Friday, May 23, 2014

I can now reveal

In a world exclusive Anglican Down Under can breathlessly rush to its keyboard after last night's reportback from GS/HW meeting in Christchurch to reveal that ... Motion 30 means what it says.

In the light of many comments here in recent days (and elsewhere on some blogs I have been making comments on) which amount to "No matter what ACANZP thinks is going to happen, it will turn out like North America" it was good to hear some things being said by our Christchurch team which refute that claim.

What was underlined was a small and easily overlooked phrase in Motion 30, "process and structure." For refreshment, here is the context,

"(a)  A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary  to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;  
(b)  A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law  may perform a yet to be developed  liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships  in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law"

What was both useful and helpful to hear last night was that the phrase "process and structure" carries with it the singular, determined intention of the Synod to find a way by which two opposing views re blessings are held in a 'structured' manner under the same ecclesiastical roof. It is not appropriate at this stage in the 'process' to start second-guessing what 'structure' will be commended to our church by the working group, but enough was said last night to indicate three things:

a. an openness on the part of GS/HW to radical creativity to arrive at a 'structure' in which two opposing views are held together;
b. a dogged determination to ensure that adherents of opposing views are 'safeguarded' by the new 'structure.'
c. an ambition to not end up in places that the North American churches have ended in, accompanied by a belief that we can avoid the pathways they have taken.

Obviously a commenter, especially one based in the heart of North American turmoil can say, in Kiwispeak, "Yeah, right!" (Translation: No). But our church has just a slightly good record in doing things differently ... for the historical record we might note Selwyn's determination, despite no English precedent, for a synodical governance which included a house of laity with right of veto, and then conjuring up a three tikanga church - three 'structures' which exist under one ecclesiastical roof.

What the working group needs to come up with is something a little different again, something for which (it would appear) no specific Anglican precedent currently exists, not even within our own church's history or present structuring.

Can I suggest two further things in the light of last night's meeting?

1. Keep praying: our reps are united in seeing the power of prayer at work in the 'process' the GS/HW went through to get to Motion 30 being passed unanimously. Let's keep praying for God to continue that good work among us.

2. Do not resign, hand in your licence, leave your parish church, walk out on your church family. Until we learn the actual recommendations of the working group about 'process and structure' - about a year from now - we do not know what our church is going to become in terms of being a 'safe' place for whatever views we hold on these matters. To make a decisive change now, whether as a licensed office-holder or parishioner, is to prejudge what the working group will propose (let alone whether we will synodically agree with the proposal).

Given the breadth of representation of all points of view at the Synod and their arriving together at a unanimous proposal at this stage in our history, it is simple trust in our brothers and sisters in Christ, and straightforward courtesy to wait patiently for the working group's report.


carl jacobs said...


Yeah, Right!


The spirit was willing. The flesh was weak.

OK, OK. The spirit actually wasn't willing either. But who could resist?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
Repartee aside, the spirit is willing (Down Under), the question will be whether the flesh is strong or weak ... in the end.

Chris Spark said...

Peter, with reserve about how this could all work (the integrity of A and not-A at once etc), yet I still have to agree with your recommendations as far as I can see at this stage. It is worth a crack. Nothing is impossible with God. And a year or two doesn't seem too much in the context to give it the best crack possible and see what can be done.

Bryden Black said...

Could not agree more with your point 2 Peter! That said; the wee matter of the integrity of the new whole, of a + b UNDER ONE ROOF remains .... watch this space indeed!

Father Ron Smith said...

"For nothing is impossible for God"

It has been demonstrated, over and over again; that God will have the final word. Today' Gospel from St. John 15: 12-17 speaks of the Great Commandment - which is to Love - as Christ has loved us! That is to love unreservedly. Difficult for humans but natural for God.

That you Peter, for you stand for unity in diversity - a very good Anglican trait.

A notice for carl: We in ACANZP choose to live with difference. You in ACNA and Gafcon have to live with yourselves. Just try to be sensitive and give us a break!

MichaelA said...

This doesn't mean Motion 30 means what it says. It simply means that the same people responsible for Motion 30 have said it again. :)

Whether or not it means what it says will be proven by events in future, not more words now.

carl jacobs said...

The temptation is to try to solve this problem by means of subsidiary. But that would require neutrality from the hierarchy of the church, and neutrality cannot be achieved. Indeed, it has already been abandoned. There is no neutral space for the church to occupy. Once it legitimizes homosexual behavior in any part, it has legitimized it in every part. The debate about its moral nature ends, and the matter of morality is functionally settled.

