Friday, September 26, 2014

Can I be bothered?

There was a time here on ADU when I got quite bothered by what ++Katharine Jefferts Schori was up to or whom or which diocese she was down on. Now that she is likely not seeking re-election as PB of TEC (noting Preludium's astute point about the fine subtlety of her precise words) I find myself not much bothered.

I am wondering why!

Possibly it is because my previous bothering was linked to the future of the Communion, a future which ++KJS (and other like-minded leaders) seemed intent on driving towards a specific, and to my mind uncongenial character. (Anglican Curmudgeon has a post on the 'unraveling' of the Communion which is worth a glance at this time.)

Now, I wonder whether the Communion is so fractured, its nets torn and frayed, its warm bonds of affection cooled to the point of freeze that the future of global Anglicanism lies elsewhere than in a TEC-shaped Communion.

Where the else is, I am not sure. Quite possibly with the Global South movement.

Perhaps also my lack of bother is due to the pressing concerns of our own church in the South Seas. We face our own fractures unless we - better the Spirit of God - can persuade ourselves that we can find new paths for remaining together in the face of considerable diversity. (Behind that sentence lies a longish paper which one day may see the light of day here).

One of the contributory causes of our pressing concerns is the example of TEC. Under ++Katharine's presidency it has failed - in my view - to show the rest of the Communion how to live with diversity of approach to controversial issues. Consequently, down here, Down Under, I worry that fellow Kiwi Anglicans assume there is only one way to incorporate the blessing of same sex partnerships: at the expense of those who disagree. Hovering over our church at this time of Motion 30 seems to be the spectre of TEC: 'as they have gone, so must we' lurks in the background of some conversations.

I reckon we can find another way. There is a win-win way forward. All may stay, none need go. Where TEC has gone, we do not need to go.

I can be bothered fighting for the future of ACANZP!

PS Here is the most adulatory commendation of the PB you could imagine yourself writing.

PPS Can any American readers enlighten us on trouble at the General Theological Seminary? The staff are on strike!


Kurt said...

This strike is news to me too, Peter. I was just there using the Library a few weeks ago and there was no hint of anything like this. I will see what I can find out.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

Re Anna's commendation: I sense a wee bit - just a wee bit - I did mention a wee bit? - of Church history might, just might, be in order ...

Kurt said...

Hmm. You do know don’t you Jean that every national Anglican church has evolved from its own experiences, and has developed its own traditions? The American Episcopal Church has always been far more influenced by Latitudinrian theological liberalism, than say, Australia or New Zealand—two Evangelically-founded churches which arose long after Latitudianarianism’s eclipse. Historically, in fact, the beginnings of TEC as an independent Anglican province in 1789 could be said to be have been brought about as a compromise between Low Church Latitudianarins such as Bishop William White and High Church Catholics represented by Bishop Samuel Seabury. For American Anglicans, Evangelicals were largely out of the picture, having departed with the Methodists, or the most Calvinist-minded having joined the Presbyterians. This was before brick was cemented on brick in either Sydney or Russell.

I wonder Jean, if you had lived in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, how you would have related to the predominate Latitudianarianism of the era? Long before Anglicanism came to Australia or New Zealand, many Low Churchmen were influenced by Dieism, rather than by Evangelicalism. This included prominent Americans like George Washington, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson and others who all had some some connection to the Anglican Church. In fact, first American congregation to become Unitarian was the King’s Chapel, Boston in 1787, which had been (prior to the American Revolution), the Court Church of the Royal Governor of Province of Massachusetts Bay.
You may have found the late eighteenth century TEC far more “distressing” than it is today!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jean said...

Hey Kurt

Yes definitely if Deism (that God is reduced to a higher power and is not seen as active and working in the world today) was prevalent in the late 18th century in TEC I would indeed have found it most distressing : ) ...

I did have to look up Latitudianarianism! I think I wouldn't have had too much of a problem with this in the 18 th century with it's emphasis, "their stance was that human reason is a sufficient guide when combined with the Holy Spirit for the determination of truth in doctrinal contests".

It is only in latter years that the meaning of latitudinarism has changed to mean "indicating a personal philosophy which includes being widely tolerant of other views, particularly (but not necessarily) on religious matters.".

