Friday, November 30, 2012

Confused? So is TEC!

If you are a little confused by what is going on in South Carolina you are not going senile, demented or otherwise mad. It is genuinely confusing to have the legally incorporated Diocese of South Carolina being pursued by TEC (via charges against its bishop (the canonically consecrated and enthroned) Mark Lawrence, charges, more or less, that he has been derelict in his duties of obeisance to TEC while attempting to be faithful to God), while simultaneously TEC is setting up an alt.Diocese of South Carolina.

Actually, just to make you really mad in your confusion it is more confusing than that. What I am attempting with logical precision to call the 'alt.Diocese of South Carolina' is being described by TEC officials as the genuine Diocese of South Carolina (meaning the genuinely genuine Diocese of South Carolina, in the eyes of that Diocese of South Carolina, is the former Diocese of South Carolina).

Meantime, rather than falling over the fiscal cliff which may be the fate of all Americans if Obama cannot seal a deal with Boehner, why not fall off the cliff of confusion with this final piece of absurdity: the charges remain against Bishop Mark Lawrence, presumably because the allegedly former Diocese of South Carolina is not quite former (since if it was then Mark Lawrence would no longer be a bishop, nor would be remain an Episcopalian subject to Episcopal discipline).

It may be that I am missing something what with being a rather boring person who lives in just one universe at a time rather than in parallel universes. I have a feeling that in parallel universes none of the above would be confusing.

Anyway, I can only leave you to see for yourselves what is what ... here ... and I disclaim all responsibility for any confusion you may incur as a result.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Won't make any difference at all

Still with eyes overseas, the ACI has written an open letter to the bishops of The Episcopal Church which, summarising, says the Presiding Bishop and others in respect of the Diocese(s) of South Carolina have acted uncanonically. As best I can tell, nothing will change in response to the letter. I am glad they have written it since it lays out in the public domain many things which should not be hidden. But apart from that I predict the effort going into the letter is a complete waste of time.

In England there will be a fresh attempt to bring legislation to the GS re women bishops' this time with some renewed resolve that there will be women bishops as a result. This will require fresh legislation (otherwise what was voted on last week cannot be reintroduced to the next Synod until after 2015) and a clear commitment to a robust means of respecting those who do not wish to live under the authority of a woman bishop which satisfies that part of the church, thus securing the required majorities in all three houses.

I think this response from Bruce Kaye, a neighbouring Anglican across the ditch, bears reading. One might also reflect as Kiwis on why our nation's public broadcasting service has nothing similar to the Religion and Ethics site which ABC runs.

In a quite different mode is Colin Coward's Changing Attitude's reflection on the lost measure. I disagree with nearly everything he writes, including his characterization of the conservatives in the C of E, and his division between the God they (and we, elsewhere in the world) meet in the Bible and the God who Colin, Julian of Norwich and quite a few non-Christians think God is. But he does offer an interesting observation about English bishops and the argument that none truly represent the conservatives!

I draw attention to his disagreeable commentary because I think he makes a point inter alia which all Christians need to constantly consider as we think about and seek to act missionally. He charges opponents of women bishops as living inside a very tall fence which is difficult to look over (e.g.):

"I think the crisis that hit the Church last week arises from the inability of the conservative group of lay members of Synod to see over the fence. Their very concrete world is circumscribed and even if they have a description of the world beyond the fence, nothing will convince them that it describes authentic reality."

At one level this is nonsense which fails to reckon with the wisdom, insight and intelligence of the theologies which lie at the heart of (e.g.) Reform and Forward in Faith (to say nothing of being insufficiently self-critical of his own theology and its possible shortcomings). At another level, however, it puts its finger on something important: are all Christians in a shrinking church in a rapidly changing society (simultaneously secularizing and receiving immigrants from many faiths) living in a kind of stockade?

Within the stockade we have our squabbles and quibbles, and some of us, unwittingly or not, live in such a manner that makes the walls of the stockade taller. But mission is reaching beyond the stockade, and its long-term goal is not to race outside, snatch a few souls and bring them back into the stockade. Successful mission, in the history of the church, has always been about lowering the stockade walls and chattering the gospel with those outside of it in a public conversation about God.

I think the anguish in the CofE is that, quite inadvertantly, because no one on any side of the argument intended it to happen, the walls of the stockade have been raised. The desperate need in the particular circumstance of the English church is to lower those walls. To lower them by showing it is a church which is engaged in the public conversation about the dignity and integrity of womanhood through permitting what the majority of its members want, women bishops. To lower them by showing it is a church which finds a way to respect the integrity of its own beliefs, that is, its historical theology founded on Scripture and developed in tradition which has led a minority to passionately believe that women bishops are inconsistent with those beliefs - only such a church can engage in a society with many minority groups.

Contrary to Colin Coward, I do not think maintaining such beliefs is a form of spiritual ignorance or immaturity. Indeed such beliefs are nearly always intrinsic to Anglican churches as a whole avoiding the heresy of becoming indistinguishable from the Labour Party at prayer. (Not that there is anything bad about discovering that the Labour Party prays!!).

If the church - any church, everywhere - is to make a difference in the world, it is through our ideas (theology), the clarity with which we hold them and the clarity with which we communicate them. Our habit of building walls between church and world seems an inescapable part of being Christian. Breaking them down again is our inescapable obligation as disciples in the kingdom of God.

To return to TEC and ACI. The tragedy unfolding in South Carolina is the loss of missional vision. Canonical rules, whether observed or broken, are triumphing over gospel imperatives. It is no part of Anglicanism to build stockade walls with canons. The way forward for the C of E is to find as few canons as possible to make women bishops happen and a reformed mission move forward in faith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Have I lost the plot?

The answer to the title question is nearly always 'Yes'!

But I am - seriously - wondering if I am losing the plot a little re the rejection in the English GS of the immediate possibility of there being women bishops in the C of E. To an extent my response has been cool, calm and collected: the motion wasn't a good one so it was defeated; a better one will be brought in due course. It wasn't a good motion because it didn't provide for the minority position, so a little more discussion between majority and minority and, hey, presto, all will be well (though maybe not "most well"). Further, with very cool detachment, one can mount, as I have done below, a critique about the theological paucity of the arguments for the motion. As best I can tell, however, few observers in England are being cool, calm and collected today. All are in a tizz and this is very, very serious for the C of E which is now in a crisis on several fronts. As a simple measure of how big this is over there, our own Christchurch Press devoted the whole of its first "World" news page to the situation.

The crisis on several fronts includes the possibility of parliament intervening, the prospect of disestablishment taking root as reality, the need for the Archbishops' Council to come up with an imminent and fairly immediate solution (even if that means another vote in as short a span as a year from now), the threat that the minority will (somehow) be swept away in a cataclysmic deluge of majority voting scorn which sweeps away any notion of 'provision', and, most significantly, a strong sense that this might constitute a moment when the C of E's irrelevance to English society is embedded for a long time to come, with consequences for the hearing of the gospel proclamation. Or not. History, of course, will have to tell us one day in the future what all this means.

My post below, re Gerald Bray's Anglican Ink article, has received more "hits" than anything I have posted in a long time - it now has in the comments a rejoinder by Gerald himself.

I wonder if the crisis in England is linked to a general crisis in global theology: how do we live in this world in which respect and dignity for all human people (itself a fruit of the gospel) is out pacing the ability of the vessel of the gospel (the church) to communicate the gospel to new generations?

