Monday, February 18, 2019

Ephraim's exile? (aka what's going on with Lambeth 2020)


Bowman Walton’s comments here at ADU are much appreciated by me - he puts into words I myself do not (yet) have, clear thinking about what it means to be Anglican in the 21st century. (All comments here a much appreciated but not every comment is equally able to help me clarify my own muddled thinking!).

I cite here, from a Waltonian comment to the previous post, words which remind us that the strengths of Anglicanism (e.g. bishops, “reformed and catholic”) are accidents of history (i.e. driven more by the politics of England in the 16th and subsequent centuries than by clear sighted theological vision):

"[Developing observations about a statement by Michael Bird on why he is an Anglican] But this is precisely an apology for others; it will not do as a self-understanding for actual Anglicans. On one hand, it airbrushes away the monarchy's deep involvement in the Church of England as the wet dog who should not have been in the wedding picture, even though that is the historical reason why a via media happened in England but not elsewhere. For example, Anglicans have bishops because Elizabeth I and her successors insisted on them for the good of the realm, not because they would be helpful to denominational piety a few centuries later. And Catholic and Reformed are anachronisms of later centuries, not what Luther and Calvin got out of bed to be every morning. The theology of Anglican churches cannot be reduced to the political history of modern England, early and late, but neither can it be abstracted from that history. Doing so renders the civic engagement of Anglicans from then to now meaningless. 
Yet that civic engagement is meaningful precisely in light of the apostolic faith in Jesus. At their best, Bird's Baptists are wonderful at acts of charity that bring Christ's love to strangers in need, and this is reason enough to respect their pietism. But the Bible's horizon is far wider than our interpersonal relations, although it surely includes them. Idolatry, personal and social, has disfigured the human community that God created, worship of the Creator-Messiah regenerates that community, and what we call church is just the first fruits of that new creation. According to the scriptures, the Christian hope is not that individuals will travel to a far-away heaven when they die, but that all flesh shall be raised up to see God in the New Jerusalem. All of our private concerns are summed up in it, of course, but this is a public future. If this does not affect our actions in the present, then what do we mean when we say that we believe?
Put another way, when Bird's "gospel people" struggle to make sense of the catholic practice of the Catholic-and-Reformed hybrid of Anglicans, they are trying to find the motivation in Christ for that more-than-individual scope of the biblical narrative itself. Proof texts from the Bible do not help them much unless and until they see the canon as a whole narrative from creation to new creation, garden to city. Once one does see that narrative as the context for those proof texts-- and for the ways in which Jesus and the biblical writers themselves handled scripture-- then, at least intellectually, it all falls into place. Usually, this does not so much solve their problem as reveal it to be a part of a bigger, uglier one-- many of us are alienated from the civic life that God intended for humanity. As in the C1, this alienation is the personal and social fallout of idolatry.
To do missions with + Victoria or evangelism with + Peter is to present Jesus in a way that heals that alienation. Again, Anglicans are not the only Christians who have some resources for doing this work-- Catholics have the social magisterium; Lutherans, a robust two-kingdoms doctrine; Methodists, the example of John Wesley, etc-- but Anglicanism is the only Western tradition that is incomprehensible apart from some political theology."

This citation - noting the role of politics in Anglican decision-making - chimes in with some of the disturbing revelations I am having as I continue to read Michael Massing’s book Fatal Discord about the lives and impacts of Luther and Erasmus on the European and English Reformations. Chief disturbances in recent reading:

1. That Luther was so wrong on a number of matters, some of which had violent, fatal consequences as uprisings and the putting down of uprisings led to terrible, bloodthirsty, rapacious acts of war and terror. To the extent that we appeal to Luther as an authority in Protestantism, why should we treat this (actually) Trump-like* figure as any kind of authority?

2. What on earth were the Reformers doing when they responded to the realisation that their divergences in understanding of Scripture required invocation of authority to settle matters by determining that “princes” and “magistrates” should be that authority?

Sure, we easily get it that the contemporary corruptions of the Papacy meant there was not going to be a “return to Rome” when the question of authority arose (Luther v Munzer; Luther v Zwingli; Luther v Erasmus, etc), but was not the invocation of princes and magistrates by the Reformers merely an alternative papacy (or, more accurately, set of regionalised popes)? The English Reformation may have saved bishops for a church which would come to see itself as "reformed and catholic" but along the way it invested extraordinary authority in the English Parliament and the English sovereign. What was that all about?! (Other than keeping civic order).

Authority in Western churches, post-Reformation

Four to five centuries later the problem of authority still troubles churches with roots in Western Europe. In today's news, for example, we finally get to learn of Pope Francis making a (well overdue, so many commentators) decision re an abuser: Cardinal McCarrick will be defrocked. But the machinations going on inside the Vatican on this and other matters these days remind (Protestant) observers that no matter the theological strength of claims for Roman primacy, the notion of one centralised ecclesiastical authority is fraught with risk that not only may poor decisions be made, but also (again, so many commentators on aspects of Francis' papacy) indecision will reign.

Meanwhile, here in Anglicanland, as the clock ticks down towards Lambeth 2020, eminent pundits are having a go at what might work for ++Justin and the conference design group. Essentially, the question they raise is both what kind of Communion we are becoming and what kind of authority governs it.

Ephraim Radner offers six proposals for Lambeth Conference 2020. Is he being realistic? (Does he have the ear of the design group? His friend and colleague, +George Sumner is on the group.) Who would be going into exile on the basis of these six proposals? Ephraim or me!?