The focus of the problem then shifts. We are no longer talking about the moral nature of homosexuality. We are talking instead about my attitude (to personalize for the sake of convenience) toward the moral nature of homosexuality. My theological arguments and concerns no longer have relevance except as they relate to the overriding need to mollify me. That is a patronizing and condescending result. Which btw explains why Liberals are constantly complaining that conservatives are never satisfied. Conservatives don't want to be mollified. They want the ability to restore the teaching and practice of the church. The proposition they are being offered is "How do we satisfy you without giving you the ability to restore the teaching and practice of the church?" Answer: "You can't."

The protections offered are all negative. "You don't have to do this." "You don't have to accept this.". But that doesn't change the fact that this attitude has been made the problem. You can pretend that there is some even-handedness in this but there isn't. The church has de facto aligned itself with the liberal position. It has functionally changed its teaching and practice by extending an imprimatur to homosexual behavior. Now, what's the best solution to fixing an attitude problem? Changing the attitude. And having recast the problem in these terms, you wont be able to avoid solutions that are commensurate.


carl jacobs said...

Btw, Peter.

There are some very real practical limits to this new structure you imagine will appear from the primordial mist.

1. The desire of the bishop to remain sovereign on his diocese.

2. The tendency of bishops to see laity in the diocese as serfs. I realize that isn't a very attractive analogy but it works so well. It's about access to money and the perceived right of a bishop to receive rent from all his parishioners.

So you won't be able to isolate parishes structurally from theologically hostile bishops - or their desire to control the kind of priest who serves under him. Neither will you be able to satisfy the desire of dissidents to direct money away from the other portion of the church.

So your new radical structure begins with the limitation that it can't change to whom you owe obedience, and to whom you give money. Those are the two major practical areas of organizational relationship.

So how far can you really move?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
Excellent questions.
My understanding is that no one from the GS presumes to know the answers and no one is saying they are 100% confident the answers can be found in the sense of something new. (Clearly the current answers to the questions could continue ...).
But most people at meetings I am going to are open to having the best possible go we can have at finding answers.
I know that seems or might seem absurd, but our three tikanga experience means it does not seem completely absurd to us here ...

carl jacobs said...

It's not absurd, Peter. It's futile. The task you are attempting to accomplish is to divide unitary authority. It can't be divided. By definition. But if you can't divide it, any proposal you might make will inevitably reduce to surrender and ghettoization until such time as the hierarchy can quietly euthanize the recalcitrant.

Remember. You can't bind your successors. Promises you make today will not be considered binding in twenty years time.


Jean said...

And again I say,

I agree totally Peter prayer... with such a precedent in the bible when God's people were seeking His direction they turned en-masse to prayer.

May our focus be towards this more diligently, and may it be encouraged in all churches as much if not certainly more than any discussion.

Blessings, Jean

John Sandeman said...

I hear what you say about not being North America. But how will you handle the situation they faced, with a diocese electing a gay Bishop. Can a three or six Tikanag solution handle a situation like that? It seems to me to be a problem with an episcopal structure.

Peter Carrell said...

Carl, Jean, John S

Futile, maybe, but I will be praying.

A gay bishop: I think the the key phrase 'process and structure' means what it says on the tin: the structure would provide space for a gay bishop to be elected (one structure) and for a (partnered)gay candidate not to appear on the slate (another structure).

Jean said...

If you are praying then definitely not futile, the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective : ) enjoy the weekend.

Peter Carrell said...

My enjoyment of the weekend is very much in the hands of the Crusaders ... who rather let me down last weekend :)

Father Ron Smith said...

But then, Peter, a certain Mr Adams is apparently doing quite well in American basketball at the moment.

Peter Carrell said...

I have always enjoyed playing basketball, Ron, and never quite got as enthusiastic about watching it as I do other games ...

laudable Practice said...

A geuine question in light of Carl's comment: "Once it [Church] legitimizes homosexual behavior in any part, it has legitimized it in every part. The debate about its moral nature ends, and the matter of morality is functionally settled".

The Church's moral reflection does not approach war/use of force, wealth or heterosexual sex in this way. Why would a similar process of discernment not apply to the spectrum of same-sex relationships?

carl jacobs said...