A savage irony might be that if the C of E fades terminally in English consciousness, the Roman church will quietly continue its steady work on 'the conversion of all England'!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Has Gerald Bray lost the plot?

I like Gerald Bray and have several pleasant conversations with him on his visits to NZ in recent years. He is very intelligent and learned, facts reflected in his writings and teachings over the years as a teacher in both Britain and the USA, to say nothing of his global lecturing.

But Anglican Ink carries an article by him which responds to the train wreck that was the most recent English General Synod. I find this article somewhat disturbing. For example, in capital letters, this is written:


That comment, and others offer a highly cynical, denigratory view of the people who offer their ministries as servants of the Church of England, to say nothing of denigration of people who stand for General Synod (at least some of whom must have voted for an outcome which lines up with Gerald Bray's relentlessly negative opposition to women bishops). I question an ecclesiology which finds little good to say about those with whom one disagrees. But worse is to come, as we might expect when the title given the piece is, 'Evangelical supporters of women bishops are "liberals in disguise".'

Gerald Bray writes this:

''One side-effect of all this is that whereas twenty or thirty years ago most Evangelical organisations contained a mixture of people for and against women's ordination, battle lines have now hardened. Today, an Evangelical who claims to be an 'egalitarian' in such matters is simply a liberal in disguise. 
Anyone who doubts this need only look at the Fulcrum Anglican website. Fulcrum is a tiny pressure group that exists only in the blogosphere but claims to represent the 'Evangelical centre', for which read 'slightly right-wing liberal'. (It is officially against gay marriage but in favour of 'dialogue' - you get the picture.) 
Evangelicals cannot be defined by the women's issue, which remains secondary to their chief interests (evangelism, mission, teaching the Bible and other things that the rest of the church only talks about once in a while), but after the most recent events I would be surprised if anyone who supports women bishops would be welcome in most Evangelical circles. As happened before, the extremism of those people is alienating the Evangelical constituency and causing the latter to close ranks against them."

On the one hand this is simply libellous (meaning an unwarranted claim) in the way it generalises across the ranks of evangelicals who support women bishops to impute a lack of integrity and dishonesty to fellow evangelicals: we are not what we seem, Bray says, indeed we are deceptive because what we truly are is disguised.

On the other hand this is confusing in its logic. Those evangelicals who support women bishops are liberals in disguise, yet evangelicals "cannot be defined by the women's issue." What?

The best I can offer in charitable response to a brother in Christ is that the plot is being lost here. [Later: I accept, in the light of comments below, that another charitable response is that Gerald is focussed on 'the English scene' rather than the international evangelical scene, and, perhaps, within that scene, particularly zoned in on Fulcrum. I still think that it is unfair to impute 'disguise' to fellow evangelicals, even though Fulcrum has raised many questions for non-Fulcrum, English evangelicals.]

The simple fact is that it is true that "evangelicals cannot be defined by the women's issues." Logically this also means that evangelicals who support women's bishops cannot and should not be judged to be liberals in disguise. Perhaps, Gerald, if you read this, you would considering withdrawing this description of your fellow evangelicals.

PS Nice touch here from Annabel Crabb in the SMH.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Good argument for women bishops

Following up from below where I excoriate some bad arguments for women bishops, Bishop Tom Wright, in his usual brilliant manner, tackles the British PM who says the CofE must get with the programme of modern life while also arguing that there are good biblical arguments for women bishops.

"All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together. 
Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman. 
The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going. Unlike the ambiguous “progress” of the Enlightenment, it is full of promise — especially the promise of transformed gender roles. 
The promise of new creation, symbolised by the role of Mary Magdalene in the Easter stories, is the reality. Modern ideas of “progress” are simply a parody. Next time this one comes round, it would be good to forget “progress” — and ministerial “programmes” — and stick with the promise."

The whole piece is published simultaneously on Fulcrum and in The Times. I agree with +Tom. The key biblical argument arises from considering the sweeping implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the firstfruits of the new creation - God's new society.

While looking to Fulcrum, worth a peek is a transcript of Elaine Storkey's speech at the GS. I particularly like two things here and draw your attention to them.

(1) If Lorna Ashworth and friends are running here and there saying that a definition, or a key part of the definition of 'conservative evangelical' is the 'complementarian' approach to women in ministry and in the home (i.e. 'equal but different ... so never in charge of men'), could she and they please STOP. [For clarity, could they please stop defining 'conservative evangelical' in such an exclusive manner. Conservative evangelicals include complementarians, egalitarians and (such as myself) non-complementarian non-egalitarians].

(2) Elaine reminds us of a time when the most conservative among us (as represented by Oakhill) could countenance women preaching and women leading. Is the complementarian approach a reaction to modern times which actually goes back on where conservative evangelicalism had been heading without trauma or trouble?

[UPDATED, rewritten para]: Some associate Chris Sugden with a certain kind of extremism, ironically in the guise of Anglican Mainstream. But it looks like on Virtue Online that he offers this reflection on the situation at the GS which is somewhat sober, balanced, and utterly reasonable. But then it has been drawn to my attention that Chris Sugden wrote no such thing - I am guessing that David Virtue has lifted this careful balancing act from Anglican Mainstream where Sugden posted it! Starting the paragraph afresh and accurately: the Tablet has published a good editorial here!!

Finally, and locally, yet also globally in its concern re Commnon [sic], Bosco Peters manages to be both witty (beginning with a hilarious illustration) and wise in asking just what this Anglican Commnon is all about.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Church take note

Our of our children is a student at Christchurch Girls High School. Recently and surprisingly it was announced - just a few days before nationwide senior school exams were to take place - that the principal, Prue Taylor has been sacked. A few details emerged about why, but they had a kind of general ring to them, "tension between her and senior staff/the Board", that kind of thing. Then we learned that Ms Taylor, popular with the pupils and parents, was resolved to fight the issue. A hearing for reinstatement was held recently and in this morning's paper it is front page news that she has been reinstated. Prize-giving on Monday evening 10 December will be very interesting indeed. And certainly embarrassing for the Board of Trustees and its chairman who look to be well off their game. Here is a key paragraph which, incidentally, I think the church at large needs to take note of:

"In his findings, authority member David Appleton said: "Having read carefully all of the material put before the authority, I am unable to identify a single specific incident that is alleged to have taken place in respect of which any of the three senior managers could reasonably (or at all) assert that Mrs Taylor has behaved unprofessionally towards them." [from]"

In the church we are often unhappy with someone - a slightly below par vicar, a Director of Education who is a bit boring, you know the score! That paragraph reminds us that we cannot move against someone in the employ of the church (and, yes, I use the word "employ" in the context of God's business deliberately) on a generalised basis of unhappiness. Our employment law requires that dismissals be fair and not constructed. If there is no single incident which specifically warrants discipline or even dismissal, then there can and should be no sackings. Rather, our laws, indeed our own church law ("Title D", look it up) requires that there be opportunity to remedy incompetency and to reconcile difference.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bad arguments for women bishops

One of the odd things about supporting the church ordaining women as priests and bishops is that one has to put up with arguments in support of one's support that are not very good!

Tim Stanley, a sharp Telegraph commentator, offers his reflection here on the C of E decision to vote in favour of women bishops by a strong majority but not a sufficiently precise majority across three houses to actually change anything (H/T Taonga). For some this is a disaster of epic proportions. For me it is just Synod going about its business according to due process. (Earlier this year I moved the motion in favour of the Covenant in our Synod and it was lost narrowly. A disaster? No. Democracy? Yes!)

