Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Anglican Covenant's future

After the change to the life of the Communion marked and underlined by last week's Primates' Meeting, it could be fantasy to think the Anglican Covenant now has a future, other than as a piece of paper read by fewer and fewer people and signed up to by even fewer member churches (three to date). But as the days have gone by I have been thinking that the Covenant has a future, and that future could be along two lines (or more).

Future number one is tenuous, but worth noting. If the Communion is melting down as well as unravelling, as messily as a bunch of mixed metaphors in the same sentence, then the Covenant immediately is irrelevant. On this scenario the messiness of the Communion's life gets worse and worse, but such messiness can come to an end. At some point in chaos people quest again for order. In a couple of decades' time, or maybe it will be five decades' time, Anglicans around the globe could get serious about living into an interdependent fellowship with mutual accountability. The Covenant will be sitting on a shelf ready to serve the purpose of putting in writing the nature of that new Anglican Communion.

Future two is realistic when we note the following current conditions: some member churches have signed it; despite the breaking up of the Communion re important meetings, no one (as we are constantly reminded) has any intention of resigning formal membership of the Communion; alternative networks of Anglican churches already exist (e.g. GAFCON, Global South). I suggest it is possible that the Covenant will commend itself to more than three member churches in the next few years as a document marking the aspirations of Anglicans open to both writing down what we believe as well as setting in motion a process of mutual accountability. As Communion life unravels but (on this scenario) does not become completely chaotic, groupings around shared common values may mean that member churches not drawn towards GAFCON or Global South and also not satisfied with 'independency' gather together around the Covenant as a basis for working together 'interdependently.'

Note in respect of the above paragraph that, just as GAFCON and Global South are not mutually exclusive Anglican networks, an Anglican Covenant network could overlap with those member churches whose bishops and primates continue to be willing to meet together at Lambeth Conferences and Primates' Meetings.

In an attempt to be clear, what I am not saying here is the following: I am not arguing that the Covenant, post last week's meeting, remains a key strategy for future restoration of Communion life. Not at all. (Also: before last week's meeting the Covenant was not going to 'fix' anything (that would require a prior willingness on the part of member churches to 'fix' things); after last week's meeting it absolutely will not 'fix' anything wrong with the Communion).

What I am suggesting here, as possible 'future two' for the Covenant, is that it offers a means by which some member churches in the Communion can express their commitment to a vision of global Anglican life as being marked by interdependency and mutual accountability. Whether the member churches signing up to the Covenant remains at three, increases to (say) ten or twenty is something I do not care to predict. I am willing to predict that all 38 member churches will not sign up to the Covenant within the next five years!

In short: I think the Covenant has a future in global Anglican life. But I am not quite sure what that future is.


Father Ron Smith said...

It would be in the interest of the Church of England (especially its bishops - considering their recent embargo of requiring a 2/3 majority to affirm the Covenant at diocesan meetings in order for the Covenant to go ahead.

In this way - requiring only a simple majority affirmation of the Covenant - Global Anglicanism's Canterbury and Lambeth based fouhdations would be secured - even if the Church of England was its only constituent.

However, with the emergence of GAFCON and its 'Jerusalem Statement' - which has its own understanding of what Anglicanism ought to be all about - marked out certain Provinces within the Global South fraternity as unwilling to be led by Canterbury; there would seem to be no immediate prospect of reconcilation of these two factions: GAFCON & The Rest.

Despite the protestations of some of the more level-headed G.S. Primates that they do not want to sever themselves from Canterbury and Lambeth, there would seem to be a great pressure from the Third-World Provinces for Canterbury (and the rest of us) to conform to the mode of disciplinary culture contained in Section 4 of the Covenant Document.

Whatever transpires on the Covenant front, it seems that, for the more liberal Provinces of the Communion to find a covenantal relationship at all attractive, there would have to be something radical done about Section 4

Your suggestion, Peter, about what such a (non-GAFCON) group should call itself is, I think, basically flawed. After all, if the Covenant is still based on relationship with Lambeth & Canterbury, it should be called none other that 'Anglican'.

