Monday, March 20, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (B)

What if Anglicans had a conference the equivalent of the one Pope John XXIII called, known now as Vatican 2, which discussed a range of topics?

The topics, except That Topic, which involve our Anglican Communion response to the post-modern world.

Topics whose discussion involve strengthening the Anglican Communion.

That conference could be Lambeth 2018 2020, which ++Welby is in the process of designing/calling into being. Yes, yes, I know, we all want a laity/clergy/bishops conference of Anglicans. But can we not trust our bishops? You know, the ones we elected because we thought they were trustworthy!

What might we usefully discuss? Here be some thoughts. Some not original but sourced from commenter here (see beginning of yesterday's post). You make yours in the comments ... we might yet get a (C) post.

Caveat: I know that most if not all of what follows is "Western" in outlook whereas the Communion is "Western," "African," "Asian," "Oceania," etc.

Some pretty big picture stuff

What shifts in the tectonic plates of culture are taking place? What responses are appropriate for Christians, for churches, for Anglican churches? What responses are sustainable? Are we entering an epoch like the Dark Ages for which the "Benedict Option" us required?

Do we concentrate on making the church truly Christian in a post-Christian age, and worry less about evangelization/Christianization?

(Do we understand the tidal wave of hostile post-Christianity which is bearing down on the West? See, for instance, this article about the "Benedict Option" and the trickle down effects of post-Christianity in our academies. H/T B. Black.)

What is the gospel? What is "good news" for the world today?

Is its core point of connection with this post-Christian world "justification by faith"? (What was going on in 1517 which made that pertinent and is 2017 the same kind of era?)

Or is it John's Gospel's cri de coeur that abundant life is available through Christ?

Luke's emphasis, is that the better connection to our hurting world, that God loves the last, least and lost?

Perhaps Matthew comes into play: the blessed life lies inside God's kingdom, secured through recognition of our poverty of spirit and sustained through obedience to Jesus' ethics of the kingdom?

Wow, imagine an Anglican version of Vatican 2 which aggiornamentoed (updated) our understanding of the gospel, precisely by engaging with the aggiornamento of the NT documents themselves as they translated the gospel of Jesus for the new worlds into which the first Christians migrated!

Useful stuff

A strength of the Anglican way is the ways within its ways: evangelical, catholic, liberal, (in our case) Maori, Pasefika pathways. Woven together these strands make us stronger.

But what does it mean to be (say) a catholic Anglican in the 21st century (cue discussion of rites, lace, divides between "modern" and traditional catholics, etc)? How can catholic Anglicanism be the best catholic Anglicanism? What specific charisms does it offer the Communion?

I have a specific, tribal concern for Anglican evangelicalism. 1517/2017 Reformational celebrations highlight that concern for me which I put like this here: how can we evangelicals look forwards as much as we look backwards as we promote gospel, Scripture, doctrine and liturgy? An alternative way of saying this is this: if Luther and Cranmer (respectively)  catalysed the transformation of German and English medieval churches (weighted towards works rather than grace, guilt rather than peace, transubstantiation rather than transformation, Latin Scripture/liturgy), notably ending with churches speaking their own indigenous languages, who are our Luthers and Cranmers today? What is the work they need to do to translate the gospel into the language of post-Christianity?

To give a specific example: when both Luther and Cranmer highlighted the importance of justification by faith and not by works, their renewed understanding of the gospel scratched the itch of medieval Christianity which weighted achievement of salvation towards our works and away from Christ's work. That itch no longer exists in the world around us. (It can exist within the church!) What itch is it that 21st century Luthers and Cranmers need to discern in order for their new scratch to relate to it?

There are various "dittos" in this section so that we could do with a Vatican 2-style Anglican Lambeth Conference which looks at science, at social ethics and social justice.

A pretty big picture issue 

Then, surely, such a conference needs to re-look at what it means to be "Anglican Communion." Great idea in theory - the best idea. Interdependency. What is not to like about such ecclesiology? But why is it not proving a great idea in practice? What might we do to ensure that we are what we say we are? That the label on the tin matches the contents within?