Our church history is indeed young and comes mostly from England, Ireland, Scotland and Australia (although we may not admit the last one : ) ) but we are not so different from the TEC in structure (e.g. diocese with bishops, elected clergy, independent synod) or official standing. Looking at your current core foundations they pretty much match those of the Anglican Church here:

The center of Episcopal teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[84] The basic teachings of the church, or catechism, include:

*Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God. He died and was resurrected from the dead.
*Jesus provides the way of eternal life for those who believe.
*God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit, are one God, and are called the Holy Trinity ("three and yet one").
*The Old and New Testaments of the Bible were written by people "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." The Apocrypha are additional books that are used in Christian worship, but not for the formation of doctrine.
*The two great and necessary sacraments are Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist.
*Other sacramental rites are confirmation, ordination, marriage, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
*Belief in heaven, hell, and Jesus' return in glory.
*Emphasis on living out the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor fully, as found in the Gospel of Matthew 28:18 - 20[85]

The full catechism is included in the Book of Common Prayer and is posted on the Episcopal website.[86]

The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way.

Alongside the statement:
"The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.[3]"

I guess my challenge to you is whether there is difference between being widely tolerant of all views re religious belief, and embracing those beliefs as truth - especially within a Christian church which holds to scripture and apostolic tradition.

If Jesus did not rise again, if He is not the son of God, and if I am not prepared to believe his teachings, and to be able to say to others this is what I believe:
"I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me."
"Jesus died once and for all for the forgiveness of sins, one for many so all might be saved."
"I am the resurrection and the life"
"If you believe in me you will not die but live"
"If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord you will be saved."
I truly do not think I have any reason to be a Christian.

I am making an assumption here, but such belief also comes across strongly in the very admirable history of the TEC through such voices as Martin Luther King Jr, especially in the book of sermons, Strength to Love.

Blessings Jean

Kurt said...

“Looking at your current core foundations they pretty much match those of the Anglican Church here.”—Jean

Of course, you are quite right Jean; our foundations are very much the same, and I didn’t mean to imply that they were not. My point—perhaps badly made—was that Latitudinarianism and Deism have a history here (and in Britain), whereas they are absent as influences Down Under. Latitudinarianism was far more influential in TEC 200 or 300 years ago than it is today. However, I think that this history is a central reason why we are more tolerant of clerics such as Bishop Spong (and Bishop Pike), for example. Or why we are less uncomfortable around theologians such as Marcus Borg. We’ve heard it all before. They don’t disturb or scare us as much as they do others whose provinces have had different histories. (Remember, the African and Asian provinces, by in large, are even younger than those of Australia and New Zealand!)

“I guess my challenge to you is whether there is difference between being widely tolerant of all views re religious belief, and embracing those beliefs as truth - especially within a Christian church which holds to scripture and apostolic tradition.”—Jean

Yes, I think that we can accept differences without embracing them ourselves. We are grounded in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith. If we believe, as Christians, that the nature of God revealed in our Savior is that God is Love and that as the Messiah, Christ is Love Incarnate—Deus incarnatus—certain understandings follow. For example, when Our Lord says “I am the way the truth and the life,” I believe that Jesus’ message is that Love is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Love is the only way that one comes to the Father, and is a free gift of His Grace for all those who seek it. Who is to say that a Buddhist, a Jew, a Moslem—or even an Atheist—cannot receive Grace? It is His (through Christ Jesus) to give to any seeker of the Truth.

My conception of the Christ is that He transcends all human-imposed boundaries. So while the Creeds, for example, are important in that they outline or summarize some basic understandings, this is only the beginning, just the first step. We are empowered through our Baptism to be Holy Instruments of the Divine Love of God. It’s how we as Christians show God’s Love for others that is important. Jesus did not come into the world just to save Christians—but to save all of creation!

I frankly admit that I’m uncomfortable with certain strains of Christianity that only focus on the self, rather than on the individual as part of a much greater community—indeed, as part of the worldwide family of humanity—as caretakers and co-creators with God. Therefore, I don’t believe that salvation is achieved by assenting to a particular, exclusivist, and theological belief system. “Doing the right thing” in Love is more important to me than “thinking the right theology.”

