Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Further on Distinctive Co-existence

A thoughtful reflection in Distinctive Co-existence, published by The Living Church, here.

Your comments are welcome on this matter. Please note that I will not comment (these are matters of very direct import to my own Diocese) so please do not address comments or questions to me personally, as I won't be responding!)


Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for this link to an American view on the situation of Anglicanism around the world at this time; where people like the Archbishop of Sydney proposes a system of separate 'diocesan churches' - each with their own distinctive character - which would clearly be based on a singular theological aspect that each diocese would claim as absolutely necessary for them to maintain a legally separate existence.

The Diocese of Europe is a unique situation which does not strictly fit the situation in which, for instance, ACANZP finds itself today. The basic theology of each of the two European Provinces is virtually indistinguishable - as worshippers living/visiting there have discovered. Also, there is no artificial barrier to fellowship at the altars - a factor which certainly divides GAFCON from TEC

In our own Province of ACANZP, what we have is a small group of parish clergy who have already severed themselves from the Church - on virtually a single issue which they consider serious enough to sever Eucharistic Fellowship. This is a schismatic movement that was not initiated by ACANZP, but which the departing clergy and those individual members of congregations whom they have taken with them consider necessary, in order to preserve their own theological perspective on matters of human sexual behaviour and attitude.

It must be noted that, in this, they have been supported at every level by the GAFCON organisation (of which Archbishop Davis is a member) whose polity is obviously geared towards institutional separation (including Table Fellowship) from those Provinces that support Same-Sex Blessings - which our Church has decided to allow.

I think the author of this article from 'Living Church' is on the right track with his opinion on this matter when he says this:

"I believe the Anglican Communion has been unique among the world’s Christian traditions, a “city on a hill” manifesting the unity of the Church envisioned in John 17 and 1 Corinthians 1. We are Christians because we share one Lord, and “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). We are to test prophets by whether they confess that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2), and even if we think these debates over sexual ethics are gospel issues, liberals and conservatives alike are motivated by their shared confession that Jesus is Lord. We are bound by the Body of Christ, not by whether we all agree on every application of the gospel to our fallen world."

This thesis is in line with my own understanding that Christ is Lord of The Church, and it is around Him that we have our Unity - not the specific agreements or disagreements that we consider so important.
Christ prayed that: 'They may be One' This is the will of Jesus! But it does require a conscientious commitment to stay together as the Body of Christ - despite our differences.

Unknown said...

Dissidents leave churches because they fear their synods. They fear synods when these drift from their minor role in governance to making up new religion in the name of God. Those who already believe the new religion do not need to trust synods to be right, and so they cannot see-- perhaps do not want to see-- the authority crisis that this poses for ordinary non-Roman Catholics and non-Mormons who have no history of believing that God imposes or reveals new religion through human institutions. The closest analogy is to the Old Believers schism in Russia in which the Archpriest Avakkum challenged the Patriarch Nikon's authority to revise the ancient Orthodox liturgy.

Change happens. But some only tolerate the organic change that is plainly forced on the Body by the brute force of divine providence. When Mongols slaughtered the married bishops in Anatolia nobody there objected to having monk-bishops, and so a clear scriptural precept was annulled there without a fight. But had a patriarch or council suggested the same thing, schism would have resulted. For ordinary believers "trust not in princes and sons of men in whom there is no salvation."

The Second Vatican Council has emboldened another sort of believer to assume that change in and through institutions is as normal in religion as it is in business, politics, or sport. And so, among Anglicans in the cultural North, every provincial synod thinks itself an ecumenical council able to change things. That is to say-- they imagine that there is a mass of folk somewhere who in all seriousness will stake their souls on the creativity of elected representatives. They are confusing the amicable group-think of a social class with real spiritual authority. An easy mistake to make if you love church institutions as much as we all do, but a mistake nonetheless.

Unknown said...

After a lapse of centuries, the spiritual descendants of Avakkum and Nikon are again in communion, but they are not one church. Like nearly all Christian traditions, Russian Orthodoxy is divided into a cooly institutionalist stream and a folksy traditionalist one. This is almost certainly also the future of Anglicanism. The question-- for all Christians-- is: how do we make theological sense of this universal tension?


Father Ron Smith said...

Unknown said:

"Dissidents leave churches because they fear their synods. They fear synods when these drift from their minor role in governance to making up new religion in the name of God."

It may be 'Fear of Synods' that motivate people to leave the Church, but it is surely not the 'Holy Fear' which informs the hearts and minds of Christian for the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church God; but 'fear' of losing out to the initiators of the new openness to the possibility that 'their Church' (they) have been wrong all this time about human relationships and God's place within their earthly framework. (NO marriage in heaven!)

Synods are not intrinsically 'evil' - except to those who are blind to the wisdom that God ministers within their corporate structure. After all, Jesus gathered around him the Twelve Disciples. he did not insist on doing the work of God alone. Collegiality is a gift of God to the Church - when it agrees to listen to the Spirit at work.

Unknown said...

Yes, Father Ron, there is a winsome case for conciliarism. But because our forefathers rejected it, ordinary Anglicans have no historical experience of authoritative institutions inventing or revising their religion. And when the stakes are high, many prudent and reasonable folk avoid risk.


Unknown said...

And nobody actually believes representative synods. They may reflect opinion but they do not change hearts and minds.

The greater danger is not that dissidents leave-- if they think like Presbyterians then let them be Presbyterian-- but that those who stay will live by the social ideology of people like themselves where only real truth from God will suffice. Nobody has ever been converted to a living faith in the report of a working group.


Glen Young said...


Perhaps the reason that these clergy leave the ACANZP is because their Bishops
insisted that they sign a "submission to General Synod" that they, in good conscience, felt unable to do so. It was not those clergy who changed the status quo.