we want to be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Covenant meeting at Theology House

(For Canterbury readers ...)

Is the Anglican Covenant making progress towards adoption, or not?
This and other questions about the Covenant will be discussed at our next Theology House Hot Button meeting:

7.30 pm – 9.00 pm, Wednesday 10 November, 2010

Contributions from all present are welcome, for and against the Covenant.

Peter Carrell and Bryden Black will definitely say something, but the floor will be open to all.

This is an opportunity to engage with the Covenant debate ahead of our March, 2011 session of Synod.
All welcome!

++Rowan Answers My Question

Having posed a question in the post below about the character of Christian unity when not anchored to eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter, I find that ++Rowan has offered a neat, concise answer (H/T Titus One Nine):

'I do see the Communion as worth working for because I believe that a model of real international unity by consent is a very precious gift to the Christian world at large.'

There you go the Covenant is about consent!

Rome to gain five new members currently masquerading as bishops

It is all out in the open now, official and formally announced: five English bishops are to move to the Anglican-but-really-Roman ordinariate. They are the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham; the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst; the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Keith Newton (i.e. three 'flying bishops'); and two retired bishops, the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes and the Rt Rev David Silk (a Down Under connection here as he was once Bishop of Ballarat in Oz). I am afraid my title is not as crisp or as humourous as Clayboy's: 'When flying bishops crash'! He makes this astute observation of the situation these bishops have been in:

'Then again, I am uncertain of the descriptions of these five as “leaving the Church of England”, since I’m not sure to what extent they were really in it anymore. The last time I listened to Andrew Burnham he already prayed the Roman Office and said the Roman Mass, and so did many if not all of “his” clergy. Indeed, as far as I could tell the only Roman custom he disagreed with was the marriage of priests and bishops, and the only Roman teaching that was in error was the one that said he and the male clergy were no more priests and bishops than the female clergy.

To what extent can you be an Anglican when you hold that half of those ordained each year in the Church of England are not ordained, and the ceremony is half-pretended and all tainted? So I’m not sure whether they had mentally left some years ago, and the paperwork is only now catching up with their hearts.'

Cranmer would like to ask some questions of these bishops - I imagine many other Anglicans would like to ask them too:

'You were all ordained priests and have ministered as bishops in the Catholic and Reformed tradition of the Church of England. Time and again you have given absolute assurance to the people of God about the validity and efficacy of the sacramental ministrations you have offered which were guaranteed by your historic succession from the Apostles, and the unbroken laying on of hands sustained through the Reformation period and continuing in the traditions of the Anglican episcopate to the present time.

You all are now required to be ‘re-ordained’ as Roman Catholic priests. Although you may exercise a degree of ecclesial authority as granted by the Pope, no man who is married may be a bishop on the Roman Catholic Church.

Were the many sacramental ministrations over which you presided – eucharistic celebration; the ordination of deacons and priests – nothing but theatre?

Do you now take the view that Anglican orders are ‘utterly null and absolutely void’?

Are those men whom you have ordained (one very recently) truly and assuredly ordained?

Has your ministry within the Church of England been based upon fictitious claims?

Is such reasoning of such inconvenience that you will simply ignore these questions and now assert that the Church of Rome is the One True Church and the Church of England is not a church ‘in the proper sense’?

Just wondering.'

I have a couple of questions myself. Reading the various announcements (e.g. head to Thinking Anglicans for easy access to them all), one question concerns the remaining ministry of the bishops who have indicated they will resign on 31 December 2010:

Would anyone wish to be ordained or confirmed by one of these bishops between now and 31 December 2010? (I am generously assuming that until today they have believed their orders not to be null and void!)

Another question, this time for all Anglicans, concerns the nature of Christian unity, for which, let us always recall, our Lord himself prayed. First, read this from the bishops announcing that they have hitherto been masquerading as bishops:

'The Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum cœtibus, given in Rome on 4th November 2009, was a response to Anglicans seeking unity with the Holy See. With the Ordinariates, canonical structures are being established through which we will bring our own experience of Christian discipleship into full communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world and throughout the ages. This is both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death. It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter.'