Anyway, to the point, Stanley recounts some of the arguments in favour of women bishops. Equality! Relevance!

Equality: "On the one hand, [the C of E] has become the Labour Party at prayer – fixated on equality. On the other, its obsession with showing respect to conservatives means that it cannot commit to its own egalitarian principles."

Relevance: "From the pro-women bishops side, the argument was often made that Christianity’s relevance lies in it reflecting the society around it (tell that to the Christians who were fed to the lions by pagans)."

I am surprised (but should not be) that the arguments in the Synod made so much of equality to the point of being the Labour Party at prayer. "Equality" as a "slogan" argument is open to the counter-argument from complementarians, "Equal but different." I suggest the more fruitful theological line to pursue is the oneness of our humanity and the oneness of our life in Christ. We dwell in Christ as one people and from that dwelling place, all in Christ are responsible for the mission of God on earth. From the beginning of the Christian era, women and men took responsibility for the apostolic mission. The point of Mary being an apostle to the apostles as witness to the resurrection is not to claim she was one of the Twelve (obviously she was not) but to cherish the vision for God's new evangelical society, that is, the kingdom of God in which all humanity is dignified with restoration, the new creation in which there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek. The easy mixing of gender and nationality in the list of leading figures in the Roman church in Romans 16 is the classic sign of this new evangelical society taking root in the capital itself of the old, corrupt, divided society.

As for relevance, Stanley's acerbic but apt thought is that, indeed, Christianity has often made the best case for itself by not being reflective of the society around it. The more subtle point to consider is that Christianity has always been at its best when it has been both incarnate (embedded in the society around it) and holy (different to society around it). A reason I support women being bishops is that our being embedded in society is crucial to being able to speak the language of that society with fluency. Without a moral reason for not having women bishops, our refusal to allow the participation of women in every aspect of church becomes a constraint on that fluency and thus an unnecessary barrier to speaking the gospel. When the Christians were fed to the lions Christianity did not die out because it was simultaneously speaking a message which society could receive as speech it understood.

There is one other matter on which I want to make comment, this time directly against Stanley's openly Roman perspective on the C of E's machinations:

"The Synod really was Anglicanism in the raw – and seen from the outside it is a very strange creature. As a Roman Catholic, I don't understand its "evolving" attitude towards scripture and tradition. God, I always thought, is not for turning. But the Anglicans not only allow for change (which surely concedes that God makes mistakes?), but it also seem to have decided that building a consensus that accommodates that change is a sound alternative to a consistent theology. “Whatever happens, no matter how far we depart from Scripture or tradition … we must all stand together!”"

God is not for turning (I agree) but that does not mean that God's truth cannot cope with change. In particular, change in society can be opportunity to probe carefully whether we understand God's truth or not, and whether a true understanding of God has been properly applied to life. We do not support slavery today because God has turned, or because God has made a mistake. We have probed the whole counsel of God's Word (taking too many centuries to do so) and found that the true meaning of being made in God's image, and Christ the image of God dying and rising to restore that image in each of us is dignity for all human beings, slavery of none. That God appears to have tolerated slavery through the centuries of ancient Israel and the New Testament era, or even today appears comfortable with some being poor and others being rich is testimony to the complexity and difficulty of life in which all are created equal as humans, but not all humans treat each other equally.

Is the church affirming women as bishops casting God as the maker of mistakes or re-finding the truth of the apostolic era when women and men together bore witness to the risen Lord? A consistent theology can be built through evolution of doctrinal understanding. Actually, I thought that was an intrinsic strength of the Roman methodology - something Stanley appears not to understand. As, indeed, he seems not to understand how many Roman Catholics long to see women ordained presbyters and bishops!

Living church article on ACC-15

This is my take on ACC-15, published by The Living Church.

Incidentally the "Recent Comments" gadget/widget thingy on the sidebar is "broken".
I think that means the third party supplier has to fix it; so, in the meantime, following advice, I have removed it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Singularly unimpressed

All sorts of reactions pouring out about the CofE GS failure to approve the particular measure on women bishops placed before them. Have read quite a few on Twitter. I realise that disappointment and pain skews perception and good sense, but I am singularly unimpressed with reactions which blame the few people by which the measure failed to pass, or the general process of GS decision-making. That is very poor indeed. The simple fact is that synods pass measures agreeable to them and do not pass measures disagreeable to them. The proposers of the measure bear responsibility for crafting a proposal which did not carry the day. They should not be blamed for the debacle since on this particular matter it might be argued that no measure was going to carry the day. But it is worth asking if more care had gone into thinking about what could be approved instead of what should be approved then the measure could have passed.

I say this as one who used to lose proposals put to synod until I started to think about what synod might agree to.

When synod started agreeing with what they were agreeable to then someone said I manipulated synod ... oh, well!

Paring down

UPDATE: Lost. In the house of laity, by just a few votes. No women bishops in CofE for time being.

Some wise words are here, from John Richardson. It does seem absurd that the C of E has not understood realpolitik. As John says, if it had, it might be in a position today where it would have women bishops within a short while. By refusing to engage in realpolitik it will not have women bishops for a while to come.

EARLIER: As I write the C of E is debating a measure before it which, if passed, would see women become bishops in the C of E while allowing parishes which do not wish to receive the episcopal ministrations of a woman bishop some choice over having access to a man bishop.

I am sure the measure will pass even as some supporters of women bishops view it as an unconscionable compromise and some non-supporters of women bishops view it as lacking the guarantees they seek.

Quite a lot of ink gets spilled on this matter across the Anglican globe. My tiny contribution here is to see how concisely one can put the case for women being ordained bishops.

There is no fixed scheme of church leadership in the New Testament.

That is what I call an 'apostolic' argument: just twelve words!

However most of us like meat on the bone rather than just the bone, so read more, including good thoughts from ++Williams and ++-elect Welby, here or here, with other reflections here and there.

Incidentally, yesterday +Victoria left our morning prayers to be interviewed by the BBC on the matter. The interview is here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gonna happen

The other day I reported on the Chisholm judgement on the case brought by a Trust concerned for the future of the cathedral which question whether Christchurch Diocesan authorities were going around things the right way. That judgement can be read in full here. I indicated that it was not appropriate for me to publicly analyse the judgement here (save for one aspect relating to all parishes with damaged buildings). Rather we should wait for the Church Property Trustees and Standing Committee to speak.

They have now done that (sourced from here).

