What do you think?
Archbishop Peter Jensen has written a stirring, well argued, impeccably logical article entitled "The Mythical Middle."
It is completely obvious that he has another Peter in his sights. :)
Especially with his concluding sentence:
"Be careful of the Mythical Middle – it is in fact a Misleading Muddle!"
But I am wondering if ++Peter is as muddled as that other Peter.
I say that because ++Peter seems to think that a church cannot entertain lots of moderates in a middling if not muddling position. It is bound to end in disaster, seems to be the implication of what he writes.
But when he writes these words below, I feel he is an accurate, sympathetic historian of a certain church I know well, which has lasted with its over population of muddled moderates for centuries!
"In this way, you can avoid being ‘an extremist’. Of course, ‘extremist’ is such an ugly word that no one wishes to accept the label. We much prefer to have the good judgement that enables us to be in the middle of any dispute, seeing the good on both sides but not turning the argument into a matter of mutually exclusive choice between two options.Incidentally, after I drafted the above, I came across notice of this extraordinary John McArthur recipe for responding to a gay child. Is this the logical extension of ++Peter's non-muddled approach to sexuality?
Notice how the strategy of creating a false middle occurs. It appeals to the natural human desire to be supposedly rational in thought, calm, and fair. There is a belief that the truth in any matter is not at either ‘extreme’, but inevitably in the middle and if we occupy the middle ground we cannot go too far wrong.People with a product to sell often play off this instinct. They don’t offer us two sizes of coffee cup – they offer three, knowing that most of us will choose the middle and pride ourselves on being moderate. What they do not tell us is that the middle choice suits them commercially as this is where the best profit margin will be.But it is not just in buying and selling. How many times are we told even in Christian communications that we have a choice between the over-emphasis of one side and the over-emphasis of another and that if we stick to the convenient middle, all will be well? Think. What if the truth is actually on the boundary and not in the middle? What if there is no middle, but the choice is binary, and the middle is a mythical middle?For example, imagine a denomination in which some ministers teach that Jesus was a merely good man and others teach that he is both true God and true man. Where is the moderate, middle view here? Would it be to say that Jesus is divine but not fully God? We can hear all the arguments in favour of this moderate position – but we know that it is actually heretical.By using the word ‘extremist’ for those who hold a strong point of view, who make a stand, we excuse ourselves from the need to think, to make a decision, to act. Or we give ourselves permission to bless what God calls sin because it is not the most extreme form of such an activity. Or we acquiesce without protest in the activities of others doing this, in our name."
ADDED LATER: The implication of ++Peter's GAFCON piece is that churches of like pure mindedness should stick together. But, here's the thing, no Anglican church is perfectly pure. Here is a disturbing report of a GAFCON province, the Anglican Church of Kenya, being found to have sacked priests without evidence for the canonical crime for which they were assumed guilty.
Peter J.'s OP defends that blinkered sight in which each extreme can see the other without understanding it, but neither can see what most people think, let alone engage their epistemic ground for thinking it. To become a truly *happy warrior*, Peter C., one must give up all empathy for the alternate viewpoints. Cognitive distortions result from that, and one can waste a lot of energy in defending them, no matter which side of the polarity one fights for. Alas, polarisation feels good but dulls the intelligence.
The worst cognitive distortions, which we see often in the threads here, are--
(a) that happy warriors come to love *all or nothing thinking* so much that they lose their ability to recognise the substantive differences among mediate positions;
(b) that they grow overconfident in the strength of their own arguments because they only test them against opponents too distant for them to understand anyway;
(c) that by addressing only the arguments of happy warriors at the other pole, they evade the stronger arguments of reasonable people elsewhere; and
(d) that when they actually have no answer to an argument, they quibble about its legitimacy rather than acknowledging, as honest people do, that it does have some force but that as yet they have no substantive reply to it.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the problem with extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they have a boundless capacity for not seeing what everyone else does see. Jesus called this picking a mote out of one's brother's eye when there is a plank in one's own.
So the superiourity of the centre in this controversy is not merely that it is in some sense a middle way, a compromise, a unifying position, etc. It may be those things. But those who hold it have worked past much of the faulty reasoning on either side of them. They are more faithful to the procreative and virtuous ethos of the canon as a whole than haters of homosexuality who brandish the Six Texts as laws without context or purpose. At the same time, they approach the pastoral care of persons with anomalous sexuality more empirically and less dogmatically than those lost others who think synods are parliaments reforming societies. Those of us in the superiour centre are certainly not smarter than all the others; we just have not made ourselves stupid by stubbornly refusing to venture beyond the safety of favourite talking points.
But it is not too late! The centre is superiour precisely because it continues to learn from the best arguments. For example, nothing stops Peter J. from offering a guide to pastoral care for the intersexed in his next OP; doing so might show that his position can handle at least the most undeniable exception to the ideal binary. That would be welcome news. Similarly, nothing stops someone on the other side from explaining why churches of Anglican tradition should do any weddings at all in C21 states that register marriages; doing so might show that they have grappled in a serious way with the history and theology of the rite. Presently, they seem to have a solution without a problem. But if neither side takes up either problem, is there any reason why centrists should not conclude...
I found this old post of Ian Paul's interesting in examining sin and personal identity:
I am not happy with one phrase in your comment and therefore am redacting it a little. There is no need to sue the phrase, no matter its origins in our Lord's own words, of any one in this particular debate.
