Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Addendum to my "Way Forward" Part 4

In a post below, Part Four of my "Way Forward" series, Malcolm Falloon responds to my proposal with some important criticisms, which I will respond to here in a series of comments. My attempt here is to respond constructively because I think some issues are finely balanced in terms of what is the right/wrong/helpful/unhelpful way to move forward, so I am less interested in rebutting what Malcolm has to say and more interested in furthering discussion, to which other commenters may like to contribute ... my comments are in italics.

From Malcolm Falloon:


I disagree with you on the viability of using the recent changes to how services are authorised to bring about the compromise you propose. Among other things, it would be destructive of good order to bypass Part G, section 4 of the constitution on what has proven such a controversial issue.

Comment: it would be destructive of good order if a resolution of our church fostered the controversy rather than settled it. The point of what I am proposing (or indeed of any proposal that GS on all our behalfs might agree to) is to settle the controversy rather than deepen it. So my question would be whether in this specific, distinctive, even unique matter of controversy, might it be a good thing to "bypass Part G, section 4"? 

Your proposal also seems to hinge on a distinction between doctrine-as-enshrined-in-the-formularies and doctrine-as-expressed-in-the-church's-worship: formulaic doctrine as opposed to permissive doctrine. That is too subtle for me.
Whether General Synod changes its doctrine of marriage (which it seems reluctant to do at present) or redefines the church's understanding of chastity (as you propose in your clause 3), both involve changes to the doctrine expressed in the fundamental provisions of the constitution.

(1) On the distinction between "doctrine-as-enshrined-in-the-formularies and doctrine-as-expressed-in-the-church's-worship: formulaic doctrine as opposed to permissive doctrine." My point here is that I consistently hear the anxiety of colleagues concerned that they may, in accepting a licence to minister, be required to sign to believing doctrine they do not agree with. Avoiding the doctrine/formulary route is, in my view, a way round this particular difficulty. A related point is that already our church grants "permissive doctrine" in the sense that it permits military chaplains to bless warships, clergy on St Francis' Day to bless pets, as well as giving clergy the option of blessing the remarriage of a divorced person or not. In principle and in practice, there is a distinction of the kind Malcolm describes as "too subtle" already at work in our church.
(2) There is indeed an issue about whether any change to which GS might agree on these matters is, or is not, a change to "the doctrine expressed in the fundamental provisions of the constitution." On this matter I suspect Malcolm and I would agree that no commission/working group/chancellors' advice to date has given a satisfactory response!

As an aside: I consider these two alternatives to be mutually exclusive: if you extend the doctrine of marriage (as proposed by the Working Group), you don't need to change the definition of chastity; if you change the definition of chastity, you can not but diminish the doctrine of marriage. If the church effected both changes at once, the church would be left with a nominal doctrine of marriage that was only a matter of personal preference.

Comment: Indeed!

You ask me for a better pathway. The only viable pathway, in my view, involves structural change and constitutional revision. We should not be under any allusion that accommodating such a compromise will involve far-reaching changes. I am less certain, however, that we have the collective will to pursue such a course.

Comment: in which case, for those who disagree with me, and especially from a conservative perspective, could we please have, whether from an individual theologian such as Malcolm, or from the Latimer Fellowship or from the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, a proposal or proposals to consider, digest, improve through discussion and then submitted by 1 October 2016!



Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, in view of the fact that the Church already allows for the Blessing of Pets on St. Francis' Day, or the Blessing of a Battleship, willy nilly - without any particular formulary being imposed - could we not be allowed to Bless Same-Sex committed couples, with precisely the same lack of formulary?. Or do animals and weapons of war have priority over the recognition of loving, faithful human relationships?

Peter Carrell said...

That is a question, indeed, Ron, and I would be interested in responses to it, because I suspect both "conservative" and "liberal" views feel they have something to say ...

Malcolm said...

Dear Peter,

You want conservative voices to suggest possible compromise proposals, and yet, in order to do so, we must ignore the independent course that our Church has been pursuing to date.

For I am in agreement of with the Windsor Report which argued that the principle of subsidiarity requires that this issue be solved at a communion level. Once that is achieved, it would empower provinces and diocese to find local solutions. This was the approach that settled the Women’s Ordination issue and the Communion held together.

Rather than look for precedence in blessings of battleships or conscientious objectors, the Windsor Report suggested that way the Communion dealt with Women’s Ordination is a far better example. But in order to do so with the current issue, the Windsor Report recognised the need for an Anglican Covenant, something our General Synod has rejected.