Then there is a twinned essay from Andrew Goddard here. Goddard highlights different approaches from ++Williams (Lambeth 2008) to ++Welby (Lambeth 2020) in respect of how they are authorising what happens (i.e. is intended to happen) at a Lambeth Conference.

A specific instance of Anglican authority at work in the run up to Lambeth 2020

Intriguingly (and hitherto unknown to me), one subtle application of a form of authority in the Communion (referencing Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 on marriage) is in the fact, revealed here, by Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, that:

"Invitations have been sent to every active bishop. That is how it should be – we are recognising that all those consecrated into the office of bishop should be able to attend. But the invitation process has also needed to take account of the Anglican Communion’s position on marriage which is that it is the lifelong union of a man and a woman. That is the position as set out in Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Given this, it would be inappropriate for same-sex spouses to be invited to the conference. The Archbishop of Canterbury has had a series of private conversations by phone or by exchanges of letter with the few individuals to whom this applies." (My bold).
That is creating some consternation in the socialmediasphere.

On the one hand, Idowu-Fearon informs us that the design group is logically, Anglicanly (Resolution 1.10) consistent in its approach to invitations. Also the group is quite subtly moving beyond the 2008 situation in which, readers here may recall, +Gene Robinson was not invited though was present at fringe events.

On the other hand, this approach will create some - no doubt - angst. Some conservatives may be troubled by the fact that same-sex partnered bishops are invited to Lambeth 2020. Some progressives may be troubled by the fact that partners of such bishops are not invited to Lambeth 2020. Boycott, anyone?

Thoughts, dear readers? [Strictly: thoughts about Lambeth. This is not an invitation to rerun the You Know What arguments.]

Now to be clear: I am going to Lambeth 2020 whomever is or isn't invited and whomever is or isn't taking up their invitations. If the Communion (in whatever shape, size, system) is to have a future, we need some global conversation. If the Communion (in whatever ... ditto) is not to have a future, we need to end well with a global conversation. I would like to be part of such conversation!

Back to Anglican (and Protestant) authority/"authority"

I am glad that Anglican churches have bishops (and not just because I am now one). God through history, Israelite history and church history, has invested authority in individuals (Moses, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, etc) and individuals have capacity through experience, wisdom and gifts of grace to lead, discern, judge, teach and proclaim, with that capacity offering expeditious solutions to questions and puzzles which otherwise might languish in committee processes.

Yet such leaders can go terribly wrong (Moses and David made mistakes, Paul likely got it wrong when he fell out with Barnabas over Mark, Peter was a very slow learner in respect of critical gospel issues). Bishops can go wrong (cf. McCarrick above). So the question of guardianship of bishops is critical to the matter of authority in the life of the church.

A Roman answer to that question is to have a hierarchy of bishops with a most trustworthy one at the top of the hierarchy (i.e. the Pope). History has not judged that process well (taking all popes into account and not selectively admiring the many good Popes). And presently a lot of Catholic-based questioning of the current Pope is going on.

An Anglican answer within England itself, as I noted above, has been to have the common sense of the English people (represented by the Parliament) as guardians of the bishops. The Anglican answer outside of England (developed as much in NZ by Bishop Selwyn as anywhere else in the globe), and more recently within England, has been to elect/appoint synods/conventions so that the common sense of the whole church is represented in the governance of an Anglican church.

Yet the 39A remind Anglicans that we think councils can err and thus synods/conventions are not themselves the failsafe means of ensuring the good of the church according to the will of God. What is to be done? Some kind of wider council has been the Anglican response (i.e. Lambeth conferences, recalling that the first one was called to countenance an alleged heresy), and in making this response, Anglicans have called on a long and wide church history of great councils. Even great councils may err but great councils bring together a wide body of knowledge and wisdom, with a greater chance of transcending narrow "local" concerns and pressures such that any national church (or small international church such as ACANZP) might fall under. Thus great councils have given us the Nicene Creed, resolution of major theological issues and many things followed to this day by the majority of Christians.

The potential authority of the Lambeth Conference is immense. But its potential cannot, of course, ever be reached if individual bishops and individual provinces of bishops within it pay no attention to what is resolved (so 1998 Resolution 1.10) or if, as at 2008, no resolutions are made. Even better is a Lambeth Conference which resolves X and has a uniform response from each Anglican provincial synod that X will be thus and so.

Is this a scenario which can reasonably be conceived for the Anglican Communion and its provinces today?

The run up to Lambeth 2020 is going to be, to say the least, interesting.

*Whenever Luther was recommended to go lightly on his opponents, he nearly always "double-downed" on his invective and mockery of them. A lot of Massing's material about Luther reminds me of Trump's approach to conflict. Nevertheless Luther was different to Trump in important ways.


Father Ron said...

Peter, no matter how the Church(es) decide on primatial authority, there will always be little networks of people 'in the know', who presume its OK to make decisions about the lives of other people that may conflict with the established 'authority' of the day.

One instance was the recent appearance of the authorities of a certain Church being present at a religious ceremony that was virtually held 'in secret' lest it be thought too provocative for the hoi poloi to know about.

No part of the Church Catholic (or Protestant) is immune to self-serving authoritarianism when it is more convenient.

Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and all the other Protestant Leaders engaged in self-serving authoritarianism - no less than Henry VIII, Pope Francis or any other 'Church' leader who disagrees with any other part of the Church on matters of theology or ethical behaviour. The Church is composed of fallible human beings. Individual Christians sometimes get confused about the plethora of 'Oughts and Shoulds' offered by the Church, when all they want to do is live their lives as best they can.

