Monday, March 13, 2017

Good disagreement or good discrimination? [Updated]

There is a row going on in the dear old CofE.

I have yet to read anywhere that this row is due to the dear old CofE's continued and persistent refusal to permit a modicum of democracy in their oligarchical CNC appointment process for bishops. Why can the CofE not have diocesan elections for bishops like the rest of the provinces they once colonised? Is democracy too new for the CofE to get its head around? Actually, despite the fact the democracy is quite ancient - thnx Greeks - anyone also watching the blathering and blithering of the Blairs, Majors and what have yous about resisting the referendum will of the people to Brexit, can quite understand that English-culturally the CofE is unable to accept democracy into its midst!!

For those not following the current life of the CofE a week or two back the row has been thus:

(1) Philip North, a suffragan bishop was announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield
(2) People objected strenuously, led by Martyn Percy (see below for example of a Tweet from him - examine his Twitter feed etc), because Philip North has public views about the nature of priesthood.
Summarised his views are: women can't be priests or bishops, they just can't.
In case you ask, there is a capacity within the CofE to have suffragan bishops who believe North believes because suffragan bishops are not quite the focus of unity that a diocesan bishop is.
(3) Some people, including women bishops plaintively reminded everyone that the CofE had agreed a few years back to Five Principles in order that everyone, for and against the ordination of women as priests and bishops, could mutually flourish.
(4) In administrative speak, Philip North's appointment was just an implementation of the policy.
(5) In Sheffield it was not seen that way, least of all by women priests there, not feeling particularly keen - understandably - to have a bishop who did not think they were priests.
(6) Everyone, natch (naturally), said that Philip North is a top bloke, fine priest, real concern for the poor and downtrodden, will be great in every way except re ordaining women, etc.
(7) Unfortunately a legitimate questioning of whether such an appointment really, really could lead to mutual flourishing, to say nothing of unity in a diocese, got overlain with personal abuse of Philip North.
(8) Late last week Philip North announced that he would stand aside from the appointment.
(9) Natch everyone said they were praying for Philip North and sending him nice cards.
(10) Also natch every pundit expressed their views (see Thinking Anglicans here and there and over there).
(11) I am a pundit so here is my ...

Actually, first up, three views from three English pundits, one of whom takes one of the others to task: Elaine Storkey, Jeremy Pemberton and Savi Hensman. These give a flavour of the post-stepping aside debate which is more or less about "What is the CofE becoming?"

In a pithy phrase or two, Martyn Percy offers the core of his concern: the CofE can be a church with good disagreement in its midst but it cannot be a church with good discrimination [against women].

There is also an astute question about the actuality of the CofE implied in an observation in this post by Janet Morley:

"If traditionalists and the rest of the church are now equivalent groups, then the Church of England has effectively agreed that it simultaneously does and does not recognise the validity of the ordination of women as priests and bishops and the sacraments they celebrate. This is either a total incoherence or we are now not a single Church at all but an ecumenical partnership."

Probably we need to say "partnerships" plural! We certainly have a few of those, formally and informally, in ACANZP ...

UPDATE: Here is a slice of Philip North's own views of how things might have worked out when he addressed clergy in the Sheffield Diocese before he made the decision to withdraw.

Here are my views. If you want to comment on the first three, please do so. DO NOT COMMENT on (4) - post Lent we can come back to that and expand upon it.

(1) I am amazed as a Down Under Anglican that I have yet to find a word written about the CofE's appointment process which denies full synodical involvement of dioceses in the appointment of their diocesan bishops. Would it not make a difference if the Diocese of Z, in full democratic, electoral synodical mode had elected Philip North, knowing his views etc, but definitively determining as a whole body that he should be their bishop?

(2) I am on the side of those in this particular CofE debate who see mutual flourishing as possible in many spheres of its life but not in the appointment of diocesan bishops who do not recognise women as priests or bishops. A diocesan bishop is a focus of unity. When a diocese has women priests how can they and those who believe they are priests unify around their diocesan when he does not believe they are priests? In theory it is possible for unity but the question is begged by such appointment, and also by Philip North's own remarks, linked to above, What if the clergy and laity of the Diocese are not united in receiving such appointment? (Cue my remarks about the importance of elections over appointments).

(3) Thus I am forced by logic to ask whether ++Sentamu and ++Welby have made a mistake in permitting this appointment to be announced? Did they not think - thinking men that they are - that this would inevitably lead to a lack of unifying reception?


(4) Even a lowly technician within the rocket science industry can see implications from this debate for the You Know What future ... here I simply acknowledge that. Post later in April or May about that. Do not comment, do not imply in your comment ... "DELETE" is the moderator's option!


Bryden Black said...

Peter; I would only refer ADU readers to:
A thoughtful, helpful article by Martin Davie.

And while this latter by Ian Paul of March 3, 2015, is filed under “Sexuality”, despite our ‘Lenten fast’ his three concluding points, which cover BOTH “women in leadership” and ‘That Topic’, are right on the money and so also very helpful.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryden; and note to potential commenters here:

I am publishing Bryden's comment (just!) because it points away to other sites.

If you wish to comment on what those links raise, comment there, not here ...

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, I was going to comment that your following comments are peculiar: "What if the clergy and laity of the Diocese are not united in receiving such appointment?" and "Did they not think - thinking men that they are - that this would inevitably lead to a lack of unifying reception?"

ANY candidate for bishop will have that effect, because there are a significant number in CofE who think that Philip North should be bishop of Sheffield, just as there is a significant number who think he should not, as well as a great many nuanced views in between those two extremes.

