Monday, February 4, 2019

GAFCON Fragmentation?

Heads Up and Spoiler Alert: there are two very Anglican-geeky questions at the foot of this post!

So, I was toying with the idea of a further report from the still-enthralling Fatal Discord reported on in the post below. It remains a wonderful read, not only because of good writing style, but also because the writer has a great grasp of Reformation history centred on Luther and Erasmus.

Luther comes across as a hero - an absolute hero in human terms because he is relentlessly courageous, abundantly insightful, and a rockstar of a man in social and political terms as well as theologically and spiritually. Single handedly, through pamphlets and his translation of the NT into German, Luther forges Germans of several principalities and powers into a nation, defying great world leaders of his day as he does so.

Erasmus is a great intellectual who accidentally falls into a trap. Every age cries out for a synthetic leader, a person who can forge a unifying centrist position which gives voice to the common ground among people and across communities and nations. Erasmus was that person in many ways and in many centuries he would readily be the super-outstanding figure of his day.

But events over took him. Pioneering a willingness to re-look at Scripture (by questioning the supremacy of the Vulgate, bringing the Greek NT into publication) and unafraid initially to voice searing and deserved criticism of the Roman church, Erasmus offered fast burning fuel to Luther's fire as he began to recognise, with Erasmus' assistance, that the penitential aspirations (and corruptions) of the early 16th century Roman church were contrary to Scripture.

When that Lutheran bonfire of Roman vanities started to scorch more than the obvious corruptions of the day (e.g. creating political turmoil not only across Europe but also spreading into Britain; moving beyond reformation of the Mass and other sacraments to throwing them out altogether), Erasmus found himself in that agonising centrist position in which both sides of the conflagration turn on the centrist.

Loyal to the Roman church (and somewhat financially dependent on both papal beneficence and royal patronage from kings and princes loyal to Rome), he was hugely pressed to put his sharp pen and intellectual prowess to deprecating Luther. Sharing many sympathies with Luther's criticisms and standing firm on his own theological insights which underpinned them, he was reluctant to savage Luther in print. Moreover, accidentally becalmed in Basel for many years - a hotbed of increasingly radical Reformation zeal - he was conscious that public criticism of Luther on behalf of distant Rome risked local wrath falling on him.

Luther was willing to be martyred. Erasmus made it clear in writing that he himself was not willing!

So much for history: the reflections for our current situation are easy to come by. No doubt for another post, but I have been thinking about such things as what it means to be faithful to Scripture. Erasmus was but Luther challenged him to go (so to speak) deeper. Luther was but Muntzer and Karlstadt challenged him to go (so to speak) deeper. Who was right? In a divided Anglican world today on faithfulness to Scripture, who is right? There are definitely Erasmian, Lutheran and Karlstadtian figures in our 21st century midst! Who is to judge?

Erasmus was right on many counts, not least on the importance of working for peace, not war. Luther was right in all sorts of ways, but also clearly wrong, not only about Jews, but also about relationship between state and church (at least as measured by the ability of the future German church to tolerate the rise of Nazism). Moreover, few today, if any would go the distance on something he wrote which I had not previously known: that a wife with an impotent husband should take another husband! Karlstadt and his radical colleagues were right to push hard on the full meaning of a renewed knowledge of Scripture being applied to all aspects of society which were unjust. But, arguably, they turned the gospel of grace into a new tome of laws and replaced the Pope in Rome with the pope in the local pulpit.

All in all, Luther spurred a mighty chaos in the church in Western Europe, so that it was very difficult to work out in many cities and towns who exactly was in charge of ecclesiastical life.

We are not quite as chaotic today but today's news alerts us to a little bit of global Anglican chaos. According to conservative news site Anglican Ink, the Anglican Church of Nigeria has appointed four new bishops for work in North America without consultation with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

That is, despite much ado about GAFCON (which includes Nigeria and ACNA) being the true beating fellowship heart of global Anglicanism, when it suits Nigeria to not respect its communion with ACNA, it is happy to do so. Which, of course, is not communion. It is not good Anglican communion practice to unilaterally make cross-border episcopal incursions into the territory of another Anglican province. Such bad practice has, of course, been justified through recent decades by assertion of a judgement that the incursion into an Anglican province with bad something (theology, practice, both). Is there something wrong with ACNA?

Is GAFCON fragmenting?

We will see.

But here are a couple of questions for Anglicana geeks:

(1) If, perchance, ++Welby were to invite ACNA bishops to Lambeth 2020, should he also invite the four new Nigerian bishops for North America?

(2) If, perchance, for the next GAFCON Conference, the four non-ACNA bishops for North America were invited, should ACNA consider not attending?


Anonymous said...

Here up yonder in America, Peter, the story of the Anglican Continuum is told with two further details.

