Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anglican Ordinariness

The first bishops etc from the C of E have been received into the Anglican Ordinariate. We are told that within a couple of weeks they will have been ordained priests. They and we can all sleep better for knowing their sacramental ministries can move from pretence to reality :) Perhaps this is a moment to consider those of us who are not following them. We could call ourselves members of the Anglican Ordinariness and ponder the virtue of being ordinary Anglicans. In the background to my reflection is taking up again Diarmaid McCulloch's History of Christianity as some holiday reading (and contributor to depression, Christianwise!!): what a hash Christians have often made of the fullness of life in Christ.

Three virtues I note are (1) Scripture at the centre of our lives, as measure of truth and treasury of the gospel (2) Christ unconstrained and unclouded as direct mediator of God's salvation (and therefore as guarantor of validity of sacramental ministry) and (3) continuity with the ancient church aligned with flexibility as church of present and future ages.

A vice? As simply as I can express it, the brilliant national Church of England has spawned a struggling international Anglican Communion, uncertain of how it should govern or manage itself in relation to the three virtues above. Somehow the 'catholic and reformed' character of the C of E, post 1559/1662, has translated poorly into a larger body.


Not long after finishing the above post, I came across Ephraim Radner's latest essay at ACI; a heartfelt cry of despair concerning the future of the Communion, unless God saves it. Including this:

"I have long since abandoned any expectation that writings like this would be heeded by those about whom they are written; that, in this case, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori would voluntarily stay away from the Primates Meeting; that other Primates would drop their boycotts and demonstrate ceaseless hope; that the Archbishop of Canterbury would speak clearly and forcefully to the actual obstacles before our Communion’s healing and would follow through with concrete means of removing them. I write instead for a few others, who simply wonder what it all adds up to – a warning and an encouragement. A warning: ultimately, through their actions or lack of them, our leaders have asked us all to rely on them or on ourselves, and not on God. That is the hopelessness they are engendering. But in the days to come – this year and the next and the next after — we cannot put our trust in “children of men”, the “princes” of our church. And encouragement: hope for our Communion, our churches, and our souls, lies with God."

To which we may observe that God has promised the Communion nothing, we may be left to wither on the vine!


Doug Chaplin said...

A more positive way to read McCulloch: – we're making no worse a hash of it than many of those past generations who still handed the faith down to us. We're only doing it in a different way.

Peter Carrell said...

That is a more positive way to read McCulloch - but still a bit depressing! said...

Hi Peter, the very fact that you direct us towards the latest proclamation of Communion break-down by Ephraim Radner betrays where your sympathies lie in the present dispute within TEC.

I think it behoves theological educators within our diocese to take note of the fact that Doctor Radner is a well-known dissident from the authority of TEC, with which Church our own Church of Aoteroa/New Zealand/Pacifica has a strong ecclesial relationship.

As you must know, Dr Radner is a co-founder of what is called ACI - a self-titled'Anglican Communion Institute', which has absolutely no official standing within either TEC or any other part of the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Like you, and to a lesser degree, myself, Doctor Radner has no qualification to speak on behalf of even the U.S Episcopal Church - never mind the Anglican Communion, of which ACI professes to be an *Institute*

So,Peter, opinions are just opinions at this level, nothing more authoritative than that.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It is not at all clear to me the manner in which Ephraim Radner is a 'dissident' with respect to TEC. My understanding is that, although teaching theology in Canada, he remains 'canonically resident' within TEC.

In drawing attention to Ephraim Radner and other writers at ACI I am drawing attention to theologians within the life of TEC who are questioning the direction TEC is heading in, with particular reference to the health, or otherwise of the Anglican Communion. To do so is indeed to betray my leanings: not so much agin TEC but for the Communion. That concern for the life of the global Communion is the 'angle' I try hard to take from a 'Down Under' perspective when writing about TEC.

As a theological writer and educator in ACANZP I am very concerned that our church remains connected as far as possible with the widest grouping of Anglicans as possible. Others in our church, perhaps including yourself, give an impression that a future slimmed down Anglican Communion centred around TEC and with ACANZP as a key supporter would be a good thing. Perhaps it would be. But while there is life in the debate, I will argue for as large a Communion as possible! I think that is an honourable Anglican aim.

As for 'opinions' and whether they are authoritative or not, surely the point of Radner's post is its content and not the position of the writer. To which of his cries of concern in respect of the current Communion situation may the charge be brought that his concern is without factual foundation?

Anonymous said...

Professor Radner's "authority", on which the legalistically minded 'kiwianglo' pontificates, rests on being recognized by Rowan Williams as just about the smartest mind in the forlorn Anglican Communion - not that that counts with theological luminaries like Schori and Spong.
Radner's chief purpose of recent years has been to oppose any reformulation or exit from Tec - to which we reply: Wake up and smell the Zyklon B.
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al M
Your comment here verges on, if not constitutes ad hominem attacks on several named people; and the reference to Zyklon B is egregious, unnecessary, and unfair. It nearly fails my moderation criteria and a further similar comment will definitely fail.

Anonymous said...