Yes, that could mean renewed discussion of "the Covenant." But it could also mean looking at the current Instruments? Are they fit for purpose? Do we need an ABC who has less responsibilities within the CofE?

All of this is worth doing because of the biggest picture of them all ...

God's will in the long run

Let's leave that to tomorrow. Today's time remaining is pressing against today's To Do List!


Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

“Are we entering an epoch like the Dark Ages for which the "Benedict Option" is required?”


The problem facing much of the church (Anglicans included) is that we live in a culture that no longer speaks nor understands our language, neither is it interested in learning how to do so. Anglicans appear to have responded to this dissonance by embracing the ‘causes’ of our age, climate change, inequality, social justice, and the one that is unmentionable.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of virtue signalling has delivered us nothing by way of evangelism, neither has it caused those without Christ to look more favourably on the Church. Why should it when they already have this ‘gospel’ in the world?

Before we can reach the lost, we first need to rediscover what it means to have our lives shaped by scripture, the rhythm of regular prayer and other disciplines of the Christian life - the Benedict Option.

To this end, I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s comments about the Americans. “They can always be relied upon to do the right thing, once they have tried everything else.”

Father Ron said...

Too big a subject for the likes of me, Peter.

I can only affirm the need to care for God's Creation and those of its children that we are called to care for in this world into which we have been privileged to 'live and move and have our being'.

The Church of Christ, in all its brokenness and sin (much like the creation around us, really) has only the virtue of its Founder to offer to others. We cannot pressure them into faith by the inducement of fear; simply because Christ, the Son of God and our sole Redeemer, said that "Perfect Love casts out fear", and it is that Love that we are able to live out in our own interaction with God's world that is the only means of converting the world to faith in the God of Love.

"God only has sinners to preach the Gospel", so that our own experience of God's forgiveness of us and our sins, is capable of encouraging other sinners that God - once we come to realise his willingness to forgive us - will seem more attractive to our friends and neighbours in the world. It is our witness to God's power to forgive that has the power to build God's Church. Unfortunately, the world can easily detect our hypocrisy, when we proclaim our own righteousness in the face of the evidence of our duplicity.

The Church is a hospital for Sinners. It is NOT a mausoleum for Saints. And it is The Christ in us, that builds the Church; not our own sinful nature.

BrianR said...

Brendan: I agree with your analysis of the weakness and failure of contemporary Anglicanism. Look up 'Michael Ovey Gafcon' on youtube for the link I posted on another thread for his 2013 talk in Nairobi which discusses exactly this question in terms of Bonhoeffer's Cheap Grace - "Inclusion without Repentance".

Christina said...

What a wonderful idea, coming together with our diverse perspectives within Christianity to wrestle with something that the Churches are just not taking hold of - what can we do to relate better to post-Christianity? I am becoming more and more convinced that the gospel message for this world we currently inhabit is a message of hope, hope of restoration of relationship between people, God and the earth. I think that the non-western church has a lot of teach us about living in non-christian societies and sharing our faith, coming together as a global body would only enrich our wrestling with this question.

Anonymous said...

“Are we entering an epoch like the Dark Ages for which the "Benedict Option" is required?”

In historical reasoning, Peter, analogies are both indispensable and treacherous. That said, we are entering an era more like Late Antiquity in which the Diognetus Option continues to be our scriptural duty.

Sometime in the C2, a Christian using the pen-name Mathetes described to the philosopher Diognetus the way disciples of Christ saw their relationship to the quite pluralistic societies under Roman rule--

Despite the obvious hostility between polytheism and Christianity, the Church grew in numbers and influence. This was a complex development, but surely one key aspect of this growth is that Christian charity turned out to be good evangelism and good politics too. In cities across the empire, followers of the Way upended the pagan order of things by pulling the social bottom out from under it.

By the late C4, Constantine's fascinating nephew Julian the Apostate was trying and failing to reform paganism into a new form that replicated some fruits of the charity that Mathetes had described to Diognetus. "These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their *agapae*, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes." See, for instance, items 22, 36, and 47 from Roger Pearse's link to Julian's works below.

