Friday, July 11, 2014

Why the CofE needs two jurisdictions to avoid schism

Have a read of this post on Thinking Anglicans.

The gist of it is this:

(1) a male clergyman working as a chaplain, married according to British law to a man, is in danger of not proceeding to a new chaplaincy position because the relevant bishop won't license him because he is living in a relationship outside of the teaching of the CofE;

(2) an appeal for support is being made by his partner which is based (in my words) on the conviction that a marriage is a marriage and thus should fall within, not outside, the teaching of the CofE.

Now, for the purpose of this post and any comments you might care to make, let's set aside any need to argue whether the CofE teaching is currently true or false and whether the basis for the appeal - that the teaching ought to teach marriage is between any two people who contract a marriage - is true or false.

Let's accept that within the CofE there are large swathes of thoroughly Anglican Anglicans who divide according to their convictions of when a marriage is a marriage (and thus whether a bishop should or shouldn't license the Rev Man or the Rev Woman when married according to law to another Man or Woman respectively).

Let's also accept that no time soon are these convictions going to change - one swathe is not going to suddenly throw in their lot with the other swathe.

Finally, let's accept that while there may be a few on either side of the divide who might feel they have other reasons for departing from the CofE (e.g. where it is poised to go re women bishops), a large majority across both swathes at this time have no other reason to depart the church.

What is the CofE to do?

Is it (as per this post) to continue fighting a battle every time a clergyperson in a same sex marriage applies for a position, a battle in which the rejected prospective licensee highlights (say) how silly the church looks to the rest of society, how awkward and inconsistent it looks to the world about it, how homophobic it appears and so on and so forth?

Does it run the risk that eventually current safeguards re its teaching viz a viz 'human rights' and 'discrimination in the workplace' will be worn down under a future parliament?

Does it engage with these battles recognising that a vast swathe of its members do not agree with its teaching?

(Conversely) does the CofE change its teaching because society has changed and parliament has agreed in law with that change? Does it give way on the principle of authority undergirding its teaching so that its teaching steps aside from the authority of Scripture understood according to tradition and reason and yields to the authority of parliament? Does the CofE, in a few words, cease to be a church standing on the Word of God as it understands it?

The dear Church of England is between a rock and a hard place.

Can anything be done to avoid schism, to avoid breaking into (at least) two parts, in one part of which marriage is between a man and a woman, and in another part, marriage is according to the current law of the land?

Just before readers race ahead of me and conclude that schism is inevitable, the only option, etc, let's remember that the CofE as an established church is a little different to the Typical Protestant Church Which Has Split Several Times Since The Reformation. Sure a few congregations can peel off here and there to form some kind of New Expression of Being Anglican (as had happened in the past with (e.g.) the Free Church of England, and as is happening now with (e.g.) various congregations coming under the oversight of the English branch of AMiA), but suppose half the CofE wants to go in one direction and half in another? If one half kindly leaves without attempting to take any property with them, does the other half wish to maintain and use the property remaining?

Is there another option?

Is it possible that the CofE could develop a 'two jurisdictions' church? One jurisdiction for those adhering to marriage being between a man and a woman; one jurisdiction adhering to marriage defined by the law of the land? That is, all remain in their properties, all are licensed within the one CofE, but the battles over licensing fall away?

I expect comments to say I am barking mad, it's impossible, forget it because Look What Happened Over Woman Priests and Flying Bishops. However I am talking about something different to flying bishops ...

And, if you do want to say I am barking mad, or just barking up the wrong tree, please also say whether you think there is any other way to avoid schism.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist reading here if you are a Kiwi Anglican to understand the way in which the CofE at this point is a canary flying ahead of us as we journey through our mineshaft.

POSTSCRIPT: This clear, incisive comment on the (im)possibility of 'good disagreement' is worth reading (H/T to two correspondents).


Father Ron Smith said...

I, myself, decided not to draw undue attention to this matter that has taken place within the Church of England, Peter, believing it to be pertinent only to their particular situation at this point in time.