"Thank you Peter for including your afterthought item by Benjamin L. Corey. It is an absolute panacea for the degree of antipathy to Gays that people like the ex-archbishop of Sydney presents in your main thesis.
Despite his seeming inference to the troubling aspects of extremism (especially in the mattera of the rejection of the Church's eirenic approach to sexuality and gender) the one-time Sydney Church Leader has, in fact, brought the GAFCON Prlates to the point where they are refusing to meet with other Primates of the world-Communion of Anglicans at the next Primates'Meeting.
Stanley Ntagali's blunt refusal - at the time of the ABC's visit to Uganda - to be present at the P.C., is so obviously a product of the pressure of people like Peter Jensen, whose extremism is so potently a direct cause of division in the Anglican Communion. I see P.J. as little less [...] not an advocate of Unity within our Churches, which are more used to being called the 'via media'.
Thanks Bowman, Jean and Ron!
I like the apologia for the centre Bowman gives - a healthy reminder that a certain kind of "stupidity" can also have empathy (for all other non-centre lines and situations), and that the centre can be a position which requires less backing down from pronounced or assumed threats to peel off into separatist futures ...
Hi Peter; I don't think you are muddled, but the former archbishop has the benefit of a straight forward and persuasive argument. You are forced to make a silk purse out of someone else's sow's ear. What nobody discusses is what schism might look like. That might be a useful way to resolve the situation. I don't counsel schism (that is clearly a matter for Anglicans) but mapping out what it might look like could well silence the softer critics leaving robust critics to invite ACNA to NZ or similar solution. That would inject some life. Although I don't claim to know how this would work (you'd want a property settlement) there might be some scope for a level of communion although unlikely stretching to a common celebration of the Eucharist. Ultimately that's probably better than wasting another 10 years discussing ordination of gay and transgender priests in relationships and the inevitable transgender welcome services for those transitioning to their "new" identity. I'm not trying to be a Jeremiah, but liberals can't help themselves. Every victory is the next step for the new ridiculous demand.
Finally, according to Fr Ron, God the Holy Spirit seems to be spending an awful amount of time on this issue. Call me silly, but it's more likely that He is interested in child poverty and saving souls.
I think I see our ACANZP situation a little differently.
The proposal (IMHO) is a last ditch proposal for one and all to joyfully embrace in order that neither conservatives nor liberals achieve a complete domination over the other, and the vast swathe of moderates is free of ongoing theological war.
If (1) it is not embraced then whether we have continuing conflict or schism, we are into pain, though just maybe, in the latter case, the North American experience will deter us from making property matters part of that pain.
If (2) it is embraced but later we have regrets, likely from the liberal side that they didn't push harder for more progressive change (noted by you as inevitable, but I don't think it need be), then I think some of us, well, me, at any rate, might just go, "Look, fill your boots. But I am off."
Hi Peter, if the majority comprises moderates as opposed to liberals or conservatives, then I agree that there is a reasonable chance that the majority will have less tolerance of any future identity politics.
Dear Nick, God, in each of the forms of the Holy Trinity - the Spirit included - is always interested in social justice. Even the ancient prophets were concerned with this aspect of God's will for his created world and its people. This is why the advent of Pope Francis - following on that of Pope John XXIII - is so important, not only for the Roman Catholic Church but for all devout Christians. There is nothing that exists that God is not concerned for.
The logic of the article might be impeccable, but I was left wondering if logic and theology make uncomfortable bedfellows. The premise seems to be that on some issue there is a range of opinions from A to Z, and that the Mythical Middle, or Misleading Muddle is somewhere to be found in the range, say, K to P. However, the truth is at A or Z. But this does depend on how you pose the issue. He illustrated this with the core Christological question, but posed as A = Jesus was a man, or Z = Jesus was/is Man and God. But if, rather, one takes the line from A = Jesus was a man to Z = Jesus is God, then my understanding is that no single position on the line is the truth. It is neither at one end or the other or in the middle. Rather the truth is at both extremes. The art of theology is often the holding of the extremes together. Contradiction is necessary part of our understanding of matters beyond our limited grasp, or, at least, beyond my limited grasp.
David, loved your exposition ofwhat is most likely the reality. God is good, and well able to cope with our human inconsistencies! Praise the Lord!
Well Bowman; I fancy this extract of a comment of mine on another thread - yes; THAT One! - leads to a resource which is beautifully empathetic, being also utterly clear-minded and not at all distorted or distorting. It reads the signs of the times most astutely.
“Which leads to one last key resource and assessment: Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, 2012). Originally a 2010 article in the esteemed Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, it describes our current social landscape. It contrasts two essentially different views of “marriage”. There is “conjugal marriage”, and then there is “contractual marriage”. The first, traditional and world-wide view is by its nature “effusive”, “flowing out into the wide sharing of family life and ahead into lifelong fidelity.” The second is “revisionist”, where the “bond needn’t point beyond the partners, in which fidelity is ultimately subject to one’s own desires, [... and where] partners seek emotional fulfilment, and remain [together] as long as they find it.” NB the latter definition of ‘marriage’ applies crucially to BOTH heterosexual and homosexual partnerships - a vital description therefore. And like any contract, it may be terminated when it ceases to fulfil its terms.”
Our AC has merely confused these two and failed to act accordingly. It has fallen prey to that arch liar who always mixes both truth and falsehood to deceive and lead astray. (Cf. Gen 3 for that basic approach.)
Neither happy nor a warrior, I'm frankly just plain sad at our ineptness and gullibility.