Perhaps the GAFCON/GS group could be called something else - it certainly could not arrogate to itself the honourable title of 'Anglican' which is based on Scripture, Tradition and REASON.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
As you rightly observe, a lot is in a state of flux at the moment.

I am slightly mystified by your objection to my suggested new name for a portion of the current Communion: Global Anglican Federation of Independent Churches. It does have 'Anglican' in the title. If all such churches signed to the Covenant then I would accept that we were choosing a way of common life together which contradicted 'independent' in such a title.

I do not understand your objection to others using the word 'Anglican'. there is no trademark or similar on 'Anglican' applying only to those whose theology is summed up in the trilogy Scripture, tradition, reason.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Global Anglican Federation of Independent Churches."
- Peter Carrell

Seems to me, Peter, that this could well be the name for the dissenters from the Canterbury-led Communion. After all, they are a rather disparate set of Provinces - their only common denominator being a hatred of Gays and a devotion to the idea of biblical inerrancy. If they want to continue to use the word 'Anglican' in their title, maybe this could happen, but it would not reflect the inherent diversity of the Communion.

On the other hand, I don't see why Provinces that do not belong to the GAFCON/ACNA sodality should have to resile from use of the present title 'Anglican Communion' - which happens to be the original name given to the Provinces loyal to Canterbury.

Just because the ACNA/GAFCON crowd hasve given themselves the label of 'Orthodox Anglicans' doesn't mean that that is how the parent body sees them. Their supposed 'orthodoxy' has already been tainted with the act of intentional schism from the parent body. It's not that we don't want them - they don't want us. You can't have it both ways!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Your comment raise a couple of questions for me:

(1) Do you equate believing that Scripture and tradition do not provide warrant for blessing same sex partnerships with 'hatred of gays'?

(2) Do you equate espousing Scripture as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice with 'biblical inerrancy'?

Brother David said...

(1) Do you equate believing that Scripture and tradition do not provide warrant for blessing same sex partnerships with 'hatred of gays'?

No Peter, that is just a secondary effect of Hatred of Gays!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Your understanding of what is going on the hearts and minds of conservative Anglicans is your business.

As long as you think that, I suggest your chances of convincing conservatives to draw different conclusions from Scripture will be zero.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

"No Peter, that is just a secondary effect of Hatred of Gays!" ~ Hermano David

Good Lord, Hermano, that's just plain silly!

If we extend this logic to include Christians who believe that the only morally appropriate context for sex is within marriage, we'd have to say that such a view is a secondary effect of the hatred of unmarried people. And that's a silly argument.

Suem said...

I don't think those who believe same sex sex is outlawed in scripture necessarily do this because they hate gay people- although that might be the motivation of some.

I do often notice an inconsistency in their response though. So I know people who accept divorced and remarried people without feeling the need to criticise their ongoing adultery (scripturally speaking) but who would not refrain from criticism if they met someone in a same sex relationship.
I do then conclude that such inconsistency is probably rooted in their personal aversion to the idea of homosexuality.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

An excellent expansion of my point, Peter. I note as well that, besides being dismissive, this rhetorical strategy also entails an ad hominem attack on those with whom one disagrees insofar as it imputes the motive of hatred towards entire groups of persons with no empirical evidence to justify the charge.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I accept that where I treat people differently there may be more going on than a 'strictly ethical' or 'purely exegetical' approach to some matter (such as the morality of sexual relationships).

But I note that you use the phrase 'aversion to homosexuality'. I think that is careful and responsible language. I suggest it is pretty natural of heterosexuals to have an 'aversion to homosexuality' but it is also presents people with a choice as to what to do with that aversion: to foster it into a hatred of homsexuals or to transcend it by choosing to love homosexuals.

The rhetoric of 'hatred' often seems to run quickly to erroneous conclusions about what is going on inside the hearts and minds of people as they work out responses to issues ranging from what we think the Bible says about homosexuality through to the role of the state in changes to laws about marriage, civil unions and the like.

If we are to have reasonable debate, both in church and in society, then we need reasonable language. Thank you, Suem, for using it here.

Brother David said...

Guys, we need a Tongue-in-cheek emoticon I guess. You are prone to take my jokes too literally, when you rarely take anything else that I have to say seriously.