"Formal Commitment to build Cathedral in the Square
Yesterday Cathedral Chapter and Standing Committee formally requested the Church Property Trustees provide a cathedral on the site at Cathedral Square. Last night Church Property Trustees formally resolved to provide a building on the site in Cathedral Square for a cathedral.
This decision confirmed the on going commitment already made by these groups.
Church Property Trustees also resolved to take no further action to deconstruct the cathedral until further order from the court.
As well as this, CPT requested its engineers and other professionals to review the information presented by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) to the court during the hearing and whether it changes their opinions on the maximum retention option. They also resolved to ask CERA for its view of the option proposed by GCBT.
Lastly CPT requested the Cathedral Project Group to consider any further advice received from professionals in engineering, architecture and others as appropriate and also to work further on design concepts and to report back to the CPT.
These decisions were unanimous.
These resolutions were provided to the court today in response to a request by Justice Chisholm in his interim decision on the high court hearing.
Update on Transitional Cathedral
Church Property Trustees are committed to the Transitional Cathedral project. Following the meeting of Church Property Trustees last night, a separate application will be lodged with the court to seek clarity on the comments made in the judgment so the Church Property Trustees can continue to act responsibly.
The judge did not say the building or funding of the Transitional Cathedral was illegal or unlawful.
The above is part of the process following the interim high court decision by Justice Chisholm.
The interim decision regarding the ChristChurch Cathedral hearing from Justice Chisholm was received on Thursday Afternoon - 15 November 2012.
Bishop Victoria, on behalf of CPT, says “We are pleased the decision to deconstruct the old cathedral and rebuild a new cathedral was confirmed by the Judge. As we have said since March the new design will be a mixture of old and new and it will be beautiful.”
The decision said “Everyone agrees that the decision facing the CPT was difficult: the timeframe was tight (this is not a criticism of CERA); complex engineering and other issues needed to be assessed; there were many competing considerations; and whatever option was chosen, a large shortfall in the funds required to complete the project seemed to be inevitable.”
It also said “ The trust remained a trust for the erection of “a Cathedral”. No term requiring a particular style, for example Gothic, was imposed on the trustee.” Along with the statement; "Any suggestion that the purpose of the trust is to preserve the Cathedral indefinitely is inaccurate and unrealistic."
CPT and Standing Committee will be taking time to consider all aspects of the 200 paragraph decision.
The judge does require CPT to formally commit to building a new Cathedral in the Square and they will be doing so.
Bishop Victoria said “The architectural firm, Warren and Mahoney have already been engaged to work on design and we completed the study tour with the architects in middle of year.”
Regarding the Transitional Cathedral:
The judge has not said the decision to build the Transitional Cathedral is illegal or unlawful.
The judge has not said the decision made on how to fund the Transitional Cathedral is illegal or unlawful.
The judge has queried whether in deciding to use insurance funds to help pay for the cost of building the Transitional Cathedral CPT fully understood the basis on which those funds were held.
The CPT is going to consider the question again in light of the comments made by the judge and:
a. his finding as to the terms of the trust on which the cathedral land and buildings is held; and
b. his tentatively expressed view as to the trust on which the insurance funds are held."

Hmm. What is next? I am not personally clear where the judge goes with this, whether the Trust mounting the case will take it further, and whether the judge is going to rule in favour of the decision already made to sequester part of the insurance payout towards the costs of the transitional cathedral.

There will be a cathedral in our Square. It's gonna happen. Don't know when. Don't know what (design). Only know where!

The perfect diplomat

Courtesy of Thinking Anglicans we bring you Lesson 37 in diplomacy from the Bishop of Guildford:

"General Synod Questions about ACNA and South Carolina
Two questions were asked at General Synod on Monday which were answered by the Bishop of Guildford.
53. Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:
Q. Has consideration been given to whether the Church of England is full and unimpaired communion with Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina?
54. Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) to ask the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity:
Q. Following the recent issue of a Certificate of Abandonment of the Episcopal Church in relation to the Rt Revd Mark J Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, and recognising that Bishop Lawrence has been one of the declining number of theologically conservative bishops who has sought to remain and to keep his people within TEC, in the light of paragraph 6 in the statement offered to the Synod in GS Misc 2011 by the Archbishops, are there any plans to consider proposing to the Synod fuller recognition of the Anglican Church in North America than has been considered to be appropriate up to this point.
The Bishop of Guildford’s answer (transcribed from audio recording available here)
With your permission sir, I will answer this and Mrs Ashworth’s question together. 
The withdrawal from The Episcopal Church of most of the clergy and people of several dioceses, led by their bishops, after diocesan convention decisions, is a development novel in kind as well as in scale. Our North American sisters and brothers have been often involved in a litigious and sometimes acrimonious debate. We should try to remain on good terms with all parties and avoid inflaming matters further. Our response should be deliberate, and not hasty.
As the Archbishops noted in GS Misc 1011, the creation of the Anglican Church in North America raises questions of recognition of orders – ministry – as well as a relationship of communion. The former question is in some respects simpler, because the considerations are more objective, and it is also the more pressing, by reason of requests for transfer. Nevertheless there are some matters that require clarification before any decisions can be taken. 
Clergy ordained in several churches with which we are not, or not yet, in communion are seeking permission to minister in the Church of England. The Council for Christian Unity has therefore established a small group to offer advice to the Archbishops through the Faith and Order Commission on the relevant issues. The question about the Anglican Church in North America’s orders (whether it is a church and whether its orders are such, whether they such that we can recognize) will be addressed in that context. This will necessarily involve direct ‘engagement with the Anglican Church in North America’ which was envisaged in the Archbishops General Synod miscellaneous paper that I have referred to, GS Misc 1011, and that will be the context for subsequent exploration of relationships between our churches. 
On Saturday, a Special Diocesan Convention endorsed the South Carolina withdrawal from The Episcopal Church. The Bishop has stated that their position would be to remain within the Anglican Communion as an extra-provincial Diocese. The Episcopal Church on the other hand maintains that General Convention consent is necessary for any withdrawal. So the legal and indeed theological and ecclesiological position is extremely complicated. And it is absolutely not certain.  
It has therefore not been possible to consider the consequences for our relationships at this immediate stage. And, in my view, any statement just at this point would be premature."
There would not be much point, would there, in attending a course in diplomacy which was not run by the Brits?

A great Anglican

We can over use the adjective 'great' and I am guilty of the sin myself. But at risk of sinning I venture to suggest that a great Anglican has just died, the Right Reverend Kenneth Cragg, at the grand age of 99.

I never met the man but his seminal work The Call of the Minaret made an impression on me, as on its many readers for it has not been out of print since its first edition in 1956. Arguably no greater Christian work exists which enables Christians to engage with the heart and soul of Islam.

A lovely tribute to this evangelical Anglican scholar, bishop and pastor has been published by Fulcrum.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Anglican Communion in Tatters

The now formally resolved withdrawal of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church in at least one way shreds the Anglican Communion. Here is a body of Anglicans believing what Anglicans believe and wanting to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in keeping with the reformed and catholic heritage of Anglican theology which has felt honour-bound to withdraw from the larger body which has the certificate of title to "formal membership" of the Communion. Consequently, at least for the time-being, this Diocese (despite ecclesiology which tells us that in the local the fullness of the church dwells) is not formally a part of the global Anglican fellowship of Anglicans formally communing with the See of Canterbury. Institution trumps true faithfulness to Anglican doctrine! 

But in the process the Anglican Communion is shown to be a body incapable of being truly 'Anglican' because it is bound to support the member churches which formally belong (no matter what they believe, whether they treat dissenters well, or whether they practise the Christian faith in an Anglican manner) and it is not bound to support actual Anglicans.

Further 'Communion' is shown up to be something of a misnomer. Communion is our inclusion together in the great circle of love of the baptised gathering around the Lord's Table. But the reality of 'Communion' in the phrase 'Anglican Communion' is that we do not include in our circle of love those who seek to be Anglican. We exclude those who have become disturbed by trying to be Anglican within a member church which continues to move away from Anglican faith and practice.

All this is, of course, possible in a global movement which appears steadfast in its refusal to countenance a Covenant by which adherence to Anglicanism might be measured and through which non-adherence might be disciplined.