Yes, Bryden, the distinction between the conjugal and contractual *concepts* of marriage is real, although I take it that many or most of the *couples* that have seemed conjugal have had a contract for their social form.
I wish that both of the usual polarised sides would admit that-- (1) for better and for worse, our received *solemnisation* is firmly contractual; and yet (2) no contract, including that one, has inventoried all that a marriage is in the new creation. Such honesty would not bring them together, but it would make their disagreement more interesting, and maybe more important.
In your earlier thread, of which this one is merely a continuation, I note your question to Bryden, “Do you get our church?” It is your clearest and most sound stance yet. The trouble is that the “our church” of which you are talking, which you are prepared to defend to the last stand, failing only lay presidency, is not the “my church” of Matthew 16: 18, against which Jesus declares, the gates of Hell will not prevail; the church of Paul, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and buttress of Truth,” (1 Timothy 3: 15 the true church extant through all ages holding firmly and faithfully to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, she whom Christ most earnestly and most assuredly desires to deliver to himself spotless and above reproach, his Bride for whom he gave his life (Ephesians 5). With what slander and carelessness and bravado and arrogance have we seen recently the efforts of those who would taint the holiness and purity and truth of this Bride, in favour of whatever accommodation seems pretty or novel or rainbow-hued.
As a student of politics and history you are familiar with the Warsaw Pact, in which a bunch of disparate communities bonded together to their later discomfort for the sake of a tenuous and vain unity. This latest effort by the Anglican hierarchy can only be known in the future as the Esau Pact, in which the muddled middle, those who will not yield to Romans 12: 1, 2 (and so many commands of Scripture on behalf of Christ), will throw away their birthright for a mess of the pottage of inclusivity and “social justice” (whatever that is in contradiction to the justice of Almighty God). There is braying talk of “schism” particularly from a school which appears to be a kind of “farther on” sacramentalism, (for which we note that those who go beyond Christ are described in 2 John v9). Is it not abundantly clear that schism has already occurred, by those who have departed from the “Truth as it is in Jesus”, the Gospel faith for which we are all adjured to contend, the faith which Peter (1 Peter 1: 1 – 9) so splendidly proclaims? A true church would cleave off these tares in order that they may perhaps repent and be restored. As for those who would use their position of teaching and leadership to lead the little ones astray from the orthodoxy of the Word of God (an orthodoxy which exists beyond the creeds and canons of history), well, we are familiar with the nature and the weight of millstones. It has been remarkable to observe the straw men, the logical fallacies, the false dichotomies, the bush-beating and chest-beating and the misuse of context and reference in the pursuit of failing persuasion whether for this current cause or for any other which flouts the clear text of the Word of God.
A final question: much has been made of the need to help God out with his love for humanity. Do we not understand that God’s capacity for love is sufficient to send his son to the Cross, and that he is entirely able to make such accommodation as he himself chooses in the counsel of his own will, to seek and save the lost? Surely our job is to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness so that as God adds to that whatever he chooses, those who are being saved will have a clear and trustworthy Body of Christ, the church, to which to adhere and in which to be nurtured. “You shall be holy even as I the Lord God am holy; I have set you apart from the peoples that you may be MINE.” (Leviticus 20: 26)
I remain, like Paul, the greatest of sinners; “who will rescue me from this body of death?” – but with him cry, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Some might say, Nick, that I have discussed *schism* as a live option for ACANZP. Four questions relevant to that option are--
(1) Are two parties that both intend to be churches in the wider ecumene in *schism*?
(2) Are two parties in *schism* if neither denies the churchly substance of the other, but both agree that they cannot collaborate in anything but worship?
(3) How is the partition of ACANZP (or of the Church of Scotland) different from, and preferable to, a division into two churches that remain in communion?
(4) Given that a mitosis of ACANZP occurs, what forms of unity ought the two daughter churches to maintain?
Hi Neville (and, to a degree, Bowman)
I am not prepared to defend our church to the end, save for lay presidency.
I do not, for instance, defend the previous proposal our church entertained at GS 2016.
I would not defend a new proposal which flattened our current doctrine of marriage into some Scottish Episcopal Church-like change which evacuates marriage of gender distinction.
What you raise, more generally, is the question of a church's faithfulness to the teaching of Christ. One point I would make is that we are on dangerous ground when we focus on one shortfall (or alleged shortfall) in faithfulness to the teaching of Christ and make that a ground for schism (or, less drastically, for accusing "the other side" of not being part of the true church). We are (as you acknowledge) all sinners. But do we acknowledge multiple ways in which we may not be faithful to Christ.
Speaking only for myself and my role in the church, am I faithful to Christ in matters of justice, in challenging the economic status quo (which places so much value on usury, which is forbidden by Scripture), in reaching out to widows and orphans, in regular commemoration of the Lord's Supper (I missed it yesterday, only being in a non-communion service!), in praying fervently for all those known to me who are in sickness, sorrow, trouble, etc? What I find when I am with brothers and sisters in Christ whose views on SSB or even SSM are quite disagreeable to most commenters here currently is that there is always something about their lives and their approach to being Anglican which calls into question my fecklessness.
It is perhaps not so much that I seek to defend our church but seek to see it as clearly as possible as the hospital for sinners which it is, albeit with wings, side chapels and trouble getting all the patients into one room for one communion!
Bowman: I think we would find that if there is schism, communion between the two (or more) churches will be patchy, but not necessarily mutually banned.
