Thursday, July 21, 2011

Time for a new Anglican church?

I am wondering about starting a new Anglican church. Its working name in full is 'the Anglicans who take theology really seriously Church.' I think that name would be transparent about its membership and its distinctiveness. One person who would be very welcome is the writer of this post. He takes up a post by Mark Harris at Preludium which picks up a past challenge of Kenneth Kearon's about whether TEC shares the Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion as well as my post yesterday. Mark, like one or two commenters here, defends +Gene's assertion ("“I know Jesus to be the son of God,” he told a group of about 50 people, “but what a small, limited God we would have if that was the only manifestation.") It is a weak defence: no one acclaiming that Jesus is the 'only manifestation' does not understand that God is manifest in other ways narrated in the Bible. 'Only manifestation' with reference to whether God is 'small, limited' in a statement which goes on to question Christians' 'spiritual arrogance' concerns whether the fullness of God is revealed in Jesus Christ or revealed in Jesus Christ and other notable religious figures. I am struggling to understand how +Gene in what he said and those who are defending him are taking theology at this point with any particular seriousness in respect of our Nicean and Chalcedonian creedal foundation. (For clarity: that does not mean that on other matters these Anglicans are not serious in theology).

Here is the thing: even if God revealed nothing of himself to Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Elijah and only revealed himself in and through Jesus Christ, such an 'only manifestation' would still be the manifestation of a very big, indeed unlimited God: that is the point of purple passages in Scripture such as John 1:1-18; Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-2, Hebrews 1:1-4. In fact what these and other passages point to is that the manifestations of God in the Old Testament are manifestations of the God who is the God of Jesus Christ. The christological richness (one might also say 'thickness') of Scripture is precisely that there is a single manifestation of God, most clearly and fully comprehended in Jesus Christ: I am the light of the world - no one comes to the Father but by me - I and the Father are one.

Now if this new Anglican church came into existence I think the world of Anglicanism could be a very happy world. Those who do not take theology particularly seriously would be free of engaging with annoying people like me. Those like me who have been getting increasingly agitated by the lack of serious theology in the Anglican Communion would stop annoying people who want to be free to move Anglican-ly where the Spirit takes them.

Naturally the Covenant would be at the heart of this new Anglican church: it is a very good document which takes theology seriously. Incidentally, there would be no confusion as to which Anglican thing was which. The Anglican Communion which remained would be free to call itself by that name. This new church would unashamedly be known by its short title 'The Anglican Church'.

It would have a very clever and up to date magisterium: a collection of seriously theological Anglican bloggers would discuss each and every issue which arose, in a spirit of free enquiry within the scope of the Covenant. Part of the genius of this magisterium is that, across the globe, it would be at work 24/7, and it would incur no costs, being a voluntary workforce :)

As for leadership? It might be time to adopt a very good idea of Presbyterians: annual Moderators. The Anglican Church would have one. No anglo-papistry involved. How would the Moderator be chosen each year? I am toying with the idea of one of the bloggers being chosen on a popularity 'Who had the most hits last year?' basis. The likely first moderator would be the host at Liturgy!

As for which liturgy would be used by The Anglican Church? Well, here also we can only bow to popularity as the means by which the decision is made. Which current Communion member church's prayer book is most widely admired, if not used (legally or illegally) in most Anglican churches? There is one clear winner ... A New Zealand Prayer Book.

Well, that is the new worldwide Anglican Church pretty much sorted.


Tim Harris said...

Now Peter, for a brief moment you had me excited that you were talking about 'New Anglicanism'... ;-)

Peter Carrell said...

One will be a front for the other!

Incidentally, all bishops in The Anglican Church will be 'for Mission and Evangelism' :)

liturgy said...

I am honoured, Peter, to be chosen as the temporary Moderator of TAWTTRSC! I have already sent my order to you-know-who for my appropriate robes

Returning to Gene’s statement, and even assuming that the media quoted him correctly, and understanding that when he said “I know Jesus to be the Son of God” we cannot, in this printed version, tell how much he stressed the word “the” in that sentence (it would make a difference, I’m sure you’d agree), and not allowing ourselves to get distracted by – but hey look at this statement of the Presiding Bishop here, or that TEC priest there – as if these confirm an interpretation of Gene’s remark, I still want to come back to the original quote.

I am wary of the use here and in places you point to of “manifestation” of God in relation to Jesus. Jesus is the incarnation of God. Jesus is God incarnate; the Son of God incarnate. Jesus is fully God. Not merely (I know I regularly forbid uses of the word “merely” but bear with me as I distinguish between “manifestation” and “incarnation”) a “manifestation” of God (or the Son of God).

Incarnation is not merely a different quantity of manifestation of God – it is a different quality, a different type. [But, yes, the incarnation of God in Jesus is also a “manifestation” – a manifestation, as I say, of a particular, unique type].

Hence, God is manifest in beauty, truth, and goodness. And God is incarnate in Jesus. In accepting God’s revelation in Jesus, we are not excluding God’s manifestation in Science, love, altruism, films,… and God is so manifest beyond the edges of Christianity.