However, as you are drawing the attention of your readers to ot, I feel obliged to offer the following observation.

It is well known in England that there are partnered gay clergy serving responsibly under the licence of their respective diocesan bishops. It is only since the controversy over the civil marriage rights of such persons that the present crisis has arisen.

The fact is that partnered gay clergy are already serving as parish priests within the Church of england - so there is no actual difference in their situation - excepot that they have chosen to take advantage of the recent English law which allows them the privileges of civil marriage - a privilege that gives them the same rightsw as other married people.

For an acting diocesan bishop to deliberately withhold a licence from a married gay priest who is not even in charge of a parish, but who is working for the NHS, in a ministry to the sick, seems to be unjust - especially when this clergy-person was accepted in his ministry as an already partnered same-sex priest. This is a seeming hypocritical stance on the part of the Church of England.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am certainly offering comment on this 'far off' situation because it has pertinent analogies to where we seem to be heading in ACANZP (and important differences).

(In a friendly manner, in a spirit of enquiry into what is going on over there) I don't agree with your use of 'hypocrisy' re the CofE in this situation. My sense is that the CofE through the civil evolution of marriage has been forced to clarify/restate its own teaching on 'what marriage is' and then that has implications as licensing questions come up for bishops re their clergy ... certainly there is an apparent inconsistency at work and thus an apparent hypocrisy, but I understand bishops to be trying to administer the teaching of the church (with all its current subtleties and nuances) rather than blithely falling into hypocrisy.

The Thinking Anglican comments' thread has some interesting comments around 'inconsistency.'

carl jacobs said...


You are barking mad.

1. A Bishop regard his diocese as a personal fiefdom with the laity fulfilling the role of serfs. What do serfs do? They give money to the lord of the manor. Bishops feel entitled to that money. They want to know that all serfs within their boundaries are obligated to fill their coffers - and only their coffers. A separate jurisdiction must mean the end of the geographic relationship between bishop and funding source. Why? Because the jurisdictions will overlap. And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the laity in one jurisdiction will refuse to fund the other jurisdiction. The bishops know this. They will never allow it. Never ever ever.

2. The division between jurisdictions will not be limited to a disagreement over SSM. That disagreement will quickly become a proxy for the much broader theological division underneath. The practical impact will be that the more liberal jurisdiction will quickly attract the entire fruit salad of progressive religion. At last free of orthodox constraint, it will devolve into a circus of barkers and clowns and side shows and performance acts. The true progressive believer (all three of them) will barely be able to contain himself. Everyone else will leave. Separate jurisdictions will set up a perfect Gamaliel test that progressives can't win. They can't allow an orthodox alternative to exist side by side in the same organization.

3. Don't underestimate the desire of progressives to compel conservative conscience. They want conservatives to be forced to bend the knee as the price of staying. The fangs in the progressive smile are not seen in the "let's make room for everybody" stage of progressive occupation. But when the occupation is complete, those fangs are bared. And there is positive relish in using them.

So is there any way to avoid schism? The question us badly formed. You are already in schism. What you are really asking is "Can we keep the organization together despite the fact that it contains two different religions that cannot abide each other?". No, you can't. Not in the long run.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
I am.

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
In annoouncing the visit of the Ma Whea Commission to their Church
the clergy of St.Matthews in the City<Auckland ;wrote in their
newsletter(Sunday 7th Oct.2012):
"The primary task of the Commission is,given the differences of these issues in the Church,how those of a liberal and conservative convictions remain part of the same organisation"?
This question presupposes that both stances have a legal right
to be part of the samne organisation.
To answer this question,one simply needs to look at the Constitution 1857 and the Church of England Empowering Act 1928;
and see if the Doctrines of either or both the stances fit the required definition,(Fundamental Clause 1).
It does not matter how many are pushing for change or how heart
felt their cause is; the simple question is,does it legally fit in the Constitution.
Put in everyday parlance,if we form a club to promote and play cricket;and your interest is soccer;then you are in the wrong club.
The ACANZP was established by mutual and voluntary compact for a specific purpose (Fundamental Clause 1).Anyone who wants a Church to promote Progresive Christianity are free to establish a Church for that purpose.
The Episcopalian Church (USA) has
ring warning bells.