Julian organised pagan priests into a hierarchy like that of the Church, and ordered them to emulate the charity of the "atheist" followers of "the Galilean." But his orders were only sporadically obeyed, and in time he saw the truth: there was nothing in either paganism or imperium to motivate the love for the poor on which works of mercy depend. The last pagan emperor thus obliquely admitted that the great Roman cities would remain ungovernable without the tacit cooperation of bishops whose well-organised dioceses were drawing the humblest citizens into the new order of the next thousand years.

Mayors of cities great and small might well empathise with him today. Everything is better in the blessed isles down under, of course, but here up yonder states ruled by competing secular notions of justice struggle to institute basic help for the poor that is both reliable and empowering. For timely example, today's debate over health insurance in Washington is driven on all three sides by partisan dogma and class interest mostly disconnected from any deep knowledge of what actually promotes health. On the ground, the unceasing wars of polarised democracies destabilise all state help for those who sleep under bridges, go to school hungry, or require medicine that costs too much and comes too late. Such merely partisan battles remind us of the truth of St Augustine's wry observation that justice is a fruit of charity.

"The poor you shall always have with you..." History never exactly repeats itself. Still, the duty of works of mercy remains on the doorstep of everyone who follows the Way. Perhaps diligence in that duty will help churches or reliably attract converts, perhaps not. But for believers in God the Father such consequences are not the point of the duty itself. And because no human society has overcome its tendency to generate outcasts, the influence that churches have perennially acquired through stubborn obedience and love may be ever green.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman
Whichever is the right or nearly right analogy, my conviction is that Christians in this century are going to win converts through faithfulness to the gospel and its values (e.g. refusing abortions and euthanasia) and acts of mercy (which will stand out in a merciless world).
So I very much endorse your comment!

Jean said...

What surprises me and confers with Bowman's comments is those whom have recently become attached to our church through one ministry or another. Amongst the many who shy from anything to do with the religious 'component' is a young solo mother coming to a kids group who was visibly excited her grandmother went to our church, two teenage boys - one who was curious, and one who having been rejected by his father and gone through a period of trouble is seeking a better way and now his mother is now coming too, a girl who went to a catholic school and learnt about faith and although her parents aren't interested she wants to continue learning.... Hard though it is with such an incongruous mix some common on factors appear to be a desire to know, belong, for another way of living than what they encounter elsewhere.

I am reminded of the parable of the King where he invited many to the banquet and none came so he said go out into the streets and invite... In so many instances people 'do not want to know' yet there is appearing but yet a small trickle of people from the highways and byways who seem to find themselves belonging no where else.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, imagine an Anglican version of Vatican 2 which aggiornamentoed (updated) our understanding of the gospel, precisely by engaging with the aggiornamento of the NT documents themselves as they translated the gospel of Jesus for the new worlds into which the first Christians migrated!"

Peter, this could have been an OP in itself.

Guided Meditation: green summertime in Kent; lots of Anglican bishops, some other Protestant leaders, the usual ecumenical suspects, and several scholars (neutestamentleren, but also talmudists, patrologists, systematicians, comparativists), etc) with influence across denominations; they are in circles under trees (and in Father Ron's favourite pubs); their Bibles are open most of the day for a contemporary course in the reading of scripture; everyone is reading the same texts on the same days; the texts are introduced in and after the preceding Evening Prayer; the introductions are eclectic-- linguistic, historical, systematic; the global faithful are paying for this, and ++ Mouneer Anis is taking the notes; +++ Francis, +++ Bartholomew, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Tenzin Gyatso visit on separate days; the collected thoughts are being distributed online in a few languages; blogs and podcasts from bishops show that they are studious but in diverse ways; for a few days after the course, +++ Justin takes votes on discernments for the Communion about the reading of scripture, and the bishops fly home; an after-meeting of leaders and scholars turn it all into a MOOC (massive open online course); there is no communique or news conference.

What sort of communion would we become if we were governed by a meeting like that?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

I think before we answer that question, Bowman, you and I need to secure tickets to the event. Assistant notetakers? Sounds fabulous. And the resulting Communion would be too!