Here is the "money" quote in Bishop Mark Lawrence's address to his convention over the weekend:

"But I must say this again and again. This has never been about who is welcome or not welcome in our church. It's about what we shall tell them about Jesus Christ, his mercy, his grace and his truth – it is about what we shall tell them when they come and what we shall share when we go out. 
We have spent far too many hours and days and years in a dubious and fruitless resistance to the relentless path of the Episcopal Church.  
And while some of us still struggle in grief at what has happened and where these extraordinary days have brought us, I believe it is time to turn the page.  
The leaders of the Episcopal Church have made their positions known—our theological and creedal commitments regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture, the uniqueness and universality of Jesus Christ, and other precious truths, while tolerated, are just opinions among others; our understanding of human nature, the given-ness of gender as male and female, woven by God into the natural and created order, is now declared by canon law to be unacceptable; our understanding of marriage as proclaimed in the Book of Common Prayer “established by God in creation” and espoused by Anglicans around the world hangs precariously in the life of the Episcopal Church by a thin and fraying thread; and our understanding of the church’s polity, which until the legal strategy of the present Presiding Bishop’s litigation team framed their legal arguments, was a widely held and respected position in this church.  
Now to hold it and express it is tantamount to misconduct or worse to act upon it – is ruled as abandonment of this church. While one might wish the theological and moral concerns were on center stage, it is the Disciplinary Board for Bishops' misuse of the church’s polity that has finally left us no place to stand within the Episcopal Church. So be it. They have spoken. We have acted. We have withdrawn from that Church that we along with six other dioceses help to organize centuries ago."
Dissent is not theft

Incidentally one of the most bizarre notions I have come across re being Anglican is the claim by opponents that +Mark and the Diocese are guilty of theft from TEC (i.e. they wish to 'take' the church properties with them as they depart TEC). Church property is a tricky issue as its ownership is both about the past, present and future being safeguarded through trusteeship (e.g. from foolish, spontaneous decisions by local parish meetings) as well as about the commitment of the present congregation which pays for maintenance, insurance, repairs and development as it utilises the building to the glory of God. But somehow a whole Diocese determining that it is seceding from the ties which formerly bound it to the larger national body while continuing to worship in the buildings it has guardianship over seems a long way removed from 'theft.' Certainly in a NZ situation the idea that the properties of my diocese (whose titular ownership is in the hands of the local trustees, the Church Property Trustees) ultimately belong to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia is nonsense. Their ownership is in the power of the people of the Diocese of Christchurch.

Anglicans Not Good With Dissent

A quick read of Anglican history is that we are not very good at coping with dissenters. Tolerance, broad church, inclusive church are Anglican concepts which look great on paper but in practise they hide a totalitarian resolve to exclude dissent which goes beyond margins not written down but assuredly held by Anglican authorities!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is the meaning of this?

One of the questions we are working on as a Diocese is the use of insurance payouts to ensure the best possible structure of the Diocese moving forward into the 21st century. Naturally a technical question which arises is the obligation, or otherwise, for insurance funds to be applied to the parish which paid the premiums for them. If otherwise, then the funds might be applied to, e.g. costs of building new churches in new housing areas.

Thus I am intrigued by the following part of Judge Chisholm's judgement re the cathedral and its "site-specific" situation:

"[173] When insurance money is received by a trustee it should be held upon trusts corresponding as nearly as may be with the trusts affecting the property in respect of which it was payable: s 25(3)(b) of the Trustee Act.52 Under s 25(4) any such money may be applied by the trustee in rebuilding, reinstating, replacing or repairing the property lost or damaged. Given the site-specific purpose of the Cathedral trust, it is difficult to see how any insurance proceeds arising from the insurance over the Cathedral could be used off-site."

This is from page 49 of the 52 page report, which may be downloaded from here. The report as a whole is worth reading in respect of the cathedral and its future. I am not going to comment directly here on the report viz a viz the cathedral as these matters are being considered by Standing Committee and CPT and I think we should hear from them before engaging in further discussion.

But does paragraph 173 imply that insurance proceeds for damaged parish church X are paid out to the repair or replacement of parish church X? I am neither a lawyer not the son of a lawyer and look forward to a qualified opinion on this matter being presented to the Diocese.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oh, dear, what are we going to do?

Yesterday a commenter here noted perceptively a little aspect of the Chisholm judgement about the Christchurch cathedral case (in which a specially formed Trust seeks to reverse the direction the diocesan authorities are going in). That aspect is that he has ruled that the insurance proceeds for the cathedral's repair/replacement must be used for the cathedral (i.e. the existing one or another to be built on that site).

However we have made a decision to utilise some $4m of $40m of proceeds to build the 'transitional' or 'cardboard' cathedral which already has its concrete pad poured on another inner city site. The Press reports thus (and I cite in full):

"Funding for the cardboard cathedral could be in jeopardy after a judge ruled that Christ Church Cathedral insurance money might not be used for the project.

Anglican leaders had planned to use $4 million of insurance money from Christ Church Cathedral to fund the $5.3m transitional project near Latimer Square.
But Justice Chisholm said on Thursday that the insurance money should be used for a project on the original Cathedral Square site.
"Given the site-specific purpose of the cathedral trust, it is difficult to see how any insurance proceeds arising from the insurance over the cathedral could be used off-site," he ruled.
The ruling was made as part of a case bought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust, claiming the Anglican Church's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings and that the church trustees were obliged to repair the cathedral.
A decision released on Thursday put a hold on demolition of the cathedral but said the church was not required to replicate the building as it stood before the Canterbury earthquakes.
The High Court decision also granted a judicial review of the cathedral decision.
The temporary cathedral, which will seat 700 people, is expected to open in February.
Trust co-chairman Philip Burdon said the church would have to abide by the judge's ruling on the insurance funds.
"The judge has ruled that all insurance money be applied to the rebuild of the cathedral and that is clearly a reality that the church will have to respect," he said.
Anglican diocese legal representative Jared Ormsby said the funding would have to be reconsidered.
"We have to look at that again in light of what the judge is saying," he said.
"He is not saying the transitional cathedral itself is a bad decision, but you need to quite quickly have a look at the funding question and sort that out as quickly as we can. We may need to get further clarity from the court."
Ormsby said the ruling was "tentative" and they would ask for clarification from the judge. "The way he has expressed it, that is a tentative view, so we may need to go back to the judge for clarification," he said.
"The trustees want to do things right and follow the law and stick to the trust, so they have to decide how they go about that."
A spokeswoman for the Anglican diocese said the ruling did not question the legality of the transitional cathedral.
"The judge has not said the decision made on how to fund the transitional cathedral is illegal or unlawful," she said."

In my view there could be creative ways to resolve this matter (at least at a theoretical level - I appreciate the reality could be tough). For example, we could treat the $4m as a loan from the proceeds and find a way later to pay it back from future funds raised.

It could also be that further clarity from the judge could yield the conclusion that our decision stands as it was made before the judgement was arrived at. Either way, however, it is one more headache we do not need!

I am neither a lawyer nor the son of a lawyer ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Earthquake consequences, media mischief, evolving story

I have been saddened this week to learn that a beautiful church, All Saints, Palmerston North, where I have enjoyed participating in many worship services, will close as a consequence of the earthquakes in Christchurch. It is at 3% of code and the cost of strengthening is around $4m. My sadness does not lead to any dispute that the parish is making the right decision. Read further here.