Would you pause for a moment and consider exactly what it is you are praying for? You are asking God to find some way for you to co-exist with that which He calls toevah, and all because you value the unity and relationship of the organization above His truth. It would be like Hezekiah praying "God, could you find some way to help us find unity with those who worship at the asherah poles?". It would be like Herod praying "God, please make John the Baptist understand about my relationship with my brother's wife." You can't pray for that which fundamentally violates God's will and hope for a good outcome.

You should be terrified of that prayer. A positive answer could only mean judgment.


Jean said...

What a serious question? Just kidding.

"in the hands of the Crusaders" "In the hands of the Creator"

Pretty close I guess : ) ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I think there is much to pray for but won't list all the possibilities here. A few which I think are quite reasonable:

1. That Anglicans of differing views (which at this time do not appear to be able to be changed, even by prayer) might speak graciously with one another and continue to avoid headlines which damage the gospel's proclamation in NZ.

2. That Anglicans in these islands might find a way forward which keeps us out of church and civil courts.

3. That Anglicans who otherwise agree over nearly everything else might find a way to express disagreement over this matter which honours the common ground between us.

4. That those who wish to remain Anglican as an expression of faithfulness to the gospel [in whatever way that is determined, on whatever 'side'] might be able to do so.

Of course, in relation to 4, God might be Presbyterian or Eastern Orthodox and thus this is all a cunning plan to transfer some new members into the right fold :)

Father Ron Smith said...

"Perfect love casts out fear"

Christ is Risen, alleluia!

Jean said...

Well apparently we had a little bit of success Peter re prayers for new members last Sunday, a lost dog joined in the celebration!

Seriously, Carl each person formulates their own prayers for me it would be for God's guidance to be clear on this issue by the working of His spirit through our churches (plural = all denominations, sorry Peter perhaps we could accommodate a few other folk as well : ) ...).

There is a lot of talk about following God's authority yet people are stuck in the interpretation of His word, by prayer I believe we can seek and ask for the true revelation of His authority on this issue a.k.a Seek My face.

In respect to praying for something that is contradictory to His will it is my understanding that God is fully able to determine whether this is so and can say no;
Ps 66:18 "If I had held sin in my heart, God would not have answered my Prayers..."

Anonymous said...

Carl says, 'So you won't be able to isolate parishes structurally from theologically hostile bishops - or their desire to control the kind of priest who serves under him.'

Hostile bishops are nothing new to evangelical Anglicans. There is a famous story of the Bishop of London once hosting Lady Huntingdon and offering her the use of his carriage and horses to ride to her next destination. When he discovered it was Clapham rectory (HQ of the 'Clapham Sect', the most famous evangelical parish in England) he stipulated that the carriage let Lady H off around the corner, so that his carriage would not be seen anywhere near John Venn's rectory.

John Newton had a very difficult time getting ordained to the priesthood as most bishops saw him as too evangelical. I believe that in the mid-eighteenth century a good number of the English bishops were functionally Deist. Certainly throughout most of the 18th century evangelical revival there was no bishop who was in any way sympathetic to evangelical Anglicanism. And yet evangelicals were ordained, and worked in these dioceses...

All of which is to say, I don't know why evangelical Anglicans are suddenly so terrified of the thought of having bishops they can't agree with. Charles Simeon, John Newton, Henry and John Venn, Fletcher of Madeley, William Romaine - these guys would have just considered that 'situation normal'.


carl jacobs said...


I expect the example of 21st Century Bishops in North America is given more weight than the example of 18th century bishops in England.


carl jacobs said...

And anyways. Dismissing someone's very real and very reasonable concern is not a good start to this endeavor.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I am not sure whether it is me or someone else or both who are dismissing very real and reasonable concerns.
If so I want to assure you that no real and reasonable concern should be dismissed, least by me.
Here in ACANZP there are real and reasonable concerns at this time.
A question is whether those concerns are sufficient to (say) depart (as some appear to be actively considering) or to not pray for some good to be found in the situation.

Anonymous said...

So I guess (as a foreigner looking at NZ from far, far away, and praying for them) the question would be "What can we do to decrease hostility on both sides?"


Bryden Black said...

G’day Tim, You make good historical points in your comment of May 24, 2014 at 10:20 AM, a period of history my principal at Theological College was at pains to drum into us all! So; I get your point well. But it is more of an historical one that may not, I sense, be just transferred across to our 21st C in the form, “hostile bishops are nothing new to evangelical Anglicans”; period. My reasoning goes as follows, and is why I pitched my questions of section 1 of Tues, May 20 the way I did.