(2) Yes; Rome and Constantinople fit.
(3) No difference on the assumption of open communion.
(4) Obviously I'm not in communion, but common public comment against people smuggling, sex slavery and other egregious sin would be possible. Romans and Anglicans are joining forces on the NZ housing affordability crisis for example.
I add two related points. Peter's views on schism are IMHO not unlike Rome's on divorce. It's simply bad, bad, bad except in very limited circumstances. A way round that (using annulment as a guide) is to say that the other side weren't Christians anyway ie there is no schism. I know that's dangerous and certainly not advanced by Peter, but I find it at least superficially attractive. I clearly do not however counsel schism because it has to be the last resort and I have no skin in the game. Inevitably I think Romans will face similar issues and I'll go to the SSPX, if they'll have me.
Then perhaps, Peter, mitosis, not schism, is the actual counterplan to the beautiful compromise. Two well articulated proposals may be better for clear thinking than one official plan and one dreaded boo-word. And quite apart from this, Anglicans, Catholics, and Orthodox need to think through mitosis in the C21 anyway.
To be clear, some broad traits distinguishing mitosis from schism--
(1) Koinonia is the motivation. The mother church willingly divides into a true community of daughters, each of which has the complete tradition of the whole, but also some recombination of it that energises fellowship in a particular way.
(2) Mission is the occasion. The gifts are mutually recognised, and they are seen to be duties for those who have them. But although some use of them is required, those without the gift cannot feasibly apply it, and owing to intrinsic human limitations, it is cumbersome for those with different gifts to govern them all. Mitosis allows episcopal discernment that is appropriate to the entrusted gifts.
(3) Oversight is mutual and sisterly. Like persons, churches make mistakes, and need perceptive critique that can be absorbed over time, but they cannot tolerate destructive inner voices. In mitosis, neither sister church hesitates to identify the other's errors, nor does either church refuse to listen to such critique, but in substance and style this is neither a human power struggle (eg GAFCON) nor a competition to be first in the kingdom (eg GAFCON), and in the meantime life goes on.
(4) Unity in Christ remains visible to the world. Mitosis follows the episcopalian canons of Nicea etc, and avoids three errors of denominationalism: (a) plank-eyed mote-picking, (b) dissociation from top to bottom over second-order matters, and (b) treating shared property (eg pension fund, seminaries, titles to land and intellectual property, etc) as a church. Churches in mitosis avoid these errors by consciously and jointing constructing the sort of difference-in-unity that is appropriate rather than expecting the bare notion of membership to sort all this out in every mind in the same way.
(5) Disunity is consciously addressed as theological error and spiritual illness. Because churches in mitosis have a conscious unity, they distinguish in practise between the true ecclesiology and the false, and they cultivate the spiritual disciplines that unity in Christ requires. In contrast, schism is the only dissociation possible with a cruder understanding of unity in Christ that, in the theological West, is often either authoritarian (eg Marcel Lefebvre) or particularist (eg Peter Jenson). Sister churches have to tend their lamps, and for both of the usual sides that would require some retrieval of ancient discipline.
Each has some voices that are attracted to its gifts, but that cannot think with Anglicans because they do not accept the Nicene understanding of unity: they are either not episcopalians, or they hold positions incompatible with the unity that the Holy Spirit gave to the one Church in the first millennium. Churches in mitosis would minister to them as to all Christians, but their incomplete understanding will be more conspicuous in siblings with a conscious unity. Some will learn with their churches, and will be better Christians for it. Others who cannot accept the Nicene truth may well leave both sisters for other bodies that they find more congenial, slamming the church's red door behind them. We should provision them, and pray for godspeed in their journey.
A final thought. However the interdepartmental marking process goes, readers here can see for themselves that the text of the Augsburg Confession presented the C16 papacy with a dilemma closely analogous to that facing ACANZP and other Anglican churches: some persons reasonably believe from scripture that their eternal salvation requires *of them personally* some degree of dissociation (ie autocephaly, mitosis, partition) from an explicit belief (ie salvation through works, gay sex is blessed). The danger is that in the C21, as alas in the C16-18, human stupidity and sin will lead Christians to act as though Christ never founded a Church and the Holy Spirit abandoned the faithful for a thousand years after Pentecost.
Nick, I did not see your last comment as I replied to Peter, but I almost entirely agree with it.
I do not counsel schism, even as a last resort, because it is a misunderstanding of unity in Christ-- a leap from the frying pan into the fire-- and because to this day no scriptural warrant for schism has stood the test of later exegesis. Ben T. Witherington III wrote a survey of the exegetical grounds for "denominational distinctives" that some overconfident voices here should find sobering.
It may be that, a generation from now, GAFCON and the Anglican Ordinariate will be for Anglicans then what SSPX today is for Catholics and what Old Believers, Old Calendar Greeks, and ROCOR are for Orthodox. However, the founders of almost all of these older groups embraced errors that their successors had to disavow, and that will be true for the alt-Anglican bodies as well.
"Churches in mitosis avoid these errors by consciously and jointly constructing the sort of difference-in-unity that is appropriate [to the time and place] rather than by expecting the bare notion of membership to sort all this out in every mind in the same way."