Peter Carrell said...

Emoticons welcome!

Paul Powers said...

Tongue in cheek emoticon:


Father Ron Smith said...

"(2) Do you equate espousing Scripture as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice with 'biblical inerrancy'?"

- Peter Carrell -

Well, Peter, The Bible still says lots of things that, in the view of both the Church and the World of today, are not valid for these times.

Slavery, Usury, Treatment of Women - do I need to go on?

However, when one comes to the words and actions of The Word Made Flesh in Jesus of the Gospels, we realise that not everything contained in the Bible can be taken literally - as many of today's Evangelicals do believe.

I really do believe The Holy Bible to be our Baedeker for the journey of Faith. But Christ - the Word made flesh - is our ultimate Guide and our Redeemer - not the Words in a Book.
This is why the Bible Readings need to be backed up by a good theology of and frequent participation in, the Tradition of The Eucharist - which Jesus left to us - together with his 'New Commandment' that we love one another as He has loved us.

Suem said...

You say,
"I suggest it is pretty natural of heterosexuals to have an 'aversion to homosexuality' but it is also presents people with a choice as to what to do with that aversion: to foster it into a hatred of homsexuals or to transcend it by choosing to love homosexuals."

I know a lot of heterosexuals who have no "aversion" to homosexuality and homosexuals who have no "aversion" to heterosexuality. If you mean the actual sex act - I personally don't much care to think about what other people do in bed, whether they are gay or straight - but then I don't have to.

I am a little uneasy with the idea of a "natural" aversion, if "natural" makes me think it is OK. I may have a natural aversion to someone of a different skin colour, I may have a natural aversion to someone who is disabled, disfigured, ill, old, very tall or short or fat, or eccentric - or even who is highly gifted and so I find it hard to relate to them. I may feel a natural aversion to those who condemn homosexuality, because I find their attitudes offensive - indeed I do struggle with such an aversion!

My aversions, if they are based on a limited view of that person, really are my flaw, not theirs, not matter how "natural" the aversion may be.

I also have a bit of a problem with "choosing to love", I understand its intention as a generous act, but it does sound a bit clinical to me.

I wonder how many gay people you know and really, really love - in that you couldn't stop loving them if you tried and it is not a choice at all? The people we love this way are often friends, spouses, parents - and most of all children. And this is how God loves us, as his children.

I think until you have someone you love like that who is gay, you don't really fully emotionally comprehend the issue.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I do not pretend to be without flaws.

I have an aversion to people saying 'I know just how you feel.'

So, no, I do not claim to fully emotionally understand gays ... or anyone ... so there are a number of issues on which I speak without full emotional comprehension.

(I think a number of commenters on my blog freely comment on why people have left TEC for ACNA without full emotional comprehension of why they have done that - though some think it boils down to bigotry! I don't suppose they are going to stop making those comments anytime soon).

In short, it is unclear to me what point you are making, but I appreciate you are making important observations about human behaviour and psychology.

(As a PS: generally in posting and commenting I choose to leave out details of my personal life, relationships, and experiences so I am not going to share whom I love unconditionally, whom I have to work at loving, how many gay people I know and whether they are family or friends or both, etc etc. I am not seeking a medal for either courage or compassion shown!)

Suem said...

It wasn't a criticism, Peter, just a questioning of the idea of "natural aversions" and "choosing to love" - I didn't say I was without flaw either!

Peter Carrell said...

That's fine, Suem :)

Malcolm+ said...

I find the line of argument that rejecting the Covenant is a rejection of interdependence nothing short of bizarre. From SOME of the people making the argument (present company excepted) I find it nothing short of dishonest.

The word "interdependence" - one of the great bits of ecclesial and secular jargon from the age of the baby-boomers - refers to a Via Media between absolute independence and absolute dependence. For the past few decades, Anglicans have used that language to describe how the autonomous Provinces of the Communion relate to each other and to the Communion as such. In general, I think it has been a useful word, accurately applied.