Yes, Jean, doing theology is more important to me than thinking theology. Or, back to the spirit of the school of St. Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This is far more important to me as a Christian than merely tolerating other views.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jean said...

Hi Kurt

Thank you for your thought provoking response.

Yes we did inherit forms of the CofE at different points in history. I am not sure about Africa and Asia though? Didn't the gospel first come from these areas to the UK?

Latitudinarianism in it's modern understanding is reasonably prevalent within the church(es) here both in terms of clergy and lay people. We don't have Spong but we do have Geering who is almost identical to him theologically.

Admittedly such teachings or held beliefs disturb but not scare me.

My interpretation of Jesus and God's love is similar but subtley different. Yes God is Love and the Love of God is shown in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, however, central to my belief is that love is realised in His death and resurrection. Hence, me being disturbed when I hear of teaching within the church which professes He never rose or it Jesus was not God's chosen instrument to profess this Love.

I am with you on Love in action verses multiple theological debates, however, I do think to a large part stems from what you believe. Mother Teresa didn't one day decide to minister to the poorest of the poor, God called her through a vision. She maintained the only reason her work would succeed was because it was not hers but Jesus's.

Coming to Jesus to me goes hand in hand with a life transformed by the knowledge of what he did on the cross and how now he lives as Lord of all. When I first returned to the church (which happened to be Anglican) I was a rather shy person (Peter may wonder at this : ) ). One day I sat at the back of a very small gathering at an evening healing service gathering up the courage to walk past 'all these people who must be wondering what is wrong with me' to the front to receive prayer. With the huge amount of faith I had I prayed well Jesus IF you did die 2000 years ago to forgive sins and then you took the consequences of those sins and I no longer need to pay for them. Not really wanted to explain this to those praying for me I just said pray for my emotions (internally saying to God you know what I am on about). Before that night for nigh on 30 years since the age of about 4 I had carried an emotional pain but it had real physical manifestations I lose count of the times I would have prayed before that 'God it hurts so much please take this hurt away'. God did that day. Why then I do not know. But I walked away knowing what Christ did on that cross was real.

This and other examples since are what fire my passion for wanting the power and reality of Jesus's death and his living today to be known and taught.

It is through friends of Budhists and Hindu backgrounds and their own experiences, one whom I knew and loved before they became a christian, which have convinced me further of love Jesus as the way. Shortly after the person had became a christian I asked (being naturally curious) so why? Why change? "Don't you see he said it is like I did something wrong and instead of me paying for it my brother took the punishment." Okay not a fair question to ask when someone is crying.

It is through these most humble of christians that I was introduced to the asian world where evil spirits (the kind you read of in the bible) are not a Halloween trick but a reality in their cultural life. When carrying out missions to other cutures it is just a regular thing in their mind to 'cast out a demons'. They knew of their existence long before they became followers of Jesus.

Here I talk too much again,

Go well,

Kurt said...

“Here I talk too much again, “

Not at all, Jean! Your testimony to the saving power of Jesus’ Love is, I’m sure, a boost to all of us who comment here.

“Coming to Jesus to me goes hand in hand with a life transformed by the knowledge of what he did on the cross and how now he lives as Lord of all.”

When I read your words above, I think of the Cosmic Christ, who as irresistible Love, governs all things in creation—in heaven and earth, all things known and unknown. I don’t think anyone could have said it any better Jean, than you have here!

“Ultimately, however, central to my belief is that love is realised in His death and resurrection.”

Certainly, the Resurrection is central to our Faith. The Holy Scriptures, from St. Paul’s writings onward, provide much food for theological thought and speculation. But, quite frankly, I do not know of any leaders of the American Episcopal Church who deny Christ’s Resurrection, as some have charged. Believe me when I say that I have looked. Plenty of different theological ideas, theories, speculations, etc., yes. Some of these theories and speculations I agree with, some of them I do not. But denial of the Resurrection, no. Not from Spong, not from Borg, and certainly not from Jefferts-Shori.