No wonder people outside of the Church wonder what Christianity is all about. Is it for the advancement of the good of all God's children, or only of those 'in the know' who elect to lead?

Bryden Black said...

The really fascinating omission here Peter is no reference to Eastern Orthodoxy. A number of significant Anglicans over the years have engaged and continue to be engaging with that half of the Church. We all need to “breathe with both lungs” (JP2).

Anonymous said...

The question of identity is often very challenging in that it is a rare for a person to have just one identity. For a person who has dual citizenship, say with our trans-Tasman cousins, is the person a Kiwi-Australian or an Australian-Kiwi? Is it simply a question of which word is the adjective and which is the noun? It occurs to me that the passport they normally use defines the noun, and the other is the qualifying adjective.

For Anglicans, are we merely taking a verbal short-cut in identifying as such instead of saying “I am an Anglican Christian”? It seems simple because we know many Christians are Baptists or Roman Catholics or…..

I suspect we all also know an Anglican or two who is not a Christian. These “non-Christians” may self-identify as Anglicans on the basis of their infant baptism and/or their education but without a real belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

In this world of uncertainties we have created, navigating the maze of labels and meanings is made a whole lot simpler by a little rule – that the only meaning of the adjective that matters is the what it means to the subject person, not to others, it is after all about a personal relationship with God.

So here is a call, let the noun always be Christian and let’s limit ourselves to as few adjectives as possible. Having Anglican as a single adjective may be quite enough.

best wishes, Wayne

David Wilson said...

Hi Peter,

"...the common sense of the English people (represented by the Parliament)".

Given the current state of affairs here with regard to Brexit, this produced a hollow laugh.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bryden
You are right! What I could have said, and may yet add to the post, is that there are strengths to the EO way of patriarchates (i.e. regional arch-leaders; no single pope) and virtues to an embrace of cultural identities (Greek/Romanian/Russian/etc) while maintaining a unifying creed (albeit acknowledging nevertheless lack of credal unity between Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy). Moreover EO has - arguably - better solutions to some problems than the West has provided (notably, in the present context, I find EO on divorce/remarriage to provide a better way than either Protestant or Roman ways).

Could we go further and raise the prospect of Anglican patriarchate/matriarchates? African Anglican Church ... European Anglican Church ... North American Anglican Church(es!!) ... Oceania Anglican Church ...? Pros and cons?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David,
Yes the CofE spotted that difficulty with Parliament way back in 1928!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Wayne
It will be a good day when we have sorted certain Anglican difficulties and refocus on being Christian!

Anonymous said...

The petrine ministry is the unity of the Body. On petrine primacy, a consequential distinction-- it is one thing to say with the fathers that Rome (or Constantinople or Canterbury in their communions) is the indispensible see in the deliberations of some part of the Body; it is something else to say that for that reason it is also a universal executive at the local level. The former is true; the latter is a medieval accretion.

That accretion, by depriving local bishops of their God-given local authority, has paralysed the RCC's response to its criminal clerics. And just as an Anglican would predict on the account of episcopacy given above and before, the result is a dangerous clash with the state that seems straight from the C16. Yes, Rome should defrock its cardinals who are criminals, but we will have true reform when the archbishops and bishops are obeying the civil law and defrocking their own criminals as their Anglican and Orthodox colleagues do. The sex scandal cannot end without a drastic reordering of papal power in the RCC.

Of course, that reordering would hypothetically result in a bishop from Rome at Lambeth Conferences. During the Anglican Communion Covenant debate, I argued in Fulcrum for a Communion that recognised a larger circle of historic kindred-- TEC and ACNA, yes, and Methodists and the Ordinariate-- and a smaller circle of dioceses fully committed to living by mutual discernment. Roman Catholics do not belong to the larger circle, but the smaller circle needs a petrine figure. Normally the ABC, perhaps when necessary the pope. Unity is the petrine ministry.

Andrew Goddard does his own meticulous work, of course, but now holds a similar two-circle position. His two are likewise divided by the line that separates shared heritage from commitment to follow the results of discernment. My only comment on that is that, again, a commitment to mutual discernment cannot be implemented without an effective, recognised, and personal petrine ministry to secure unity.


Father Ron said...

BW says: "Unity is the Petrine Model!".

However, this unity has been historically dispensed through the local bishop, who - in his oversight - becomes the focus and model of unity.

This is the only excuse, surely, for Spirit-filled Churches of both East and West to have ever resiled from the papal fiat.

Perhaps, for instance, this is the reason why Bishop Lawrence in his separate enclave in North America maintains his diocesan separation from his fellow schismatics in ACNA. He may be no longer 'Anglican' or 'Episcopalian' but he sees himself as a bishop, with ecclesial authority - derived from the Head of The Church.

The Head of The Christian Church, and its only true basis of unity, is Christ himself. None other. We Anglicans are followers of Christ.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, following on my comment at 10.31am today, may I further this thesis by commenting on an extract from your article:

"On the other hand, this approach will create some - no doubt - angst. Some conservatives may be troubled by the fact that same-sex partnered bishops are invited to Lambeth 2020. Some progressives may be troubled by the fact that partners of such bishops are not invited to Lambeth 2020. Boycott, anyone?

Thoughts, dear readers? [Strictly: thoughts about Lambeth. This is not an invitation to rerun the You Know What arguments.]"