You write that Christ unconstrained and unclouded as direct mediator of God's salvation is guarantor of validity of sacramental ministry. As your church does not accept the validity of sacramental ministry of, say, Presbyterians you are suggesting they do not have Christ unconstrained and unclouded as direct mediator of God's salvation. My point: your second point is false.

Your fawning over the brilliant national Church of England is astonishing if you are actually reading any church history or even current news! Like mother like children. Doug is quite right.

Thanks for correcting Al M – it seemed that his “we” meant you and he. If you want this blog to be a place for fair discussion, why do you allow comments like Al’s through? Is it because he is one of your few supporters? Or stronger: that he often says what you would like to say, but you want to continue to appear balanced and moderate and you would be reluctant to lose his most regular posting.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
Personally I would not say, tout simple, that the Anglican church does not accept the validity of Presbyterian sacramental ministry. (1) Clearly we insist that in our churches sacramental ministry is ordered according to Anglican custom, i.e. episcopally ordained priests/presbyters preside over Anglican eucharists (with the possibility agreeable to us, that in co-operating parishes, a minister in good standing with the appropriate denomination may preside over a non-Anglican eucharist) (2) I do not know what our official view might be of the validity of (e.g.) a Presbyterian eucharist ordered Prebyterianly in a Presbyterian church. Speaking personally I would gladly participate in such a eucharist as a valid eucharist, ditto for an Open Brethren Lord's Supper.

'Brilliant' is not a synonym for 'perfect' and I think one can ascribe 'brilliance' to a series of C of E matters, from choosing to retain episcopacy to the 39A to the BCP to the collects of Cranmer to the ability to sustain unity and diversity over many centuries. If I did not think that something brilliant lay in the background to my experience of Anglicanism then I might be a member of the Church of Scotland!

Al M, like many commenters here, to the left, right and in the centre, sometimes says things I agree with and sometimes does not. In general Al M is unambiguously conservative and I am unembassaringly conservative, but whether if we drew up a list of 100 presuppositions the percentage we agreed on was greater than 50%, I do not know.

His last comment here, arguably, should have been rejected. I accept that I may have made an error of judgement in publishing it. However by publishing it with evaluative comment perhaps I am distinguishing his part of the conservative spectrum from the part (I think) I am on.

liturgy said...


I think, Peter, in the context of this thread which you started, validity of sacramental ministry was focused on whether or not one needed to get ordained when changing denominations. From that perspective our church does not accept the validity of Presbyterian sacramental ministry.

I wonder about your having a whole lot of different “Eucharists”, distinguishing a Brethren Eucharist, from a Presbyterian one, from an Anglican one, from a Roman Catholic one, as if one is distinguishing a bird, from an insect, from a koala, from a whale. Surely each denomination understands what it is doing as what Christ intends? Can we not have ecumenical dialogue about that and how close or far we measure up? IMO we can. From your approach there appears no objective truth?

I also think that there is more going on than merely ordering “according to Anglican custom” – is there nothing of particular value in episcopacy?

Where are the edges of your gladly participating? Clearly bread and juice is fine for you. Bread and coke? Cake and coke? No Eucharistic Prayer – merely the recitation of the Last Supper story by Paul? Bread and wine without reference to Christ? A barbeque with buns and wine and grace? The list could go on…



Father Ron Smith said...

hank you, Peter, for being open to views on your blog which occasionally differ from your own. I particularly appreciate your hospitality to my view, which I can fairly guarantee are often contrary to your Anglican world-view. But, bless you, youare not afraid to be open to the debate.

As far as ABC Rowan thinking of Ephraim Radner as the 'brains of the Communion- (or words to that effect) - perhaps that's an example of the phenomenon of 'brains' sometimes lacking 'wisdom' - The sort that 'comes from above'.

Brother David said...

I thought Al M's comment here one of his more innocuous. It is his personal attacks on other participants here that I object to on occasion, and as you well know from experience I am quick to dish it right back at him.

Allison, I have never suspected Peter of the conduct you suggest. He does however, have a tendency to switch hats from kindly center road moderator of conversations to unabashed, seeming far right conservative at the drop of a hat.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments, everyone!

You will, I trust, indulge me in brevity, as a small book might be required to deal adequately with the complexity of 'eucharist' let alone 'valid eucharist' - a complexity to which your questions point. So, briefly,
(1) Alison's query was actually about my mention of Christ as mediator, not about denomination changing!
(2) In an important sense there is only one eucharist, but many variations as churches seek to obey 'do this' with integrity.
(3) But one's confidence that 'do this' is 'as the Lord intended' does get stretched when, say, Coke is involved ... yet in a situation of stricture (desert island, no water, no bread, just a packet of chips and a coke) we might accept variation from the norm!
(4) Speaking personally I would distinguish 'glad participation' as an occasional guest of some forms of eucharist I have found unsatisfactory, and choosing to be a regular participant as a member of that specific local church.
(5) Yes, bishops are important - very important to me as a lifelong Anglican - and I would want to think through further 'custom' and 'canon', 'esse' and 'bene esse' on such matters.