There is disagreement at all levels within the CofE. Face it. And no, holding an election for bishop doesn't make the candidate any more representative than an appointment. It just gives not so subtle encouragement for one group to say to the others, "shut up, you lost".

But then it occurred to me that even this would violate your strictures about restricting debate from anything to do with your fourth point. So, forget I wrote anything. ;o)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
(Will save up any implications of your post re ... for a later date).
Yes, reception in relation to unity is challenging, and possibly my comments are naive.
So I would nuance things by saying "reception is not necessarily about unanimity because that might lead a minority to hijack a specific proposal, holding out for ever until consensus is achieved" but I think reception could be about a strong, robust, large enough minority to move forward on a specific proposal.
The point of an electoral college is then that (1) opportunity is given a Diocese to not proceed if agreement cannot be secured on a bishop who will unify (see various electoral synods in ACANZP that have not proceeded, including one just under a year ago); (2) opportunity is given in debate to canvas all known issues about the possibility that X or Y or Z will be the next bishop.
As I best understand the English system, a handful of Dio reps joined with a handful of national appointees to form the nominating commission, a relatively small number of people to constitute a group to discern the mind of a whole diocese.

Andrei said...

In general in times of debate if an otherwise qualified candidate can be excluded because of his position on that debate the debate is then effectively decided

But what is extraordinary is that Anglican Bishops who do not hold to the fundamental tenets of the Nicene Creed have ascended to the Episcopacy while individuals who strongly espouse the Faith of our Fathers are treated with suspicion and in that the writing is on the wall for Anglicanism

BrianR said...

"But what is extraordinary is that Anglican Bishops who do not hold to the fundamental tenets of the Nicene Creed have ascended to the Episcopacy while individuals who strongly espouse the Faith of our Fathers are treated with suspicion and in that the writing is on the wall for Anglicanism"

But it's been that way for a long time, at least in the dying wreck that is TEC. Spong and Schori point blankly contradicted key doctrines and denied the Bible without ever being disciplined.

The CofE created the current mess by its de facto doctrinal change that stigmatised opponents of women's ordination as holding a belief that made them ipso facto unfit to become bishops, i.e. they are heretics. At the same time it declared - absurdly in its so-called 'Five Principles' which are *not 'Principles' but a jumble of descriptive comments - that Anglicanism, along with the RCC and Orthodoxy has the 'Historic Episcopacy'! This is palpably untrue: just ask the RCC and the Orthodox if they believe this.

The politicians of the CofE clearly hoped that opponents of WO would go away or die - and they have been successful to some extent in that wish - but only insofar as the CofE continues to die.
There is no place left for traditionalists in the CofE with its self-replacing liberal leadership; and this was clearly planned by the refusal to allow the creation of a Third Province to which traditionalists hoped to belong. Instead they were offered crumbs or shown the door. The debacle in Sheffield was entirely predictable.

BrianR said...

Gavin Ashenden shows that two versions of 'Christianity' are really at stake here - the Progressive 'Jesus comes to improve you and bring in a kinder social order' versus the Traditionalist 'God becomes man in order to save you from damnation' - in other words, a political vision which is really anthropological versus a spiritual-religious vision.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, as one of the few (if any) Anglo-Catholics commenting on your web-site, may I say that my view of +Philip North's situation is that he is not a modernist (reformed) A.C. but rather, a mixture of the catholic genus.

When he was in charge of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, he backed the position of never allowing a woman priest to celebrate Mass at the Shrine. His view on women priests is not too different from the perennial Roman Catholic stance - except that, in the new situation of the Church of England - with women priests and bishops - he affects to 'work together' with women clergy, but without accepting their ontological ordination. How is this to be reconciled?

One of the problems is his membership of the 'Society of SS Hilda and Wilfred' an esoteric 'catholic' society within the Anglican Church, whose eponymous co-patron, Saint Hilda of Whitby, exercised a great deal of power in the English Church of her day, including through her rule as Abbess of a joint monastery of men and women at Whitby.

His refusal to ordain women, or to accept their ordination, is a conundrum that not even the Church of England ought to be loading onto the Anglican Communion as a model of the episcopal role.

Most Anglo-Catholics who refused to cross the Tiber on the ordination of women in the C. of E., do not question the need for +Philip to resile from the See of Sheffield. Most wonder why it was offered and accepted in the first place. Short of a special diocese for anti-women protesters being raised up in the C. of E., one wonders where +Philip could ever flourish as a diocesan bishop - except, perhaps. in the 'Ordinariate'. But would even Rome accept him?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian and Ron
Between the two of you one could be forgiven for thinking that Philip North should swim the Tiber and Gavin Ashenden should head for Geneva, forthwith!
I think the CofE is more complicated than a binary X and Y struggling for its soul.
Yes, politics is going on but Gavin A seems oblivious to the fact that the CofE (in Reformed form) was founded on the twin pillars of Henry VIII's politicking and Cranmer and co's theologising.
Who is the Cranmer of today, where is Hooker and who will play Elizabeth I holding everything together?
Otherwise, it will fall apart.

BrianR said...

"Gavin A seems oblivious to the fact that the CofE (in Reformed form) was founded on the twin pillars of Henry VIII's politicking and Cranmer and co's theologising."

C'mon, Peter, you can do better than that tabloid (or 'Tablet') stuff!
No church of any stripe was ever founded absent some kind of "politicking".