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, there is only one basic message of the gospel, it is this:

"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners" that's all of us.

Jesus said: "I did not come to call the righteous (i.e. Glen?), but sinners, to repentance. That is the ongoing message of the Gospel. Every day where the Eucharist is celebrated & shared, we who acknowledge our sins are encouraged to repent. We then receive the life of"Christ, our Righteousness", who sets us free from the law of sin and death. Salvation is not a free pass. We have to work at it.

'The righteous don't need Jesus; they are saved by their own righteousness'? Right? Wrong!

Scripture says: "Judge not that you be not judged".

Father Ron Smith said...

" The practical impact will be that the more liberal jurisdiction will quickly attract the entire fruit salad of progressive religion"
- carl jacobs -

You don't need the label of 'orthodoxy' (anyway, subjective) to become a part of a fruit salad or pot-pourri of spiritual provenance. From your own pilgrim story, you, yourself appear to have dwelt in different parts of the salad. Which bit do you think was the real orthodoxy? Is the bit of the salad you occupy now tastier or more fruitful than that of your previous experience(s)?

A very basic understanding of Holy Church is that we are all part of the Body of Christ. Some are more active parts than others, but all feed from the same source: Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.

Unknown said...

Hi Ron,
Surely it is extremely simplistic and reductionist, to say that Jesus Christ came into the world just to save sinners.That is only part of His GLORIOUS MINISTRY.His Gosple is a message of Power and
Authority:both in WORD and DEED.
He came to reconcile the world to the Father.
He came, that all of us,might become 'real man'once again,as He had created us.
He came, that we might say yes to His Call-"Come Follow Me".
He came, that we would accept Him as our' mediator';not only between us and the Father,but also, between us and every earthly attachment which we have.
Shall I stop there???

But really Ron,it is interesting to see the old liberal modernist
technique pop up when all else has failed.ATTACK THE MAN!!!
I know all to well what my real nature was and is.I accept, like John Newton, That He must be a GREAT SAVIOUR as I am a great sinner.
And again,after having sent a volley of accusations over my bow,
you trot out the great liberal coup detat:Matt 7/1,"Judge not That you be not judged".
However,in the context of the present thread;Matt. 7/15 "Beware
of false prophets,which come to you in sheep's clothing(particualarily purple vests),but inwardly they are ravening wolves".(insert mine-not found in the best manuscripts).
So lets have another purple vested pearl of wisdom from the TEC(USA) brigade:"The story of Jesus' bodily resurrection is,at best,conjectural;that the resurrection accounts in the four Gosples are contradictory and confusing...the significance of Easter is not that jesus returned to life but that even death itself
could not end the power of his presence in the lives of the faithful".The RT.Rev.John Chane,
Bishop of Washington D.C.:Easter sermon in 2002.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Glen,

My faith is totally in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. The basis of my faith is as stated securely in the Catholic Creeds. I have no other faith.

MarcA said...

Given the Church of England is a somewhat unstable amalgam held together within a largely erastian framework I couldn't see Parliament agreeing to anything like your proposal Peter.After all if the women bishops measure fails on Monday Parliament will be very restive,They are pretty restive about the C of Es exemption from the Equality legislation as it is..Perry Butler,Canterbury

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Perry
Yes and no!
Yes, parliament on past form re marriage is unlikely to agree to a blanket ban against licensing married gay clergy; but the same parliament has not forced the CofE to conduct gay marriage ceremonies.
No, parliament is unlikely to force the CofE into schism and thus likely to be open to some kind of agreement which permits a future to the CofE.
The CofE is a church, after all, with proprietary chapels, livings in the power of people or trusts who are not bishops and thus, potentially, is open to unique ecclesiastical arrangements!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
The CofE is blessed by the integrity of its current leadership. In desperate times (i.e. 'Desperate' re wisdom, fairness, authority, revelatory truth), it is hopeful that such leaders are at the helm.

