Friday, August 22, 2014

Jesus? Here, present and correct.

The question of Anglican identity keeps itself before our eyes. T19 draws attention today to the formalization of primatial oversight for the Diocese of South Carolina by the Global South Primates Steering Committee. Thus 'being Anglican' is about episcopal oversight within the Anglican way of being church: the Diocese of South Carolina is receiving that kind of oversight. It is thoroughly and unmistakably Anglican ... or, let the arguments continue about true Anglican identity.

Identity questions lie at the heart of the ISIS Caliphate. Beyond the imposition of rule by terror lies a question about Islamic identity, explored by Steve Bell and Robert Fisk. One simple observation to be made from their reflections is that while many decry the Caliphate as 'not Islam' or 'not true to Islam', many within the Caliphate, neither an insubstantial population nor territory, happily concur that this is Islam faithfulness being expressed.

For some Anglicans, episcopal oversight means the bishop has a 'seat', a place to sit which we call a cathedral. Once again our local paper The Press brings the ongoing controversy over our cathedral to its frontpage. Anglican identity is being mixed up with local civic identity!

From a different perspective, Anglican identity is also bound up in answers to the question of access to Jesus. Recently here a very informed set of comments (to this post) touched on the 'presence of Jesus', how we discern it and how we experience it. Anglican identity is intimately tied to this question. Fostering notions of 'Real Presence', for instance, is integrated into notions of 'valid ordination' and thus to who the ordainer is, i.e. a genuine bishop or a (so to speak) imposter bishop - a question which arises as we debate the Anglican status of dioceses like South Carolina (i.e. the present bishop is properly Anglican, but will his successor be, etc).

But push 'Real Presence' theology too far (to say nothing of questions about valid ordination) and the question arises 'Why Anglican Catholic and not Roman Catholic?'

Of course these days some Anglicans are answering that question by moving to Rome. There is a robust honesty in taking that step. To not take that step, if one is arguing along Real Presence lines, must be to allow that some criticisms of Roman theology from the English Reformation still stand. That, logically, should mean that we value the place of Scripture as God's written Word in the life of our church, a place from which all claims we make in respect of custom and tradition are subject to the critique of Scripture. When, for instance, this Sunday coming we read Matthew 16:13-20, we concur that the rock on which the church Christ builds is as much the confession of Peter as Peter himself, and then we demur that Peter's role in the founding of the church is a primatial role.

But the confession that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of the living God confronts us with Jesus the one in whom God has become flesh (the insight of John's Gospel) and the one who conquered death and is alive for evermore (the witness of the New Testament). The presence of this Christ in the world today is mediated through the Holy Spirit. There is no church being built by Christ which has its foundation a correct interpretation of the eucharist. The only church being built by Christ has at its foundation a correct understanding of who Jesus is, an understanding, according to John's Gospel, which the Spirit teaches us.

Back to the question of Anglican identity. Somewhere in our debates about our identity appears to lurk a danger that we place an emphasis on the institution of the church (who correctly belongs to the correct Communion), rather than on the confession of the church, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Where that confession is, there the name of Jesus is embedded in the character of the church. When we gather in that name, Jesus is present among us (with or without communion bread and wine).

We could have a roll call at such a gathering and call out the name of Jesus. He would respond, 'Present and correct.'

What Anglicans are wrestling with as we consider the state and status of the Diocese of South Carolina is whether our 'Anglican' version of the church is based on confession and not institutional requirements, and thus whether that Diocese confesses with us what we believe and the peculiarity of how we believe.


Father Ron Smith said...

"What Anglicans are wrestling with as we consider the state and status of the Diocese of South Carolina is whether our 'Anglican' version of the church is based on confession and not institutional requirements, and thus whether that Diocese confesses with us what we believe and the peculiarity of how we believe." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

I suppose this question could be asked of the sub-sets of Christian belief at large, Peter. Why do we Anglicans claim to be different from, say, roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches?

What is it about our understanding of confessional loyalty - in each sector of the Body of Christ - that keeps us apart? I guess its called denominational loyalty!

Within each denomination there are other sub-sets of confessional type belief. When one part of the denominational family sets itself apart from the other parts, does it become an altogether new entity? I guess that's the real question to ask. Now, can it be answered within the parameters of your question here?

I suggest that, with the extant culture of unity in diversity that has long existed within the Anglican world, there has been no need, before, to separate one's-self out as being more 'orthodox' than the majority - yet still ranting to maintain identity with the larger family brand.

Perhaps,though, you may be right: in that the family brand seems to have been taken over by the conservative culture of the GAFCON Provinces - to which the former S.C. diocese and its Bishop now claim ax special affinity.

How does this help Anglicans to stay together?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
On the precise matter of South Carolina it is important to distinguish between 'GAFCON' and 'Global South.'

It is not repeat not GAFCON with whom DioSC is associating.

Father Ron Smith said...