My first concern - having reflected on the importance of bishops as the paradigm of unity in the Church - is the fact that the two people you have quoted in your article (Messrs: Radner and Goddard) are not bishops! Therefore, why should they attempt to determine the way in which our Anglican 'Primus inter-pares' decides to conduct the ordering of the Lambeth Conference, which is his prerogative?

Those who find themselves at odds with Canterbury and Lambeth on the issues that they have determined important enough to discriminate against Canterbury and her partners in mission are the authors of their own decision to set themselves apart. Why are they now wanting to set their own agenda for the premises of meeting? It really does seem like 'the tail wanting to wag the dog'.

If GAFCON, ACNA, Nigerian Bishops in North America, and AMIE want to mark themselves out as theologically and ecclesiologically different from Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion on an issue that is of secondary importance, then why do they not declare that difference and form themselves into a Sola-Scriptura Church immune to any modern movement of the Holy Spirit that threatens or even deigns to question their distinctive raison-de'etre?

For GAFCON bishops to threaten the Canterbury-based Primate that, unless he does things their way they will not attend his conference is hardly the way one expects 'Bishops and Fathers of The Church' to behave. And to use their followers (who are not bishops) to enunciate those threats is less than commendable.

I am glad, Bishop Peter, that you WILL be attending Lambeth 2020!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
The church is the whole people of God, all ordered to be a kingdom of priests.
I do not think there should be a problem with non-bishops proposing thoughts about the organisation of a meeting of bishops; especially not when they are theologians of the calibre of Radner and Goddard.

I am not aware of Radner and Goddard having left the Anglican Communion; nor am I aware of their being particularly aligned with GAFCON.

Anonymous said...

Peter, a quick reply.

The main thing that Anglicans should take from Eastern Orthodoxy is a more scriptural, pneumatological, and mature understanding of tradition than any Western church now explicitly has. Hence Bryden's and my interest in William J Abraham's Canonical Theism, Robert W Jenson's Canon and Creed, and Edith Humphrey's Scripture and Tradition. With that understanding, many good things become possible.

The idea of a national church-- Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican-- is a worthwhile topic for exploration. As noted in your OP, my own view is that there is a scriptural correlation of church and state that warranted the emergence of national churches from Rome and Constantinople, but that only the mutual accountability of these avoids the heresy known to the Orthodox as *(ethno)phyletism*. This mutual accountability needs to be iron sharpening iron.

It makes canonical and practical sense that each church will first practice this mutual accountability with neighbouring churches, and not with all the Communion churches on the planet. This was less obvious in the age of empire, but it is in the ancient canons*, and is surely common sense now. Moreover, not to put too fine a point on it, Nairobi and New York are less a challenge for ACANZP than say Sydney. There are things that neighbours need to say face to face and more often than once every ten years.

Anonymous said...

I have sometimes thought that the Anglican Communion Covenant was most valuable, not as a way to get TEC, ACNA etc to play by the same rules as all the other churches-- impossible-- but as a pattern for strictly geographical conferences of Anglican bishops in Oceanea, Africa, Latin America, etc. These could be similar to the Porvoo Communion to which the Church of England also belongs with other European state churches, the bilateral relationship between TEC and the ACC, or the Union of Utrecht to which TEC also has a special relationship.

Global unity is imperative, of course. But without sanitary neighbourhoods, the city on a hill has been spreading contagious discord rather than maintaining canonical order. Devolving the latter responsibility to geographical conferences would significantly lighten the Communion burden on the ABC without undercutting the petrine character of the office. It would presumably eliminate the whole absurd category of dioceses extraprovincial to Canterbury. And if the ground rules were shared regionally, it might facilitate episcopal peculiars (eg Father Ron's suggestion that a few Christchurch parishes just join Nelson) that are preferable to unaccommodated minorities, weak schismatic sects or foreign invasion. Clergy who attempted to exercise ministry without the permission of the local conference would be unambiguously excommunicate both there and in all England no matter who ordained them, where, or why.

But of course the most important result would be that concrete regional missions would get the energy that is now diverted to intractable symbolic conflict. Devolution would allow regions to deepen their unity in the ways and at the pace that is appropriate to their context. It is possible that they would all decide to fret even more about sex in the global north, but my guess is that issues closer to home never mentioned at Lambeth Conferences will crowd onto their agendas when they have clear responsibility for them. This would be the end of some extravagant GAFCON dreams that have already faded, but it would also be the beginning of something less aspirational and more real.

The ABC's petrine role would then be to maintain ecumenical relations at his or her level, shepherd the devolution of ordinary canonical authority to the geographical episcopates, resolve some disputes arising from that, and convene Lambeth Conferences. But in the nature of the case, petrine ministry can never be exhaustively defined in advance.

* There is even an interesting ancient canon that permits bishops to include colleagues from other provinces in their deliberations. The recent analogue that comes to mind is Benedict XVI's invitations to Rowan Williams and Tom Wright to address the Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome to discuss the scriptures.


Peter Carrell said...

A quick comment, Bowman, on one aspect of your comments just posted: yes, Oceania Anglicanism has had considerable success in sticking together, despite known differences and expressions of disagreement between the Primates of Oceania (so I understand).

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- My comments above describe two proposals that have been discussed informally for years: the two circle solution, and geographical conferences. The several instruments of communion could hypothetically adopt the former, and the latter could emerge as presently informal gatherings leveled up to greater responsibility. Nobody, so far as I can recall, has thought through how things might work if both came to be. But then the whole point of consecrating bishops into petrine ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit is that one never knows in advance how the unity of the Church will need to be strengthened.