I've come across Gavin Ashenden only once, many years ago when he was in full-bore progressivist mode. His switch to his present viewpoint is nothing short of Damascene - and equally unusual. I find him a compelling read because his grasp of doctrinal and historical issues puts him head and shoulders above most voices in the CofE and certainly most bishops, few of whom have much historical and theological heft. His comments, e.g., on the Quranic fiasco in Glasgow which cost him his (meaningless) honorary chaplaincy to the Queen, showed a level of theological perceptiveness (and courage) that no bishop in the CofE expressed. In this respect Ashenden is like the much more academic Gerald Bray - another bĂȘte noire in the established church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
Yes, Gavin has an interesting and laudable back story and I salute the CofE for having folk such as him and Gerald Bray involved.
Of course he is too intelligent and learned not to know about H8 but I think his article might have conveyed greater appreciation of the political nature of the CofE, even in its DNA, alongside his right concern to challenge the CofE to be theologically correct more than politically correct.
I remain unconvinced by his binary analysis of situation the church is in.
Not least this is because, as best I can tell, if a section of conservatives left because they discern that non-believers in women's ordination are not really welcome, then a whole bunch of other conservatives will remain.

BrianR said...

Oh, I think he's perfectly aware of 'the political nature of the CofE' and the fact that we inhabit two cities in this earthly existence. What he says is that the 'social justice/equality' model of what it means to be a Christian has, in western Anglicanism at least, swamped the notion of the church as a Divine Society. His latest piece in Cranmer where he dissects Martyn Percy's 'relativist absolutism' goes on to state that Philip North's sin - in the eyes of those who attacked him - was to affirm what all Christians affirmed until the rise of Karl Marx. In its understanding of the Church, the great scandal is that the Bible is not much interested in "social equality" - a very modern idea. Oneness in Christ does NOT mean equality, it means ..., well, Oneness: the different parts (Jew, Scythian, Greek, barbarian, male, female) belonging together as one.
If God has made us 'male and female' and 'gender' (actually, sex) isn't a 'social construct' (the Marxism of the very expression is palpable) but part of who we are made to be, then at issue is Creation and the New Creation in the Divine Society ordered by the dominical word - something completely silent in the rhetoric of the 'social equality' advocates.
We know exactly the trajectory the liberals want to take Anglicanism on. It is based on abstract principles of what being 'human' means, not the concrete words of Christ and his apostles, who, in good old Hegelian mode, were children of their time and could not transcend history.

Anonymous said...

If Bishop North simply believed that the C of E had done the wrong thing in ordaining women as priests, there wouldn't be a problem; but that isn't how it is. Those who have taken refuge under the wings of "The Society" are to all intents and purposes saying to the rest of the C of E, in effect, "We're valid - you're not", and are now dishing out so-called "Letters of Welcome" which amount to certificates of validity. This isn't about disagreement any more. -- Steve @ Archbishop Cranmer

Angry peasants with bloody pitchforks do stink. But is the case of +Philip North a plausible test of the provision made for the vast majority of opponents of the ordination of women?

Bowman Walton

BrianR said...

I don't understand your question, Bowman. What are you saying? That opponents of WO are not wanted in the C of E by the ruling class, except as subservients? or what?

MichaelA said...

HI Bowman, I also do not understand your comment. Every person on earth believes that their beleifs are valid, and that those which contradict them are not.

And that was known when the bishops of CofE talked about "mutual flourishing". The real issue now is whether those words have any meaning (or eve rdid).

It is undeniable that there are (a) people in every diocese in the CofE who are against Womens Ordination, just as there are (b) people in every diocese who are for Womens Ordination.

What we now see is that those in group (a) can have a bishop foisted on them who disagrees with their views, whereas those in group (b) are protected against that. That's surely simple enough to understand.

MichaelA said...

Ah touche, Peter.

I thought I had foiled you, but your riposte defeats mine - Yes, I have to concede that by any reasonable standards the CofE process for choosing bishops is extremely opaque and non-representative.

Bryden Black said...

This thread is developing into a very good and interesting discussion IMHO. Yet I also sense we are not yet asking quite the right questions; that is, we are yet to get our angle of approach more focussed.

For example, I really do not think “democracy” has much to do with it - in the case of the Christian Church. True; “reception” does arise, having some involvement; yet that merely alludes to matters of discernment and processes to achieve the same. For at root: WE ARE DEALING, AS EVER, WITH AUTHORITY.

And this is the case with WO, episcopacy, ‘That Topic’, whatever comes our way in via as the Pilgrim People of God.

For example, synodical government and democracy in these Fair Isles. Recently, Miss Tiddlepush from Middlemarsh expressed views which merely displayed staggeringly poor and inadequate Christian Formation. She was in reality your classic Marcionite. Yet she has/had both a voice and a vote in our local diocesan synod. And judging by the sorts of affirmative type noises during here speaking, a good number of synod members quite liked her position. Meanwhile, I myself (and some others), while remaining in active ministry, have seemingly a voice but certainly no vote. Democracy? Fiddlesticks! And what sort of witness?!

So; whatever the actual means of episcopal appointment and/or selection among the AC (Sheffield, Wellington, or Don Tamihere, the new Pihopa o Te Tairawhiti), whatever the decision regarding WO generally (to say nothing re ‘That Topic’ until after Lent), and to broaden the matter out further to make the central point, even our brothers and sisters of the RCC in the local Diocese of Christchurch are still without a Bishop as the matter sits more with Rome—all these moves are simply a function of authority. And where there’s such essential disagreement, given the basically illogical nature of the means of approach, it is little wonder we have the current chaos in the CoE ...