So, Peter, at this first stage of ACANZP's process, the beautiful compromise (hereinafter BC) does look better than schism (I'll call it S), but mitosis (M) looks even better than BC. Why? Because BC does no more than S to construct a proper difference-in-unity; BC just recognises the imperative of unity where S assumes an imperative of difference. Discussing BC, your commentators here say "Difference! Difference! Difference!" for they need or want dissociation, and you and I reply "Unity! Unity! Unity!" because we understand that the Bible is about a people who were chosen despite their inevitable failures. But the better conversation is the one at which my 6:43 and 6:44 hint.
Hi Peter, without wading into all the rest, I just question the premise that this is about you at all - it seems to me there are, with all due respect, much bigger fish to fry in the Anglican world for someone with as much connection as Peter J. The issue at hand is by no means just an ACANZP issue!
I am a little confused by your "mitosis" proposal because it seems to involve some kind of unity with some kind of real difference, and thus I ask what its material difference is, on the one hand to schism (which preserves the point of difference between two sisterly churches) or, on the other hand, to the beautiful compromise (which preserves the unity between two divided parts of one church).
It is also interesting to reflect on whether or not "mitosis" is what we have with our Three Tikanga structure ...
Of course it is not about me - Peter Jenson has much bigger fish to fry in a sea in which I am but a piece of plankton.
But I might have been a little ironic ...!
"I am a little confused by your "mitosis" proposal because it seems to involve some kind of unity with some kind of real difference..."
So far, Peter, these are the most consequential comments of 2017 ;-)
The important distinction is the one between schism and mitosis. Any hot controversy can be treated either as a litmus test for a body's churchliness-- its property of actually being recognised in heaven as the Body of Christ-- or else as the symptom of an emergent problem that not all can solve in the same way at a given time. Schismatics take the former path, and mitotics the latter one.
"...what [is mitosis's] material difference... to schism (which preserves the point of difference between two sisterly churches) or... to the beautiful compromise (which preserves the unity between two divided parts of one church)." Schismatic sisters are permanently estranged; they deny that they are sisters. Mitotic sisters separate but carry on; they try to get the family back together again. Schismatics blame each other; mitotics recognise a misfortune.
In schism, the dividing bodies deny each other's churchliness, their denials become their new identities, and because those identities have to be deconstructed or put aside for reunion to occur, it seldom does. Schismatics say: "Because we are the Church, and you are not, we must separate." Identity requires purity.
In mitosis, on the other hand, those dividing do not doubt each other's churchliness, but they do recognise that an emergency has intolerably strained their collaboration, and they separate with the hope that reunion will occur when it passes. Mitotics say: "You too are the Church against which the gates of hell shall never prevail, but this situation is preventing us from truly collaborating, and the work must go on." Mission orders unity.
TEC and ACNA are in schism; they have built walls and dug moats meant to last. When the KGB was infiltrating the Patriarchate of Moscow, it had an understandably bitter rivalry with ROCOR; today they are in mitosis. So, as Nick says, are Rome and Constantinople, which reminds us that the temperature of mitosis varies. Neither state is perfect unity, but mitosis seems much closer.
"[Is] "mitosis" what we have with our Three Tikanga structure...?" Yes. The three tikangas recognise churchliness all around, but they also operate separately for evidently missional reasons. And of course, if the facts on the ground changed so that these structures were no longer needed, it would not require the reversal of deeply held theological positions to change them.
Now which is the beautiful compromise-- schism or mitosis? The blessed peacemakers themselves sound somewhat mitotic, respecting the churchliness of both sides. But their plan can sound proto-schismatic: "You are not the Church, and the gates of hell have already slammed shut behind you, or you would not be so wrong about SSB. But some of us, until they feel strong enough to do what has to be done, want to collaborate with you for a while longer." Or it can sound meretricious: "God does not care, nobody is the Church, and there is no hell ;-) But a degree of separation will allow donors to feel more excited about giving and that will better fund shared institutions." The gap between the unity to be conserved and the unity that is being ably confessed could cause real trouble.
Bryden is probably right that this gap comes of a certain low prudence that would rather do anything but the essential things: (a) map the main theological positions on the ground with charity and accuracy, and (b) offer a position for the whole with which most will struggle to agree at one point or another. And as you say, Peter, the best action requires some historical perspective, which is just what the ignorant armies that clash by night do not have.
What then are blessed peacemakers to do about the gap? Compel everyone to face the evidence for the reasonableness and faithfulness of the main positions. What matters is not agreement-- it won't happen-- but empathy that enables charity. And then push the practise of any partition raised far from schism and close to mitosis. Inevitably: (a) and then, as far as possible, (b).
You are there and I am not, of course. But human nature is everywhere. I would not assume that, over time, a beautiful partition will necessarily evolve toward good mitosis rather than bad schism.
Thanks Bowman I am much, much clearer on the advantages of "mitosis."
In local terms, I would say that the "mitosis" argument comes up when, from time to time, voices are heard asking whether, additional to our three culturally based Tikanga we could have a fourth, theological Tikanga. An advantage being that each Tikanga has its own bishops (albeit approved by the whole church).
Nevertheless this would not be quite the "mitosis" you envisage because that fourth Tikanga would be expected to have fellowship with the other Tikanga at General Synod, to share the same constitution, etc.
Following on from Bowman's comments here, it seems most likely that schism entails one party making the step of actually breaking from fellowship with the other(s) - as occurred when the GAFCON prelates refused to share the Eucharist (koinonia) with TEC.
Mitosis, on the other hand, involves a mutual separation, with both parties agreeing to differ while maintaining Eucharistic fellowship (koinonia).
ACNA has moved away from fellowship with its mother Church. This is schism.
