Thursday, April 2, 2015

Anglican Future Conference Report (Part Two)

Continued from Part One posted yesterday ...

There were other plenary sessions along with a plethora of competitive yet competent working groups addressing particular concerns that had drawn participants to this Conference. For us as NZ Anglicans our ‘moment in the sun’ came in a plenary session which, to this participant’s perception, highlighted differing perceptions of our local situation. 

Former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, led a 90 min. pastiche of live and taped video interviews with church members around the world who were facing difficulties in remaining loyal Anglicans. For many, pressure upon them to conform to liberal-minded local church agendas meant the prospect of separation was the only way forward. In this context four NZ attendees were invited to describe difficulties faced by evangelical Anglicans in their country. The introduction and the specific questions put to them – and even the responses they then gave – suggested a dire situation. One Vicar and his parish (represented on the platform) had already withdrawn from the Church; others, we were informed, are in the process of making their decisions. Other Kiwis present, however, were not of the same mind about the direness of the situation for ACANZP. For them, talk of departure is premature when decisions have not yet been made by ACANZP’s General Synod.

The NZ crisis is potential, but not yet immediate. It concerns the Church’s recognition (and blessing) of same sex marriages, a provision already legislated for by our Parliament. Our General Synod has set up a ‘Working Group’ to prepare recommendations as to what proposals should be brought before it to consider - and if supported, authorize – when it next meets in May 2016. That committee is yet to report back to the whole Church to provide opportunities for parishes and local diocesan synods to consider and debate its proposals before that General Synod meets.

One working group took up this issue for New Zealanders in more detail, but its title indicated its assumptions: ‘Deciding when to stay or go.’ Contributing to this group Australian Peter Adam, a former Principal of Ridley Theological College, was a calming voice pointing out that history showed that separating churches or new denominations are not guaranteed great success or greater doctrinal purity. We all live in the same world, with the same dilemmas before us. [Ed: for more on Peter Adam's approach, see here.]

But for Australians it was clear this kind of crisis was not their priority - or even for them a threatening concern. They were more troubled about the state of the Anglican Church in their country and its need for change if it is to successfully evangelise a new generation.  The nature of most of the working groups reflected this. How does one plant a new congregation? What are the obstacles hindering this? How can an existing church be turned around? What opportunities do social media present for reaching through to an otherwise unreachable age group? Discipling new believers. Gender issues in Australia. Rural ministry challenges. The future of dioceses.

One evening meeting was devoted to setting up an Australian branch of the FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) to promote orthodoxy in the wider Anglican Communion and to offer support to those who for whatever reason are forced to withdraw from their dioceses while still considering themselves Anglican. It could not have been a long or contentious meeting as the launch took place standing up, following Sung Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral!

Over all, the Conference was marked by measured presentations, the absence of histrionics or hyperbole, the platform contributions of women, respectful listening to others, and the high quality of the lead speakers. Out of all this a consensus could be sensed that liberal theology, and parish ministry based on this, was a dead end; and that there was a need to bring our whole Anglican Communion, beginning with ourselves, back to its reformed Anglican roots, based on the primacy of Scripture in telling our story and determining our future.

Brian Carrell


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish the comment you have submitted here.
1. It misunderstands the report which quite clearly says that a range of opinion was present at the conference from both sides of the Tasman.
2. By framing discussion of the report in terms of 'schism' your comment misunderstands the deep anguish some members present at the conference (but not all) feel about whether they can stay in this church.
3. You may not like a critique of liberal theology in our church but I suggest it is precisely a critique of that theology which this church needs at this time. When we are closing churches, merging parishes, and generally worrying about the age of our active parishioners it might be time to pause and ask ourselves whether theology has anything to do with the situation or not.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm not surporised that you didn't print my critique of the Second Report on the FOCA Meeting in australia Peter. It did question the loyalty of New Zealanders present to the parent Church, and that would not be convenient, would it?

I am curious, though, about the reason for which you have rejected my critique,

You say: " When we are closing churches, merging parishes, and generally worrying about the age of our active parishioners it might be time to pause and ask ourselves whether theology has anything to do with the situation or not."

It appears, from this statement, that you would lay the apparent retreat of the Church at the door of 'liberal theology'. However, it might just be the possible irrelevance of radically conservative and dogmatic theology that is emptying our churches!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is not only inconvenient but downright rude to question loyalty of colleagues when they have given no grounds for the question to be raised.