The life of the Church is a function of both the political and the theological, as well as other factors (Jaroslav Pelikan isolates four such factors overall in his Part II of Credo, “The Genesis of Creeds and Confessions”, being “exegesis, prayer, polemics, and politics”, each being the respective focus of the subsequent four chapters in Part II). That is to say, the Divine Society that constitutes the Church, “the first fruits of the new creation”, necessarily resorts to the issue of authority in its decision making. Yet the very form of that authority, to be properly and duly that of this Divine Society, needs to conform to and be formed by - and if necessary be reformed according to - the nature and form of Him who is truly the Head of that Body Politick. Just so, Phil 2:1-13, Mark, John, 1 John, Ephesians, etc. It was NOT a coincidence that The Windsor Report opened with an extensive examination of that Letter to the Ephesians, just as it also devoted some attention to “reception”. But from what I recall, there was no mention of democracy as such, and much to do with authority and its due expression and legitimation. So; what might indeed be ahead for the dear old CoE, our own ACANZ&P, and the AC generally? If we do not address adequately the right questions/issues, there’s little hope for anything but chaos ...

So; thanks Peter for a great Lenten meditation! Joel 2 strikes again, in all its parts, I hope.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Recent Commenters
(1) Let "democracy" be expanded to "the ability of the churches in a region to discern the authoritative lead of the Spirit via participation in discourse and election [voting] through appointed clerical and lay representatives acting on behalf of the people of God." Given that a church such as the Anglican church = dioceses = multiple ministry units, it is reasonable to have processes of discernment for (e.g.) bishops which involve representative participation from all such ministry units. The shorthand for that is "democracy." I fail to see what is problematic about such ecclesial democracy in relation to "authority." Even the Pope is elected democratically by an electoral college. Oh, wait, possibly stacked in its representation by the previous pope ... is that the democracy which is better than Anglican synodical government????
(2) Bowman's question is quite appropriate and relevant: the hoo-ha [controversy] over Philip North's appointment is a controversy over a specific set of views about women's ordination, a controversy notably absent from the appointment of Rod Thomas as bishop [albeit not as a diocesan]. Thus Bowman's question reasonably asks whether the present controversy is a guide to the general flourishing of all those who object to the ordination of women?
(3) The situation in the CofE is not a set of mirror images: here a non-WO bishop is foisted upon WO parishioners and clergy, there a WO bishop is foisted upon non-WO parishioners and clergy. The commitment of the CofE is to ordain women as presbyters and bishops. No bishop supporting that commitment should be any kind of imposition on non-WO parishioners and clergy. Such a bishop is simply living out the commitment in general of the CofE to women's ministry flourishing via ordination. Philip North is a bishop without a share in that commitment of the CofE and thus appointing him as diocesan is an oddity relative to the general polity of the CofE.

Bryden Black said...

Re your (1) Peter: you completely bypass my point. It's a matter of competence, of by what authority does Miss Tiddlepush actually represent the Christian faith?! You are being completely blinded by the sort of "equality" talk against which Brian is railing. And so I ask again: what has democracy got to do with anything - in the Christian Church?! True; what have UK Prime Ministers either?! What grants them 'competence'?!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Yes, I overlooked that but I am happy to comment!
(a) Are you suggesting (something like) competency-in-doctrine tests for those who would represent us at synods and General Synods?
(b) Is not the point of three houses of bishops, clergy and laity that between the houses good (doctrinal) sense will prevail? One a check on the other two; two unable to bully the third into submission?
(c) If not the "democracy" to which we are committed, then what should prevail? A council of the elite, theologically-competent? An executive of the Spirit-filled? To be Anglican is to be very careful about leaving matters in the hands of a small group, is it not?

It is not that I do not share you concerns about how authority is exercised, and that ecclesial authority should be godly authority in several dimensions. I do. But I am wary of bypassing our constitutional process, fraught though it may be with members who have imbibed the spirit of the age.

Bryden Black said...

The not unimportant point about Anglican notions of authority is indeed its “dispersed nature”. Yet, once we say this, we’ve to examine those loci among which we find authority and note their legitimacy.

You address something of this when you speak of those three houses of bishops, clergy, and laity. Another old tried and tested route of Anglican authority is to speak of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. And as we both know, some nowadays add Experience to that mix, as if Hooker were the inventor of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral - not created by John Wesley however! Yet we’ve to go further than that, and note that Hooker’s notion of Reason is most certainly not that of the Enlightenment, but more akin to Aquinas’s use of reason. Nor are those three loci equally (sic) weighted, as so many today try to suggest. Scripture held the primary focus of authority for Hooker. BUT today’s postmodern variety would seem to be a full-blooded dose of ‘experience’ ... Listen to any of our debates ...

And so, as for synodical authority, it may only work well in those settings where the populace is indeed a formed Christian body. One look at many a gathering nowadays - among TEC Conventions, among ACANZ&P’s GSs, let alone the local variety - and I have to seriously bemoan our chronic state. But that shld not really surprise me when I see how leaders are selected and trained. The ex PB of TEC is truly a classic case in point. Nor does our local scene escape scot-free. [Sorry Peter! But there really is something utterly, chronically sick at the very heart of our national institutions of Christian education and formation ...]. And if them, the shepherds, how may the sheep become anything more. That is why the recent history of say the TEC Diocese of South Carolina is so crucial an example. And, to revert to your original topic, note how the “populace” have behaved in the case of Philip North ... The massive cultural shifts from the 19th C when synods were introduced to our own day are just that - massive. And poor Miss Tiddlepush, and the one responsible for her formation, are equally (sic) ghastly representatives of that massive Zeitgeist we both bemoan. And it IS “prevailing” ... And the antidotal alternative? Sadly, I fear we are in the midst of it: the tragic falling apart of an organization that is inherently, because illogically, in radical disagreement with those three loci of legitimation ala Hooker ... I wonder if it is a coincidence we are celebrating the 500 years anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses ...?!

