Sunday, February 20, 2011

More brilliance from the ACI

They may be legends in their own lifetime, the gang of four, self-appointed, with laptop, taking on the future of the Communion, to the chagrin of many critics, but they are brilliant. Is anyone else on the internet consistently turning out the quality of essays the Anglican Communion Institutes fellows have been publishing for years now? Remember, as you launch into the 'usual' criticism of the ACI, they are driven by a vision for the unity of the Communion. I am not always convinced myself that their critics share their vision with the same passionate commitment.

For some time now they have been saying the Communion is likely to fragment, and nothing has proven them wrong to date. Where they have been wrong is to have hoped that the future of the Communion would evolve through sticking to the Windsor recipe. That is not now happening.

Thus Philip Turner, writing at ACI, turns his attention to the next challenge in the reality of post Primates' Meeting global Anglicanism, whether the absentee primates represent an Anglicanism which is or can be united in working towards a renewed vision of a large global Communion. Critics of the ACI may be advised to read the whole essay carefully as what is written is no Hallelujah chorus celebrating the future of Global South and GAFCON. Rather Turner is something of a Jeremiah, somewhat gloomy about the prospects. Here is an excerpt:

'How can those in dissent provide such an alternative? From the outside I can only say that, as I have observed events over the past few years, the objections of the course TEC is taking are clear enough, but I have not seen an equally forceful account of either the Christian Gospel or the nature and mission of the church. We are all involved in a church struggle that cannot be won simply by saying no. A yes must be spoken for a more powerful account of Christian belief, practice and order if this church struggle is to issue in the restoration of communion rather than the ratification of “different integrities.”

Anglicans who opposed the actions of TEC from both above and below the equator have not done this work. The theological position of TEC and its supporters does not go beyond a commitment to inclusion that they share with citizens of liberal democracies throughout the world. Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy. This is rather thin gruel, but those in dissent have not taken the invitation of those who wrote the Windsor Report to go more deeply into the vision of unity found in Ephesians and Corinthians. They have not placed their distress with the way things are within a view of God’s providence and his will for the church and the world to be found in Holy Scripture. It appears that the dissidents from both north and south of the equator have decided to play the game on terms set by the liberal leadership of the Instruments. They have rightly resisted the change in moral practice TEC has undertaken, but they have neither exposed the shallow nature of the theology behind these changes nor proposed a more robust alternative.

I have no doubt that an objection to what I have said will be lodged at this point. Some will say that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has done the necessary work and they will point to the Jerusalem Declaration as evidence that this work has been done. With but two exceptions, I could happily sign the Declaration, but from my perspective it does not exemplify the sort of theological work necessary if the Anglican Communion is to survive as a communion of churches. The Jerusalem Declaration is comprised of fourteen assertions having to do with things its signers hold to be true. The fourteen points are matters in which they “rejoice” or “believe.” They are matters they “uphold,” “proclaim” or “recognize.”

No doubt theological views stand behind these assertions, and many of these views I probably share. Nevertheless, all confessions (this one included) represent theological summaries designed to give a group identity and mark the boundaries of its membership. The theological work I have in mind is rather different. The present crisis has forced upon Anglicans questions the heat of the present struggle has led them to ignore. What do Anglicans mean when they say they belong to a communion of churches? What content do Anglicans give this word? Why did the authors of the Windsor Report use the notion of koinonia both as a way into the most essential of Christian beliefs and as a means of displaying the importance of unity in the church? Were they right to do so; and have they made clear why dissolution of the Anglican Communion might prove an unacceptable loss to the church catholic?'

I share many of these concerns, and applaud Turner for writing them down. The Jerusalem Declaration, for instance, for all its many strengths has significant weaknesses. Those who trumpet it as the future basis for a renewed Communion need to sit down with some really good theologians and do some work on improving it. (In a future post I may delve into the Declaration).


Father Ron Smith said...

" Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy" - Peter Carrell a la ACI -

I guess, Peter, that this criticism you offer here might well have been voiced by 1st century Pharisees, who judged the liberating actions and teachings of Jesus to be fatally flawed. From the point of view of The Law, Jesus was offering something new - the ethic of the God of Love:
"A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you. This is how they will know you're my disciplies - that you have LOVE one for another."

The Jerusalem Statement is just that - a 'statement' of Law, which it's advocates are holding out as a standard by which they measure the 'faithfulness' of Anglicans: to a prescribed doctrine of purity, and
obedience to their interpretation of
the Scriptures.

The New Commandment of Jesus was always offensive to the legalists, and one suspects that today's *Puritans* are tarred with the same brush.

It just won't do for you to say that "Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy" - when toleration and acceptance of everyone by Jesus (except perhaps the self-righteous)
were the very charisms which led Jesus to His Cross.

"What I want is mercy, not sacrifice!"

I'm, personally, not to worried asbout ACI's predictions about what the Communion may or may not be in the coming decades. I trsut that God will have something to do with what eventually transpires. I asm not a pessimist - rather, like Saint Francis of Assisi, who declared that, though God used the most wretched of men (like himself) to preach the Good news of redemption by Jesus in the Gospel, the end result would be God's sovereign work.