(a) The Continuum here has never been unified within itself. In several ways, ACNA is most empathetically seen as a confederation of tribal episcopates for those who have been pushed out of TEC. Outside ACNA, some have long hesitated before joining it (eg + Mark Lawrence's Diocese of South Carolina); inside, multiple episcopates persist with important disagreements among them (eg on the ordination of women). These tribes were theological adversaries until a permissive General Convention gave them a common enemy, but *my enemy's enemy is my friend* cannot theologically ground the koinonia of the NT.

(b) The African episcopate has always had some who view the East African Revival as a second Reformation commissioned to move fast and break things everywhere, and the US and UK as mission fields where ecumenical order should command no more obedience than it did among denominational missionaries in Africa. For example, the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) did not hesitate to create its own episcopate in the United States, and its PEAR-USA joined ACNA with two of its three dioceses overlapping other ACNA dioceses, which is contrary to the ancient and ecumenical canons. Now CoN has done as PEAR has done.

Nota bene: if TEC's General Convention had a membership that looked more like a cross-section of the American population, its decisions would presumably be closer to the centre of opinion in the Anglican Communion. That is, one way for a member to be in Communion with the rest is to follow the official discernments, but another way is to participate more deeply and broadly in its local experience of the universal. A church cannot fully participate in the Communion if it does not fully participate in its own country.

So then to your two questions.

"(1) If, perchance, ++ Welby were to invite ACNA bishops to Lambeth 2020, should he also invite the four new Nigerian bishops for North America?" Yes, along with the Central Methodist Conference and the Anglican Ordinariate, for the Lambeth Conference will then have become a celebration of English churchmanship untethered from the underlying ecclesiology of a Communion.

"(2) If, perchance, for the next GAFCON Conference, the four non-ACNA bishops for North America were invited, should ACNA consider not attending?" Under the traditional Lambeth rules, a bishop cannot be invited unless s/he has ordinary jurisdiction in a diocese, and since antiquity such dioceses have been defined for political communities. The Bishop of Washington is such a bishop because the Diocese of Washington is a spiritual body within a real political community; a Nigerian sent to CANA in the USA is not such a bishop because neither he nor the scattered parishes of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity belong to any civic community anywhere. The Archbishop of Canterbury would seem to be the last person on earth to forget that correlation of church and state. But if he does, see my answer to (1).


Jean said...

I sense a degree of stirring in this post Peter... : ) ... it appears CANA has been both a fomational part of ACNA and primarily a Nigerian Missional outreach to Nigerian’s in America, with Bishops appointed from NIgeria since its inception. So perhaps in this instance perhaps more context evangelism than boundary crashing. But it does make one think about all the Bishop’s being appointed left, right and centre - excuse the pun.

On another note. I made a comment a few days ago which hasn’t come through so perhaps sitting waiting somewhere. I won’t rate it as worth your time looking too hard but maybe others comments were missed also.

All the best for the new mantle you take on in the now very near future.

Peter Carrell said...

Bowman: great answers; and explanations of North American "mysteries" noted.

Jean: yes, a little bit of stirring; but there is something solemn about considering the moves being made in our church to form a new Diocese which is beholden to GAFCON and not to ACANZP ... and finding that GAFCON has issues ...

Jean: sorry but I cannot find those comments.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, in looking forward to your imminent consecration as our local Bishop in Christchurch, I am hoping that you will take heed of the need for unity in our local church. This paragraph in your article here has me concerned about the sincerity of the GAFCON Provinces (and their outreach here through the recent activities of FCANZ) to divide, rather than unite, the Christian witness of faithful Anglicans around the world:

"According to conservative news site 'Anglican Ink', the Anglican Church of Nigeria has appointed four new bishops for work in North America without consultation with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)"

In fact, I've often wondered about the effects of your advertising the American 'Anglican Ink' on your website. Do you think it is a healthy influence on members of ACANZP? It certainly does speak of partisanship with ACNA - the separatist body in the US.

I have long suspected the divisive characteristics of Sydney's influence over the African conservative Churches - mostly expressed through former Archbishop Peter, Jensen's association with the early formation of GAFCON and his collusion with The Church of Nigeria - from whom this new invasion of the American Anglican scene is being perpetrated. The dominance of Nigeria amongst the conservative provinces of Africa demonstrates, yet again, the hubris with which Nigeria's Archbishop pursues his headlong course towards separation from - not only the ACC but even, in this instance, GAFCON's own allies in ACNA.

I will do all I can to support your leadership in our diocese that will ensure the traditional 'Unity of the Spirit' in the mission of ACANZP. I look forward to your episcopal ordination on Saturday. May your ministry as our local bishop be singularly blessed!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, regarding Bowman's comments here, I find this interesting:

"Under the traditional Lambeth rules, a bishop cannot be invited unless s/he has ordinary jurisdiction in a diocese, and since antiquity such dioceses have been defined for political communities."