Bishop Andy Lines has moved away from the C.of E, by agreeing to be ordained by ACNA bishops. If GAFCON moves out of the Lambeth Alliance, this, too, will be schism. No attempt at mitosis here.
Peter and Bowman, you are both right when you suggest that ACANZP's Three Tikanga Church is based on Mitosis; definitely not schism. We may differ on certain matters, but not on those of First Order importance.
In the most divided western provinces, Peter, the Anglican tribes already treat each other as though they were floating separately in some undefined ecumenical space, except when they participate in synods which assume more unity than they practise in daily life. Being merely pragmatic about synods per se, I assume that the floating is the more important reality to both heaven and earth, and wonder whether the Anglican kit might need some ecumenical tools in it.
So I start to think about these things from the canon and canons that bound all space inward to the ecclesiastical neighbourhood of the first millennium in which Anglicans, some Lutherans, some Methodists, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics still more or less live. Arguably, all the current Anglican fights are happening out in those streets, not inside under the house rules of one local constitution and canons or another. I do not know whether a tribe in ACANZP that felt close to Canterbury or to GAFCON could be contained in a Tikanga when it sees itself in terms of global norms rather than local institutions.
Given that the brief of the WG was " to consider possible structural arrangements within our Three Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships" a fourth Tikanga might be seen as outside of this brief.
There have been (at least) four renditions I have seen as to how this structural arrangement might be, three of them described at https://affirm.net.nz/content/submission-working-group-appointed-primates. 1. FCA's Extra-Provincial Diocese, which may be what is in mind in the last two sections of Part H of the WG report. 2. An 8th non-geographical diocese within Tikanga Pakeha, of which Peter your mention of a theological Tikanga may be vaguely similar. 3. An Anglican Order, Affirm Version. And the fourth, Anglican Orders, WG Version (which seems more like a magazine subscription perhaps with a bonus conference and an honorary patron). And possibly a fifth - if Bowman's thoughts are between 1) and 2).
I think the WG was charged with an impossible brief. The current report has preserved the Three-Tikanga structure part by compromising the theological convictions part, even though it compromises both perspectives more or less evenly, which wasn't part of the brief.
Perhaps given the diversity of views on the meaning of the word "marriage" we could have a diversity of views on the meaning of the phrase "Three Tikanga" which is inclusive of "Four Tikanga" :-) I would be interested Bowman to what extent you see any of these possibilities as mitotic.
Yes, Father Ron. As I classify the cases, those in mitosis affirm that heaven sees churchliness on both sides of a line drawn on earth out of missional necessity; those in schism deny from one side of a line that heaven sees churchliness in what lies beyond it. Given that mutual recognition entails intercommunion, we can forecast that mitotics will share the chalice across their line and that schismatics will not share it across theirs.
But useful as the distinction is, it poses two subtle problems: (1) human beings can misinterpret an emergent division; (2) they can fail to see that because mutual recognition entails intercommunion, communion rejected forfeits recognition. We see the first in America, and the second in GAFCON.
Stirring the pot out of my own confusion:
I find conclusions difficult to make on this issue but I still get stuck on what for many will seem too simple, are sexual acts between two men or two women a sin? If it is a sin it is in the line with many other sins. Still can any sin actually be blessed because not believing God is a sadist I find it hard to conceive he would name anything a sin if it was a good thing.
Is a sexual de facto relationship a sin? Would the church bless a de facto relationship? Is the church intolerant if it doesn't?
I know of two people who did not go to church when living in a de facto relationship. One returned when the relationship ended. One returned when they got married. The first didn't want to be a poor witness to others in the church. The second openly said they didn't want to have to curtail their lifestyle to go to church. What intrigues me is that integral to both is the internal sense (the Holy Spirit?) that the place they were currently at was not aligned with God's desire for them. I also know of people who were in de facto relationships when they began to come to church, there was no preaching at the pulpit so to speak, but as the spirit worked and they became more convicted in their belief they either got married or chose to separate. In seems from my general observation in this area anyway that it is a bit like the bible verse of 'God has written his law on our heart' that the spirit convicts and people having an intrinsic 'knowing' of what is or is not the best thing (if they are seeking or know him).
Is there any similar examples of the same evident amongst followers of Jesus who are same sex attracted or partnered?
You are touching on a matter close to my heart about these matters: can we trust in the work of the Spirit to convict a person from within, rather than have conviction imposed from without?
Nevertheless, I also acknowledge the importance of responding to a prompting of the Spirit which means we challenge people about their lifestyles in an appropriate way. Some years ago, to give one instance, a person in a de facto relationship raised the question of whether it was appropriate to assume a leadership role in the church. I felt I should ask whether in fact they could get married and, one thing and another, that led to marriage!
hi Bowman and Jonathan
I have just published your comments from a day ago which somehow did not make my emails (from whence I usually publish).
Bowman: (without yet formally positing an argument for a Fourth Tikanga), in our Three Tikanga church we already have something of what you point to! Within Tikanga Maori are voices which sit light to Canterbury (it being a colonising force, or at least threat thereof, if we paid it too much attention, such as not approving SSB because Canterbury doesn't want us upsetting the rest of the AC), and there are formal, strong, regular links with the Anglican Indigenous Network to the point where, say, if the other Tikanga were to declare allegiance to GAFCON or to world Methodism, Tikanga Maori would say, Fine, but we are continuing our involvement in the AIN. In local terms, Tikanga Maori plays little role in traditional ecumenical arrangements with Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics and Lutherans, preferring to focus on arrangements with Ratana, Ringatu and other indigenous Maori expressions of Christianity. so a fourth Tikanga sending its bishops off to GAFCON conferences etc could be contained within such a structure (providing everyone was willing to meet at GS).