BrianR said...

Bryden: "railing"? Moi? Yes, I looked it up in my dictionary, 'Kelly's Lexicon Theologicon (2017): 'asking penetrating questions about modern secular identity politics in the light of the biblical-patristic faith'.

As for your reference to the angel of the church of Middlemarsh, at first I read this as 'MiddlemarCh' and thought, 'But that's what they've always believed in the Sinope of Otago.'

Peter: Rod Thomas is bishop of Maidstone, which isn't a diocese but a title and office under the 'flying bishops' provision. Parishes that want his ministrations have to opt in but they still remain part of their geographical diocese. What opponents of WO were expressly *refused* (because bishops love power and hate giving it up) was permission to create a national Third Province in the UK; in other words, continuity with the practice of the church in England since AD 597. I suspect if this had been granted by the ecclesio-politicos in 1992, maybe a third of the parishes of the CofE would have joined, mainly AC but a good number of conservative evangelicals as well. But the way of secular politics is 'My way or the highway' and opposition must be crushed.

How has the CofE fared since 1992? A few observations:
1. It has continued to age and decline in membership. USA is about 800k per week.
2. The clergy is markedly more liberal - principally because about 2000 women have been ordained, mainly into non-stipendiary posts - but the number of stipendiary posts is at an all time low.
3. The overall character of the thriving parishes is more evangelical than before (success breeds success and young families seek out other young families).
4. The Anglo-Catholic movement is in serious decline.
This should put all this talk of 'flourishing' in context.

Bryden Black said...

Loved your response Brian.

Yes; I was playing/punning with that location; apologies! But you saw through me. And of course: WHO wrote Middlemarch?!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Part of your comment below, edited by me, in its original form struck me as somewhat ambiguous about whether it was or was not too personalised in critique. To be on the safe side I have excised the ambiguity ...

"Dear Bryden, I cannot help thinking how your arguments about the 'lack of proper formation' in our Church sound [very academic, removed from realities of daily living]

The 'experiential model', which you seem to discount, as though it were almost irrelevant to the living our of a life in Christ; is the very same sort of life talked about in the Gospels and other books of the N.T. (excepting, perhaps the Book of Revelation, containing the sort of abstract theology that academics love to tangle with.

There are those 'theologians' whose calling is to tell other people how to become 'more Christian'; and those of us who are projected into the deep end from early in our ministerial experience; where life is lived in all its diversity and complexity. This sort of experience is critical for any real understanding of what other people have to put up with in the living our of their ordinary, everyday lives. It is in this theatre of activity that does not necessarily conform to learned theological exposition.

In remember, as a mature student at St. John's Theological College in Auckland (having once been a Franciscan Bother in Australia and New Zealand in a ministry with working class people), being asked by Bishop John Robinson if he could accompany me into Auckland Prison, where I was serving as a part-time chaplain while at College. His humility in recognising the deep needs of some of these prisoners, and talking to them, was, for me, an important indication of his experience outside of academe that had informed his deep understanding of what Christian formation and ministry is really all about - in situ - and in complete congruence with the context of that prison community. Not only was I impressed, so, too, were the inmates with whom he was freely able to mix and converse. This was not so much about academic 'formation' as dealing one to one with real people with a view to understanding their real needs.

Contextual theology at its very best - where the academic is put on the back burner giving way to discerning and endeavoring to meet - with God's help - humanity's deepest needs. 'Christian Formation' in the classroom is no real substitute for getting out into this naughty world and encountering the real presence of Christ in other people.

I agree, Peter, with your views on democratic principle in the Church. The Scriptures do mention that "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to US" - not just ME. I think the dear old C. of E. could well do with the realism of our ACANZP method of choosing its bishops. We are not Roman Catholics!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
The gist of what you are saying above, as I best understand it, is that you see the church to which you belong as somewhat sub-Christian. This may be a fair criticism, and we all know that there are times when the church needs a jolly good Lutheran if not Lateran boot up its slack theological backs[l]ide. But if this is so, it is a dangerous critical root to pursue.

Are there not many sub-Christian forms of Christianity around, indeed have been in all generations? Are the Christian followers of Trump, or for that matter Cobyn, deeply Christian, barely Christian or sub-Christian? Are those Romans intent on the hard-hearted interpretation of Jesus' words who would keep divorced persons away from communion super-Christian or sub-Christian? The other day I was reading that the Russian Orthodox Church supports move in the Duma to rescind legislation supportive of women complaining to police about domestic violence: what price the ancient credal orthodoxy of that church as it sides with chauvinism? Super-Christian, barely Christian, or sub-Christian?

In short, I wonder if you are being somewhat uncharitable to your fellow Anglicans at this time?

Peter Carrell said...

HI Brian
Yes, it is a difficult context for all to flourish in! Just like the olden days for evangelicals in the CofE :)

Anonymous said...

The central question in Middlemarch is, What defines the good life? I am struck by the parallels in the church. Is it God who defines it in all it's fullness through his word? Or is it ourselves? I agree with you that there seems to be too many of the latter and not enough of the former in our churches at all levels. Steve

Bryden Black said...

Dear Peter & Ron; it's because of my insistent, ongoing desire to integrate contemplation and praxis that I dare to critique as fully as I do and I will continue to do so. It is for the same reason that I continue to forgive the likes of those who fail to see the reasons behind our gross lack of ability in many churches today to conduct due Christian formation among those we are supposed to shepherd.

