Friday, April 22, 2016

Authentically Anglican?

The second of two FCANZ conferences has led to a media release from FCANZ which indicates that the conferees stand in solidarity with the West Hamilton Community Church, a congregation which formerly constituted the bulk of the West Hamilton Anglican parish in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.

In the release (and its heading) the WHCC is described as "authentically Anglican."

On the one hand, we can understand the sentiment here: an Anglican congregation finds itself dissonant with the polity of the ACANZP (as WHCC did after the passing of Motion 30 in 2014) and leaves ACANZP and begins a new, independent-of-a-bishop life in a new location while continuing to believe what it has always believed and to practise what it has always practised. In ways marked by confession of faith, by custom of liturgy and by ethos and outlook, WHCC is authentically Anglican.

On the other hand, the phrase "authentically Anglican" as used here begs a number of questions about what it means to be authentically Anglican because "Anglican" speaks not only of what a distinctive group of Christians believe and practise as a congregation but also of how that group of Christians organise themselves as a church, as a set of congregations. Cue talk of bishops and synods, of constitution and canons, each of which aspect expresses the character of Anglican churches as continuous with the ancient church which found itself, post the apostles, continuing the ministry of apostolic leadership through bishops, synods, and formal rules which bound Christians into "church" rather than not-church.

As I currently understand WHCC's situation, it is a congregation without a bishop and without adherence to an Anglican synod.

Now, read me carefully, please: I do not consider WHCC to be authentically or inauthentically Anglican at this point in time in respect of relationship to a bishop and to a synod.

Simple charity and tolerance in our thinking should allow for this to be an "in between" time for WHCC while ACANZP works through its current situation at the end of which there may be an ACANZP which WHCC feels they could contemplate rejoining or an ACANZP which means that WHCC is joined by other "former parishes" or ... hypothesize your scenario! That is, it is early days for WHCC to work out how it might yet be authentically Anglican in respect of being joined with other Anglican congregations under a bishop and bound together in a synod.

But implied in my argument that now is an "in between" time is the point that sometime in the future, the description "authentically Anglican" will lose currency when applied to an independent congregation if it does not become part of an Anglican ecclesiastical polity. (As indeed has happened to the St John's Vancouver congregation of which David Short, also mentioned in the media release above, is minister: having left the Anglican Church of Canada, they are now part of the Anglican Church of North America).

A related general point re Anglican congregational life in NZ

There is a further point I feel bold to make, while thinking about "authentically Anglican", prompted by travelling and passing a church sign along the lines of "St Swithin's Community Church" [I don't know of any actual "St Swithin's" in NZ, so no critique implied if there is a St Swithin's hereabouts!]. A number of Anglican (and other denominational churches) in recent times have headed in this direction re public declaration of identity as a church. The driving force is missiological: how might our church best connect with people in the local community? Not by use of words such as "Anglican" or "Methodist" which (a) are incomprehensible to a post-Christian community, and (b) may be off-putting to the odd transitioning Christian without denominational allegiance looking for a new church.

But I wonder if the ecclesiological consequences need some theological discussion? Once I understand myself congregationally as belonging to "St Swithin's Community Church," do I not distance myself from the underlying Anglican polity of St Swithin's (the one to which, in actuality, the minister and office-holders of the church are legally bound) and (unconsciously) prepare myself to support the congregation leaving that polity if (suddenly, surprise, surprise) the congregation realises that the somewhat distant-to-them Anglican mothership is heading in an uncongenial direction?

Now there is a theological discussion to be had on this matter, both deep and wide.

Many Anglican parish churches (whatever their public nomenclature) are now gatherings of an eclectic range of denominational backgrounds.

- What does "Anglican" mean in this situation where a significant portion of the congregation has no particular loyalty to Anglicanism as "character" or as "organisation"?

Many parishes are struggling to connect well to their local communities and the "Anglican" character of their congregational life can raise sharp questions for minister and vestry as they engage with what their mission is.

- What does "Anglican" mean in this situation where the community shows no particular signs of being drawn towards Anglicanism as a form of Christian life?