Jonathan: some off blog comments from people I respect highlight that the part of the proposal which might need the most work to clarify what is envisioned, if not to correct it (is there confusion between religious societies and religious orders?), or indeed to change it (e.g. A Fourth Tikanga) is that part focused on structural arrangements. I have not yet given this a lot of thought. Your comment is inspiring me to do some work!
Having sat on the sidelines for a while regarding the by now oft used metaphor of mitosis, I have to interject with this observation.
I think I get the intention of the metaphor, especially when it tries to soften the impact of ‘division’. Yet for all that, I’ve noticed the metaphor is also trying to do more work than it is capable of (a case of the tail wagging the dog?). At least, the sorts of division that already exist, and notably re their respective rationales, both on the ground, have every appearance of being more schismatic than mitotic. We might like to think - some of us - that things might be ‘better’, that we might still ‘stay together’, and that our differences were ‘mitotic’.
Yet for all the world, how does the metaphor explain the blunt contradictory outcomes ...?! Nor, I suggest, can it cover the contradictory forms of legitimizing these outcomes. Even a cursory glance, for example, at “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church”: A report offered by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops [of TEC] (2010) demonstrates this. Here it is quite simply a case of “Pluralism rules; OK??? No; it does not!”, which might be the summary assessment of this report. For the basic problem with this ‘report’ from TEC is that, in its attempts to be “inclusive”, all we have really are two contrasting reports alongside one another, with no probative conclusions - other than those of ‘inclusive pluralism’! Nor does the logic within each account permit of an overarching narrative, or a possible solution, seemingly ... We incoherently drift on ... “Thank you, Fog!” (WH Auden). And now in the case of ACANZ&P, the attempt of the WG is to impose just such an overarching narrative unity by means of a structural arrangement/rearrangement. Yet the essential differences starkly remain. And this is not mitosis; it is muddlement, pure and simple ...
And so I am really not sure why this love affair with the mitotic metaphor ...
Hi Jonathan. To answer your question, I shall have to follow the link you supply, and give it some thought. In the meantime, a look at my 8:43 of 10th August (not visible when you commented) will show you my general approach to these matters.
Hi Peter. To me, your 6:36 reads as though Christians in ACANZP's tikangas live their lives and fight their fights in the global ecumene, but not always in the same neighbourhood of it. Implicitly, the ACANZP constitution and canons define, not so much a *national church*-- a republic with a sovereign will about things-- as the norms and institutions for collaboration among Anglicans in the South Pacific of the ecumene.
Bryden, schism and mitosis are evidently different states, not different ways of talking about the same state. If ACANZP would prefer mitosis to the default outcome of schism, then work will have to be done to get to there. So the value of the distinction is not just that the intrinsic disvalue of schism is averted, but also that work worth doing opens a new situation that itself has value. I am guessing that, from the point of view that you usually take here, the best thing about mitosis is that it is not yet more of the endless pragmatic, institutional, procedural deferral of actual theology. Mitosis is a better process in which to grasp the nettles.
ah Bowman; if only there were the capacity to "grasp the nettle" ...! But culture is so alluring, alas! And so the "hard work" of metamorphosis, to ensure the Body has the means of mitosis, is sadly lacking. The imagination required to pursue the route sketched in your reply would run against the grain too much ... Our state remains the same - albeit not quite as you (hopefully) envisage.
Peter and Jonathan, my thanks to you both for your interest in the distinction between schism and mitosis. I have looked up Jonathan's link and am thinking through what I found there.
As I do that, it is hard to resist a comparison of ACANZP to ACNA. Although ACNA is mainly mentioned down under as the GAFCONish alternate to TEC in sexual matters, it is also a collection of churches-- tikangas?-- some older than ACANZP, that have Reformed or Anglo-Catholic theological identities.
First, because all of ACNA's constituent parts have spun out of TEC, they all began with the museological mind-set common among schismatics and to a disappointing degree have it to this day. Consequently, none of them has ever been missionally effective in North America because it is hard to get a stain out of a surplice. My worry about AFFIRM-ish Anglicans in ACANZP is that in any mere schism, they too may have too purist and negative an identity to thrive. You have to be something more dynamic than the province, tikanga, diocese, order, etc that decided to live in eg 1955 forever.
Second, the union of bodies into ACNA has begun as something of a *cheshire* because tiny churches that in isolation had debated nothing more deep than the proper height of mitres suddenly found themselves debating the Filioque among themselves and getting serious attention from Benedict XVI. A few well-prepared minds have handled this well (cf ACNA's Anglican Catechism); many others are out of their depth navigating a whole spectrum of uncoordinated theologies. Your synod's instruction to two successive WGs to avoid theology came to mind.
Third, in both contexts we see heavy reliance on ties outside the local church to stabilise identities within. Of course, the ancient canons do provide for a local church to borrow bishops and presbyters when they have too few to meet in council, and that missional flexibility is one of the virtues of an undiluted episcopal ecology. But what I see looks more like brand shopping as a way of (over)simplifying theological choice so that a workable paradigm can be adopted and applied to local needs. Indeed, one of the more mitotic churches I know, the Presbyterians' ECO, felt a rush of energy just in being able to speak a common theological idiom as they examined candidates, thought about evangelism, etc.