The sorts of decisions coming out of CoE these past couple of decades have an understandable matrix. To engage in the sort of "tough love" to call the church to account for succumbing to that matrix is not too dissimilar to much we find in those very Gospels which found any basis for any form of accountability.

And to close: given my Diocesan Alma Mater endured the throws of wretched civil war and subsequent genocide, mixed with moments of great beauty to be sure, simply gives the lie to any claim that my seeking a fulsome combination of praxis and contemplation is itself a lie. Stet!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden and Ron

Ron: this is the last time I am going to publish a comment from you which implies or explicates personal critique of Bryden's provenance as a theologian, pastor and minister of the Word. Everyone here is engaged in the world and its tough realities. It is unfair to imply above that Bryden's recipe for church accountability arises from some kind of detached academic context. Bryden like you is engaged in both everyday life and in the ordinary life of an Anglican parish.

Bryden: thank you for your gracious reply above. The church is in a challenging place, in England, in New Zealand, everywhere. How do we cope with, if not overcome the challenges modernity/post-modernity/post-post-modernity throws at us, on a daily basis, as every aspect of our civilisation and of Christianity is critiqued if not mocked. To be a bit cliched or even a lot cliched, I think the difference between us is that I see the glass of our Christian-mindedness as half-full and (I feel) you see the glass as half-empty ...

But I might be like the priests in Jeremiah's day: they not only thought they were right and safe but that Jeremiah was wrong and deluded. They were not both found later to be correct!

BrianR said...

Anyway, the good news is that Gavin Ashenden is joining forces with Gafcon and his kindly nature and theological wisdom are already having a marked effect in claming the dyspepsia and upset that people feel. The new alliance has been renamed 'Gaviscon'.

Anonymous said...

MichaelA and BrianK, Peter has understood my question.

There is a large difference between believing that women cannot be bishops (ontological basis) and believing that they can be but should not be (adiaphoron basis). The majority who favoured OWE-- or, if you prefer, WOE-- did not offer *generous provision* to the former precisely because they did not want to harbour teaching that necessarily undermines the morale, credibility, and effectiveness of women in holy orders. That is why the said majority rejected the proposals for a Third Province that were (as Brian rightly points out) the only hope for those whose objections to OWE were based on ontology. When Anglo-Catholic objectors of the ontological sort compared themselves at one General Synod to an endangered species in Africa, they understood their predicament correctly.

+ Philip North's views on OW are precisely the ones implicitly excluded. The hoo-ha over his appointment confirms that ontological objections to OW and OWE were never meant to flourish in the CoE. What does that tell us about the present and future flourishing of those who believed that the CoE could ordain and consecrate women, but ought not to do so?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Peter and Bryden, democracy seems less directly relevant to this controversy than confusion about the differences between legitimacy and authority, promulgating and canonising, Caesar and the Body of Christ.

For an Anglican synod to promulgate a newly invented dogma would be a *legitimate* exercise of power so long as the all the rules are followed. This is what a certain recent report that cannot be discussed proposed to ACANZP. But because nobody anywhere actually believes anything because of a mere majority vote, it would have no *authority* in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth. None who have opposed its conclusions would feel an inner change of conviction on seeing that a majority supported them, and even those who agreed with those conclusions would do so on the basis of their prior conviction.

Of course, catholic churches have always been ruled by councils. But the recognised ones have not traditionally been much like the recent synods that Anglicans have modeled on civil parliaments. There is not space here for an extended comparison of, say, the Council of Orange and the TEC General Convention, but one important contrast is this-- local councils have tended to canonise practices spreading from afar whose authority is already widely seen, much as the disciples recognised that of our Lord, while our newfangled synods invent innovations on their own, and then try to impose them by mere force, much as Pontius Pilate tried and executed our Lord. The rashness and cruelty of much synodical rule is inherent in this institutionalisation of what is proper to *Caesar* but faithless in the *Body of Christ*.

As with the popular choice of Barabbas, an appearance of democracy is sometimes very important to the caesarean sort of legitimacy. But it is so unimportant to the Body of Christ that something as momentous as the replacement of an apostle can be decided by casting lots under the protection of divine providence.

Bowman Walton

MichaelA said...

Oh please, Bowman, there was never any "implicit exclusion". The views of all involved in this controversy were well understood. 'Mutual flourishing' meant that those who did not accept the ministry of women bishops were entitled to a place in the Church of England.

What has happened here is simple: the CofE bishops promised one thing, but then the liberal wing took over the agenda with a pressure-campaign on Philip North. And the bishops gave in to the liberals, as they always end up doing. The liberals went after North because he was being made a diocesan, not because his views are materially different to those of complementarian evangelicals like Rod Thomas.

Complemmentarians believe that only men are called to positions of headship, including as bishops. That means their beliefs have exactly the same practical effect as those of Philip North's.

Rod Thomas is in the church of England to minister to those who will not accept the ministry of woman bishops. The liberals have not gone after him yet, simply because he is not a diocesan, i.e. he is lower down their priority list . But they will.

Personally, I don't mind any of this - I have always viewed the liberals in CofE as headed down the same oppressive path as the liberals in TEC. They will inevitably start deposing or expelling those whose views do not accord with theirs, so better that orthodox evangelicals in CofE realise that now. This episode will help them to realise that, and therefore motivate them to get serious about establishing new Anglican congregations in England which are outside the control of the CofE. Once enough of them are established, then they will need bishops of their own, and then comes the establishment of an English ACNA.