Out today, as a further consequence of the earthquakes, is the judgement of Justice Chisholm about the appeal against the demolition of the cathedral here in Christchurch. This is what Bishop Victoria has written to the diocese this afternoon:

"Dear Friends,
 We have just received the decision of Justice Chisholm about our Cathedral.
 We have permission to deconstruct the old Cathedral and build a new Cathedral in the  Square, and we are expected to use reasonable speed in doing so.  Furthermore we need to assure the Court of our commitment to build a Cathedral in the Square before we can proceed further with the deconstruction.  The decision acknowledges that CPT was facing a difficult and complex decision in a tight  time frame.  We are not required to build in any particular style.
 The major deciding point seems to be the difference between building a Cathedral on the present site versus re-constructing the present Cathedral on the present site.
 It is a 200-paragraph decision and I will bring to your attention further details at a later time.
 Every blessing,

But you would not guess this was the case if you read the current headline [aroundabout 4.30 pm] on, "Cathedral demo halted." What the article (at time of writing this post) mischievously leaves out is that the halt is only as long as the diocesan authorities take to satisfy the judge's request that intent to build a new cathedral is established on the current cathedral site. As far as I know it is established, but apparently the judge thinks otherwise.

LATER (6.45 pm) Here is a more balanced take on the judgement from Stuff which better reconciles the situation:

"Christ Church Cathedral has been granted a stay of execution.
A High Court ruling today ordered the planned demolition of the earthquake-damaged landmark be stopped until further notice.
The legal challenge was brought by the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust against building owner, the Church Property Trust (CPT).
The trust, co-chaired by former MPs Jim Anderton and Philip Burdon, sought a binding court ruling on whether the Anglican church's deconstruction plans breached an act of Parliament protecting church buildings.
Its legal advice suggested that, under the act, the church trustees were obliged to repair it.
Justice Chisholm ruled in his written judgement that Anglican leaders were not legally required to restore the cathedral to its original form.
"Unless the terms of the Cathedral trust are varied, either the structure that remains will have to be repaired or it will have to be replaced by another Cathedral.''
"While there must be a cathedral on the site, it does not necessarily have to replicate the cathedral as it stood before the earthquakes occurred.''
But Chisholm also ruled "the future of the cathedral is legitimately in the public arena and is plainly a matter of intense public interest''.
Bishop Victoria Matthews said the CPT was pleased the courts had backed the decision to deconstruct the cathedral and replace with a new building.
''As we have said since March the new design will be a mixture of old and new and it will be beautiful,'' she said.
The CPT would formally commit to building a new cathedral in the square, Matthews said.
Architects Warren and Mahoney had already been engaged to work on design, she said."

BUT best of all, I suggest, is Taonga.

Obama to NZ: I am going to increase your property values

You will need a hermeneutical key to get from this article to the title of the post: raising taxes on the wealthy always sends some of them to new locations where taxes are lower. In the case of wealthy Americans already here in NZ, they buy our land and help property values to reach new heights (a not unwelcome matter, of course, to those who own property). A new stream of US buyers will only push those property prices higher.

In a related note I was fascinated to learn yesterday via an interview of Austen Mitchell on NZ National Radio that Starbucks claims losses in Britain, so pays no taxes. It can claim losses because it sources its coffee from a base in Europe, and that base charges British Starbucks a premium which leads to the losses in Britain while Starbucks the global entity still earns a profit. Ultimately it retains that profit via an island in the Caribbean because if those profits made it to the US they would be taxed. See further here.

Message to Obama, Cameron and co: why not work on a uniform tax regime around the world, including every little island claiming sovereignty? Wouldn't that raise taxes everywhere for the good of all, without exporting wealthy people to places like NZ where we would like our land to be affordable?

As an Anglican might say, such global organisation towards common goals and according to common values just needs an underlying agreement or Covenant.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What we may not be grasping

UPDATE: This post by Bishop Dan Martins includes a helpful clarification from the Presiding Bishop. +Dan's words are wise.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read +Mark Lawrence here. And for balance, we ought to also read a letter from ++Katharine Jefferts Schori here.

ORIGINAL POST: Picking up on yesterday's post and some insightful comments to it, I have been thinking about whether we are grasping the bigger picture of the breaking down of institutional life/relationships with larger/smaller institutional partners in the Diocese of South Carolina/"Diocese of South Carolina."

The bigger picture (so it seems to me) includes the question of the "church in the 21st century": if we are in a time of change (represented by attempts to change doctrine of marriage) why are we not considering all relevant changes? In this case a relevant change concerns the polity of an episcopal church. The pre-21st century episcopal model is territorial: one (Anglican/Catholic) diocesan bishop per territorial area. Should this continue? Does it have to continue? If we are changing our doctrine on marriage, why not also on territorial jurisdiction? What if the model was theological rather than territorial? (The C of E with is PEVs has an element of this within its essentially territorial model. Our church in these islands has a cultural model).

Another bigger picture to think about is the role of the bishop as focus of unity. What is our unity based on? Not the bishop per se but the gospel which the bishop teaches! What if there are two (or more) claimants to be the one gospel of the church and what if the church cannot decide (Galatian fashion!) which is the true gospel and which is apostate? Should there be a bishop for each gospel claimant within the one territory until gospel harmony is reached?

The tragedy of the South Carolingian situation is that the situation is being played out according to canons set by a church working on a model set in the past for the past. It is descending to the level of canonical firing and counter-firing: our (TEC) canons say this/our (DSC) canons say that and thus a power play of an institutional kind is being worked out. But the issue is not what the canons say. The issue is what the gospel is, what Christians do when they disagree about the gospel and the role of the bishop in upholding the gospel.

It is the 21st century folks and time for a 21st century solution!

Postscript: to clarify, I am not arguing for a 'theological' model for episcopacy in my own church. The day of that model may yet come, but we have plenty of work to do on how our current model is working before we change it again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unmasking the imposter

Just when one thinks from afar that things cannot get worse in the United States of America (has the recent Director of the CIA had one affair or two affairs? Did he resign because America is still in the grip of Puritanism or because as the Director of the CIA he gave his password to his girlfriend? Is the States about to fall off the fiscal cliff?) we have the strangest of paradoxical manipulating of names and claims in the Episcopalian region of South Carolina. As we will see, one dare not use the word 'Diocese' as a synonym for region in this particular case.

If you read here, here and here, you will see that the paradox which is South Carolingian Episcopalianism consists of a bishop (+Mark Lawrence) who as 'the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina' is being taken to an Episcopalian ecclesial court by Episcopalians in that Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina on charges which the Episcopalian bishop in charge of discipline has determined to be substantive and not trivial and a group of people aided and abetted by The Episcopal Church (i.e. the same church treating +Mark Lawrence as a real Bishop of a real Diocese) claiming that they are the real Diocese of South Carolina as they set up a Steering Committee which will set in motion the real apparatus of a real diocese of The Episcopal Church which will be the true (genuinely Anglican) Diocese of South Carolina within the polity of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America.

Now the paradox could be easily resolved by (i) dropping the charges against +Mark Lawrence while simultaneously pronouncing him a former bishop of TEC and formally expelling all people purporting to be Episcopalian members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina who do not abide by the rule of TEC; (ii) formally transferring control of all the assets and seals of the Diocese of South Carolina to the Steering Committee.

Wait! (i) is hard to achieve as (presumably) lots of Episcopalians in South Carolina are going to claim to be and to remain Episcopalians, true to the essential orthodox doctrine of The Episcopal Church as founded in continuity with historic Anglicanism. (ii) is impossible to achieve (as I understand South Carolina law).

So, if I understand the situation, we are going forward with two claimants to be 'The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina' one of which is imposter and one of which is not.

