Saturday, April 16, 2011

Consistency in Anglican theologies (1)

A post or two ago a question was raised about the theological consistency of a commenter who drew attention to the importance of a Nicean Canon while also supporting the ordination of women. In other comments over the years I have been pressed by my critics in respect of the consistency of my theological arguments expressed here. Effectively these are charges that if I believe X I also ought to believe Y and Z, and since I don't my 'theological system' is weighed in the balance and found wanting. A further charge implied or even made explicit is along the lines that if I believe A, B, and C then I may as well go the whole hog, pop my swimming trunks on and swim the Tiber, or sign up to GAFCON. You will understand my disappointment that no one is offering me a free flight to Geneva or a cruise across the Bosphorous!

The question of theological consistency for Anglicans is actually quite an interesting one and I hope to explore it a little in  a small series of posts. In the meantime here are links to two posts worth reading in their own right, but also worth reading as prolegomena for my small series.

Philip Turner on the achilles heal of Anglicanism.

Bryan Owen on the essence of Anglicanism.


Lucy said...

Peter on the link to Bryan Owen's blog you said, 'Isn't the true essence of Anglicanism obedience to Jesus Christ? If we are doing anything which is disobedient to Jesus, shouldn't we stop doing it?'
How do you think the Covenant will help us follow Jesus more obediently?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy,
The Covenant offers Anglican churches the possibility of calling one another to account when it appears that disobedience to Jesus is occurring. That could help, could it not?

The Covenant also keeps us focused on what we believe together about Jesus.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Gospel of “God with us,” the Gospel of “The Word became flesh” has had the cross expunged from its content. What remains is a principle of affirmation designed to proclaim the goodness of creation and to support moral betterment. Christmas has become a feast of affirmation."
- Dr. Turner, A.C.I. theologian -

In his very long dissertation on what he sees as the distinction between the Western and Global South Church understandings of Incarnational theology, Dr. Turner gives us this tiny gem of wisdom. When he says that the supporters of the LGBT community, by their affirmation of such an under-standing, have 'expunged the Cross' from their theology; he conveniently forgets that, in places like Nigeria and Uganda, Gays are subject (with the tacit encouragement of the local Church) to persecution - including the possibility of death - for the sin of simply being gay.

Furthermore, in such societies as exist in the Global South countries, LGBT people, whose sexuality arguably is innate and not acquired by an act of the will, are subject to not only ridicule but blatant disrespect by the hierarchy of their Churches - all of whom have pledged to honour the status of gays as co-equal bearers of the divine image and likeness. If this is not a sign of the experience of the Cross and Passion of Christ in their lives, then I wonder what worse fate could await other members of the Body of Christ.

Dr Turner is a well known member of the so-called Anglican Christian Institute in the U.S.- a well-known supporter of ACNA and GAFCON, and could be expected to offer such a travesty of understanding of the plight of gays in the Church today.

I'm only suprised, David, that you appear to encourage his point of view by commending his article on your web-site. It is not at all helpful in the discussion about the viability of an Anglican Theology.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I will talk to David about publishing articles like this in the name of Anglican theology.

I imagine he might respond by noting that some of your response shows a misreading of ACI and its concerns. It (and Dr Turner) are not supporters of GAFCON or ACNA, and no promotion of GAFCON or ACNA occurs on their site. Their site is dedicated to the future health of the Anglican Communion, and the contributors are canonically resident in the 'official' Anglican churches of the USA and Canada.

A second misreading is to equate the width and length of the Global South with the publicised actions of persecution of gays within two African countries, Nigeria and Uganda. (There is also the complicated question of the extent to which the Anglican churches of these countries are as fervant in support of such persecution as they are made out to be. There are many religious factors contributing to these nations and their socio-political cultures, including other churches and various schools of Islamic thought).

I read Dr Turner's article as not offering support to any aspect of Global South life that needs improvement and/or repentance, but raising a series of significant questions about the 'sociologic' of the theological suppositions of Western/Norther Anglicanism. (I also do not read those questions specifically pointing at Anglicans in their role as "GLBT supporters" but as Anglicans whose theologies are so driven by themes such as 'incarnation' or 'justice' that the cross at the centre of the gospel narrative of divine redemption has been lost sight of.

Writing out of the North American context as Dr Turner does I bow to his superior knowledge of that location. But, as always, I remain open to those who would respond to him with argument that Western/Northern Anglicans, especially where anchored into North America has not lost sight of the cross.

Lucy said...

“The Covenant offers Anglican churches the possibility of calling one another to account when it appears that disobedience to Jesus is occurring”.
Peter I would really like to support the Covenant ... not that anyone will ask me I suspect! But how would such a calling to account happen? And on what basis? How would we find the decisiveness and clarity of conviction to call others to account, and the humility to respond? Would you see us continue talking and talking and talking to ourselves in order to discern what constitutes disobedience to Jesus? At present, there are a number of groups who claim that they are calling the Communion to a more Jesus-obedient way of being the Church. On the one hand there are those who are calling us to find the courage to heed the voice of the Spirit, and move ‘beyond Scripture’ to affirm the holiness of homosexual relationships; on the other hand there is the opposite call – a homosexual lifestyle is an ‘off limits’ lifestyle that will keep a person out of the Kingdom of God; a third group is asking us to embrace tolerance and not let this contentious issue divide the Church, unity has pre-eminence.
If we are truly going to be able to call one another to account, surely the vexed issue of the authority and interpretation of Scripture needs to be addressed? Or do you see us talking with one another for longer and longer until we find common ground? It seems important to me to remember that we can’t all be right. There is not an endless variety of ways to live God honouring lives; while some things are a matter of culture and personality, there are some things that can be called holy and some that must be off limits. The three groups I mention above cannot all be hearing the Holy Spirit, they cannot all be bringing honour to Jesus ... but all claim to be.

In my understanding of covenant, the covenanting people make a decision to lay down their individual lives and rights and resources in order that a new corporate life can come into existence. Consequently, sacrifice is at the heart of covenant. For such a thing to come about there needs to be trust in the integrity of the promises being made, trust that the gift people make of themselves will be valued, and trust that their voices will be heard. Currently, there seems to be little trust among members of the Communion; there seem to be significant issues around whose voices are heard and why; there seem to be questions about who has power and who does not.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy,
It would be member churches calling one another to account, via the mechanism of letters, consideration by relevant bodies, in particular the Standing Committe of the Communion, with a view to making a decision. It could all take time, which would allow for much talking and (hopefully) the building of much trust through an honourable process. As the process gained experience I think we would see some questions of authority being answered.

That many Anglicans think the Covenant will not work out in this way does not obviate the fact that the other way (i.e. what is currently happening) involves a lack of trust, a lot of talking past each other, or a lot of non-communication because meetings suffer lack of full attendance. Arguably the "Covenant way" has more to offer than the "non-Covenant way"!

But the present situation is not a good basis for the Covenant to begin (should it be agreed to, which looks difficult to achieve) because the Covenant will work better if trust exists between us.

Sounds "Catch-22"!

Another possibility, incidentally, implicit in what you say about different groupings around diverse convictions, is that we split up into several smaller groupings.