Thursday, May 11, 2017

Embarrassing Evangelicals?

Warning: I am well aware that beneath the issue(s) I draw attention to here is "the issue" of the day for the Anglican Communion. Do not discuss that issue here: the moratorium remains in place. Do not mention it in passing. If you do, your comment will be deleted. Please comment on matters ecclesiological, episcopathological, vagrantes and flagrantes bishops, the imminent triumph or failure of evangelical Anglicans, Anglican evangelicals, Anglican churches here, there or here-and-look-now-also-over-there.

In the last few days Anglican news has taken an unexpected twist and turn. About a week ago the GAFCON Primates announced that they were thinking of ordaining a bishop for the British Isles. Cue wondering who that might be, which country they might come from, where their support would be and whether or not they would in some way be recognised by the powers that be.

But a couple of days ago it was announced that a senior priest/presbyter in the Jesmond Parish (Diocese of Newcastle, England), Jonathan Pryke, has been ordained a bishop by bishops of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa [REACH SA] (formerly known as the Church of England in South Africa [CESA]). This church, for the record, has orders recognised by the CofE.

At this point, because you will be bursting with episcopathological fervour to know more (sometimes also known as epistemology), I need to point you to some articles and press releases and what have you, because "why" Jonathan has been ordained a bishop, "where" his territory (or even simply his focus) will be, "what" his relationship with his licensing bishop (as a priest/presbyter) will be, and "to whom" he will be accountable as a bishop, to say nothing of "whether" he will be disciplined and "by whom" is quite beyond this bear of small brain.

Try here, here, here and here. Also, fascinatingly, here for the relationship of REACH SA, CPSA and the CofE. Note also this report which suggests that despite ad hoc action(s) taking now or proposed now, a larger plan is being worked out. Also Andrew Brown on the case here.

Update: Ian Paul kindly includes this post as an introduction to his own thoughts on the matter at Psephizo. And Cranmer also comments here.

But here is what I do get about this situation, as an evangelical Anglican I am embarrassed that:

- other evangelical Anglicans have taken unilateral action ordaining a bishop without transparently informing proper authorities (the Bishop of Newcastle, the Archbishop of York) of intention to do so. Does not basic courtesy and commitment to living in the light require that?

- when GAFCON and its English partner, AMiE, had another plan, this action is unilaterally taken against that plan. What is it about fraternity and coherency that these English and other evangelicals do not get?

- also, in terms of walking in the light, how could Jonathan Pryke, on the executive of AMiE, not inform his fellow executive members of what was going to happen? Are they not on the same side? Why hide things? In what way does such manner of doing things enhance the reputation of evangelical Anglicans?

It is not unknown for evangelicals to operate factionally rather than coherently, it is a bug in the feature of the Reformational DNA which spawned evangelicalism!

I think in this situation there are also significant episcopathological questions about what we Anglican evangelicals understand ecclesiology is. I will leave that for another post, save for this teaser:

Is it not strangely "Catholic" rather than "Anglican" when we go outside our national church boundaries to secure the ordaining hands of another bishop in order to have a bishop "of our own"?


BrianR said...

"Is it not strangely "Catholic" rather than "Anglican" when we go outside our national church boundaries to secure the ordaining hands of another bishop in order to have a bishop "of our own"?"

No, it's Anglican enough to maintain ordination through a bishop - as well as confirmation - and to seek to co-ordinate and unify self-described Anglican congregations through a bishop; it's just that those who claim the trademark 'C of E' can play hardball and demand a price for the episcopal hands, in money and political obedience. I suppose appointing Rod Thomas was a sop intended to keep the sans culottes inside the C of E tent. However, the pace of church planting has continued among 'free Anglicans': the Co-Mission network in London (which had a huge bust-up with the Bishop of Southwark as few years ago) is now running many congregations in South London, Jesmond Parish Church has planted three churches, Christ Church Fulwood in Sheffield has started numerous congregations, and the biggest 'Anglican' church in Durham (meeting in Claypath) isn't recognised by the Bishop of Durham. Those congregations (or at least their leaders) value the evangelical Anglican tradition of Stott, Packer, Watson, Green etc and their leaders were trained in C of E colleges; but they basically don't trust Welby and Sentamu on where they think W and S seem headed - on the subject Peter refuses to discuss here. Nor are they happy about WO - and regarding the women who have been made bishops in the C of E, they are all basically liberals, so there isn't much confidence here. The Sheffield debacle showed that conservative traditionalists have no future in the diocesan leadership of the C of E: the liberals have shut them out.
Gavin Ashenden saw all this coming and has decided to check out.

Hugh McCann said...

You are correct, Peter.

This was utterly untoward, uncatholic, unreformed, even unevangelical. Uncharitable! Unconscionable, ultimately.