Bryden Black said...

One quiet riposte BW: Episcopy alone is Insufficient. Just so the breadth and depth of “canonical theism”. And that suggests some serious lacunae hereabouts ... Sorry, but there it is!

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Bryden. But since we are discussing Lambeth Conferences here, and the Communion has many quarrels about bishops, I am proposing more clarity on them.


Bryden Black said...

As was I too Bowman: that our bishops immerse themselves for starters in the full company of the charismata tabled by “canonical theism.”

Peter Carrell said...

Can you supply those, Bryden, in summary form?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Bryden, they should. It sounds as though you believe that I disagree with you in some way that I myself have not noticed. That would be interesting if true, of course, but for my part I do not see a difference in our opinions.

Yes, Peter, I have heard that bishops in Oceania have maintained a cordial collegiality despite their differences. If the division of theological understanding Down Under is somewhat like the difficult Liberal-Reformed one in Canada, then that is a remarkable achievement.


Anonymous said...

Three idiosyncrasies.

I never ever refer to Anglicans as Reformed. Where others might do so, I refer instead to the original via media between German Lutherans and the Swiss Reformed. This is not at all to deny the historical fact that English churchmen of the C16-17 were colleagues of Continental figures whose eucharistic doctrine was technically and interestingly Reformed. In fact, reading a few of those can deepen both one's grasp of what the often misread Hooker is actually saying and one's appreciation of the English achievement. But the Reformed identity down to our own day is inconceivable apart from fidgets both transcended and firmly rejected by Anglican tradition, and as we have seen, that identity cannot be embraced without losing the haptic sense of the order of things on which we daily rely. Put another way, Anglican readers who venture beyond the historical Luther into the tradition that began with him will find much of that haptic sense restored, and because the great line of that tradition was much more consciously traditional it is also more helpful as a bridge to the undivided Church of the M1. Interestingly, Karl Barth, who tried hard to revive the Reformed identity for the C20 and beyond, conceded so many arguments to the Lutheran side that he finally accepted that a dialectic of the two readings of Chalcedon might be closest to the truth of it. Which is a very Anglican view.

I view Rome, on occasion, as a good if troubled neighbour, but not as an ultimate authority, inevitable model, or ancestral adversary. The reformers' sense of the church of scripture, late antiquity and the M1 relativised the papacy in their eyes. You do not need Rome to read the fathers. When you do read the fathers-- especially the Eastern ones-- you will find other and often better ways than Roman ways. When you discover that figures as diverse as Martin Luther, John Jewel, and even Cotton Mather also knew this, remembered Bohemia 1415 * and Constantinople 1453 as recent events, and glanced wistfully past Rome to Constantinople **, you will understand how the priority for northern Europeans of the C16 could be, not breaking with Rome per se but embedding the gospel in the new order-- social, political, and economic-- that was rising in their own lands while resisting invasion from enemies who feared its spread.

Anonymous said...

I do not know how to reconcile the Body-as-new-creation of the Bible with a modern idea of law as the promulgated will of a human making laws with raw power, and neither, so far as I have seen, does anybody else. I do not say that it cannot be done, that it would be a bad thing if it were done, or even that I do not occasionally try to make this work somehow. But I do say that all who just assume that churches can invent institutions that then invent laws that are then necessarily serving the gospel because they have the power to make them stick remind me of Wile E. Coyote in that moment just before he looks down and sees the canyon--

Here at ADU this results in comments in which I matter of factly explain what the canons that have emerged organically from the Body's life through the millennia do and do not support. That understandably baffles readers who wonder how there can be laws without a human lawmaker that they personally have approved. If no human anywhere is promulgating or enforcing these canons then how can we say that they have any place in modern society? True, we cannot say this. We can only say that the obvious Body has always recognised them as a characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit. And we can ask-- how does one believe in the scriptural Body at all if the Holy Spirit has given it no such gifts?

* We often remember Jan Hus (1369-1415) as a brave reformer avant le fait but forget that the Hussite majority persisted in Bohemia through the Hussite Wars (1419-1434) and beyond until the Habsburgs repressed it after the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620.

** Steven Runciman summarised the Lutheran-Byzantine correspondence in pages online here--

--George Mastrantonis republished it with commentary here--

--and David Jay Webber has linked to it and to many discussions of it here--


Anonymous said...

From our You-Cannot-Make-This-Stuff-Up Department.

The Cadaver Synod of 897--


Peter Carrell said...

Briefly, Bowman:
1. I had to look up "haptic"!
2. Appreciate very much your points about Anglican meaning not-Reformed-per-se; best of all Lutheran, Reformed, Roman, Eastern worlds. (I might be overstating how very, very good we are :).)
3. Fascinated with your summary of Barth's overall tendenz.
4. Remain, via my reading of Massing's book, Fatal Discord, deeply disturbed about Luther.
5. Agree that canons and stuff which are truest and most lasting emerge from the Body, (though - my point - may be agreed to by synods and synods might even be the point of emergence).
6. (5) makes sense of something I am reflecting on, for a paper I am writing, that Deut 21:10-14 is not rejected by the NT but nevertheless none today thinks it the right thing to do!

Bryden Black said...

Peter, you ask “can you supply ... in summary form?”

For starters, I trust College House Library has both of these: William J Abraham, et al, eds, Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology & the Church (Eerdmans, 2008), and Immersed in the Life of God: The Healing Resources of the Christian Faith, eds Paul Gavrilyuk, et al (Eerdmans, 2008), a collection of “Essays in Honor of William J Abraham”, both of which seek to bring us back to the fruits of the Early Church and all their due charisms under the Holy Spirit.