Father Ron said...

One question: "Who is Gavin Ashenden?"

MichaelA said...

"(2) Bowman's question is quite appropriate and relevant: the hoo-ha [controversy] over Philip North's appointment is a controversy over a specific set of views about women's ordination, a controversy notably absent from the appointment of Rod Thomas as bishop [albeit not as a diocesan]."

Sorry Peter, but Bowman is just trying to put a gloss on the views of liberals in England which simply isn't there.

The views of Rod Thomas and Philip North are not materially different - neither accepts that women can validly be bishops. One holds to reasoning based on tradition, the other says that scripture only permits men as leaders, but the end result is the same. Neither consider this a matter of adiaphora.

This episode occurred (a) because the liberals are flexing their muscle in the CofE - they believe themselves to be in a stronger position than in 2015 when Thomas was appointed, and I expect they are right - and (b) because it concerned an appointment as a diocesan. They see Thomas as less important, but his time will also come.

What we are seeing is exactly what occurred in TEC. The sooner that conservative or orthodox evangelicals realise that, the better.

MichaelA said...

"Did they not think - thinking men that they are - that this would inevitably lead to a lack of unifying reception?"

Peter, do you seriously think that any diocesan bishop in the CofE has "unifying reception"

How is the appointment of Philip North any different to e.g. the Bishop of Southwark or the Bishop of Sheffield?

MichaelA said...

Hi Fr Ron, you need to be familiar with the Church of England to know who Gavin Ashenden is.

Bryden Black said...

The rashness and cruelty of much synodical rule is inherent in this institutionalisation of what is proper to *Caesar* but faithless in the *Body of Christ*. Bowman

Amine! My point in a nutshell.

Father Ron said...

I see now, Micahel A.

Gavin Ashendon resigned (quite properly) from his former post as one of the Queen's chaplains. I note that this was done after a call from Buckingham Palace, where the Queen probably would not have appreciated being associated with Gavin's protest about the invitation of Muslims to take part in a service of worship at the SEC Cathedral of Saint Mary in Glasgow.

As Queen of England, with many Muslim subjects, Her Majesty may not have wanted to be associated with her Chaplain's voice of protest.

God, being God, found it convenient to bless the seed of the servant girl, Hagar - being descended from Abraham, from whom, it is believed the modern day Muslim are also descended. The question is. does God love Muslims as well as Christians? Or does God only love Christians?

BrianR said...

Congratulations, Ron. Almost every sentence of your last post is factually wrong. Now there's consistency!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
"unifying reception" is a bit inelegant and doesn't do justice to the nature of episcopal reception. So, here goes:
(1) few bishops (at least at the point of being announced to Dioceses) receive universal applause and affirmation.
(2) most bishops survive and flourish following their initial reception and their good work wins over their initial detractors etc
(3) some bishops always have critics and those dissatisfied with their leadership, but generally in most such situations "people get on with it."
No doubt archbishops announcing appointments hope for (2) and cross their fingers when they think it might be a (3).
But there is a (4) where circumstances (such as a strikingly inapposite theological position such as Philip North holds) make it more predictable that (2) is not going to happen and (3) is a barely credible prediction of the best imagined outcome.
Fortunately this rarely happens (in my experience/knowledge) re bishops - much more likely to happen re appointments of vicars.
So, yes, in recent years (and before that) there have been awkward/difficult/troubling appointments (one might think of David Jenkins going to Durham in the 1980s) but they have been either (2) or (3) situations.

MichaelA said...

Hi Fr Ron, now its my turn to be confused. Who is "Gavin Ashendon"? ;o)

Ashenden is a common name in Kent, Jutish in origin, I suspect.

Re your last paragraph, a priest of God's church should not even need to ask whether God loves Muslims, although I suppose nothing surprises me any more. Please read John Chapter 3, particularly verse 16, then we can discuss further if you like.

MichaelA said...

Hi Peter, what you are describing is a change in how things are done in the Church of England. In the controversies of yesteryear, (4) almost never happened. But now it is going to happen a lot, and not because of the beliefs of Philip North, which are hardly unreasonable. Rather, it will happen increasingly because this is standard tactics by liberals when they gain power in a church.

This is exactly what we saw happen in TEC with the depositions of hundreds of clergy, congregations expelled from buildings etc. Its not because of disagreement per se - that has always existed. It is because liberals, once they are in power, have different values to everyone else.

It is not the fact of disagreement that is relevant here, but the means which one faction was prepared to go to, in order to get their own way, and will be even more prepared to do so in future. Hence why conservative evangelicals and anglo-catholics in England will need to learn to change their attitude on a number of issues.

Bryden Black said...

Aha Michael: Kent!
In which case is he a man of Kent, or a Kentish man? The locals put much store on the distinction.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry Peter, but Bowman is just trying to put a gloss on the views of liberals in England which simply isn't there." --MichaelA

Actually, Peter, I was describing views posted at the time by self-described evangelicals on Fulcrum. My own comments there generally defended Gerald Bray's proposal for peculiar jurisdictions, which I continue to find valuable.

Bowman Walton

BrianR said...

Bryden, your comments above at 10.31 pm and passim about the lamentable standard of theological formation in parishes find echoes in the addresses by Daniel Strange, acting principal of Oak Hill Lodon (about 40 mins in on the video) and Peter Jensen (about 1 hour in) at the thanksgiving service for the life of Michael Ovey, principal of Oak Hill and patristic theologian, whose vision for theological education is far more demanding than anything required in the C of E training courses of today. The critics mince no words, calling these courses shallow and amateurish, and if that's how the ministers are 'trained', who can blame the laity for knowing no better?