The suggestion that the rejection of the Covenant is a rejection of interdependence is manifestly false. Covenantskeptics are persuaded that the Covenant, in fact, does not reinforce interdependence, but rather moves the Communion away from that healthy Via Media towards a more heirarchical and hence more dependent structure. From where we sit, it is not the opponents of the Covenant who are rejecting interdependece, but its authors and supporters.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm+

My general question (i.e. please don't feel you have to answer it personally) in the debate which you specifically touch on is whether interdependence is a growing towards one another (that is, distinguished from a steady state on a via media), in which case could the Covenant assist that growth? I think it could but I understand those who fear it will do other things as well.

Tony Fitchett said...

Peter: Do I assume from your use of the words "Scripture as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice" that you hold that Scripture does indeed provide that supreme authority?

Tony Fitchett

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tony,
The original context for that question being posed to Ron Smith was his describing ACNA etc as 'biblical inerrantists'. I think they hold to the supreme authority of Scripture and not to inerrancy, so I was checking whether Ron might equate the two positions or might be misunderstanding ACNA. (Biblical inerrancy as a particular position on Scripture is not usually associated with even the most conservative of Anglicans!).

For myself, I am an Anglican! So the position I have subscribed to all my adult life as a signer of doctrinal statements for (e.g.) TSCF and Laidlaw College (when tutoring for it), that Scripture is the supreme authority etc, has an Anglican interpretation. So, (1) in debates about Scripture, tradition and reason, I always argue that these three are not equal to one another, but Scripture may challenge tradition (as happened in the Reformation) and reason; (2) as the 39A say, councils may err, and the judgement that they have would be brought from Scripture; (3) but this is not the Puritan position of nothing but Scripture: we may practice and believe what is consistent with Scripture (e.g. using musical instruments in church!) and order our life in ways permitted but not required by Scripture (e.g. having bishops, saying absolution); and, of course, (4) acknowledging that Scripture is a set of sacred texts demanding of us careful reading and informed interpretation. In sum: an evangelical Anglican approach to Scripture.

Malcolm+ said...

I would suggest, Peter, that interdependence is the way in which we grow together. Ultimately, dependent or authoritarian relationships create only the illusion of being together. I am absolutely persuaded that the Covenant as it stands supports a centralization of authority which would gut the concept of interdependence.

Some Covenant supporters would disagree with me as to the likely effect. Other Covenant supporters would agree with me, but consider it a good thing.

liturgy said...

“in debates about Scripture, tradition and reason, I always argue that these three are not equal to one another, but Scripture may challenge tradition”

The whole point of having a three-legged stool, as you know, is that the lengths of the legs do not need to be equal, nor does the terrain on which it rests need to be even and it will be stable.

Tradition interprets and “may challenge” the scriptures. Tradition, in fact, gives us the scriptures – the scriptures cannot be known apart from tradition. Reason may challenge the scriptures. Reason may challenge tradition. Tradition may challenge reason. The scriptures may challenge reason.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

"a three-legged stool"

And, as Bosco notes, a three-legged stool that allows for any one of the legs on the stool to exercise dominance over the others.

Really? How exactly? And says who?

Perhaps the very idea of a "three-legged stool" is just an Anglican myth.

Many attribute the so-called "three-legged stool" to Richard Hooker, but the idea is not his. Where in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity does Hooker ever once use the term "three-legged stool"?

Benjamin Guyer does a good job of demythologizing the association of the so-called "three-legged stool" with Hooker in the second installment of his piece entitled "In Praise of Rhetoric? Anti-Covenantal Myths of Puritanism and Anglicanism."

While being vetted for the position, the current Bishop of Virginia, the Very Rev. Shannon Johnston, said this about the relationship between scripture, tradition, and reason:

The "three-legged stool" of Scripture-Tradition-Reason is the essential dynamic for the Church's theological discernment. Distinct in themselves, these touchstones are not separate from one another in theology. They are aspects of a given unity-Christian truth-not unlike the three Persons of the Holy Trinity being distinct and yet the One God. As with the Trinity, none of the legs of the stool stands alone, and there is never any question that "two-out-of-three wins." Our understanding of theological truth is grounded by Scripture-Tradition-Reason interacting simultaneously.