But then I could be wrong.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Marry or perish: the death knell of Western society

"Nor will children want to look after a step-parent who, even if not actively resented, will not command the same bonds of love and duty as someone’s natural father or mother.
This breaking of the bonds between the generations is absolutely calamitous. For beyond the tragic abandonment of people to lonely lives, there can be no community without a strong sense of duty and commitment to other people and the need to look after them.
What this society has increasingly thrown overboard is nothing less than the idea of kinship, where people are knitted together by the sense they belong to each other.
Instead, our post-religious, post-modern, post-moral society prizes above all else independence, which is seen as essential to fulfilling one’s potential without any constraints or interference by anyone else.
This fact more than anything else helps explain the rise and rise of cohabitation, and the reason why so many now prefer it to marriage.
The key point about marriage is that it is not a partnership or a relationship but a union in which two people bind themselves to each other for ever in solemn obligation.
By contrast, those who choose to cohabit regard their relationship as a partnership of independent individuals — in which they reserve for themselves the right to opt out, with no binding obligation on either side.
Whatever they think the word ‘commitment’ may mean, the fact is they are not prepared to make that leap of faith and love that binds them in a permanent tie of obligation to another person. Who can be surprised, therefore, that cohabitations break up far more frequently than do marriages? For cohabitants have written themselves a get-out clause from the start.
Nor is it surprising that a principal reason why cohabitations collapse is the arrival of a baby. For a child demands unconditional obligation to another human being. And that’s what cohabitants don’t want."

The whole of Melanie Phillips' stirring article, "Broken Families, Lonely Britain" in the Daily Mail is here. I would head it differently (as per the title of this post). For a generation or more most Western societies have steadfastly refused to affirm the importance of marriage over other forms of relationships, even by the simplest step of (say) offering tax incentives to married couples. The debate on gay 'marriage' is another step in the journey of devaluing marriage between a man and a woman because it is a further application of the refusal to affirm the distinctive contribution marriage between a man and a woman make to the present and future of a society. (I acknowledge that gay 'marriage' is a nuanced step in that journey because the arguments for it involve affirmation of the intrinsic value of unconditional commitment in a relationship). 

In the end societies reap what they sow. The unravelling of the economies of the West at present is the harvest of sowing plentiful debt. The surge in immigration into those economies is the harvest of sowing minimal attention to marriage and family life. In the end Western societies will be replaced with peoples who value marriage, family and thrift. Solomon predicted all this when he wrote Proverbs!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The 007 of Agents of Reconciliation?

Quite a story here about the next ABC. Heading into GAFCON and ACNA territory in much need reconciliation talks should be a cinch after African warlords!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Alphabishop of Canterbury

Good stuff to read (or watch/listen) here and here on +Justin Welby to be ++Justin Welby, Rockstar and Leader of Canterbury - ++Rowan has been the Rockstar and Theologian of Canterbury. I suggest what ++Justin will bring to the role is "leadership."

I am excited about this appointment. It demonstrates wisdom on the part of the CNC as well as a determination to find the right person for the role, no matter what their perceived episcopal experience is or isn't. It happens, as a matter of my own personal biography, that I once met Justin while he was an ordinand at Cranmer Hall. Even then it was clear that Justin was 'bishop material'.

I want to be realistic about this appointment and not invest unreasonable hopes and expectations on +Justin, especially not in relation to the Anglican Communion.

AND courtesy of a commenter here, thank you, this is worth a look.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Useful experience for an ABC (No. 1): Been a Vicar

The Telegraph, 2001 ... Justin Welby, vicar of Southam, a small market town in Warwickshire. He admits, with some dismay, that he is addressed as Rector even when he's in his swimming trunks at the local pool.
His wife Caroline started a part-time job at a prep school in January, and cites as its main advantage the fact that while she is there she is 'just anyone'. Justin, 45, and Caroline, 44, were already active Christians by the time they met at Cambridge. Justin considered going into the Church when he graduated, but was advised by a bishop to do something else first, so he joined the oil industry as a financier working first for Elf and then Enterprise Oil. 'I had a stimulating job in a good company with people I liked, and I got hooked into it.' He and Caroline settled in Chiswick, west London and although they were very active within Holy Trinity Brompton (a place of great solace after their first child died), thoughts of joining the Church began to fade.
But then in 1987, having heard an American preacher explain why he had joined the ministry, Justin brought the subject up again. 'It came as a complete shock,' says Caroline. 'We had two children, we were very nicely settled and we knew enough vicars and their wives to have lost our romantic ideas about how nice it would be. It just seemed like a huge upheaval.'
The couple made a list of pros and cons and then prayed for guidance. 'There were so many cons, so many things we'd miss: home, friends, family, money, security. And the only pro was that if this was what God wanted us to do, all those things would be meaningless,' says Caroline.
This sense of calling is incomprehensible to those who haven't experienced it. 'About two years into the selection process - at a point when my job was going really well - a bishop asked me if I wanted to be ordained and I said, "Not really, but I feel an overwhelming sense that I ought to",' says Justin. 'He asked what I would do if they rejected me, and I said, "I'd take Caroline out for a huge dinner to celebrate." ' He was accepted.
The Welbys set off for theological college in Durham. While Justin struggled with becoming a student, Caroline adapted quickly. She exchanged one network of friends for another and, after an initial panic during which 'I counted every penny and we lived on chicken livers,' realised that student life outside London was comparatively cheap. 'I enjoyed it, but there were pressures. I had to get used to Justin being at home during the day, he battled with feeling de-skilled, and these things carried on into his curacy. He found it very hard never knowing whether he was doing a good job, and we both realised we had totally underestimated how hard the work - much of it dealing with life and death issues - would be.'
In 1992, Justin was sent to do his curacy in Nuneaton, a former coalmining town in the depths of a depression. It was a massive cultural shift for the Welbys, and it brought one of their major concerns to a head. 'When I was contemplating ordination my biggest single hesitation was that we wouldn't be able to educate our children privately,' says Justin, an Old Etonian himself. 'But it would have been impossible in Nuneaton anyway; it would have created an insuperable barrier.'
In retrospect, this is something they don't regret. There are now five Welby children, the eldest 17 and the youngest six, and they have all flourished in the state sector while, at home, they have grown used to the Church spilling into their lives. For the first three years that Justin was vicar of Southam, there was no church hall. Sunday School took over the downstairs of the rectory on Sunday mornings and a youth group on Sunday evenings; there were all sorts of meetings there during the week. 'With five children the place was never tidy, and I did feel the pressure of being on show,' says Caroline, who is very much involved in Justin's work. 'We see his ministry as a joint thing. He does all the upfront stuff but we pray together, discuss issues, balance views, think through our vision. I play keyboard at the morning service which is non-traditional. If a need comes up and I think I can contribute, I do.'
Caroline occasionally stares wistfully at the property pages and wonders what sort of house they might have bought had Justin remained in the oil industry; Adey laments the fact that Kevin no longer has a proper outlet for his writing, but none of the wives could think of any substantial regrets about their massive change of lifestyle. They have all learnt to live with the fact that, in an increasingly secular world, vicars are seen as a breed apart. The first time Peter Owen-Jones went into his local pub, everybody in it fell silent. He is often asked if he's 'allowed' to smoke and drink. Caroline remembers the introductory session of one Alpha course at which a participant remarked, 'I had no idea vicars were normal.' Turning the other cheek to this sort of attitude must be part and parcel of having a calling. I suspect Jacs, Adey and Caroline survive by having a rock-solid sense of self.

Bible in the Life of the Church

It is a sign of where the Anglican Communion is at that great wariness is involved in moving beyond the descriptive to the prescriptive, in moving from talking about what we are doing to determining what might need to be done. An excellent illustration of this wariness is in the reception of the Bible in the Life of the Church project report, all 674 pages of it (downloadable from here).