That is, at a point in the life of ACANZP where we are contemplating one of the more significant questions of our life as a "church" (how do we decide things via canon/formulary? might we organisationally stay together or walk apart as a result of a decision or decisions soon to be made? does our constitution even permit us to make decision or decisions some are pressing GS to make?) we also have a significant question about our life as a "mission" (how should we be known in the community? what frankness do we have as a body of Christians as we disclose/obscure our underlying commitments and institutional loyalties? what is the character of Anglicans-in-mission and is it different to the character of Anglicans-in-church?)

Of all the things the 21st century is saying to the church in the world, the clearest message is this: we can only be church when we are church in mission, there is no either/or and we should not think and act as though there is.

What is ACANZP and its many hued congregations of varied names to do?

Answers in comments, please! 

And hurry, we do not have much time ...


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter, for keeping all in touch with all these happenings and helping us to begin to reflect on them.

Following your helpful links, one finds that Rev. Michael Hewat (Senior Minister of West Hamilton Community Church) is also a member of the Board of FCANZ. In some sense, then, this is a circular “definition” of “Anglican.” The Board of Confessing Anglicans includes someone who is not part of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (I could use your words – or those of Brian’s – but they would not be my approach). The Media Release then, to be clear, has the Board honouring a member of the Board, with FCANZ recognising this with acclamation.

As one reads on through the linked information, one also finds that Rev. Michael Hewat is on the executive of Latimer, an organisation that declares itself “proudly and authentically [there’s the word of the week] Anglican.” And Rev. Michael Hewat declares his being on that executive as “holding [an] office within the Province” (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia). [Remember it is Latimer that is on the name of a petition mentioned on this site, by the vice-president. Let’s not list off the different names of our church, but merely add “the Province of Aotearoa-NZ and Polynesia” from the FCANZ site to the ever-growing list.]

You have already indicated, Peter, that the West Hamilton Community Church judges that seceding from a Church that has passed Motion 30 is more “authentically Anglican” than having a bishop. And FCANZ has now formally recognised this as an “authentically Anglican” response, and put this out as a significant media release.

You indicate that the West Hamilton Community Church “believes what it has always believed and practises what it has always practised.”
What liturgy is it following? A New Zealand Prayer Book? BCP? Which lectionary?
How is it offering confirmation?

On its website (let’s leave to one side the quality of the site) the first thing a visitor encounters (actually the main thing) is an advertisement for a Staff Vacancy: Assistant Minister (let’s leave, again, that applications for this position concluded on 6 November 2015). This is a curacy position open to someone who “need not be from an Anglican background” but leading to “move into a senior role, either at WHCC or leading a new church plant.” To me, that sounds like an ordained position. Without a bishop, how is it anticipated to fulfil ordination (with this being well after 6 November 2015, perhaps that question has been already answered)? The point of my question is how would you anticipate the reaction of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia if a bishop from another province acted to provide ordained ministry within our shores? [Or to confirm].

I'm fascinated, of course, to hear the answer to my liturgy questions. The bigger picture, to me, is that this is all beginning to have a USA/Canadian deja vu feeling…

Easter Season Blessings


Malcolm said...

Dear Peter,

You speak of being authentically Anglican as involving Anglican practice and polity, concluding that WHCC occupies an "in-between" state at present.

I would also add the relational term, recognition, as an important element of authenticity. The question is not so much, what is the essence of Anglicanism?, as it is, how do we recognise one another as Anglican?
Who is authentically Anglican? Do we have to wait for the ABC office to declare them to be such? The GAFCON Primates are saying that there is more to being authentically Anglican than obtaining recogition from an Archbishop appointed by a former-colonial, secular, western government.

When it comes to recognition, there can be no in-between state: either you are recognised or not. FCANZ recognises WHCC as Anglican, as does the GAFCON Primates. That our province does not recognise WHCC says just as much about our own marginal status as Anglicans as it does them.


Father Ron Smith said...

"On the one hand, we can understand the sentiment here: an Anglican congregation finds itself dissonant with the polity of the ACANZP (as WHCC did after the passing of Motion 30 in 2014) and leaves ACANZP and begins a new, independent-of-a-bishop life in a new location while continuing to believe what it has always believed and to practise what it has always practised. In ways marked by confession of faith, by custom of liturgy and by ethos and outlook, WHCC is authentically Anglican." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Well, Peter, "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a parrot without a beak, what is it?".

