Sunday, August 13, 2017

More Down Under Views on Marriage, and more notes from England

From Auckland, and from what could be called the progressive wing of our church, Helen Jacobi, Vicar of St Matthews-in-the-City, offers her view on the working group proposal. SPOILER ALERT: Helen's view is polar opposite to "beautiful accommodation"! Please discuss her response on her site so she can directly engage with your comments. I will not accept comments here which directly engage with what she has written.

Belatedly, I have discovered that, from Christchurch, Bryden Black, regular commenter here, has posted a response to the proposal on the AFFIRM website, here. As it requires a Log In to make comments there, and because Bryden is a regular reader here, I am prepared to take comments which directly engage with his post. SPOILER ALERT: Bryden is uncertain whether it is a "beautiful accommodation" or not!

Then from England:

Thinking Anglicans notices what is going on here.

From the TA site I draw your attention to a Church Times article about what is being proposed.


Anonymous said...

Were a comment offered here to refer to ideas of HJ, JG, MJ, and BB, might it be accepted by the Publisher for exhibition here?


Peter Carrell said...

Yes an indirect comment and/or discussion of ideas spread between the posts would be ok. What i want avoid is becoming a proxy debate site for an engagement that should happen on the original site.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes an indirect comment and/or discussion of ideas spread between the posts would be ok. What i want avoid is becoming a proxy debate site for an engagement that should happen on the original site.

Anonymous said...

A brief note, with the chief virtues of speed, efficiency, zeal, etc--

The Church as described in the scriptures is in the peace of God. It necessarily acts with substantial unity. A church that abandoned this principle would cease to be the Church. A happy warrior who remains too unreconciled to follow the Church has not been saved by God.

The full burden of proof for an argument on That Topic necessarily includes a credible narrative of how those who do not at first agree with the argument will eventually come to that agreement, so that a church can act together. Otherwise one is really advocating for the peace in which one faction seizes power over another, which is somewhat like drilling a hole in a floating boat to drain the water out. Nothing in scripture supports this.

The unity of the Church has consequences for practical argument in her that are not reasonable in civil politics--

(!) Unanimity is normal and normative in the councils of the Church.

(@) Radical perspectivism is less heuristic of good ideas than the vision of God.

(#) Until there is such a credible narrative for its adoption, there is no actual argument on the table.

($) While there is dissensus, there is no change.

(%) And while dissensus persists, one's duty is, not to try to win something-- what exactly?-- by force, but to seek and accept the mind of the Church.

(^) If one cannot do this, one needs penitence and pastoral care.

(&) If one refuses to do this, one does not believe the third article of the creeds, and so one needs either conversion or catechesis.

(*) If we cannot imagine a faithful soul adopting an argument "in Christ," we cannot adopt the argument.

(() Thinking with the Church is an aspect of salvation in those who believe.

()) There is more merit in ignoring a dead argument than in defeating it.

(+) The extension of the Church in space and time makes every local church accountable to the whole.

Among the arguments to which Peter has linked, there are some that a soul in Christ may not believe, quite apart from their rhetorical appeal to the mind. Some have already been rejected by official action. Some have no narrative that enables us to believe that they ever will be adopted by the consensus of the faithful. Some are supported by an appeal to churchly customs or scriptural motifs, but are not in fact thinking with the Church.

Please note that, in this enlightened age and land, one will not be burned at the stake for disliking this note. You are even free to make fun of it.

But if one does not obey this note, then one's faith will have no epistemic ground, and one's soul may be lost, both now and in the end. Every century has its terrors.

Unexpectedly yours,

The Anglican Inquisition

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman
Your points are excellent but will they cut the mustard with those inclined to ditch unity for the sake of action?

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden Black's address to his friends in AFFIRM reiterates his dis-ease with ACANZP's attempt to outlaw homophobia and Sexism in our Church - by his denial of the possibility of Unity in Diversity (an Anglican attribute) on matters of gender and sexuality. It seems that, for B.B. (and maybe AFFIRM), the outcome of the Working Group's Report is a step too far.

Obviously, the inclusion of the bishop of Nelson on the W.G. Panel has not allayed Bryden's fear of the pollution that would take place if ACANZP were allowed to continue on the path towards the Blessing of same-Sex Unions; which he sees as antithetical to the 'orthodoxy' (a favourite but inept word often misused by con/evos) of the Christian Church.