I cannot accept sola Scriptura arguments; there simply is no such thing as "Scripture alone." While I do hold that Scripture must be the basis of all essential doctrine, I affirm that it cannot be read and interpreted without the presence of Tradition and Reason. Likewise, Tradition cannot justify itself theologically, and an appeal to Reason to override Scripture and Tradition is equally erroneous.

Peter Carrell said...

While agreeing that S, T and R inform each other etc etc, I fail to follow the logic, Bryan, of the bishop you cite when he says (as well): 'While I do hold that Scripture must be the basis of all essential doctrine.' No one ever said tradition or reason must be the basis of all essential doctrine. But Scripture 'must' be?! Perhaps because it is, in the end, more important than tradition or reason.

Anonymous said...

“[Scripture] is, in the end, more important than tradition or reason.”

Sorry, I’m actually failing to follow your logic, Peter. That scripture is different from tradition and reason does not lead to it being “more important”.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

I just read an interesting section of N. T. Wright's The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God that may have some bearing on the so-called "three-legged stool" and the importance of scripture. Here's what Wright says:

"Actually ... 'scripture, tradition and reason' were never the same kind of thing. The image of the stool with three matching legs is itself misleading. They are not so much like apples, pears and oranges as like apples, elephants and screwdrivers. As we have seen, a long line of theologians from Aquinas through Hooker to many writers today would insist that 'tradition' is the legacy of what the church has said when reflecting on scripture, and 'reason' is the rule of discourse by which such reflection is saved from random nonsense and integrated into a holistic view of God and the world. This too, however, can only be part of the story, and might imply a more solid and fixed form for 'tradition' and 'reason' than the story of the church warrants.

"To change the picture, scripture, tradition and reason are not like three different bookshelves, each of which can be ransacked for answers to key questions. Rather, scripture is the bookshelf; tradition is the memory of what people in the house have read and understood (or perhaps misunderstood) from that shelf; and reason is the set of spectacles that people wear in order to make sense of what they read - though, worryingly, the spectacles have varied over time, and there are signs that some readers, using the 'reason' available to them, have severely distorted the texts they were reading."

liturgy said...

hmmm... blogger appears to have stripped my of my nonymity and made me anonymous!

Trying to get my nonymity back...


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Wrote a great long comment in response to your last, and it got lost at the point of publishing. No time for a while to try again ...

liturgy said...

NT Wright writes against a straw man. I have never come across anyone suggesting that “scripture, tradition and reason are the same kind of thing”!

As for his second paragraph – he replaces his creation of scripture, tradition and reason being the same kind of thing with an image that is possibly even more fraught. Here Wright becomes an eloquent writer of fiction, a historical revisionist.

God’s people had tradition before it was written down. Some, we might say most, of that tradition has been incorporated in what became known as our scriptures. The tradition continued alongside the writings. The writings were read within the tradition. Decisions were made which writings were to be regarded as scripture tested against the tradition. We even renew our life in the light of early tradition not found in the scriptures.

NT Wright’s reduction of tradition to the history of reading of the scriptures is an unhelpful, incorrect oversimplification.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco

Scripture is more important than tradition or reason because Scripture gives us knowledge of salvation; it has authority to challenge tradition should tradition contradict Scripture (and not the other way around); and (as in my comment above) it is the basis of doctrine.

I am not sure that I could be clearer than that.

Anonymous said...

"Wright writes against a straw man. I have never come across anyone suggesting that “scripture, tradition and reason are the same kind of thing”!"

- perhaps you misunderstand him? What he is criticizing is the idea that "Scripture, tradition and reason" are materially equal sources of religious truth - or some even being superior. This IS certainly said by some, especially in Tec, where 'reason' and 'experience' are routinely treated as trumping the Bible (cf. Spong et al).

"God’s people had tradition before it was written down. Some, we might say most, of that tradition has been incorporated in what became known as our scriptures. The tradition continued alongside the writings. The writings were read within the tradition. Decisions were made which writings were to be regarded as scripture tested against the tradition. We even renew our life in the light of early tradition not found in the scriptures."
- This is a pretty good description of the theological method adopted by the Council of Trent: the 'two source' theory of Bible and Tradition. Are you a crypto-Tridentine? Maybe you would find the Ordinariate a good place. However, this is decidedly NOT what the Church Fathers and the Refomers said - or even quite a few in the late medieval church. Why do you imagine Luther inveighed against indulgences and a host of other teachings of tradition? It didn't matter to him a whit that these teachings were supported by the 'Corpus Iuris Canonici'.