That seem to fit the description of this fledgling - EXCEPT, that it now has official links with LATIMER, FoCANZ and GAFCON. Sounds a wee bit like that other etiolation: ACNA, whose archbishop, I noticed, is now counted among the 'Primates' of GAFCON. How authentic is that? It must feel very brave of LATIMER to take a dissident Hamilton parish under its fluffy wing.

It must be a wee bit embarrassing for the GAFCON lot, not having real affinity with the Province of South Africa - which seems to want to continue into a future existence with the See of Canterbury, Mother of us all.

And now, as I see from the Statement of the GAFCON SEVEN - including the Primate of ACNA - FoCANZ has become part of its tentacular hold on its own variety of 'authentic Anglicanism'. Into the valley of ? rode the 500 ?

Father Ron Smith said...

"FCANZ recognises WHCC as Anglican, as does the GAFCON Primates. That our province does not recognise WHCC says just as much about our own marginal status as Anglicans as it does them." - MalcolmFalloon -

It seems to me that, as ACANZP has no official ties with GAFCON or any of its affiliates - all of which have been 'raised up' over the last few years without any official recognition by ACANZP - whether a new (unofficial) organisation, unrecognised by ACANZP - like FoCANZ, can make ANY official statement on behalf of the New Zealand Anglican Church, must be in the realms of fantasy.

Until ACANZP officially recognises GAFCON, ACNA or FOCA, to publish their maunderings as 'Gospel' or even authentically Anglican might just be inflating their sense of self-importance.

The Light of Christ remains undimmed in ACANZP.

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Malcolm. You have made a vow of obedience to your local ACANZP Bishop. Is that now less important than your alleigance to FOCANZ & GAFCON ? Just asking.

Malcolm said...


I don't believe I mentioned my allegiances in my comment, so I am surprised that you might wish to speculate as to their nature. Just saying.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I am making a presumption that a once was Anglican parish in ACANZP continuing to be authentically Anglican outside of ACANZP continues its general liturgical practice. Of course confirmation is a problem for them, but it is not necessarily a problem to not have confirmation ... Quite a number of parishes in ACANZP these days do not have confirmations (for lack of confirmees).

I make no presumptions however about ordering of ministry at WHCC and they would need to answer questions about what a "minister" means in this in between time. (In such a situation, of course, WHCC could choose to appoint an already ordained priest, thus incurring no controversy about a bishop from another jurisdiction coming to NZ to ordain).

But the general point in your posts remains as a sharp question about "authentic Anglican" when there is no bishop overseeing the so described authentic Anglican church.

Peter Carrell said...

HI Ron
I get the feeling that if this was the late 1520s in England and you learned that Henry was thinking of seceding the church in England from the canons and constitution of Rome, you would have been a staunch and resistant Romanist!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
Yes, recognition is important, but it only goes as far as the proportion of recognisers goes.
If (say) 10 provinces recognise X as an authentically Anglican entity and 28 do not recognise, what kind of authenticity is that?
All X can claim is that some provinces recognise it as authentically Anglican.
If, on closer inspection, X, turns out to be missing some features us ordinary folks take to be sine qua non of being Anglican (e.g. Using a recognised (!!) Anglican liturgy, living in canonical obedience to a bishop) then surely all the talk in the world about recognition as authentically Anglican wears a bit thin, and is not made thicker by repetition.

I deeply disagree with your account of the ABC because it gives no recognition at all of the historical significance of that office for the Church of England and all churches deriving from her. It is a grave mistake in Anglican ecclesiology to treat the ABC disrespectfully and I trust your casual treatment of the ABC's importance in you comment is merely a piece of casual, temporary flippancy.

Malcolm said...


I can always be guilt of flippancy in unguarded moments, but I don't think I am in this case. I would argue that my remarks as to the limitation of the ABC's office within the Anglican Communion are widely held, and largely predate the present Communion crisis.

But more immediately, the Jerusalem Statement, in response to the breakdown between the Primates and the ABC over the invitations to Lambeth 2008, declares: "We can only come to the devastating conclusion that ‘we are a global Communion with a colonial structure’."

Neither is my comment "casual" - I happen to agree that such a conclusion is "devastating". And the failure of the Communion to adopt the recommendations of the Windsor Report and the proposed Anglican Covenant has left us without remedy. Hence the move to form the GFCA by the GAFCON Primates.