What Bryden has so obviously missed, in his statement to AFFIRM, is the fact that even the GAFCON-friendly bishop on the Working Group that has issued its response to be discussed by diocesan and General Synods has been unable to resist the call to reform the homophobic and sexist attitudes in our Church. This means that those who threatened to leave ACANZP if the Way Forward were passed by G.S. have not achieved what they wanted from the Working Group - even though one of its members was obviously a GAFCON supporter and participant in its meetings.

The question might now be asked; Is Bryden - and the AFFIRM constituency in N.Z., then, still poised to carry out its threat to leave ACANZP should the W.G.'s submission be accepted? This seems to me to be the real message.

Anonymous said...

Peter, no one expects the Anglican Inquisition. So until the inquisitors actually do visit "those inclined to ditch unity for action," we cannot know how the latter would respond to their wise counsel. The rumour is that they will like the red hats, but will not understand the theology. But who knows?

Anyway, if their inclination actually is to ditch unity, then why care what they think? As St John the Divine says of a different group, those who leave reject koinonia, and those who reject koinonia were never really part of it anyway. Pragmatically, it makes little sense to let malcontents first dictate your policy, and then leave you anyway because they got only 85% of what they wanted.

A more urgent question concerns those who are staying: some pastoral response to civil SSM has to be adopted, so what new divisions of opinion might emerge over that if SSB were off the table for ever? It's only speculation, of course, but perhaps the new line would be a fuzzier one separating (a) most who offer a practical but non-sacramental support for married same sex couples from (b) most who consciously retrieve a scriptural sexual ethic as a gospel practise, and (c) those who live lives of ordered celibacy.

Why is the line fuzzier? Hardliners at both of today's extremes would hate it. Practise (a) is far too little for militant busdrivers speeding to SSB and yet far too much for those sympathetic to GAFCONian handwringing about and hauteur toward the North. And the practices can be blended. Contrary to some expectations, Practise (a) may actually sensitise progressives to Practise (b) by making everyone more intentional about lived sexuality. Practise (b) is likely to be the strong preference of traditionalists but those favouring it will have lighter scruples about (a) than about SSB, and a notable few in this practise will have gay children. Practise (c) has an interesting hybrid vigour as it can draw from both missionary and monastic streams of spirituality, and has a large natural demographic base in the myriad persons who are, for whatever reason, living alone. Lambeth (1998) I.10 clearly calls for something like Practise (c). A conversation among these three practises is inherently more dynamic than the Anglican tug-of-war of the past generation.

Would a church gently polarised around (a), (b), and (c) be unified? Those who can support no unity but that of others agreeing with them as they drive the bus are probably outside any unity in Christ. I have more hope that those committed to learning from these three practises of discipleship can find themselves and each other in Christ if they think with the Church.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
But my concern about those pressing to ditch unity for the sake of action is that that might be a driver which drives away close friends and friends of like-mindedness and leaves me in a church which is now driven by people I am not so close to, in little agreement with, to say nothing of it being a church (as you observe) which knows not the reality of "unity."
Why would I stay?
Because of the middle ground, populated by many people I love and hold dear in Christ, who likely will stay, whatever is decided and who ever turns out, on closer inspection, to hold the whip hand.

Anonymous said...

Peter, if I read you aright, you are describing a life in which one inhabits ecumenical space *as an individual*. That is: even with one's co-religionists, one cannot navigate friendships from a common and perduring theological ground. Instead, one must negotiate places of rendezvous much as two somewhat similar but also different churches do, and there is always the hazard that some emergent issue or even some silly vote will blast through such fragile affinities like hail blown through a spider's web. The Reformation generations faced a choice of plausible bodies of Christ; our generation faces institutional forces for disembodiment. This is not That Topic; for us it may be The Topic.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, one thing about all this is that your 'middle ground' stance will at least free you from the responsibility of choosing schism, rather then remaining with a Church to which you have pledged a relationship.