"NT Wright’s reduction of tradition to the history of reading of the scriptures is an unhelpful, incorrect oversimplification"
- No, it's pretty much what Hooker says in 'Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity' - and follows closely the biblical exegetical method of Gregory Nazianzen in his book on the divinity of the Holy Spirit.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

I think that +Wright would probably want to make the same point as Peter, seeing as he, too, is an evangelical Anglican. But Peter made the point much more succinctly and clearly!

Bosco, I would be surprised if +Wright did not acknowledge the points you make about tradition. But I am curious: are you leaving room open for tradition continuing alongside the writings in the canon to challenge scripture, perhaps even to trump the ways in which scripture has been previously interpreted and applied? IOW, are you suggesting a kind of ongoing tradition akin to what some folks mean by ongoing or "progressive" revelation? I get the sense that what you're saying could mean that, but wanted to ask in case such a conclusion is in error.

Anonymous said...

Scripture is more important than tradition or reason... it has authority to challenge tradition.

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liturgy said...

I am not sure, Peter, what you are responding to in clarifying your position. I don’t think I even ask the question, “which of the three is more important?” They are different. Nor can I make out what difference it makes to either agree or disagree with you on this. We need all three legs – the length, or size of the legs doesn’t matter. Discussing which leg is more important appears to me much like (following previous images) discussing which is your favourite member of the Trinity (or the most important one). Following your approach might one not say: tradition is more important than scripture because tradition gives us the scriptures. Reason is more important than scripture because reason is what you are using in your comment to make the point at all. Etc.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Palaiologos
The policy here is a first name if not a first and second name. It is intrinsically possible that Palaiologos is a first or second name (and I will take you word for it if you confirm that).

For this particular comment I will make an exception as some pertinent content by way of response is in it. But such favour will not be shown again if Palaiologos is not a real name.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for recent comments, one and all.

Perhaps we are talking past one another at points in this thread.

E.g. I am at one with Bosco in agreeing that Scripture, tradition and reason are all important, useful, and required for Christian discourse.

But in that form of the discourse we Anglicans engage in, it is noticeable at times that the triad are talked of in terms in which Scripture seems to be demoted in its authority over our life. (Please note, for clarity's sake, I am not accusing/alleging any contributor here of engaging in such demoting: we are engaging in a discussion about how we may talk about sensibly about Scripture, tradition, and reason). My beef here is with those Anglicans who talk loosely about the triad as though Scripture is readily trumped in importance by the other two. My preference would be to find a way to talk about the triad which acknowledges the singularity of Scripture, its basis for doctrine, and the like. I think 'most important' helpful in talking about Scripture. (I do not find that such talk leads me from mainstream Christianity to the Branch Davidians. Does anyone else?)

liturgy said...

I suspect, Peter, that you are right that we are holding to a similar position from slightly different directions. You say as much in your “Eg.” & I say as much in my point that I cannot quite see what “difference it makes to either agree or disagree with you on this”.

I must, once again, object strongly – this time to “Palaiologos”. I do not agree that he is making any pertinent comment responding to anything I actually said. Just as he reinterprets the Wright quote (I was responding to the actual quote, not to something I imagine Wright might be saying), so, and I object to this more strongly, “Palaiologos” invents a whole series of statements about me which have no connection to reality whatsoever. I am not crypto-anything; and find it particularly hypocritical to be called crypto anything by someone who him/herself hasn’t the integrity to reveal their own identity. Furthermore, on the spectrum of enthusiasm for the RC “Anglican” Ordinariate, 5 minutes looking at our writings and I suspect most would place Peter further towards the pro-ordinariate side than me :-)