You may find it disrespectful to the historic office of the ABC, but unless we recognise the post-colonial context in which this current debate is occurring we will seriously underestimate the strength of feeling in the Global South.


BrianR said...

I imagine some of Bosco's questions about WHCC can be best answered by people there. I would only add that there is a growing phenomenon in England at least of new, self-described 'reformed evangelical' churches from an Anglican background starting up, usually with ordained Anglican clergy and meeting sometimes in historic Anglican churches, sometimes in schools and leisure centres. Most significant has been the Co-Mission Network in London, planting churches mainly in Southwark diocese, where the prevailing ethos has been liberal catholic. Co-Mission famously (or notoriously, depending on your point of view) called in a CESA bishop to ordain clergy for its church plants when the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, refused to do so unless Co-Mission first paid into diocesan funds - an act that led Bishop Butler taking away the licence of the Co-Mission leader until he was overruled by Rowan Williams. I don't know how they relate now to the official Anglican hierarchy, but the origins of this movement are certainly Anglican, as they are in Sheffield, where Christ Church Fulwood is busy church-planting, and in Newcastle, where Jesmond Parish Church is opening other churches in that city, as well as 'birthing' Christ Church Durham (in the old Claypath URC, that Peter may know of).

BrianR said...

This is how Christchurch Durham describes its links with Anglicanism: through FCA, not the Diocese of Durham. I don't think the diocesan hierarchy welcomed the foundation of this church (built on the foundation of Bob Fyall's work as a URC minister and OT lecturer in Durham) because of its conservative views on 'headship' and the 'competition' it offered to St Nicholas' Church (where George Carey was vicar). Nonetheless, it seems to be doing well and drawing in a good number of uni students and training young people in ministry.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
I accept your remark was not flippant, and I apologise for calling it that.
I remain in deep disagreement, however, with characterising the ABC in the way that you did, albeit recognising that such description has a substantive "post colonial" argument behind it.
The structures of the Communion still have colonial overhang but we can work on those without framing our understanding of the ABC's office in the way GAFCON does.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
Yes, I once worshipped at URC in its URC past (hearing Charles Cranfield preach, as I recall), and more recently walked past the premises in its new authentically Anglican guise, but not one that moves me in anyway. Durham had and continues to have a perfectly viable evangelical Anglican Church, St Nick's, and in good heart when I worshipped there last year. The worst feature of the authentic Anglicanism you refer to in England is its superiority complex about offering a better and more pure evangelical way. I have no particular regard for that aspect of FCA.

WHCC is in a different situation (as of course with much of ACNA): being Anglican but finding itself squeezed and pressured by the church to which it belongs making changes it cannot in conscience go along with.

Father Ron Smith said...

"WHCC is in a different situation (as of course with much of ACNA): being Anglican but finding itself squeezed and pressured by the church to which it belongs making changes it cannot in conscience go along with." - Dr. PeterCarrell -

I noticed, Peter, circa those comments from others on the acceptability of other quasi-Anglican foundations in the Church of England (e.g. the 'co-Mission churches'and AMiE); that you mention WHCC, here, as being: "pressured by the church to which it belongs (ACANZP) making chnages it cannot in conscience fo along with".

I'm not exactly sure what 'pressure' our Church exerted in a single Hamilton parish that 'forced' it to leave our Church when every other parish did not succumb to that 'pressure'. Was it from the local diocese, or from our Church at large?

This question is very important because one wonders if something has been going on on ACANZP that most Anglicans here are not aware of, that ought to be brought out into the open.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
No hidden secrets to reveal here.
I am talking about the pressure of being in a church contemplating making disagreeable changes.
WHCC chose to respond to that pressure by departing.
Other parishes have not chosen to go but I would not judge WHCC for choosing to go when they did until I knew more about what was going on for them as a congregation.
I do not think you realise how antithetical some congregations feel towards ACANZP at the moment, e.g. For even contemplating making a change. Nor the pressure those congregations place on their ministers who are torn between their calling to pastor the congregation and thei commitment to ACANZP.
As non-vicars do you or I have the ability to understand what life is like for some of our priestly colleagues who are vicars?