I hence continue to struggle to understand what is unorthodox in the sentence, “I know Jesus to be the Son of God, but what a small, limited God we would have if that was the only manifestation." To the point of making this a rallying cry for altering our Anglican Communion structures!

All that having been said, I’m presuming as in other places, I can be bi-ritual and continue canonically in TACIA,NZAP and Moderator of TAWTTRSC.



Peter Carrell said...

Your primary membership qualification for TAWTTRSC or TACh for short is that you take theology seriously, as demonstrated here!

Bryden Black said...

I have a serious difficulty Peter: while there may be 24/7 magisterial adjudication, in cyberspace naturally, there won't be any BEER! How on earth (yes; pun intended) might this new breed of Inklings ever get serious theology done - without BEER? For our New Non Pope, Msr Bosco, is right: we believe in INCARNATION, not (mere) virtual reality beer and/or wine and/or ... No; I refrain! ;-))

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

The problem is, though, that TEC and ACoC will want to join your new TAWTTRSC because they will protest, "We do take theology really seriously. Look how many PhDs in theology we have. We just renew and update theology according to the Spirit's leading and the changing context of today's world. We are at the cutting edge of theological enquiry and application. By the way, let us do the accounting about which is the most popular blog and therefore gets to be Moderator."

GAFCON will protest, "No one can take theology more seriously than us. Have you ever read Calvin's institutes in one sitting? And Communion fragmentation is our specialty, go find your own. And a NZ liturgy? Come on! They still sacrifice sheep down there. And they have a woman bishop."

Peter Carrell said...

Pessimists, Andrew, are welcome! :)

Kurt said...

Join a new Anglican church? No thanks. I'm happy in TEC.

Kurt Hill
In sweltering Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

If TEC ever leaves you behind, Kurt, you will be most welcome! :)

Brother David said...

I am sure that the TEC BCP is used by more folks than the ACANZ&P coloring book. The Spanish version is used by a number of Latin provinces!

Pageantmaster said...

Is there room for Anglicans who take theology really really seriously?

Suem said...

As someone pointed out, everyone believes they take theology seriously. There is not just one theological perspective. Are you sure you do not actually mean that you want a church where everyone thinks the same as you do, because your conclusions are the ones you think people come to when they take theology "seriously"?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,

I enjoy the company of many Christians who take theology seriously and who disagree with me.

Here is a short list of possible ways to not take theology seriously (and yet deludedly believe one is taking theology seriously): downplay or even ignore the role of Scripture; consciously refrain from developing even a passing acquaintance with (say) Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and Barth; blithely assume that the latest book one has read is true; entrust one's theological education to the collected works of Spong; hammer a wedge between Jesus and Paul ...

As far as I can tell, all commenters here, even the one's disagreeing with me are taking theology seriously!

One could also take theology seriously by never reading a book of theology but trusting that Scripture is God's Word written and believing that the creeds are fair expressions of Christian belief.

Suem said...

I do think that those who "downplay or even ignore the role of Scripture" do not take theology seriously gives problems though. Some traditions emphasise Church tradition much more strongly than scripture, for example - is that downplaying scripture. Some evangelical traditions emphasise scripture to such an extent that others see this as a form of idolatory - as has been said, "there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, there is no God the Holy bible!" My father believed my mother's elevation of scripture was idolatrous, while she felt the same about his view of the role and importance of the saints and the Virgin Mary! Also, some who boast that they are serious about their theology because of their emphasis on Sola scripture can actually be seen to be as selective as anybody else - for example taking texts to do with homosexuality very narrowly, but showing much greater latitude (even effectively ignoring!) injunctions not to divorce and that remarriage after divorce is adultery.
Also, what do you do about Christians such as myself who do not believe scripture is inerrant? Are we excluded or considered not to take theology seriously? I don't know any formal theology BTW, but I know many priests who hold a similar position to me on scripture. Of course, it is quite possible to believe scripture is not inerrant but be quite orthodox on issues such as the resurrection of Christ and his divinity - or even to hold conservative views on sexuality.
So, where do we draw the line? And is this is what our faith is all about - testing each other's degrees of orthodoxy or "heresy"?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
There are many ways to 'take theology seriously' whether one is a Roman Catholic in the heart of the Vatican or an inerrantist Protestant in the heart of Dallas Theological Seminary, or an Anglican taking time and trouble to interact on, e.g., this blog!

I am not quite sure what I have said that could possibly imply that a non-inerrantist might automatically be deemed to not be unserious about theology.

Our faith is about more than testing each other's degrees of orthodoxy or "heresy", but it is not about less than that. If it were then (a) any expression of faith would be as good as another re salvation (Islam, Hindu, Unitarian, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Russian Orthodox all believe things about Jesus: are you saying we should not subject what is believed across these faiths to discernment and to testing?); (b) all kinds of errors in doctrine should be tolerable (including Afrikaner Reformed teaching on apartheid around (say) 1948; Benny Hinn on 9 members of the Trinity; the prosperity gospel; Don Cupitt's non-realist theology; the 'death of God' school of theology; etc).