Note that they are bringing their discipleship and not their ministry into full communion. That is accurately said. My question is this:

If unity is not only possible in eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter but possible by other means (i.e. as we Anglicans not in communion with the successor of St Peter must believe by definition), what is the character of Christian unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interesting statement re +Gene Robinson

From the GAFCON website:

"Statement by Archbishop Peter Jensen

General Secretary of GAFCON/FCA
The agonising dispute in the Anglican Communion is not about Bishop Robinson personally. It is true that his consecration as a Bishop seven years ago was one of the flashpoints for a serious re-alignment of the whole Communion. But many things have happened since then. GAFCON is about the future. It is dedicated to the future of a renewed Anglican Communion centred on the orthodox teaching of the Jerusalem Declaration.
7th November 2010 "

Oodles of interest here:

(1) The statement is by the individual, Archbishop Peter Jensen, General Secretary of GAFCON/FCA, not by (say) the GAFCON Primates. (I can think of no reason to think that any other GAFCON/FCA originating statement would be any different).

(2) It is very hard to tell what "a renewed Anglican Communion" looks like when it is also to be "centred on the orthodox teaching of the Jerusalem Declaration." It is inconceivable that the whole of the present Communion will be so centred in the foreseeable future. (Beyond that foreseeable future it might be, e.g. if progressive Anglicanism shrivelled to nothing). Is this a long-term wish, a hope geared towards an unachievable ideal? Or is this an action plan, as implied in the word 'realignment': one day soon the Anglican Communion will be reconstituted in terms of the Jerusalem Declaration (and that will inevitably be a lot smaller than what is currently called the Anglican Communion).

(3) The statement is positive about the future. It is neutral about chronology. Is something about to happen? It's impossible to tell from this statement. I still think the Primates' Meeting in January, 2011 is the event to watch for.

What ACANZP can do to forward the Covenant in our life

Commenting on my Go + Gregory post below, my colleague Bosco Peters rightly notes, "Our province only recognises one (count them 1) instrument of communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury (that’s one more than is recognised by “Anglican” Nigeria). In order to recognise other instruments of communion (let alone the “Standing Committee”) this requires a very complex process which takes at least 3 years and no one has even started that process which cannot start until 2012 here. So nothing is even possible IMO in our province until 2015."

Obviously any constitutional changes for our church consequent upon a resolve to sign to the Covenant will take the required number of years envisaged by statute. If we did quite a bit of work and secured quite a bit of prior agreement, we could begin the necessary process in 2012 (our next General Synod year) and complete by 2015 (= the General Synod year 2014 plus one year for any appeals). Nicely in time for the next Lambeth Conference in 2018!

In the meantime we could, without constitutional change, resolve to introduce no new developments in the life of our church which would likely be disputed by a fellow member church in the Communion.

That is, we could begin living as though the Covenant was in existence.

Not much news in this announcement

Odd story in the news of Anglican doings. Bishop Gene Robinson is to retire. But on closer inspection this 'event' will not take place in February, 2011 (three months notice) or May, 2011 (six months notice) or November, 2011 (twelve months notice), but in January, 2013 (26 months notice). Perhaps even odder is this:

"The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration instigated a global religious controversy, announced today that he would take early retirement, citing stress from the experience". (Explanatory note re 'early retirement': +Robinson will be 65 then, but he does not have to retire till he is 70).

Now perhaps, dear readers, you live in a different world to me, but in my world stressed people who cite stress as a reason for early retirement do not then stay in the job for a further 26 months! No doubt +Robinson has been stressed by his role as lightening rod for discontent in the Episcopalian and Anglican worlds in which he has become one of our most famous figures, but it is an oddity of this story that stress is the reason given for announcing retirement more than two years away.

However the point I think which is worth noting more about this news is that it is, in a way, a non-news story: it purports to be about a significant change, +Robinson retiring, but I find it impossible to conceive that +Robinson will cease to be retired after January, 2013 in respect of media presence and comment. In his ministry as Bishop of New Hampshire he has been a bishop of everywhere, travelling widely and speaking plentifully. Will that change in retirement? I foresee +Robinson for many years to come being an ever present voice in Anglican matters. A new Spong for a new age!

Another Kiwi blog noticed

Responding to the announcement below of a new Kiwi Anglican-oriented blog, a commenter has alerted me to a Kiwi Christian blog on which a number of Anglicans post. This is 'the kiwifruit blog' and its focus is on gospel-centred ministry. As it is wider in interest than Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion I will link to it on my sidebar 'Wider World.'