So, having rejected a potential Communion solution, our General Synod hopes to find a compromise in another direction. It wishes to turn from the Communion to the individual conscience: what can the individual live with and tolerate for the sake of unity.

But this approach will not succeed, for it is already based on implicit division. As someone who grew up in a parish with a strong connection to NZCMS, how can I agree to any proposal that would immediately divide me from churches for which I have prayed all my life?

My solution would be for General Synod to only move in coordination with the wider Communion and not to attempt to highjack the process. That General Synod left the Working Group proposal lying on the table was a positive step in the right direction, in my view.

General Synod must resist those voices demanding urgent action, but think carefully about how their decisions affect the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council; all of whom are working hard to find a generous solution.

I see the formation of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in New Zealand as partly a call to take the wider Communion more seriously, particularly the contribution made from the Global South churches. I can’t speak for FCA, but any compromise proposal that did not take into account the implications for the wider Communion is hardly likely to appeal to its members.


Father Ron said...

Malcolm, you seem to be confusing the current situation of our post-Covenant Communion relationships with what you still seem to presume to be ACANZP's need to comply with the culture of every other Province. It may have escaped your attention that we are an independent Province, with our own constitution and polity and, therefore, capable of making our own decisions. We are not bound by either GAFCON or FOCA in our way of being Church. We have made our very own contributions to the diversity that the Communion Churches have taken on board - at least in those forward looking Provinces that are au fait with the realities of modern life.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
I am all for a Communion-wide solution and I know that you are not alone in our church, nor are evangelicals as a group in the life of the church alone, in wishing and working for a solution in our church that enables us to continue to walk together as member churches of the Communion.

Nevertheless, I wonder if the mind and mood of our church as a whole through these years is really, really open to waiting for a Communion wide solution. Haven't we committed ourselves to finding our solution by 2018, and doesn't that (or shouldn't that) push evangelicals to contribute specifically to the current process in terms of some steps our church is really open to enacting?

Malcolm said...


The idea of our Church being committed to a set time-frame, even before it has begun the process, is completely bizarre. I am all for timely action by General Synod, but let the timing of decisions emerge out of the methodology and not be artificially imposed from without.

It was only in January that the Primates unanimously committed themselves to “walking together, however painful this is”. Yet you dismiss this way forward because of your perception as to the “mind and mood” of our church. Even if your perception is right, we should not acquiesce in it, but call our church back to a more united pathway.

Two of our Archbishops were present at that meeting and participated in the solemn agreement. I presume they were sincere in doing so and not merely duplicitous as is the North American fashion. So why has our General Synod given them so little regard? Are their words to be empty and without honour? Why is our church so quick to resort to unilateral action, when the Primates have called us to engage in conversation and have warned against taking “unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity… that threaten our unity”?

So Peter, no, I don’t feel pushed to offer a solution that is already to my mind premised in division. But I do feel compelled to work towards a communion solution however painful that might be for our church.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
I understand the Primates' Meeting's conclusion a bit differently to you. I take the walking together, even if it is painful, to mean a commitment to walking together knowing we are in different places. Before the Primates' Meeting our church had demonstrated (GS 2014) that is was heading towards SSB and had also demonstrated that it was most unlikely to hold back on getting to SSB because that would put it out of step with a majority of the Communion. The same GS 2014/Motion 30 also demonstrated a commitment to not get as significantly out of step with the majority as TEC, now Canada and, I can't keep up, Scotland also?, have done, by signalling that we were also committed to a traditional doctrine of marriage. I can think of no point where our GS has recently said (2012, 2014, 2016) that it is committed to a Communion solution. What our Primates agreed to was something in keeping with what we are keen on in ACANZP, that we walk together with all our differences across the Communion (and so we remain in communion with TEC and Uganda, Canada and Australia, etc).

So, while I respect your specific entreaty that, notwithstanding what our GS has not signed up to, we might sign up to patient waiting for a Communion-wide solution, I still call on conservative Anglicans, especially those at GS 2016 itself, to contribute to the sought after compromise, not least because the GS was resolved to provide yet two more years for a compromise to emerge. If conservatives at GS are not willing to engage in a compromise for this church why did they not say there and then that they are leaving?

Perhaps I have misunderstood GS 2016 completely! My understanding is that the Synod finished its (long, days long) deliberations with a shared resolve to find a compromise for presentation at 2018. My plea is simply this: that conservatives do not passively wait for others to make proposals but that they/we make proposals too.