Orthodoxy can be construed more narrowly than a fair reading of the breadth and depth of Christian thought and history demonstrates to have been so over the centuries. I am not arguing for such a narrow construal. I am arguing that orthodoxy should not be construed as broadly as post-Enlightenment Anglicanism has tolerated.

Suem said...

Hi Peter,
Obviously we need some degree of "orthodoxy" within any religious institution, you probably couldn't have a church, for example, saying it worshipped Satan and sacrificed cockrels but felt it was Christian and Anglican. There is a lot to be said for tolerating theological differences though. Could you give some examples of beliefs you feel "Post enlightenment Anglicanism" has tolerated that it shouldn't? And what do you think *should* have been done?

I am a bit baffled by you saying to me that, "Islam, Hindu, Unitarian, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Russian Orthodox all believe things about Jesus: are you saying we should not subject what is believed across these faiths to discernment and to testing?"
I don't have a problem with other people, other faiths/ denominations believing different things to me. It is more important that they respect my right to differ, as I respect theirs. I am sure God is big enough to work through their beliefs. I don't know what you mean by "discernment and testing" - whose discernment and whose testing? Why would it matter for me to "discern" something about someone else's cherished beliefs? To what end?

I always feel a bit lost when people start banging on about "testing" beliefs because ultimately they are not "provable" in any objective or "scientific" way - that is the point of belief, it requires us to exercise trust and faith!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
There have been a string of writings from the likes of Pike, Spong, Robinson (Honest to God, not his biblical scholarship), Cupitt which could have resulted in sackings as a way of the church saying 'this nonsense may fit somewhere in a global theological diversity spectrum, but it does not belong to Anglicanism.'

You are wary of 'testing' faith but what would you do if (citing recent-ish examples of actual situations faced in Anglican churches) a priest acclaims that they can also be a Muslim, a person has been baptised a Mormon and not a Trinitarian Christian, the UK state contemplates permitting the future Governor of the C of E being a Roman Catholic (because his or her RC mother was permitted to marry the father), your vicar starts promoting Transcendal Meditation or Buddhist meditation practices, (here in NZ) theologians teach that the gods of forest and sea have some reality and may be prayed to by Christians, a pilgrimage to a shrine for the cult of the Virgin Mary is advertised in the church newsletter, and (I saw recently on my sidebar) Anglicans talk favourably about 'eucharistic adoration.' I think these things should be 'tested'. Perhaps, to give just one example, by testing I will discover that at the shrine the Virgin Mary is venerated and not worshipped.

Such testing and/or discernment could be a matter for a whole congregation ("Vicar, please stop promoting X, Y or Z), the bishop ("I do not permit eucharistic adoration in my diocese"), a doctrinal commission ("Buddhist meditation is incompatible with Christian Trinitarian intercession"), or just me or you as individuals.

People have cherished beliefs. Sometimes they are wrong beliefs. Some wrong beliefs will not affect our salvation (does God merely smile upon us when we adore the eucharistic elements?) but some could be quite damaging on that score (I would want to warn any Christian who said they thought being a Muslim or Buddhist was compatible with being a Christian. The substance of my warning would be, Are you trusting the whole of yourself to Jesus Christ and to no other?)

PS I may or may not be near an online computer for a few days should you make reply ... but eventually I will be back online!

Suem said...

I'm a bit broader than you are, Peter. My father used to pray to and worship the Virgin Mary as a high Anglo Catholic and my mother argued bitterly with him as she thought it was idolatry. I don't pray to the VM, but if people want to do that it is their bag really. As for transcendental meditation, I don't have a problem with that. If someone said they were a Christian and a Muslim, I'd think it was a bit weird - but I'd want to talk to them and see where they were coming from. As for the "god of the forest and sea" stuff - sounds a bit hippy, but then I know a lot of people interested in Celtic Christianity who take an approach bordering on that!
Lots of our Christian festivals are actually adaptations of pagan festivals you know - where people took the "new" faith of Christianity and grafted it onto the old beliefs, no doubt retaining some element of them! As for the African churches, which we so revere, a pastor I new was amazed to find on a visit to Uganda that many of the congregation of his twinned church professed to be saved Christians and then went home and performed rituals to appease the spirits of more local traditions.
Once you have an "institution" then you have to "police" the more extreme examples. I think that is one of the reasons God eschews institution and works through human minds and souls more effectively than anything. All our dogmas ultimately try to confine Him / Her. That's another story - but also part of this debate.

Brother David said...

And by testing you would find out that the former Episcopal bishop of Utah was baptized by full submersion at 8 years of age by the following;
"(Name), having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Even though her baptism occurred in the LDS Church, her entire life she believed that she was being baptized a Christian and when received into the Episcopal Church was received as a baptized Christian.

Suem said...

new= knew (obviously!)