In short, the Introduction and the opening chapter of the first book by Billy Abraham, “Thirty Theses”, covers the scope admirably. Thesis IX reads:

“Canonical theism is intimately tied to the notion of the canonical heritage of the church. The church possesses not just a canon of books in its Bible but also a canon of doctrine, a canon of saints, a canon of church fathers, a canon of theologians, a canon of liturgy, a canon of bishops, a canon of councils, a canon of ecclesial regulations, a canon of icons, and the like. In short, the church possesses a canonical heritage of persons, practices, and materials. Canonical theism is the theism expressed in and through the canonical heritage of the church.”

Thesis X then reads: “The canonical heritage of the church came into existence through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was active in motivating, energising, guiding, directing and overseeing their original production in the church.”

All of which echoes profoundly the Eastern Orthodox Tradition.

Bowman; we are in ‘heated agreement’. My point is just this. There is absolutely no point in a conclave of global Anglican bishops should there not be also a common mind among them as to what they believe and practise. Just so, the reference to “canonical theism” as a norm. Without such, we have but the “form of godliness without the due power to save” - period! Where “salvation” is depicted precisely along the lines of Thesis XI: “The canonical heritage of the church functions first and foremost soteriologically. ... Each component is primarily an instrument to be used in spiritual direction and formation.”

Anonymous said...

Yes, Bryden, how good it is when brethren dwell together in unity!

Meanwhile, I think that you will agree that, where tradition is sacred, spiritual authority is recognised, not in *promulgation* according to due process, but in *reception* in the quotidian life of the Body. The Communion's difficulty is that it has a promulgation habit that degrades the authority of churches from spiritual to merely institutional.

And Peter, as the foregoing may have made clearer, my view of synods as such is probably the same as your own. But if they have any say in spiritual things it is not to *promulgate* new ones like Pius XII defining the Assumption of the BVM but rather to ratify the *reception* of them as a part of the life of the local Body. The books I mentioned above give three complementary accounts of how tradition comes about.

This is not a low view of synods. But it is a high and dynamic view of tradition.


Anonymous said...

Postscript-- Thinking still of Bryden's 19/7:54 to 21/2:15 and following, perhaps we should ask what the vehicles and obstacles to unity in an inner discerning circle of the Communion might be?

In the north, Communion Partners here and Open Evangelicals over there are aligned with each other, supported the Anglican Communion Covenant together, and seem likely to continue promote convergence in doctrine. Individuals in that broad alliance seem receptive to a higher view of a properly dynamic tradition, but apart from the logic of the thing itself, there is no evidence yet of a convergence toward the practice of tradition, which is a different thing from holding traditional views about things. Since both are minorities in their churches, we might ask which liberals would be most disposed to join them.

The water is too muddy for the bottom to be seen. My intuition is that this question is as much as to ask: how does polarisation end? It ends by the silence of the extremes that together make war on the center where most people would normally be. Where the Sydney-ish extreme has left, those who are liberal only by temperament can beat their swords into plowshares. In such serenity, many could be attracted to the convergence above, provided that Communion Partners and Open Evangelicals were clear that their own position really is distinct and useful enough to deserve a close and unprejudiced look.

What might they see in that look that attracts them? A helpful account of practice, low, broad, and high. An acceptance of social change. An ecumenical openness to the East. A meaty but non-fundamentalist understanding of scripture. Tradition without time-travel. Resources for a well-grounded spirituality. A realistic Anglican identity.

What they cannot yet see is a political theology or social ethic. And indeed, the sex wars will have left them suspicious of those who stepped off the train.


Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Bryden and Bowman, to above.
Indeed, no point in Anglican conclave without canonical theology at centre of conclave’s mind.
But is there a naive view of the power of canonical theism to determine tricky questions of the day?
Canonical theism informs both the RCC and the EO churches but they have come to different views on divorce and remarriage (and on the Assumption!).
And, noting a certain RCC summit, canonical theism does not seem to have safeguarded RCC from a tremendous muddle over sexual abuse. (Indeed, in a Guardian article by Catherine Pepinster, currently on their site, she makes an astute point that the problem has arisen in part for the RCC because of an obsession with doctrine and not formation ...).
On reception/recognition of (what could be called) emergent understanding ... what if the churches of the world are in a slow process of reception and recognition that:
- homosexuality is a natural phenomenon and not a result of the Fall
- that critical to appropriate living out of natural sexual desire is covenant: a permanent life partnership intentionally brought before God for blessing (at least meaning: God, help us to be faithful, loving, stable in our commitment to each other.
Can you say that this is not where we are heading, albeit at different paces and with strong resistance?
Is there any specific aspect of canonical theism which denies science (here = “homosexuality is a natural phenomenon etc”) or which will never, ever accept the significance of covenant in an account of godliness in human sexuality?
(For clarity: I am not suggesting that the “science” here is settled ... but it looks like it is going to be.)

Father Ron said...

Peter - thank you for a brilliant response to BW's and Bryden's philosophical prognostications on the 'problems' of accommodating scientific and theological discoveries into an orderly and Christ-ordained synthesis on the matter of our Church's openness to the reality of the presence of, and need to cater for, sexual difference in the lives of human beings. We are speaking here of fellow Christians 'who know their need of God'.