It will not be easy for any who choose to join the GAFCON-related entity in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It is obvious - like the dissidents in Hamilton - that they will have to justify their separatism to any new adherents they hope to recruit. One thing would be quite clear; they would not be entitled to ACANZP property or Anglican naming rights. Also, though they may recruit their own bishop, s/he would hold no authority among the ACANZP episcopate.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
While I appreciate your support I nevertheless feel the need to make two observations:
- I am not aware of any trademark concerning the word "Anglican".
- Any parish leaving our church that has been carefully building up trusts and properties independent of diocesan trustees will take those properties and trusts with them.
It is important not to be naive about such things!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your speedy response to my latest comment.

However, may I just add a further couple of thoughts?

(1), Whilst aware of the lack of a trademark "Anglican", one wonders why a dissident group that wants to distance itself from the local Anglican Church would not want to add at least a qualifying codicil to its title - e.g. like/: 'The Bible Baptists' have done. This could perhaps then denote a total reliance upon the Biblical aspects of the Faith - minus the more difficult elements of Tradition and Reason, each of which remains a true charism of Anglicanism.

(2), I'm surprised at your suggestion that any parish has built up a portfolio of properties for its own use "independently of the Church Property Trustees". I imagined that the Canons of the Church did not allow such sequestration of property for private ownership by a parish. If this is the case in Christchurch, do the Bishop and CPT know about it?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Canon law does not permit parishes to build up their own property portfolios nor to develop their own trusts (e.g. in the sense that ownership or trusteeship is in the names of the churchwardens).

Canon law cannot prevent individuals who choose to form a trust for the benefit of their local parish from doing so.

In my understanding of these matters there are such "independent" trusts aroundabouts, and not all such trusts are associated with conservative parishes - a point not to be overlooked if anyone were minded to try to corral such trusts into the diocesan trusteeship.

In some cases, trusts associated in this kind of way with parishes have been formed for what could be called "neutral" purposes, i.e. in order to secure local council funding for youth work, a trust needs to be formed to apply for those funds which is not directly in control of either vestry or diocese.

What the Christchurch Diocese Standing Committee or CPT knows about such matters is for them to say. Not me.

My general experience of these matters across our whole church is that Diocesan authorities know what is going on. We are not a large country or church as you know, and everyone seems to know everyone else's business!

Anonymous said...

I think we can not as comfortably make assertions about who owns and controls parish property as we used to prior to the quakes. As you know, CPT's confident movement of money was challenged in court, and the Church's understanding was found to be incorrect. There has been significant gifting of parish money from parishes - in order to do this there a meeting of parishioners agrees to this moving. It would be interesting, in this (everyone seems to know everyone else's business!) discussion, to know what happened to the St Alban's parish funds (including the current sale of its building). What I think the quakes have underlined is that CPT holds funds in trust for the parish (which appears to be the owner). Having held the position previously myself, I am now no longer convinced by those who proudly, loudly claimed that TEC's court cases in USA could never happen here.



Anonymous said...

"...supposing any ‘successful’ outcome, and a ‘new’ organizational body, with these two parts... what of the 'integrity' of the eventual structure that seeks to house BOTH of these stances, together? How on earth might we ‘read’ the integrity of this new whole?!" --Bryden, edited.

Two contrasting replies come to mind.

(1) Pragmatists presumably would not reduce the ecclesial substance of each parish, monastery, cathedral to its chosen practise with respect to SSB. To them, the two subsets of the ACANZP whole define administrative safeguards, not *integrities*, and any problem of seeing ACANZP as a whole remains what it always has been.

The pragmatist view makes most sense if one expects both SSB and no-SSB to eventually attract adherents from all camps, theological and otherwise.

(2) In a mitosis, mutual recognition of distinct missions warrants a delegation of the power to choose missional tactics that will result from time to time in provisional differences of practise downstream (eg SSB v no-SB; easy remarriage v remarriage with penitence; etc). The mutual recognition of distinct missions within the one Church, not necessarily without some fraternal criticism, is the holistic view that Bryden seeks.

The mitotic view makes most sense if one believes that both SSB and no-SSB are markers of paradigms of belief, witness, and care that are more perduring than the present fascination with gay sex, and are plausibly related to a mission warranted from within the catholic, or at least the Anglican, tradition.

While the whole substance of the catholic Church subsists in ACANZP, this does not mean that the whole of the catholic Church need be seen either in that church or in its proposed parts.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

BB, I am reading RWJ's On Thinking the Human.