I don’t have to agree with everything that someone writes to object when I think that their views are being misrepresented. Of course, others must draw their own conclusions from the same materials, but frankly I don’t see what some TEC critics claim to “see.” Partisan bickering is not “proof” of anything, as far as I’m concerned. Neither are accusations and insults “proof” of anything. For example, some Evangelicals have been accusing the American Episcopal Church of sliding into Unitarianism for more than 225 years—ever since the King’s Chapel, Boston left our communion in 1787. Yet TEC is still here, as Trinitarian as ever. If you don’t believe me, just ask an American Unitarian! Don’t get me wrong, I love my Unitarian friends. But they know just how absurd such charges are.

Your experiences with Buddhists, Hindus and others from different religious backgrounds have no doubt helped you to witness to Christ in a way that does not demean or lessen their own faith traditions. God’s Truth is Truth, whether from the lips of Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Jews, Atheists, etc. Whether or not they “believe” in Jesus, Our Savior certainly believes in them.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Kurt said...

For folks who are interested in the goings on at the General Theological Seminary in NYC, Andrew Gerns has a report which has initiated a good discussion at the “Episcopal CafĂ©” website:

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Kurt
An utterly rational explanation of an apparently emotional turmoil!

Jean said...

Hi Kurt

Thank you for your gracious response : ) ...

Yes my experiences with those of other religions and atheists (actually I don't personally have a lot of christian friends, there seems to be a gap in my age group!); has enabled me to respect individuals even as I witness about Jesus. This also enables a number of interesting debates and discussions along the way. After all I like anyone can only be a witness, if conversion is real it comes through the Holy Spirit. I definitely agree God loves all people no doubt, my Budhhist friend who was concerned after becoming a christian about whether or not God would abandon him hear an audible response, "I have waited for you for 30 years I am not going to let you go now!".

As for Spong, I didn't realise his contention was more did Jesus rise physically from the dead, or in a sense with a spiritual body (a debate which could be an endless one). Geering from NZ is far more frank and denies the resurrection completely reducing christianity to a nice set of values. A greater detriment to the christian faith.

As for Jefforts-Shori I do not know so much of her background and belief. What I have been able to find I would only say I would disagree wtih her on the subject of all Faith's lead to God. I do know though, that many other christian's hold this position. It is only through my conclusion from studying the underpinnings of other faiths and my friends from other faiths who have talked about the 'darker' side to their former religions which often go unreported in western countries, that has re-inforced my belief in Jesus and the only way to God.

Actually when I was young I prayed in a Budhist temple to God that perhaps just perhaps all religioins led to Him because I desired it to be so. Unfortunately my desire didn't make it so. But I trust in God's mercy and it will be Him not us that know final outcomes.

I am sure there is a lot of misunderstandings about TEC not least because we do have a tendency to judge an group by leaders, and the media exacerbates this by focusing on controversial quotes Also the differences in culture. For example here in NZ we would be shocked if churches were involved in legal battles against one another, whereas I guess legal disputes are more common in the US.

So Kurt keep up the good work in educating us about what the TEC really stands for : )

God Bless,

TrevDev said...

“We face our own fractures unless we - better the Spirit of God - can persuade ourselves that we can find new paths for remaining together in the face of considerable diversity.”

As you know, I am exercised over the same matter and haven’t given up hope, continuing to post about it on my tjm2014 blog. I think, though, that we need to be clearer about what we mean by “remaining together in the face of considerable diversity”. The word “diversity” is at present a red flag to most conservatives because it seems to be a banner waved about by many progressives to bypass the need to engage deeply and thoughtfully with conservative views.

I think that we (conservatives and others in the Anglican Communion), need to agree that acceptance of diversity regarding anything but true adiaphora is a rueful acknowledgment of the inadequacy of our minds to fully understand the mysteries of God, coupled with a realistic confession that we are all sinners whose pride and human preferences are likely to distort our hearing of the Word of God. We therefore accept such diversity as a temporary necessity this side of heaven, but we don’t give into it. We must jointly recognise that there is one God and one truth in God, and our heart’s commitment must be to convergence toward that truth, not ever-fracturing divergence.

If however by “diversity” we mean an attitude that consigns all differences to the category of adiaphora, conservatives will never agree. Let’s have a better definition and all sign up to it.