The people that Jesus sought company with were those whose lives were spoiled by intolerance and injustice. Those he admonished were almost exclusively the 'learned and the clever' among the Church authorities whose minds were closed to further revelation from God - about God's grace that would outrun our human capacity for legalistic answers to religious situations that cry out for loving interpretation and a salvific solution (which only Christ can offer).

I thank God, Peter, that you are ready and willing to be open to the love and mercy of God being given to the lowest and least-regarded in the Kingdom of God - which polity overturns the mighty and the proud 'in the imagination of their hearts'.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
While appreciating your support I feel a need to make clear that we need the learned and the clever in this conversation!

Anonymous said...

"But is there a naive view of the power of canonical theism to determine tricky questions of the day?"

No, Peter, tricky questions that are merely of the day are matters for the state to decide. Or is there a way to argue from scripture that the Body that is the firstfruits of the aeon to come is somehow more responsible than Caesar for the aeon that is passing away?

To be clear, I have recommended three (3) books here because most Anglicans who have not first read Edith Humphreys's Scripture and Tradition and then read Robert W Jenson's Canon and Creed will not "get" William J Abraham's Canonical Theism. Abraham's book is certainly fine enough to recommend, and so I do, but if it turns out not to have the solution to every problem that a cook encounters in the kitchen I am not at all worried by that. That's not what the book is for.

And I herewith invoke the second and third of my Three Idiosyncrasies.

"I view Rome, on occasion, as a good if troubled neighbour, but not as an ultimate authority, inevitable model, or ancestral adversary." Rome is arguably the antithesis of canonical theism. Where Rome differs from the Orthodox, it is the Orthodox who are right, and the Orthodox are right because they have better conserved *paradosis*.

"I do not know how to reconcile the Body-as-new-creation of the Bible with a modern idea of law as the promulgated will of a human making laws with raw power, and neither, so far as I have seen, does anybody else." When churches act as though the state is insufficient to the ordinary needs of the human community, they exchange the calling of the Body of Christ for that of the body of Caesar.


Anonymous said...

"O Heavenly King, the Strengthener and Spirit of truth, who is everywhere present and fills all things, Fountain of blessings and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and save our souls, O Good One." -- Invocation of the Holy Spirit, The Trisagion Prayers.

Postscript-- With reference to That Topic (?!), Peter's 6:34 broaches several very worthwhile questions. I restate them here in a broader way.

What is the change in our devotion to the Holy Spirit that would over time bring about a church with a lively paradosis? Or conversely, what deficiency in our received devotion to the Holy Spirit has hindered paradosis and enabled clumsy and confusing substitutes?

Is there an inner affinity of paradosis with evidence-supported inquiry into nature that voting lacks? Or conversely, are there any imaginable circumstances in which church-sponsored voting could be the way to settle a scientific question about the natural world?

Where the local Body follows and nurtures paradosis, how should it inhabit the place and community to which God has called it? How should its non-Christian neighbours see it?

How does the Body deliberate when and where its paradosis is lively? Or when and where the Body is sicker, how would its deliberations (eg diocesan synods) change as it became healthier through a truer devotion to the Trinity, and especially to the third Person?

Anglicans embraced modernity; early modernity resiled from medieval Western "tradition"; early modernity has faded; some Anglicans are late moderns, others are postmodern pessimists, and still others are postmodern optimists. How might paradosis on the ground in our time compare with the late medieval Western tradition that was rejected? And can late moderns, postmodern pessimists, and postmodern optimists eventually understand a contemporary paradosis in similar ways?

Over the past two generations, Anglicans who love change and who fear change have both advanced, especially here up yonder, partisan theories of "tradition." Roughly, the change-lovers like tradition as experimental, organic, decentralised, and retrospective, whilst the change-haters see tradition as formative, systematic, consensus-keeping, and prohibitive. Inevitably, happy warriors will want to know whether proper devotion to the Holy Spirit will help them win or help the other side win. The motivation for asking it is not the best, but the implied question is actually a helpful one. How far is a contemporary paradosis, as we have discussed it here, experimental and formative, organic and systematic, decentralised and consensus-keeping, retrospective and prohibitive? Is there more overlap in the two theories than their partisans have been willing to admit?


Anonymous said...

PPS-- And-- how did I forget this?-- change-lovers stress that "tradition" is popular (eg folklore) while change-fearers stress that it is magisterial (eg Roman magisterium). In what ways is a contemporary practice of paradosis both popular and magisterial?


Father Ron said...

B.W., you will be pleased to note that, at SMAA, Christchurch, we sing the 'Trisagion' in solemn procession every Trinity Sunday: "Hoist the Trisagion ever and aye" - We are both Catholic and Orthodox in our worship and theology. Agape!

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, I found this Collect on the TEC site today"

" Collect for 7 Epiphany: “O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

Food for serious thought?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Father Ron, I am pleased-- and intrigued-- by the ways in which parishes such as SMAA receive and adapt prayers from the canon of what an older translation called the Treasury of blessings. I once persuaded an Orthodox parish to make festival use of a rite that had disappeared from parishes in about 1300, because for their occasion and building in the 1990s it made sense to do so.

Peter Toon interestingly explained your collect this way--

But as you might expect-- as you might prefer-- I see a stronger allusion here to Romans v 5ff.


Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for recent comments above - thoughtful and thought provoking as always ... Bowman on the Body v Caesar has gotten me thinking how much I may misunderstand the role of the church!

Tradition: I love the way in which (indeed) tradition/Tradition/what I mean by tradition/Tradition has a certain plasticity - depending on who is speaking!