Applications will follow. Probably tomorrow.
While I take your general point(s) in your latest Bowman, your description of the lack of missionary activity amongst ACNA is not what I hear at all from my personal contacts. The opposite in fact ...
As you must have heard, Bryden, Robert Duncan, the former archbishop of ACNA, called for the founding of a 1000 new parishes, and this has stimulated a *missions conference culture* similar to what we see elsewhere in American evangelicalism. If TEC is the Anglican mission to cosmopolitan cities, university towns, and a few old strongholds, some in ACNA are trying to become the Anglican mission to the rest of America.
But my comment at 1:22 mentions how many years of the negative identity of schism had disabled the ACNA's constituent churches. One could say that ++ Robert recognised this weakness in them and resolved to foster a culture in the unified body that was less nostalgic and more missionary. To the degree that he succeeded, ACNA is more mitotic than its antecedents.
Thanks Bowman for your reply. I must know those churches where ++ Robert's call either was not necessary or was delightfully successful!
I follow your general description still. Though not sure it applies to ACANZ&P, which seems more schismatically poised than mitotic. But we shall see.
Dear Bowman and Bryden,
Should I change the word "moderate" in the title to this post to "mitotic"?
(Asking for a friend!)
Well Peter; the middle need not become mitotic at all. It can remain in its steady state existence, while all about you others are losing their heads (with apologies to Kipling).
Alternatively, it may spawn all sorts of 'daughters' ... But perhaps not in these Islands!
Thankfully, Bryden, we do not have Tudor monarchs presiding over our debates, otherwise heads might be lost, even in the muddled, moderate, mitotic middle :)
With apologies Peter for all the puns, allusions and general innuendo... two daughters, to be precise ... ;-)
Again apologies to Rudyard Kipling!!
Considering the arguments here, as well as the Scriptural references to Jesus' handling of ritual purity; one wonders whether, if the Pharisee dealing with the Publican in the Temple were to add to his list of personal credits the fact that he was not 'Gay'; our Lord would have just taken this along with the other protestations of the Pharisee's purity and dismissed it with the same directive towards the redemption offered by God when addressing his hearers (?) :"Which of these two, do you think, went away JUSTIFIED?) For me, at least, the 'sinner' wins our over the purist.
" I would be interested Bowman to what extent you see any of these [structural] possibilities [eg diocese extraprovincial to Canterbury, non-geographical diocese; AFFIRM's "order," the WG's "order"] as mitotic." -- Jonathan, August 10, 10:08 am.
Jonathan, my reply to Bryden's AFFIRM presentation under Peter's OP of August 13 at August 15, 2:24 pm is also, obliquely, an answer to your question above.
In his remarks to AFFIRM, Bryden eventually comes close to the starting point for my own thinking about schism and mitosis: at any fork in any tradition of the one Church, how do we recognise the emergent bodies as formerly the same, still in an kind of unity, and yet different today?
To me, it is evident that *apostolic* churches that do not share a polity (eg Canterbury, Uppsala, Rome, Constantinople) remain in the loose ecumenical unity that emerged along with the creeds, the canon, and the episcopate. If such a church's sustained disagreement finally breaks its paradigm for common life, then its parties will thereafter deal with each other, not as siamese twins joined at the hip, but as sisters pursuing distinct interests.
From these shores, however, it is not clear to me whether faraway ACANZP's disagreement over SSB truly amounts to a perceptible difference over the paradigm for a common life. Argument fixated on SSB has done little to illumine the commitments upstream of the positions taken on it. And elsewhere those commitments do not always predict the positions that thoughtful people take. Some who hold very conservative views are untroubled by the thoughts that a few might be born disoriented as others are born blind, and that the church owes them some support for chastity that is likely to be effective. Some others cannot imagine a church without SSB, but even if they do sport a rainbow banner over the red door, they also cannot imagine any church that is not pretty conventional in its rites and routines. Much of the conflict looks like a classic polarisation in which the privilege afforded extreme views makes more centrist views seem less reasonable or viable. For these reasons, my reply to Bryden distinguishes two situations-- one in which the practise of SSB does not correlate perfectly to alternate visions of church life, and another in which it does correlate so well that to choose SSB is to choose a new paradigm.
Returning then to your question about the WG's options, it seems that the former situation warrants complementary structures of support that run alongside dioceses and parishes-- orders. In contrast, the latter warrants new wineskins for the new wines-- dioceses and parishes dedicated to their respective paradigms and free to pursue them with clear intentions, perhaps under the ABC or non-geographically in a looser ACANZP.
Whatever the passions they raise, the latter two may be *a distinction without a difference*. Whether or not under the ABC, the ancient canons still oblige all bishops "to know the chief bishop in the region and to do nothing without him." In struggling with church divisions here (ie America, North America, the Americas), Rome and some Orthodox have understood this to mean that some prelate must be the convener for all canonical bishops in a region even if the said bishops owe obedience to archbishops of different hierarchies overseas (eg Catholic eastern rites, Orthodox patriarchates). If the ABC did as the Pope and the PoC already have done, he could appoint a presiding bishop to convene canonical Anglican bishops in your region for local lambeths, even if they owe obedience to archbishops or synods in, say, ACANZP, ACNA, or TEC. This would not be inconsistent with the understanding of the AC as, not a quasi-papal administration, but a community for discernment in the Word. Neither would it be schism as usually understood.
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