Bryden Black said...

Sad to hear Michael Ovey has died so soon. He was pioneering a wholesome wave of another generation of evangelical scholars who were dogmaticians rather than simply exegetes. For in order to have a due theological exegesis, there has to be a solid interaction among systematic theologians, historical ones, and naturally NT scholars. All of which then may be passed through both a missiological lense and a spiritual formational one. Or perhaps (sic) those twin lenses are the way to read the others ...?!

BrianR said...

This is his lecture at Gafcon II which Peter Jensen referred to, on Repentance, Cheap Grace and Narcissism, culminating in a brief discussion of Lux Mundi - and tying this to the theological weakness and cultural accommodation that Western Anglicanism makes - and continues to have no impact on its culture despite its insistent 'modernisation'. The discussion of Twenge and Campbell on 'Narcissism' is very interesting because it is historically realted to Kant's famous essay 'Was ist Aufklaerung? 'What is Enlightenment?' - ouchy for Otago graduates who were tutored under the proud motto 'Sapere Aude'!

Bryden Black said...

Thank you for this again Brian. I have already posted this link on a subsequent thread, Lambeth 2020, but it also pertains to your latest couple of comments :

Father Ron said...

Well, presumably Mike Ovey may, by now, have discovered a wee bit more about God's inexhaustible love, than he knew when he preached (in Brian Kelly's proffered video of his sermon) to like-minded con/evo people at Peter Jensen's GAFCON II Meeting. His talk of God's grace having deserted the Church and world of the West was both sacrilegious and presumptuous in the extreme. May God have mercy on his soul!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I find your comment quite disagreeable because it is incredibly presumptuous on your part, namely that you know more about the grace of God than a brother in Christ.
It is not at all clear to me that we can proudly/loudly proclaim that the grace of God has deserted church or world. There are various ways in which the church is in a parlous state (cf declining attendance and participation) and the world is going to hell in a handbasket (cf electing Trump who is not only a clown but a buffoon yet in charge of the mightiest war machine known to humankind ever.
It may well be that God's grace is merely present among us by refusing to smite us and simply letting us get on with making decisions and experiencing the consequences.
I am publishing your comment despite its level of disagreeability for this and only this reading: it may also be presumptuous of Mike Ovey to have touted the assessment that God's grace has deserted the church.
It is not so much that God's grace is inexhaustible, it is that God's grace moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform and far be it from any of us to declare that grace is absent or present!

Father Ron said...

"It is not at all clear to me that we can proudly/loudly proclaim that the grace of God has deserted church or world." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Precisely, Peter. That was the burden of my comment you protest against.

Peter Carrell said...

Whoops, Ron, I meant to say, "It is not at all clear to me that we can proudly/loudly proclaim that the grace of God has NOT deserted church or world."

BrianR said...

I have no doubt that Mike Ovey knows more about God's grace now than he did before his (humanly speaking) untimely death in January. This was the central burden of Peter Jensen's words in the Thanksgiving video from All Souls - that Ovey was a sinner saved by the blood of Christ and that he taught throughout his ministry that the saving grace of Christ was received only through repentance and faith: 'Repent and believe the gospel'. I have never heard this basic truth expressed so clearly in a funeral or thanksgiving - including those I've taken myself. Ovey would have agreed wholeheartedly with Packer's definition:
'Repentance means turning from as much of your sin as you understanding toward obeying God's will as much as you understand" - the operative words being 'as much as you understand': this is never meant to stand still but is known through an ever deeper engagement with the Scriptures. Ovey's primary charge was that the understanding was woefully and wilfully limited and the Church's public voice was mediocre and ineffectual. His analytical mind was trained first in drafting parliamentary legislation and then in patristic theology exploring the humanity and suffering of Christ. His 2013 words about cheap grace, narcissism and ineffectual 'modernisation' of the Church seemed to speak right into this cultural moment.
The whole point about God's grace is that it *is grace: it is given to undeserving sinners (who are so-defined by God's word, not their own) and is received by repentance (from sin) and faith (toward Christ the sin-bearer pierced for our transgressions).

Father Ron said...

'Holy Week Ceremonies:

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the Feast -
Not with the old leaven of Malice and Wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of Sincerity and Truth."

Trouble is, our judgement of our peers can sometimes be attributable to the 'old leaven'; wherein we are disposed to take upon ourselves the prerogative of God - judging the sins of other rather than reflecting upon our own sins.

GAFCON Primates have taken upon themselves the 'cloak of righteousness', when even Jesus, addressed by a bystander as "Good MKaster', was quick to say "Who are you calling good, there is One Alone who is good", indicating that not even Jesus, in his human form, could claim goodness.

If this was so for Jesus, on what ground can we stand that allows us to judge the righteousness of others?

Jesus spoke pretty clearly on this matter of self-righteousness in his story about the Publican and the Pharisee.

Jesu, Mercy; Mary, Pray!

BrianR said...

"GAFCON Primates have taken upon themselves the 'cloak of righteousness', when even Jesus, addressed by a bystander as "Good MKaster', was quick to say "Who are you calling good, there is One Alone who is good", indicating that not even Jesus, in his human form, could claim goodness."

Why of course, he wasn't sinless! As the Episcopal Bishop of Washington opined some years back, Jesus knew himself to be a sinner in need to God's mercy. He needed a sinless Saviour like, er .... his mother, perhaps? Well, that's one kind of (medieval) Catholic theology, I guess.
Ron, do you never run out of rope?