I can only wish GAFCON and ACNA "Good luck in the name of the Lord" with their enterprise (biblical), but whatever they determnine to do - probably on their own initiative - cannot possibly undermine God's plan for those who decide to remain what has always been, basically, muddle-headed but intrinsically 'Anglican'.

Brother David said...

This statement points to your rather shallow understanding of progressive Christian theology Peter; "The theological position of TEC and its supporters does not go beyond a commitment to inclusion that they share with citizens of liberal democracies throughout the world."

You show yourself to be profoundly ignorant of progressive theology and so little qualified to critique. " a test of orthodoxy" I am not sure that we care to go around testing orthodoxy, that has always been pretty much a pharisaical/puritan undertaking. We are more interested in orthopraxy, we actually practice our faith, and in that practice you will find the deep theology we embrace as we go about immersing ourselves in our world and embodying the actual teachings of Jesus.

It is sad how you reveal how little that you really know about the Anglican world as you constantly embrace the Global South, which is little more than the Anglican franchise of the Assemblies of God whose leaders have merely adopted African tribalism as its manifest leadership style (bishop = chieftain), and constantly dismiss those of us aligned with the movement and motives of TEC and the ACCanada because you know nothing of us and so view us as "thin gruel."

BTW, please unpack this, "Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross...", obviously "cross" is code/lingo and has some deep conservative evangelical meaning, but I fail to gather what this encompasses from your brush with the concept in your statement.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and David,
You pick up on critique Philip Turner makes of TEC and challenge it. Fair enough. But Philip Turner knows as much about TEC as each of you do, maybe more. Your beef is with him.

I published the excerpt not because (once again) it critiques TEC but because it is making the point that if one critiques TEC and holds it substantially responsible for the situation the Communion is in, there nevertheless remains a huge theological task to do. In sum: come up with a better recipe for Communion unity than what has been tried to date. The major point of the whole essay, but also of the excerpt is criticism of Global South and GAFCON. My erstwhile friends, even myself are having the finger of judgement pointed at us :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and David,

Re your joint concern about 'Toleration and acceptance have replaced the cross as a test of orthodoxy'.

This is a dense statement (or wrongheaded). If it is a dense statement then I assume Philip Turner would unpack it something like this:

There is a theology in which we understand Christ's crucifixion to address our sin, and to meet our need for divine forgiveness through Christ's blood being shed for us, which, further, enables the power of sin to enslave us to be broken. (Cf. Paul's preaching 'Christ and him crucified.')

There is a theology of God's love for humanity in which God reaches out to us and accepts us as we are, tolerating our sin without reference to the cross (save, perhaps, for Christ's crucifixion exemplifying that accepting love). That is, God's love is explained in such a way that the cross becomes redundant in an account of God saving us. This theology may also lead to an ethic in which we are encouraged to tolerate sin and accept one another as we are, without any thought of naming sin for what it is, calling people to repentance and so forth.

I would then assume that Philip Turner is suggesting that the latter theology has replaced the former theology as a test of orthodoxy.

I further assume that Philip Turner at least thinks he knows the church to which he applies his summary sentence, being a long practitioner within it.

Father Ron Smith said...

"There is a theology of God's love for humanity in which God reaches out to us and accepts us as we are, tolerating our sin without reference to the cross (save, perhaps, for Christ's crucifixion exemplifying that accepting love"

- Peter Carrell (a la Dr. Turner?)

Csatholic theology would certainly concur with the following words of your statement here:

"There is a theology of God's love for humanity in which God reaches out to us and accepts us as we are".

I feel you and Dr. Turner are trying, in the following phrase, to short-change the catholic emphasis on the value of Christ's Cross. The liturgy of the Eucharist dramatizes the place of the Sacrifice of Christ (The Cross) as a symbolic and material *esse* of the redemptive power of the Crucified in the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood.

Perhaps this is why certain con/evos have no understanding of the Eucharist - some not even bothering to advertise it's celebration in the list of their 'worship' services, preferring rather to elevate the 'preaching of the Word in The Book' (bibliolatry), to the receiving of the Word-made flesh' at the altar.

One appreciates the understanding of God's Love as being 'unconditional'.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
Your response to my comments above are pushing me close to a decision to stop responding to comments you make here; or even to not publish any comment by you which unfairly takes my words and makes them say something else.

I regret this firmness but I can only take so much misinformation about me and my views. (To some earlier unfair comments by you to other posts I have responded without any response from you acknowledging the points I have made).

In this case it is very unfair to take my attempt to interpret something Philip Turner wrote and cast an aspersion on me that I am shortchanging Catholic theology. I was not attempting any kind of explanation of anything other than of a dense remark of Philip Turner's. The proper critique of what I wrote would be to offer an alternative interpretation or to say that I fell short of providing a satisfactory interpretation etc.

I do not mind criticism and argument over what I actually write, but I am now quite impatient with being criticised for what I do not write.

Peter Carrell