The new "bishop" should be ashamed of himself & his consecrators.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
You seem to me to overlook the lack of coherency in what is going on re this consecration. So an emerging network of planted Anglican but not happy with CofE congregations seeks bishops. Can the network not have a semblance of communication with one another, a token element of coordination?

You also pass blithely over the lack of courtesy and transparency shown in this move. No matter what one thinks of one's bishop, it is basic good manners for a priest to inform his or her bishop that he or she is going to be ordained a bishop by another jurisdiction.

And yet evangelicals wish to talk about gospel truth, integrity of orthodox doctrine and morality. On the face of it, there is more walking behind closed doors than walking in the light here ...

BrianR said...

Well, Peter, I'm not party to any of these events, but I agree it's incoherent and messy - just as the C of E is incoherent and messy, as the Sheffield mess showed.
As for courtesy and transparency: these are simply the ripples of a deeper problem, a lack of trust on both sides. These activist conservative evangelicals, I imagine, don't trust where the liberal hierarchy wants to take them. They see no transparency from the bishops about hat they actually believe and intend on what must not be mentioned. And yes, I believe in good manners too - but etiquette isn't a first order gospel virtue. I've been meditating a lot in the past few days on how Luke 14 is a model of dominical rudeness.
But as I said, I'm an outsider to these events.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
Despite its messiness I think the CofE has been transparent about what it is doing. It has held conversations, it has had synod debates, it clearly will have more and they will be conducted in the public arena. If it lacks clarity about will happen in the future that might just be, you never know, because, well, um, er, ah, it does not yet know its synodical mind.

BrianR said...

Yes, could be - and it could be that there is no such thing as a 'synodical mind', just the minds of individual bishops, with outspoken or delphic liberals in Liverpool, Manchester, Gloucester and Newcastle. In any case, Jonathan Pryke won't be allowed to function as a bishop in the C of E, so disciplinary issues will be hard to divine. If he ordains clergy for non-C of E churches, will he be in breach of discipline?
All this mess began years ago with Eames et al when the Anglican Communion invented the strange idea of 'impaired communion' to keep Tec in the tent. It didn't work then - and has since spread to England. As it has to Auckland and Hamilton. And where next? Messy? It will get messier as the envelope is pushed again and again.

Father Ron said...

You've certainly put the cat among the pigeons with this thread, Peter.

All I can say here at the moment is that, in your own words, the situation is best described as 'Vagantes and flagrantes' (certainly not 'fragrantes)

My own comments on this odd situation - without restriction - can be found on my blog - kiwianglo -

BrianR said...

"This was utterly untoward, uncatholic, unreformed, even unevangelical. Uncharitable! Unconscionable, ultimately."

u too?

As one who has taught a bit of Tudor and Stuart history over the years, I smile a little when Anglicans get apoplectic about 'schism'. They don't know their own history.
Uncatholic? Unevangelical? Uninformed!

Father Ron said...

So, Brian, you have your very own world-view. Most history is slanted anyway, so we need to up the stakes and live in our world of today. Takes a bit of thought but worth it in the long run.

Anonymous said...

As you know, Peter, I am squarely on both sides of this one.

On one hand, I think that exclusive uniformity in thinking about OW and That Topic is very unlikely to be achieved in any living church. One can only enforce it by deciding to be a sect rather than a church, a faction rather than the ecumene, a fastidious, brand-managing corporation rather than a generous divine family. Put another way, there is no reason to expect today's bishops to have more agreement than did the quite diverse bench that served the first Elizabeth and the Stuarts. The Church of England should generally accommodate some untidiness, and more particularly should let the conservatives have their bishop.

On the other hand, one's faraway cousins, although indeed family, should not break into the house, rearrange the furniture, and go home. Episcopacy is not simply a third kind of minister with extra powers but a package of norms that enable shepherds to herd sheep, and to be themselves shepherded. The intervention from South Africa has only given some parishes a bishop that they can show people when asked whether they have one, not the full package. In fact, they may be the first English congregationalists to have a bishop-- if they agree to have him at all.

The ecclesiological problem is that the modern synod is, both in America and in England, uprooting the naturally open ecology of episcopacy and planting the standardising monoculture of a corporation or an NGO. (Example: TEC bishops dutifully deposing from holy orders all priests who disagree with the General Convention.) The fabric of episcopacy was first unraveled, not by the conservative evangelicals, but by this innovation. So dissidents in America and England have been trying-- and, we may think, failing-- to reweave the fraying threads of episcopacy into something more traditional and Anglican.

Since repairs are never perfect, and since passions are rather elevated, I hesitate to criticise their efforts. But I will pose a few questions:

(1) Is a secret consecration a valid consecration? Traditionally, no.

(2) Is a consecration to no defined diocese a valid consecration? I do not think so.