Also: am a bit shocked, Bowman, by thought that RCC is opposite of canonical theism ... but I think I get that :)

Anonymous said...

" much I may misunderstand the role of the church!"

All of us, Peter, likely misunderstand more than a little. If we usually misunderstand the emergence of the Body from Second Temple Judaism-- the rabbis objected to the Holy Spirit, not the Son-- too few have even begun to think about the Body's infiltration of the Roman world. Perhaps one could frame the subapostolic view (eg Epistle to Diognetus) this way--

Macrocosm: There is just one God who creates with love one creation in which heaven and earth are mysteriously interrelated, but there are two aeons-- post-Fall in which heaven and earth are estranged and post-Victory in which they are married. In the post-Fall aeon provisionally and in the post-Victory aeon fully, the regenerate participate in the Son's fellowship (perichoresis) with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This more than restores what was lost in the Fall and is called salvation.

Microcosm: In time, the regenerate live in the post-Fall aeon as everyone does, and for it God has supplied the state to restrain the suffering of creatures in that aeon. In the Body, the regenerate also participate through the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus in the human life of the post-Victory aeon, and the Church is the visibility in this aeon of that participation in the next.

Practice (Charity): One way in which the regenerate participate in the life to come is by tending to the infirmities of creatures of this aeon. This is participation in the life to come because it is motivated by God's own love for his creatures and action on such motivation is participation in the fellowship of the Trinity. This tending can be of persons (eg *corporal works of mercy*), but it can also be of societies (eg St Basil of Caesarea inventing the modern departmental hospital).

Practice (Politics): Efforts to help the state to restrain suffering are in this latter category. For the regenerate, work in politics is a form of charity regulated by the doctrine of the *two kingdoms* which correlates state and church according to the two aeons. Both can be supported and the two can be correlated because they equally depend on the proper work of the Son "in whom all things hold together." By that same doctrine, the regenerate act in ways that maintain the visible distinction of the two kingdoms. That is, they do not rob faith and hope to pay love.

Anonymous said...

All of this has been mentioned bit by bit in my past comments on marriage and SSB. I shall review that in a moment. But first, I digress to a social intervention with stronger support in the tradition than solemnisation.

Late in the C4, St Basil of Caesarea, called "the Great" and author of the most important patristic text On the Holy Spirit, invented the modern departmental hospital more than a millennium before medicine itself had specialised. In the society of his day, no social institution for the care of the sick existed, but on the theology described just above the post-Fall aeon requires one, so *as a bishop* St Basil just invented it. Because he knew from much experience with the sick that different illnesses required different settings for recovery, his hospital took the form of a village with a street for each one. This was a great advance over the stone temples of Asclepius. A duty of charity had gone unrecognised in the society nurtured by pagan culture; also unrecognised was an opportunity for medical knowledge and skill to advance. But only from within the Body believing the subapostolic faith above was it apparent that Hellenistic society had this hole in its social fabric.

Appropriately, in view of his eloquence for the Holy Spirit, St Basil's invention spread by paradosis to bishops throughout Christendom, and the human community is stronger in Europe and elsewhere as a result. Importantly, part of that strength is that the human community accepts the care of the sick as its own responsibility. No church now runs a national health service; if one did, it would encourage its nation to default on it duty, causing the social fabric to fray, and allowing needless suffering as a result. Principle: because the Body's right interventions in this aeon are merely reparative, they also tend to be provisional. Mending is not replacing.

Anonymous said...

So now to solemnisation. The regulation of sex is intrinsically a matter for the state restraining human suffering in this aeon. (The rabbis interestingly agree in seeing the existence of courts for the adjudication of causes arising from sex as a part of the Noahite covenant.) By charity-- and hard kicks from Emperor Leo VI and Pope Innocent III-- churches nevertheless managed what the state could not from the middle ages until the century before last. But by the *two kingdoms*, the Body has no more intrinsic reason to marry couples today than to imprison criminals or to collect taxes. Jesus did not die and rise to found a state Department of Public Morals.

States today have acted reasonably in registering same sex couples to spare them serious harm, injustice, and shame. Whatever one thinks of their sexuality, the the states's restraint of their suffering is a duty of the state. The Body has a calling from God to support reasonable due diligence in that duty. More broadly, the Body bears witness that the Creator sends his rain to the just and the unjust.

Meanwhile, within the Body, interpersonal relationships mediated through the Son are precious, of course, but they are only occasionally and coincidentally sexual. We are happy for people in the Lord who are married, but we are no less happy for people in the Lord who are friends. The Lord instituted no sacrament for sex, and it is unlikely that a rite for this could be devised that did not promote spiritual idolatry, the subjection of the soul to concupiscence. In antiquity, the Syrian church put this to the test with a form of MWM with monastic celibacy; the many resulting pregnancies-- now scandalous because of the vows that had been taken-- led to its desuetude. Proponents of SSB protesting the unfairness of solemnisation have in fact built a plausible case by *reductio ad absurdum*, not for the extension of solemnisation but for its abolition.

What then are we to do with the Bible's words about marriage and sex? We just read them as the Body did before 912, not as social legislation, but as spiritual precepts for the regenerate. If we struggle to understand what that might mean, Sunday by Sunday, this is because we have for so long pretended to be a Department of Public Morals for the post-Fall aeon that we have forgotten how to think of the gendered life in relation to the post-Victory aeon. There is a hole in the ecclesial fabric for the Holy Spirit to mend.