Unknown said...

Father Ron states:
"My faith is totally in the saving grace of Jesus Christ,my Lord and Redeemer.The basis of my faith is,as stated securely in the Catholic Creeds.I have no other faith".12/7/2012 @ 10.28PM.

However,on the 'Anglican Unity'
blog where you were disagreeing with the 'heirarchs' of GAFCON
and the Global South meeting to
support the ACNA Arch Bishop;
you said "TEC:Stand Firmer".
1/7/2014 @ 12.41 PM.

So lets look at what the TEC Herectics (oops,sorry for typo-meant Heirarchs);are saying about the Creeds,in our Faith is stated so "securely'.
"Those creeds are not about checking off a bunch of propositions.They are about giving our heart to a sense that
Jesus shows us what it looks like
to be a divine human being".
Presiding Bishop K.J.Schori,Parabola,Spring 2007.
"You don't all have to profess exactly the same understandings of
the central tenets of faith;whats important is to worship together".
K.J.Schori,San Diego Union-Tribune

Am I missing something,Ron???

Father Ron Smith said...

So it would appear, Glen.

My faith is my faith, not necessarily the same as any other person's faith. God has given me a personal identity I am not a clone of anyone else.

Jean said...

Apologies for mistake in my last post re.... "Priests in same sex marriages"... was meant to be "Priests in heterosexual marriages" - it is on all accounts though a humorous mistake : ) Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

Just a short note here for orthodoxy didacts:

Lord Carey (former archbishop of Canterbury) backs U.K. Government's move towards assisted suicide. This is clearly a case where actual experience of other people's pain (sometimes called 'empathy') can give us a whole new perspective - on life and death (see kiwianglo blog)

Unknown said...

Hi Ron,
Good to get it sorted out that we were all created individual persons, who come to Christ in our own unique way.
So,now perhaps we can accord that priveledge to the Bishops of GAFCON and the Global South.
It has not been my practice to attack the personality or faith of anyone during these discussions.
However,when someone takes on a public role involving 'declarations of office',surely it is only right to expect them to adhere to their vows.
I do not particuarily care what
Spong,KJ Schori or anybody else believes personally; but as Priests and Bishops of our Church,we have the right to speak out on their theology.
Likewise,I dont really give a tuppenny toss about Lord Carey's views on assisted suicide.If he was still the Archbishop of Canterbury,or a Dio. Bishop I might comment.
Or are you inviting me to join your debate on kiwianglo blog.I
think last time I tried, you disinherited me.Are you being like the father of the prodigal son and welcoming me home?

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
Joke going around America:
TEC.(USA) under the present Presiding Bishop is "Catholic Lite
same ritual but only 50% of the guilt".

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, if I thought you could produce anything useful for the conversation, with no obvious caveats that support 'status quo' for the sake of it, you might be welcome on 'kiwianglo'. However, given the thrust of my blog, you have not so far contributed anything that could help me or my few readers to think that you could offer any insights into what I* consider to be the gospel imperatives ion a healthy Church.

I don't want to confuse my (few) readers with what I feel is an out-dated philosophy of religion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron / Glen

I am letting your last comment pass, Ron, as it is an explanation to Glen ... but future corro re comments on kiwianglo should be made there.

Either way, each of you are getting close to, if not passing over the ad hominem line here ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter. Understood!

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
Apologies,will confess that my remarks were somewhat tounge in cheek.
The other posting which you draw attention to in your post on Lord Carey lays down a very good argument,even on this subject.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The CofE is a church, after all, with proprietary chapels, livings in the power of people or trusts who are not bishops and thus, potentially, is open to unique ecclesiastical arrangements!"
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

Yes, Peter, you are correct. The C.of E. in General Synod, has also approved of Clergy-Spouse Pensions for the surviving partner of a same-sex clergy relationship - thus affirming a generosity of spirit that would seem to exceed that of other canonical provisions or statement about Gay Clergy.