I did not lay the retreat of our church at the door of liberal theology. I said that it was time to ask whether it might be part of the problem.

One reason for asking is that for many decades and across most of our dioceses the hegemonic theology has been liberal not radically conservative or dogmatic.

It would be interesting to see contrary evidence that this has not been the case.

Bryden Black said...

Many thanks Peter for running both parts of this report. Having been a priest of the Diocese of Melbourne for 13 years, I can well imagine the diversity present - as I can too the lack of women represented over all.

The crux was always how to evangelize the next generation, to plant sustainable communities of Christian Faith in secular, post Christendom contexts. And to note carefully the cultural sensibilities behind the Christian Liberal tradition's rise and fall.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am prepared to publish part of your latest comment but only part because the unpublishable part strays into unwarranted and unhelpful ad hominem territory.

"I would have thought, Peter, that the mere presence of New Zealand Anglicans being present at a GAFCON-based FOCA conference - where the objective of meeting should be obvious - would have raised questions about their feelings about how ACANZP is managing its advocacy for a more inclusive Church policies.

GAFCON & FOCA are self-advertised in the Anglican Communion by their rejection of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada - and now the Church of England - be their piratical incursions into the jurisdiction of those Anglican Communion churches.

It seems that there are members of our own Church (and the Christchurch Diocese) who are seeking advice on how to get around their own disaffection with ACANZP. This would seem very much like disloyalty to me. I'm sad about it. But if the trajectory of ACANZP does not suit certain members of it, they should make their voice heard on General Synod, [OMITTED]"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
The partial comment published above is in error in various ways:
1. The Anglican Future Conference was focused on the future of Anglican churches in Australasia, a future which FCA Australia wishes to contribute to, a future which is about how Anglican churches in these islands stop losing grounds to incursive secularisation and to renew/revive with evangelism and restored Anglican core values and principles. Your characterisation of the conference around GAFCON/FCA is neither fair to the content of the conference nor to the organisers of the conference.
2. Many people in our church, well beyond the forty or so who went to the conference are concerned about 'how ACANZP is managing its advocacy for a more inclusive Church.' Trash talk us all you like, but we are a substantive group - possibly even a majority - and some civility and respect might help conversation within our church.
3. Yes, people within and without our diocese are concerned that ACANZP might reach a state where there is much 'disaffection' and thus much concern about how we work around that AND REMAIN IN OUR CHURCH. If there was no such concern in our church, then why do we have a Way Forward group? If there is no such concern in our church, why didn't GS last year move straight to resolving to bless same sex partnerships? Answer: because there is concern.It is you who are out of step with GS and its admirable care for all in our church; not those who went to the conference.
4. 'Disloyalty' in this situation is not a helpful word. Every conservative member of ACANZP I know will comfortably stay in the church without disaffection let alone without working out how to remain in this church with disaffection if the status quo re marriage and blessings remains. Quite how "I support status quo" equates to "disloyalty" is an unfathomable logic on your part. It is like saying that someone who disagrees with John Key about changing our flag is a disloyal Kiwi. Nonsense!!!

Father Ron Smith said...

" Quite how "I support status quo" equates to "disloyalty" is an unfathomable logic on your part. It is like saying that someone who disagrees with John Key about changing our flag is a disloyal Kiwi. Nonsense!!! - P.C. -

Peter, when the 'Status Quo' involves the retention of unjust structures, do you not believe that there should be some changes made to improve those things?

After all the Church Catholic has moved on some such unjust structures before in its long history. Why should we suddenly refuse to budge on a matter that has universal implications for the common good?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is not 'disloyal' to stick with the status quo when one does not believe that the issue being raised by the side seeking to change the status quo is a matter of justice before it is a matter of truth.

You may disagree and dispute those who do not agree with you as much as you like but it is not a question of disloyalty. With one exception: if our church is a dictatorship and the dictator's views are your views, then, yes, disagreement is disloyalty.

As far as I know, you do not favour our church being a dictatorship and thus you must not - logically - accuse those who do not agree with this or that proposal of 'disloyalty.'

Father Ron Smith said...

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

MichaelA said...

"Peter, when the 'Status Quo' involves the retention of unjust structures, do you not believe that there should be some changes made to improve those things?"

Excellent point, Fr Ron. Many in FCA would agree with you. :)