You are right too I feel in your assumption “in the mid-eighteenth century a good number of the English bishops were functionally Deist.” While I shall not answer my own Section 1 questions here - it is too fulsome a task for ADU - we are now reaping the whirlwind of that Deistic view. The entire debate/battle of 19th C theology post Schleiermacher, via Barth’s attempted solution, has climaxed in the sorts of thing we see in the Cambridge collection, edited by David Ford, et al, Fields of Faith: Theology and Religious Studies for the Twenty-first Century (2005). More succinct is an article from years ago by Robert Osborn, “From Theology to Religion” in Modern Theology 8/1 (1992), pp.75-88.

Put simply but I hope not too simplistically, because we are now fully reduced to an immanent worldview, without recourse to any sense of the transcendent, ‘religion’ is a human affair, a social construction, viewed at best as our response to some vague numinous notion of the mysterium tremendum. At best we are gnostics: we may not know anything about this ‘numinous’, as we dualistically go about our lives lived as ordinary materialists for the most part, seeking to be practically ethical (NB echoes of Kant!). So; religious pluralism reigns - if one wants to be religious at all, that is ...; cf. the Charles Taylor “Secular” thesis, a good Canadian! Naturally, this profound cultural/philosophical milieu has infected the Western Church to its core, and given rise to an extraordinary array of ‘theological options’ [cf. only The Blackwell Companion to Modern Theology, ed. Gareth Jones (2003) or The Modern Theologians, ed. David Ford, et al (3rd ed. 2005)].

At root it is of course a crisis of authority, pitched in maximal form as I wrote earlier, 30 April re Ma Whea? Theology Commission’s Report: “the aetiology of the “disquiet” has been the severe twists and turns of our very understanding of the human, from that of a creature, both made in the image of God and accountable to its Creator, to the autonomous, self-positing, personal human subject of the 21st C.”

Come back Nietzsche; all is forgiven! You saw it first and most clearly ... For sadly, there are quite a number of Western Christian leaders who are “functionally” wolves in sheep’s clothing, although they have absolutely no idea this is the case, so insidious and tragic has our situation become ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim
In most, maybe even all cases of differences among us, "hostility" seems too strong a word. Nevertheless differences being brought to a point of "what are we actually going to do?" could engender hostility, and/or could lead to diminishment of quality and quantity of conversation between members of our church.

Father Ron Smith said...

"And anyways. Dismissing someone's very real and very reasonable concern is not a good start to this endeavor." carl -

And does this not go both ways - or only one way?

Reflection from Theological College"
'Yahweh or My Way'

I guess prayer and sacrament is not a way way for discernment.

Christ is risen, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith said...

Nothing like a good celebration of the Divine Liturgy to bring back reassurance to the doubters - about the fact that Christ has already won the victory over sin and death.

Today, at Saint Michael's church in Christchurch, New Zealand (still standing after the earthquakes, though one of our city's oldest church buildings ) we farewelled one of our most devout parishioners, who, in her 90s, was a quiet Anglo-Catholic defender of The Faith.

Betty Coulter, a real servant of the Church:; sacristan, matriarch of a church family, Reader, intercessor and faithful communicant; though hesitant about women clergy (we have them at St. Michael's) and not sure about 'gays'; nevertheless deflected not one moment of her long life from a love of God and the people who came into her path.

Betty was a wonderful example of Christian love - without judgement or prejudice - beloved herself by all of us, she believed that God came into this world to save sinners, and she wanted to be one who would be part of that service of loving acceptance - that caused a full congregation to attend the requiem Mass and funeral. She knew where she was headed. And by her example, we are encouraged to follow where God leads. Wherever that might take us. Deo gratias.
May Betty rest in peace and rise one day with Christ in glory.

Interestingly, a number of local Roman Catholics known to Betty attended her funeral. Their priest said to me afterwards: "That's how the liturgy should be celebrated". We then reflected on our common journey with and into Christ.

Christ is risen Alleluia!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith said...

Apology for:

"I guess prayer and sacrament is not a way way for discernment."

Should have been:

"I guess prayer and sacrament is not a bad way for discernment."

(funny how my subconscious seems to reject negative words!)

Suem said...

This looks like a positive way forward and I truly hope and pray that those who in good conscience are in favour and those (like yourself, Peter) who in good conscience are opposed will be protected, respected and held together through this.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks, Suem!