And; Glen, Yes. It must be admitted that the Primates of the GAFCON have the right to their own individual faith tenets - It's just that maybe they don't need to try to make other provincial Primates adhere to their own understandings of the "Faith, once delivered....etc." - thus claiming a 'superior orthodoxy' to the rest of us in the Anglican Communion.

I wonder how many GAFCON Primates will want to further distance themselves from the A.C. - on account of the Provinces of Canterbury & York now deciding to ordain women as Bishops in the Church of England?

Unknown said...

Quite simply,neither the Church nor Her Doctrine belongs to man, (not even the Bishops);but to the
Eternal Christ,crucified and resurrected,whose 'body'is the Church.
It was not the GAFCON Primates who started this whole fiasco;but the liberal thinkers? who did not
maintain the 'Faith of the Apostles'
His Majesty's Declaration, at the introduction to the Thirty Nine Articles Of Faith states quite clearly where the Church stood in regards to 'innovations of faith'.
The GAFCON Primares are sounding the trumpet call of Ez.33 and 1 Cor.14:8.
I do not care if anyone wants to
mock my faith say that my thinking is locked into past gone age;but it is where I am im my relationship to Christ,my Saviour.
Those provinces of the Anglican Communion who wish to move outside of the 'Faith of The One, Holy,Catholic and Apostolic Church'have every right to do so;
but they can no longer claim to be pary of that Faith.Nor can they
claim the assets which were collected under that Faith.This is the Anglicans are winning the day in South Carolina and Texas.

Eric said...

The trouble with trying to divide into two jurisdictions is that there will always be other points of disagreement. The conservatives (on sexuality) may be divided between Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals. Evangelicals differ on women's ordination. If you divide once, it may happen again.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Hi Ron,
Surely it is extremely simplistic and reductionist, to say that Jesus Christ came into the world just to save sinners." - Glen Young -

May I quote Jesus on this?:

"I bless you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, for hiding these think from the learned and clever, and revealing them to the simple: for that is what it pleased you to do". - Note Jesus' word 'simple'.

The mystery of the Gospel is in its theological simplicity. The secret is "To know Christ, and Him crucified".

Unknown said...

You may indeed quote me the Words of Jesus anytime;I love them and are open to them.
However,it would be helpful if you
quoted from reasonably accurate
translations of the Scriptures.
Matt.11:25:At the time Jesus answered and said,"I thank thee,
O Father,Lord of heaven and earth
because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent,
and hast revealed them unto babes."["Even so,Father:for it seemed good in thy sight".Ver 26]
The words 'bless' and'simple' do not appear in the better translations.
St.Luke also uses the words,
'thank' and 'babes'.Luke 10:21.
The Greek word 'nepios' is best translated'immature Christian'.
In this sense it was used by St Paul in Rom 2:20 and 1Cor.3:1.also
by St.Peter 1Pet.2:2.
And,again the mystery of the Gosple is in its theological
simplicity of not only 'knowing Christ,and Him crucified;but also
following Him,and allowing His Costly Grace to become the basis of our Discipleship.
As Bonhoeffer reminds us,so much of Christianity today is based on 'cheap grace'.It is cheap grace
because it comes at no cost and we we bestow it upon ourselves.It is grace that justifies sin as well as the sinner.Cheap grace is preaching forgigeness without requiring repentance.This is what Jesus was speaking about in your quote,Ron.
[Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His works
were done,because they repented not;v20 "Woe unto thee Chorazin...
...,had been done in Tyre or Sidon
they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
So while we try to turn the Church into a quasi civil rights movement fixated on 'human rights'
our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia have accepted the simple message.++Wabukala said:
"They want us to step back from
the plain sense of Scripture and excavate 'deeper truths' of God's revelation concealed below the words themselves.It is little surprise then that we find Scripture can be bent into all sorts of convenient shapes and that so called 'gosple' truths can contradict the plain meaning of Scriptures."
Finally,Ron,I was using the word'simplistic'as a philosophical
term( in relation to your argument) and not in a theological