Anonymous said...

"If love and commitment are sufficient of themselves to warrant the Church’s blessing, is the door not opened to other consensual sexual relationships that are also condemned in Scripture?"

Yes, Brendan, it is. May I point to the central disagreement here?

David Bentley Hart et al are right that self-transformation through ascesis in Christ is precisely what the authors of the NT believed, practised, and wrote about. However, proponents of SSB stand in a Reformation tradition (eg Brian, who opposes SSB) that rejects all forms of asceticism and sees material pleasure as a divine blessing, and that stream has no resources for processing ideas scriptural or otherwise in which deep self-transformation is normal for a soul in Christ. Conversely, opponents of SSB stand in a Reformation tradition that honours scripture as the Word written (eg Brian again), but reads the language of ascesis in the NT as authoritative positive expression of the natural law. Celibacy-- total entrustment to God's love-- is a problem to both streams because it offends the former's sense that "Christ came to save us from Christianity" so that we could all enjoy the Good Life of the bourgeoisie, while it offends the latter's sense that positive law is the fundamental guide to every human behaviour. Homosexuality and the Six Texts hit both positions squarely in their blind spot-- in Christ, the self we think we know is essentially neither a sensorium for bourgeois pleasure nor a diligent rule-keeper but is rather being transformed into a new creation. Unable to answer the problems posed from theological resources, the two streams default to social rhetorics about "equality" or "rights" on one hand, or about "objectivity" and "authority"-- none of which is very relevant to the gospel preached by the apostles.

SSB is itself a superstition. Marriage does not require a church blessing, and neither in the middle ages nor today is there solid agreement on what that blessing would do anyway. The justice claims of homosexuals on the human community have already been satisfied by civil SSM; there is nothing further for churches to do there. In Anglican understanding, the only rites of "inclusion" in Christ were established by Christ-- baptism and eucharist. Nobody today believes things-- the planethood of Pluto etc-- just because a body somewhere voted for it. There is nothing there.

The pot nevertheless boils over because Christians in the pleasure stream are anxious to avoid being marginalised in the neo-epicurean societies of late capitalism, while Christians in the law stream are anxious to have a bulwark against precisely that neo-epicurean apostasy. These anxieties are about real possibilities, but this debate has no potential to address them.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Bowman, for your link to the amazing article by David Bentley Hart.
It really does make one wonder how the Puritans of our day can really claim to exemplify the lives of our early New Testament era forebears - which is the apparent (scriptural?) basis for their criticism of those others of us whom they claim are on the way to perdition.

The only answer to such certitude, of course, is the counterclaim of the Gospel; that our redemption and salvation from God-in-Christ is pure gift; little to do with self-satisfaction at our own capacity for personal holiness - a charism which belongs to God alone - as Jesus asserted in his response to the disciple addressing him as 'Good Master': "Who are you calling 'good'? There is One Alone Who is Good!" - surely an indication that the only hope for humanity's perfection is in God alone and not within our human capacity to achieve without God. If even Jesus, in human form, refused to be called 'good master'; what possible hope do we humans have of being considered above reproach when compared to other people?

This is what renders our judgement of other sinners like ourselves to be so very dangerous. In our presumption that other sinners are in danger of Hell-fire. we may be assuming a right to judgement that "belongs to God alone".

I am ever more mindful of the description of the Christian life as being like "One poor person showing another poor person where to find bread". The true bread that we all need for our salvation is the "Bread of Life in Christ Jesus". This is why our participation in the Eucharist is the key to our redemption and salvation. - "Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life", said Jesus "And I will raise them up on the last day".

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I'm glad that you enjoyed David Bentley Hart's article. I am still thinking it through myself.

At least in the writings of St Paul, grace (charis) has several dimensions, and some disagreements on ADU are at least reflected in different emphases. You, for example, have a vivid sense of the sheer incongruity of God and the sinner to whom he shows mercy. Your invocations of that resonate with my reading of Finnish divines reading Luther reading St Paul, so of course I thank you for those words in due season. In St Paul, this merciful grace also empowers and demands reciprocity, however, and others here tend to emphasise those dimensions. Yesterday, on the everlasting thread, I posted comments 310, 311, and 312 on just that difference.

I wonder where Brian is these days?

Bowman Walton