I note that most of the Anglican voices on this blog reside in the Diocese of Christchurch, whence comes the Kiwianglo's blog, as well as the most widely read of all Anglican-based blogs, Liturgy. Obviously, world Christian blog leaders, movers and shakers in Christian thought in the e-age are generated by the fair climate and magnificent milieu of Canterbury ... did I mention how good we are at rugby? Almost as good, by the way, as we are at modesty and humility!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Go +Gregory

"There is no element of coercion anywhere in the text, but there is an acknowledgement that neither can everything that one Church does be foisted on the whole Communion without the recognition that relations can be damaged. What the Covenant sets out in Section 4 is a proper mechanism that allows the articulation of discomfort, even distance, but which honours autonomy.
But this is too much for our latter-day Little Englanders, who bemoan the passing of the armchair bonhomie of the Athenaeum as the measure of Anglican inclusivity. They would, it seems, rather see the disintegration of the Anglican Communion into a series of acrimonious factions than restate a common faith and witness and find grown-up and responsible mechanisms for the articulation of the life of a whole Communion."
That's what Anglican Down Under likes to hear from the Top of the World (Wales, to be precise)!
The searing critique of the recent advertising in English church newspapers against the Covenant can be read in full here (thanks to Thinking Anglicans for the link to this Church Times letter).
The writer is slightly qualified to speak with authority on the Covenant: take a bow +Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St. Asaph and Secretary to the Covenant Design Group, 2006-09.
The two paragraphs I cite are at the heart of my support for the Covenant: if the Communion is to be a Communion and not a collection of dissonant churches then it needs the Covenant as a statement of a renewed commitment to communion for the 21st century.

Welcome Kiwi Anglican Voice

There are few Kiwi Anglicans blogging, less blogging regularly, and even less blogging regularly with Anglicanism and/or the Anglican Communion as the main focus of their posts. In fact, it could be that the last class consists of two members only! One is moi, the other is Fr Ron Smith, a Christchurch priest who has just begun posting at Kiwianglo's Blog - Anglo-Catholic Liberality . This, by the way, leaves plenty of room on the 'spectrum' for others to join in!

I look forward to reading Fr Ron's blog - a link is on the sidebar of ADU so you can get to it easily.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

So the Covenant is not a good idea?

Votes are running on a Church Times blog 4:1 against the Covenant. It has been declared 'not Catholic' (but see excellent response on More Than a Via Media). So the Covenant is not a good idea? I think the question being missed in the plethora of splutterings about the Covenant and its alleged constraining of debate and discussion, imposing of control on individual Anglican churches, and so forth, is whether the Covenant is good for the future of the Communion in its present global, 38 member strong form? And, if it is not, is there an alternative proposal which is good for its future?

Note, I do not find satisfactory those proposals which do the following:

(1) Exalt the autonomy of individual churches at the expense of the existence of the Communion.

(2) Pave the way for a future entity called the 'Anglican Communion' which is a diminishment in size of the current entity with a narrowing of the theological breadth of the Communion to the centre to liberal part of the spectrum.

But if you are part of the 4:1 voting against the Covenant and are happy with (1) or (2) ... no probs! Be happy :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why a Covenant is a good idea

Following on from the post below about the newly announced Anglican Republican Party of No Coalition of No (Covenant), it may be worth re-stating simply why the Covenant is a good idea.

(1) To be Anglican is to be open to the new and to be responsive to changing circumstances.

(2) In the early part of the 21st century the Anglican Communion has been faced with changing circumstances, namely the recognition that increasing diversity of theology and praxis has stretched the bonds of affection to breaking point.

(3) Thus a new need has arisen to offer definition of what it means to be (a) Anglican, and (b) in formal global Communion as Anglicans.

(4) Further, recognition that there is division about what it means to be Anglican has led logically to the conclusion of the necessity of a means of discipline in respect of (b) above in order to deepen our fellowship as a global Communion (note, the discipline is not in respect of (a) ... anyone and any church may lay claim to be 'Anglican', it is not a registered trademark).

(5) The Covenant is the proposal on the table: Sections 1-3 in respect of (1) - (3) above and Section 4 in respect of (4) above.

What is intriguing about the Coalition of No is that their talk of shared Anglican heritage of worship and Hooker's classic and normative theology is entirely in agreement with the analysis (1) - (3) above. Their disturbance is over the possibility of discipline if alternative ways of being Anglican are proposed. What would they do if Anglicans in the Communion went against Hooker and our liturgical heritage?