(3) Is helping a conservative (or liberal) minority *in one's own communion* a missionary endeavor? No-- either one is in communion and so deferring to the local bishops, or one is a missionary against them precisely because one is out of communion with them.

(4) Given that there can be *peculiars* within provinces (see below), can there be *peculiars* between provinces? On this, my mind is open.

Yet again, we should all prefer Gerald Bray's elegant and visionary solution to the problem: let the bishops negotiate *episcopal peculiars* as they did until a few centuries ago. For example, let the Bishop of London grant a conservative bishop on, say, the Isle of Man-- or for that matter, a feminist on the Isle of Avalon-- oversight over a parish or two in the metropolis, and then let those parishes negotiate some relationship to their local area and wider diocese with their neighbours. Instead of synodical politics, local negotiations; instead of schism, integration, instead of a brand, an ecology.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, thanks for a well thought out exposition of the situation - on a Communion-wide basis. Your considered use of 'congregationalist' seems most apt for what has happened in Jesmond Parish; which entity, however, still wants to claim the Anglican brand - not unlike the Church whose metropolitan has been leaned on to provider this new form of the episcopal oversight. Odd, yes; but not very 'Anglican' - not even in accord with the 39 Artifacts of the Reformed Church of England to which these dissidents still claim allegiance. We even had an article in The Press here in Christchurch, outlining the imminence of schism in the C.of E. That will noi doubt thrill the local members of FOCANZ. Maybe they will look to the ex Abp. of Sydney (one of the prime movers of GAFCON) to give them their own 'bishop'. The saga continues. Meanwhile the Gospel is proclaimed - the outreach of God's merciful kindness to ALL.

Hugh McCann said...

Brian Kelly,, split if you must, but to do what they did was just evil and shallow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; with the increase in secularism and islam (though secularists are already in serious decline because they stubbornly will not reproduce), I do wonder whether we all need to focus on preaching the gospel and being the presence of Jesus. Francis, Justin and Bartholomew would cocelebrate if we let them. How can a priest in obedience to a diocesan bishop be a diocesan bishop himself? This is a nonsense. God cannot honour both channels; one of them cannot be real.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Nick

Father Ron said...

Well, Nick, your own dear Church has been known to suffer a little disconnection during its long history. The Avignon Popes don't get much of as mention in R.C.C. catachetics.
I remember being on a European bus tour with a majority of Roman Catholics who, when we visited Avignion, had never heard of that little schism.

I found your comment about the willingness of Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarchs being willing to concelebrate Mass quote - "If we let them" - unquote. just who are the royal "WE" in this equation? Not the Faithful laity, surely?

Peter Carrell said...

Comment from Ron posted last night, slightly amended:

Even 'Reform' in the U .K. is now producing posts about the irregularity of this parchuted 'consecration' of a 'bishop' of the schismatic Evangelical faux-Anglican Church of South Africa - who also happens to be a'minister' in Holy Orders in the Church of England. It has been pointed out that on the English Minarch can appoint bishops in ther C.of E. - so a big 'NO-NO' friom the Palace for this Bishop-Pryke.

It would seem, from the 'Reform' statement, that the go-ahead for this illicit episcopal ordination was given by no less a celebrity in the GAFOC organisation but our old friend the ex-Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen! Can ACANZP not be immune to a rogue consecration by P.J. for a budding bishop for FOCANZ?

Father Ron said...

Sorry for the typos in my last comment, Peter. It was from my IPad on the evening after a busy Sunday.

I think what is so significant about this latest threat to the Church of England is its implications for similar outbreaks of schismatic activity in other Provinces of the Church - outside of GAFCON, ACNA & AMiE. I would not want this to happen in ACANZP - especially among those who have aligned themselves with the Sydney Diocese and FOCA!

Anonymous said...

Peter; in his comment to me Fr Ron seems to be defending the Evangelicals he usually criticises. I'm encouraged by his new approach. At times, there have no doubt been more Popes claiming the See of Peter than there were Sees to go around, but that is quite different from a diocesan bishop being a priest in the diocese of another ordinary. That in my view would bring the Church into disrepute if the secular world had a clue what that meant. Fr Ron is correct that many Catholics are ignorant of the Church to which they belong. For example, the feast of the immaculate conception is erroneously assumed to be Christ's. As for my use of "we", I am not including the three archbishops I mentioned. I have no doubt that they would share the Eucharist if their own churches did not complain. I accept that Anglicans would not the major problem in that regard though many Protestants do find transubstantiation a step too far.


Father Ron said...

Dear Nick, in response to yours of May 18: I prefer the term 'consubstantiation' - indicating that; together with the elements of bread and wine therein - at the consecration in the Mass - is also Christ's Presence.

(although we have a few scientists in our congregation who have problems with the chemistry). My answer is that this is a 'Sacred Mystery' not a magic trick