Peter, you made a strong policy statement about this in relation to “Al M” at
Al M took a “Trappist” vow of silence. Trappists, of course, take no vow of silence and never have. For all I know “Palaiologos” is the latest manifestation of trolling “Al M”, who can tell himself/herself that s/he has integrity in fulfilling his/her “Trappist” vow ;-)

Bryan, I am not sure what you mean by your question(s) – you would need to be more specific. I guess I am open to the scriptures having been misinterpreted and misunderstood in Christian history. But that is not what springs to my mind in relation to anything I’ve said. I was thinking, just as one example, of the renewal of our liturgical life by returning to early church and extra-canonical Jewish sources to correct Medieval accretions and aberrations. The scriptures alone would not have led us to this renewal IMO – but clearly the renewal is consonant with the scriptures and echoes them. Does this help as just one example?


Anonymous said...

Hi, Peter - "Palaiologos" is my tribute to that great 'philosopher king' Manuel VII of the Byzantine Empire who held up the centrality of reason (no less) in the face of claimed revelation (in his day, the forces of Islam that would soon destroy what remained of his empire). I thought 'liturgy' was indeed interpreting what NT Wright had said when he accused him of attacking a 'straw man'. I don't always agree with everything Bishop Wright has written, but I think he is correct in this point and gives a fair account of what Richard Hooker wrote on Scripture (always given priority in Anglicanism) in its relation to 'tradition' (= accepted exegesis) and 'reason' - which meant something very different in the 1590s to later centuries. The 'three legged stool' idea is nonsense (albeit well-traveled) and I hope it won't be invoked by anyone with a serious grasp of Anglican history - though you probably know the meme is rampant in Tec. It pains me to say that Americans don't really do history, but you probably knew that. Many of us have given up on that fruitless task and are moving on - perhaps you have seen the stats in Titusonenine on the relentless decline of Tec: attendance, baptisms, marriages - it just keeps going south. But it's no better in New Zealand either, is it?
My point about Tridentine theology was serious too - that is exactly how the Council of Trent configured the relationship between Scripture and 'tradition': two sources, the second being held by the Church - and then being defined by the Pope in the event of controversy. Getting rid of 'Medieval accretions and aberrations' was exactly what Cranmer was seeking to do.
I can't easily envisage how 'extra-canonical Jewish sources' will 'correct' Christian worship.

Peter Hollister "Palaiologos"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Peter Hollister/Bosco
Thank you for your name and your tribute, Peter, and for underlining what you say re tradition.

Bosco: I published Peter's original comment because (some unfortunate jibes notwithstanding) it made pertinent points about the nature of tradition in the context of this discussion. The problem may be as simple as your working with a different definition of 'tradition' to others of us commenting here! But, on my definition, I am with Peter and Bryan (and Hooker, Wright, and co) :)

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter (Carrell)

This is your blog; you may run it any way you like. I appreciated, and took over your way of not publishing inappropriate comments by responding to the commenter on the thread. Alternatively, you can contact the commenter using the email s/he provides. I have also seen you extract the good points from an inappropriate comment and publish an edited version.

To have someone anonymously disparage my comment by suggesting that I would be better off joining the Ordinariate rather than being an Anglican, when you know my opinion about the Ordinariate, appears to me to go against several of the conventions you state to be part of your moderation policy.

You may very well be right, that we are using the word “tradition” differently. I have not, however, seen a definition by you of “tradition”, just descriptions by you of what you see it including. I do not think your use of the word is consonant with Richard Hooker, who uses other phrases, such as “the voice of the Church” alongside “what Scripture doth plainly deliver” and “reason” (in its pre-Enlightenment understanding). I use “tradition” in the sense that St Paul does, and in line with standard dictionary definitions. I use “tradition” in the sense used in the Anglican Covenant.

I continue to espouse that tradition includes the historical reflection on the scriptures but, with Hooker, am strongly against the position that it is limited to that.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I shall try harder to vet and where necessary edit comments which contain ad hominem material. I failed to do that with Palaiologus and apologise for thinking publishing the whole of his comment could be justified.

In a sense I do not care what definition of tradition is proposed: voice of the church, reflection on Scripture, liturgy. Scripture challenges all facets. That to me is the point of the Reformation which I am committed to as a reformed-and-catholic Christian: the church may err, the correction to its course will be found in Scripture.

liturgy said...