A Freudian slip of mine, Peter:
" yet still ranting to maintain identity with the larger family brand." - FRS -

The word 'ranting' should have read 'wanting'.

re your response, Peter, to mine; respectfully; The 'Global South'
entity is not entirely dissociated from the GAFCON. I would like to be able to believe that their aim is different, but I have doubts.
I would like to be reassured that the G.S. enclave is open to real Eucharistic fellowship with other, non-Gafcon, Provinces.

Also, if SC is out of 'communion' with TEC, how does that collate with Communion solidarity?

Unknown said...

Hi Peter,
To me, the most important question
is as to whether,South Carolina is in Communion with Christ,who is the head of the Church.
So what, if it is out of Communion
Solidarity with an apostate and herectical TEC (USA),who have done everything possible to bring about their demise.
There is nothing in our Constitution about the Church being Episcopal.It is One,Holy,Catholic and Apostolic.
In fact,it is the the lack of Episcopal leadership that allowed
us to get into the mess we arte in.

Jean said...

Ka Pai Peter!

Indeed Christ as the cornerstone of the church, and I believe any church genuinely following Jesus and word should be the plumb-line for acceptance into any christian communion. And this the measure not only between Anglican organisations, but for fellowship between all christians. I know little about the fellowship of 'Real Presence' but that where two or three are gathered in His name there He is with them.

If South Carolina wish to be associated with the Anglican communion but are unable to do so outside of oversight by a larger body yet they do not agree with teaching present in TEC or vice versa seems to be contention as to which way this goes, surely their agreeing to do so via the Global South is a positive move?

Blessings Jean

liturgy said...

These are massive questions you are pointing to, Peter.

Is Anglicanism “mere Christianity” “without Roman additions or Protestant subtractions”? Or is Anglicanism a particular “flavour” of Christianity which suits a particular personality, cultural context, geographic location, or even to which God calls some individuals in the same manner that God calls others to another denomination?

Then you go on to “Real Presence” – good luck defining that! But define it, at least to some degree, one rightly must…

And from there you proceed to a very significant issue: validity. Here, I think, it is really counter-productive to be loose in one’s definitions, because we have inherited a Western tradition carefully distinguishing terms of “validity” from “licit”. And if you are not going to follow that majority understanding of those terms, you need to be clear you are using the terms differently.

One of our bishops, you will remember, suggested that ordaining someone in a committed same-sex relationship may possibly be “invalid”. Whatever one thinks of the ethics of those in a committed same-sex relationship, since the Donatist controversy, we in the West have been clear about the validity of sacraments not being dependent on worthiness [Article 26 for those so inclined]. I suspect that, rather than “invalid”, what was intended was the usual Western understanding of “illicit”.

So I do not see the question of orders of those Anglicans not part of the Anglican Communion as being about validity. Closer to home, for Anglicans Downunder, with the regular use of illicit ordination rites, it is above my pay-grade to determine whether any of those ordinations are invalid, and what might be done about that. I think that will require the establishment of a Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions. And the careful distinguishing of licit from valid, I’m convinced, will be central in such an investigation.



Peter Carrell said...

I am relying on you, Bosco, to answer these questions :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
I think it is a positive move.
I also think one can say that without constraining right to express disappointments that the Anglican/Episcopal situation in North America has become what it is and so forth.

Jean said...

Agreed Peter, I imagine there are those in TEC and SC sitting outside lawsuits and slanging matches, who are saddened by the rift, necessary or otherwise depending upon different viewpoints.


Zane Elliott said...

Hi Bosco,
I've seen you mention a number of times the 'the regular use of illicit ordination rites' - where have you seen this occuring regularly?

I've attended ordination services in the Diocese of Nelson, and the Diocese of Dunedin and in both places they were a copy and paste from the NZPB.

Zane Elliott said...

Hi Ron, regarding your statement 'respectfully; The 'Global South'
entity is not entirely dissociated from the GAFCON.'

Neither is the Archbishop of Canterbury. It looks like you're wanting to say that GAFCON affiliates are somehow not Anglican, whilst at the same time you point to a generous Anglican tradition of holiding together no matter one's churchmanship or theological convictions might be, why should that same generosity not be accorded to South Carolina?

Does inclusion not swing both ways, but only to the left? It seems to have swung in the direction of New Hampshire, but can't be extended to South Carolina....

Father Ron Smith said...

One BIG difference, Zane, is that the Diocese of New Hampshire never left the family of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. thereby causing schism. S.C. did just that.

Zane Elliott said...

Ron, are you serious?
New Hampshire elected a bishop they knew would cause schism at a time the rest of the Communion had agreed to continue Indaba.

But, you still haven't helped me understand why SC can't be accepted as authentically Anglican, but New Hampshire can.

the only thing that has changed in SC is their provincial oversight. What has changed in their belief or practice? It's not like they are saying Mass instead of using the BCP.....