Please, please, someone at GS 2016 tell me that I am on the wrong track OR tell me that you are working on your own proposal for contribution in the process!

Malcolm said...

Peter, I am only attempting to explain why your brief proposal will not work.

In my view, any compromise must meet two conditions: it must be consistent with our existing constitution and it must be in step with the wider communion. I am fully aware that powerful voices pour scorn on both conditions – but that just shows how far apart we are as a church.

Your interpretation of the Primate’s statement is too thin. Why would they sanction TEC and then warn, “We will develop this process so that it can also be applied when any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity are taken that threaten our unity.”

Yes, of course I know its not legally binding on GS, but surely, at the very least, it’s worth discussing as a way forward? After all, our Archbishops pledged their word – surely a point in its favour!


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
Yes, I see what you are saying but my response continues to emphasise the following matters.
1. SSB but not SSM is, arguably, consistent with our constitution.
2. The Primates Meeting sanctioned TEC because it committed to SSM and, key point, avoided sanctioning Canada which had more or less sanctioned SSB but not SSM (at that stage, of course now Canada has joined TEC re SSM ... Or will do so after confirmation in two years time).
That does not mean my compromise will work, e.g. 1 above is arguable and not certain.
I suggest a further point at this time to consider is this: if we continue down the path we are heading in (SSB but not SSM) we likely will get to a point the Cof E will get to also. In which case we will be in tune with the mother church of the Communion, and the Communion itself will need to reckon with being in communion with the ABC and the CofE!
So, I remain interested in hearing from other conservatives, especially those who were at GS 2016, exactly what they are proposing for consideration by 1 October this year.

glen said...

Hi Peter,
Perhaps the first issue which needs to be addressed in regards to
changing the Constitution lies in whose Church we consider it to be.Does it belong to God or man? Who is the head of it? On whose Doctrine is it founded and empowered?
The church has always had the power to decree Rites and Ceremonies, and authority and controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's word written, neither may it so expound one place of scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and keeper of the Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of Salvation. Art. 20
The underlying tenant of modernism seems to be the elevation of man into the drivers seat. Here he is seen to possess the right and power to make and alter many determinations that belong in the heart of God.
Some of Christ's sayings were described in the scriptures as being hard and many people went away sad. Accepting these hard sayings is part of what Bon Hoeffer referred to as costly grace. Keeps us away from what Dr Hort referred to as 'Jesus worship' (a perverted and sentimental devotion to our Lord, not as the revelation as His Father and not at one with Him, but as a tender and not too exacting saviour who will be a refuge from His Father's Holiness and Justice) - Hort, Life & Letters Vol. 2 pg. 49
Regards Glen

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
It is God's church and God is merciful and fair.
Something which does not seem fair in the current debate is that the load of "hard teaching" which needs to be observed by Anglicans is loaded onto one tiny group while the majority have opportunity to marry and even when that fails to marry again.
Is the God of our church both hard and mean?

Unknown said...

Hi Peter
Yes, I agree that it is God's Church, established by Him to serve His form and sake. The fundamental provisions of the Constitution of the ACANZP quite clearly define the doctrines of the church in this Province. I would suggest that any priest or ordination applicant who cannot accept the doctrines as outlined in the Fundamental Provisions should simply leave, find a church which suits their beliefs or form a church of their own.
The Doctrine as outlined in the fundamental provisions cannot be altered to accommodate them.
The God of the Scriptures and therefore the ACANZP is both Merciful and Just. I question your inclusion of the word "fair" which is not an attribute applied to God in the King James Scriptures. It would appear to be a humanistic and emotive expression bandied about by progressive liberals when they have no scriptural basis to their theological arguments.
The Ever Loving Ever Merciful and Ever Just God who paid the ultimate price (in the life death and resurrection of His only begotten Son) for our rebellion and sin; has imputed the Son's righteousness onto us repentinant
sinners, so that we can stand before Him in the Son's Glory.
God created in perfection. Man destroyed that perfection by his rebellion and sin.
Many things, including sexual desires contrary to His Ordained Order, in this broken world; are in human terms "not fair". But through the Holy Spirit, Christ empowers us to lift ourselves above our brokenness and become partakers in His and Glory.
Please don't ask me to answer the impossible humanistic question as to whether God's Will is "fair". I accept that it is loving merciful and just or God would not be the God of the Scriptures and our ACANZP Church.
Regards, Glen