Thanks, Peter,

We will just have to agree to disagree. It appears to me that in renewing the church, for example, as I have already mentioned, in the area of liturgy, there was drawing on tradition as well as scripture, rather than finding all we needed within the scriptures. I cannot see how all we treasure in our liturgical renewal can be derived from scripture alone. I think to continue further will have us going around in circles, as I have already said I cannot concur with your suggestion that tradition can be reduced to “reflection on Scripture”. I do not think that is the understanding of Hooker, of the Anglican Covenant, or of general dictionary definitions. So we will just have to agree to disagree, for I cannot agree that in all cases of renewal "the correction to its course will be found in Scripture."



Anonymous said...

'liturgy' writes: "I use “tradition” in the sense that St Paul does, and in line with standard dictionary definitions."

Here's my problem. According to my Roman Catholic friends and teachers, St Paul and the other apostles communicated by speech religious doctrines - traditiones/paradoseis - besides those contained expressly in the Epistles and Gospels. This is what Trent said, and apart from tidying up the definition of revelation a bit in its constitution on 'Dei Verbum', Vatican II seemed to affirm this teaching. So, if these teachings were not committed to Scripture, what did Paul mean by 1 Cor 11.2, 2 Thess 2.15 etc? My Roman Catholic friends and teachers are clear on this: it includes purgatory, prayer for the dead, the sinlessness of Mary, the iontercession of the saints, and no doubt a lot of other things. (Naturally the Reformers were not convinced!) But how do you decide what was communicated verbally by the apostles, if it wasn't written down? Obviously, you need an authoritative magisterium. It was this line of reasoning (along with his evolutionary theory - 'development' - of greater perfection across time) that led John Henry Newman out of Anglicanism into Roman Catholicism, as he believed that Anglicanism was unavoidably erastian and infected with liberalism. A number of younger Anglican theologians in recent days (R. R. Reno, Lewis Ayres etc) have followed this logic to Rome as well.
Peter Hollister "Palaiologos"

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Peter. I find your understanding of tradition to square much more closely with my own understanding than Bosco's.

But I am reflecting on Bosco's definition which has some novelty as far as my limited mind goes!

Anonymous said...

You can send up my comment all you want, Peter. The reality is that it is not liturgy’s approach that inevitably leads to “needing an authoritative magisterium”, it is the inability of Bible-alone Christians to agree with each other on what the Bible teaches that leads to the recognition that “Obviously, you need an authoritative magisterium”. Your response that you are not a Branch Davidian does nothing to counter my claim of your basic epistemological flaw. Nor have you answered the question here of what your definition of tradition is. That tradition is the history of reading the Bible is not a definition, it merely results in circularity.


Anonymous said...

Prayers for you all!
May God help everyone in Christchurch.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
I stand by my amazement that a whole bunch of Christians (not only evangelical Anglicans) who value Scripture above tradition can be touted as within a whisker or two of being Branch Davidians, Christadelphians and the like. It is amazement because arguing that Scripture is more important than tradition is not the same as arguing 'Bible alone' along the lines of that 'aloneness' that leads to such sects.

I do not deny that my approach heads in the direction of an authoritative magisterium. It is not clear to me, however, that Bosco's (and other approaches) do not head that way too. In Anglican terms we tend to find that all diversity is not permitted and our General Synods function as magisteriums which rule out some things as 'unAnglican.' In the church both Bosco and I serve in (ACANZP ... of which you may be a member also?), one of our shared concerns is the lack of respect for the authority of General Synod re sound liturgy shown by some leaders of worship (and, odd though it may sound, by General Synod itself, when it makes muddled decisions)!

As for a definition of 'tradition' as the history of interpretation of Scripture, I suggest that there is more to that definition than meets the eye, however, I think I have said in this thread that I see tradition as including that history, but not solely bound to it. I would also observe that where we see tradition as being handed on to us through (e.g.) liturgy, we nevertheless check it against Scripture (cf. use of phrases such as 'consonant with Scripture'). Yet we do not check Scripture against liturgy. At least not in my experience.