Here is the resolution (15.19) passed at ACC-15:

"Resolution 15.19: Bible in the Life of the Church Project
  1. affirms the centrality of the Bible in the life of the churches of the Anglican Communion;
  2. affirms the importance of the continued study of the Bible in the parishes, dioceses and Provinces of the Anglican Communion and congratulates all involved in the Bible in the Life of the Church (BILC) Project on the work undertaken, in particular its smooth and effective facilitation by Stephen Lyon;
  3. welcomes the work of the Project, especially the Lent books (And it was Good, and Economic Justice), and the final report, Deep Engagement, Fresh Discovery and requests the Provinces to encourage their widespread use throughout their dioceses and parishes;
  4. notes with deep appreciation the collection of resources on the use of the Bible made by the BILC Steering Group, and commends them particularly to Christian Education bodies, theological colleges and Doctrine Commissions across the Communion;
  5. requests theological colleges and research scholars across the Anglican Communion to explore further the issues raised by the Project, especially as these relate to engaging with the Bible in local contexts;
  6. requests that the work undertaken by the BILC Project be continued and that, where possible, resources developed by the BILC be translated into one or more languages other than English; and
  7. requests that the Secretary General attempt to secure funding to enable an immediate publicizing and rolling out of the Project’s insights and resources across the Communion.
Might one demur at the thought of encouraging the widespread use of a 674 page report in dioceses and parishes? But the main demurral here is that the vision of further research is limited to "engaging with the Bible in local contexts." Might it not be more urgent to explore what "the centrality of the Bible in the life of the churches of the Anglican Communion" actually means? In terms of ++Rowan's final presidential address we might ask whether the authority of the Bible is merely enabling or is also corrective.

I like what ++Rowan says in his Foreword to the Report. This, indeed, is most worthy of widespread reading and discussion through dioceses and parishes. For your convenience I cite it here and follow that with the "Core Message" of the report. I have emboldened the ABC's words which I particularly agree with:

By the Archbishop of Canterbury

How is the Anglican Communion to be, in the fullest and most authentic sense, a family of
‘biblical’ churches? This question is at the heart of most of the tensions that have been in
evidence within the Communion over the last couple of decades, and it is not one that admits of a quick answer. The Anglican way in theology exists as a distinctive voice partly because of the Reformation impulse to make the Church once again a community in which people listen as directly as they can to what God is saying – a community, therefore, in which what the Church thinks or does is always being tested and judged in the light of what God says to his people in the Scriptural record of his historical dealings with them.

But it has never been a way of theology which has imagined that we can solve every issue by appealing to the plain words of the Bible and no more. The mainstream of the Reformation, including the Church of England, sought both to affirm the absolute authority of the Bible as God’s self-communication and also the crucial importance of training people in a discerning reading that drew on the history of interpretation and the intelligence of the whole community. It is a great mistake to think that the Reformers held the same views as extreme modern fundamentalists. Christians in this tradition knew they were always reading Scripture in company with believers of every age and place, and bringing to bear on their reading the perspectives and skills of their human culture. Yet Anglicans have consistently given Scripture the supreme role of deciding the limits of what can and must be believed; and they have tried to listen to Scripture in the expectation of being converted and transformed by the Spirit whose action underlies the words on the page.

This project, commissioned by the ACC, welcomed and encouraged by the Primates and the
bishops at the Lambeth Conference, is an attempt to let the churches of the Communion
reflect on the ways in which they actually use the Bible – how they read it, whom they read
it with, what they bring to the reading, what their experience is of transformation. It is not a
project that seeks to advance some agenda, ‘traditional’ or ‘liberal’; simply one that seeks to
help us understand ourselves better and so, we hope and pray, to allow the Scriptures to speak to us more powerfully and freely. It is an attempt to share across the Communion what people want to say about the importance of the Bible. One of our challenges seems to be that we do not often enough experience how Anglicans in another setting are reading and using Scripture, and so can fall prey to various caricatures. This project looks towards a future in which we can not only read Scripture with clearer eyes but understand each other’s reading with clearer eyes as well – with more love and patience and willingness to be taught and enriched by each other.

The title of the project is all-important. This is about the Bible in its true place – not in a library, not even on an individual’s bookshelf, but in the life of the fellowship of believers. It is a book read in public, read in worship; a book whose words worshippers make their own in prayer, private and public; a book whose purpose is to show what a human life looks like when it is lived in loving intimacy with and obedience to the living God, whose eternal Word became flesh to reconcile us to the Father and transform us by his Spirit. The inspiration of Scripture is the presence of this Spirit, moving us to be reconciled and renewed in the likeness of Christ.

Scholarship alone cannot do this; nor can a reading of the Bible as just a code of behaviour
which we can follow by our own effort. The Spirit works in Scripture to convict us of sin and
to open us to the grace of Christ. That is why we need to hear from each other in the Church
what it means to be judged and restored in the process of reading the Bible – or, to put it
more sharply, what it means to meet Jesus Christ the Word Incarnate in what the Thirty Nine
Articles of the Church of England call the ‘Word written.’

Often we, like other Christians, talk about the Bible more than we really listen to it; sadly, many churches will acknowledge that their people do not have the habit of familiarity with the Bible that they need, or that their Bible reading is restricted to the bits they like and know already. One of the things that I personally hope this project will help us develop in the Communion is a wider and fuller biblical literacy, in which the outlines of the one great story of creation and redemption will be clear. To be a biblical Church is surely to be a community that lives out this great story day by day and commends it to people everywhere as the most comprehensive truth possible about the nature of God and God’s world. May God use this work to further that end, in our Communion and in all communities of his people.

+Rowan Cantuar
August 2012

Core Message

Anglicans love the scriptures of both Old and New Testaments; these have a central place within our common life. For 500 years or more we have valued their availability in vernacular translation and treasured them in our worship. They speak to us, and the societies in which we live, in many ways - permeating our liturgy, Bible study, preaching, commentary, story-telling, song, scholarship, dance, music, and art. The nature of these encounters differs from context to context, adding to both the variety of interpretations and the complexity of the interpretive process.

The richness of these encounters was explored in this project by our investigation of how Anglicans around the world approach the Bible. This involved workshops in different parts of the Communion, a questionnaire survey, a literature survey of official Anglican statements and documents, and academic reflections by Anglican scholars.

A major finding of these investigations is that how Anglicans engage with the Bible turns out to be just as important as its content. This perhaps unnerving claim does not contest the unique place and authority which the scriptures have in Anglican life, but it does point up the significance, perhaps thus far overlooked, of the contexts in which and processes by which they are heard and read.

The Bible in the Life of the Church project, while finding some decline in biblical literacy, above all encountered the sense of excitement, discovery and challenge that comes from reading the scriptures together. This Report seeks to capture the work of the project and, through its narratives and the resources offered, invites us, as a Communion, to deepen our love of the Bible and the rich treasures its pages offer.

With this in mind this Report:

is NOT a total picture of what happens across the Communion – but a series of snapshots, a collage. Its value is in the stories it offers, the examples it shows, and the resources it promotes.

is NOT a set of answers to the question, “How do Anglicans engage with and interpret the Bible?” – but a mirror or checklist, a set of questions and encouragements to challenge us, as Anglicans, to think further.

is NOT a prescribed programme or way forward – but a toolbox or collection of ideas, approaches and resources to dig deeper into the process of our engagement with Scripture."

What do you think?