Monday, April 22, 2013

We already have alternative episcopal arrangements in our church

In the just published Easter print edition of Taonga I write these words in respect of how conservatives might respond to changes which may take place in our church re same sex relationships:

"I think we remain a church where, depending on decisions made in the future, we could see some conservatives leave, some remain providing there are new episcopal arrangements, and some remain whatever happens." [p. 15]

These words along with some similar sentiments from Bishop Richard Ellena (Nelson) re alternative episcopal arrangements reported on p. 11 have been noted in a comment made on ADU earlier today.

Certain thoughts spring to my mind in consequence.

(1) Christ calls the church to unity, ut unim sint (John 17).
(2) Responding to this call is difficult, and always had been (Acts 6, 10-11 etc).
(3) Many questions arise: what is the basis of our unity? What happens if that basis fractures?
(4) Generally the Christian experience of unity is the experience of unity-in-diversity, so what is the nature of our diversity, are there limits to it, and so forth?
(5) Various pragmatic moves have been made through the centuries in order to secure unity (or as much unity as possible under the circumstances): here an agreement to a creed, there an agreement to a canon of sacred writings, over there a commitment to a particular bishop (Rome?) or to no single bishop (Eastern Orthodoxy) or to the congregation etc.
(6) Our church, the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia has found ways to forge a form of unity in the fires of diversity, most especially in securing a novel form of episcopacy in which a single geographic territory can be double or even multiple episcopal territory, so we have two bishops based in Christchurch.

If our diversity over sexuality is to be held together in one church, how is that to be so?

I would prefer it to not lead to new episcopal arrangements. But there is no significant reason I can think of why it should not lead to new arrangements.

A. We have already allowed to ourselves the possibility that significant diversity (cultural) should lead to such arrangements. Why not significant theological diversity leading in a similar direction?

B. If it is charged that it is 'novel' to head down this route, why would that be a problem? After all, the blessing of same sex relationships after a manner formally approved by General Synod would be a novel thing. I know of no one who is not conservative who is saying that we should not do that novel thing because it is novel! If one novel thing, why not two?

But, to reiterate, my fervent prayer and wish for our church is that we find a way forward which does not involve new episcopal arrangements, which maintains our unity, which honours Christ's wish that we be united and is prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the unity we claim each week in the eucharist that we are committed to maintaining!


Eric said...

The unity to which Christ calls us applies to the whole Church, not just to whole denominations. So if the organisation fractures, that is unfortunate, but the whole Church is already administratively divided.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Eric
I am working on the plan that the unity of the church is assisted by denominations not fracturing further.

Then we work on denominations joining together!

Peter Carrell said...

DEar Ron
I have deleted a comment I recently posted from you. It has rightly been drawn to my attention that language such as "the anti-gay
'sola-scriptura' school is now attributing to a rigorously literal and out-dated view of the Bible." is precisely what I have promised to commenters not to publish.

I was remiss in not being rigorous in moderation and I apologise for my failure.

I have also not published another comment from you this morning because in making a reasonable point it nevertheless included a gratuitous slap across the face of Christians you disagree with.

Tone up, please, or tune out.

We all belong to the one body of Christ.

Father Ron Smith said...

Considering the fact that you have 'banished' two recent comments from me. I have come to the conclusion that anything that does not agree with your own opinion of 'orthodoxy' in our Church is fated to remain unpublished on ADU. I see this as the death of reasoned argument on your blog and shall cease contributing from this day forth, for evermore.

Mr Herles has won his battle! But -

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
What will be published here are views which do not involve inaccurate slating of one part of the church, or one set of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Anonymous said...

I welcome pro-ssm and/or liberal contributions to ADU unreservedly. In fact I would like to see more theologically and biblically grounded arguments from a liberal pov as this would facilitate better theological debate. Emotive accusations of prejudice or personal psychological failings only manage to shut down the free exchange of views as commentors are forced to defend themselves against unfair accusations about their compassion for other human beings, or defend themselves against accusations of unelightened bigotry.

By all means let's have a genuine diversity of views at ADU. But that will only happen if everyone feels free to air their view without fear that they will be personally attacked and subjected to public character assassination.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, folks, issues, not personalities.

Zane Elliott said...

I think your prayer 'my fervent prayer and wish for our church is that we find a way forward which does not involve new episcopal arrangements' is noble but how can a parish, or parishoner or clergyman submit to the authority of General Synod if/when it approves errant teaching as Canon Law?

+Jim White appears to be undersetimating how deeply this issue affects eveangelicals, I am floored that he thinks "we would simply decide that we are together and that we want to stay together."
I wonder who the 'we' he mentions is. There are plenty of evangelical Anglicans I know who aren't that interested in staying together with people who don't believe Scripture to be the authority of life, faith and practice.

For +Jim to suggest this issue is akin to pacifism is insulting and shows the real lack of understanding progressive Anglicans have when it comes to evangelical identity and belief.

I don't see any real way we can walk together with bishops who reject Scripture and continue to peddle the bizarre belief that so long as we celebrate the Lord's Supper together everything will be ok.

Bryden Black said...

The desire for unity Peter is not only admirable; it is necessary. At least, all creedal and Scripture loving Christians will see our Lord’s Prayer of Jn 17, climaxing in “ut unum sint”, as JP2 memorably stated it, to be a vital and necessary discernment of the divine will and purpose.

That said of course, there are a host of questions on what exactly are the means of that unity. In relation to this thread, we need to ask whether episcopacy is of the esse of the Church or only its bene esse. Anglicanism has prevaricated at just this point. Hooker would say, as I read him, the latter, while most Anglo-Catholics since the mid 19th C onwards would say the former. ARCIC under the rubric of Authority has also tended towards the former, with its explorations of some kind of Petrine Office.

But issues of unity are not the sole function of episcopacy. As many an Evangelical would insist, the apostolic nature of the Church is also complex. For the Church’s participation in the missio Dei has to safeguard traditionally two features. Adherence to the apostolic witness to this mission gives us the first element, while faithfulness to the community (communio Dei) which the apostles and prophets founded offers the second. Thereafter, structurally speaking, matters of “communion” (κοινωνία), “collegiality” and “conciliarity” combine, and themselves rest upon the other three creedal marks of the Church as lived out. Here we see most forcibly that each and all the marks of the Church properly coinhere - as befits that community of the Trinitarian God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. For the apostolic nature of the Church is none other than her baptism into this Name (Matt 28:16-20) lived out and realised, commissioned, as God’s covenant partner.

The upshot Peter is that if the ACANZ&P truly desires unity, it has to be authentically founded and grounded. I frankly do not see us able to wrestle particularly well with these tough matters - at least, if our recent track record of the various Huis is anything to go by ...

Anonymous said...

Many thanks Peter,

How indeed do we make every effort to maintain unity while disagreeing, particularly on gay marriage?

One important step is to recognise that gay marriage is not a primary issue. People at both extremes of the debate assume that gay marriage is primary, ie more important than the need to maintain unity. The 'Windsor Report' highlighted the importance of the question of 'primaryness' but the question has not been properly addressed.

I have recently written to argue for a 'robust middle ground' position on gay marriage, with Biblical arguments that it is not primary.

Let's be strong, confident, typically Anglican middle grounders and keep calling for unity.

Roger Harper (UK)