Presumably, the 'diocese' mentioned here is a traditional diocese of the Anglican Communion. Do either ACNA or the new Nigerian Bishops in the U.S. have jurisdiction in an ACC diocese? This should answer your first question.

Your second question begs another one: As neither ACNA nor the Anglican Church in Nigeria consider themselves to be answerable to the beneficent 'rule' of the Primus-inter-pares (the ABC), why would either entity seek an invitation to Lambeth?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, given our reverence for antiquity, the anomolous American Bishops might take a leaf out of the Roman book.
In the Roman Catholic Church, a titular bishop is a bishop who is not in charge of a diocese.[1] Examples of bishops belonging to this category are coadjutor bishops, auxiliary bishops, bishops emeriti, vicars apostolic, nuncios, superiors of departments in the Roman Curia, and cardinal bishops of suburbicarian dioceses (since they are not in charge of the suburbicarian dioceses). Most titular bishops hold the title to a titular see. Assigning titular sees serves two purposes. Since part of being a bishop means being the head of a Christian Church, titular sees serve that purpose for bishops without a diocese. At the same time, the office of titular bishop memorializes ancient Churches, most of which were suppressed because they fell into the hands of non-Christian conquerors.(thanks to Wikipedia)

Jean said...

No worries, they were a reply to your comment Bowman two threads ago so please don’t think I ignored you. Now lost to cyber space and my memory I am afraid : ) ...

Yes, for certain Peter, there is no guarantee GAFCON will prove a suitable body to be accountable too and few I believe in their hearts desire more dissension or instability between or within Church bodies.

Have a good Waitangi Day one and all...

Anonymous said...

sorry, anomalous

Anonymous said...

As you say, Rhys, untidy arrangements can sometimes be tolerable and useful.

Rome has consecrated bureaucrats as bishops *in partibus infidelius* (eg a monastic in the Sacred Congregation for Religious Life might be consecrated bishop of some diocese in Libya that converted to Islam in the C9-13). Constantinople has consecrated scholarly priests in the West (eg Kallistos Ware) as bishops of very small dioceses in Greece so that they could be useful where they are (eg Oxford) and serve in the Holy Synod. Canterbury has a palace in London, and more interestingly, such great dioceses such as York and Durham once had *episcopal peculiars* or churches in other dioceses.

But the problem is not simply that the Nigerians are breaking rules of catholic order. On one hand, it is that one is the kind of Anglican who can belong to a discerning Communion if and only if one respects at least the Anglican ordinary in every place. And on the other hand, John Calvin himself would have denounced this as unreformed. Nigerian flying bishops credentialed to the ordinaries in TEC for ministry to Nigerian nationals in the United States who remained members of the Church of Nigeria would have solved the problem without raising unpleasant questions.


Anonymous said...

My last few comments here have posed a new way of looking at the Archbishop of Canterbury's dilemmas.

Anglicans do not have a pope, but they both need and have a patriarch. The Lambeth Conferences had an implicit political theology that assumed that the Constantinian alliance of church and state (or at least society) would continue in places settled from the UK and would spread to Africa and Asia. But Anglican bishops now serve peoples who are either late/post-modern or else asserting their cultural independence. Nobody thought to give the ABC a role in setting new conventions for this unforeseen situation, and the proliferation of *instruments of communion*, both authentic and merely aspirational, make it very difficult for him to make even common sense decisions, which itself inspires new *instruments* (eg Anglican Communion Covenant, GAFCON) that only deepen the confusion in the Communion. As they say on the airplanes, you have to take oxygen yourself before you can give it to others. Can an ABC reverse this downward spiral while holding together the Communion as received? It is certain that nobody else can.

And can this be begun before the Crown Nominations Commission selects a successor who could well be liberal and female? What deference the present ABC has received from his opponents has depended on the sense that he is an evangelical who is fluent in their idiom and able to respect their reservations. Many of those opponents are at most tolerant of the ordination of women, and some flatly oppose it.

If anything good is to happen, it needs to start soon. What should that be?


Father Ron Smith said...

Bowman said:

" What deference the present ABC has received from his opponents has depended on the sense that he is an evangelical who is fluent in their idiom and able to respect their reservations. Many of those opponents are at most tolerant of the ordination of women, and some flatly oppose it. "

It seems to me that Archbishop Justin may not be 'Evangelical' enough to suit those in the Communion (e.g. the Abp. of Nigeria) who want to take control of the Anglican Communion and turn it into something it (inherently) is not.

Unity in Diversity has always been the catchcry in Anglicanism until recent times when a radical conservative movement has arisen (with the help of Sydney Evangelicals) that seeks to usurp worldwide Anglican Tradition with a boring monocultural fundamentalism that is foreign to our tradition.

The aim of true ecumenism is, surely, unity in diversity - a tribute to the infinite variety present in God's creative order, rather than an enforced doctrinal toe-the-line singularity that seems to drive the fundamentalism of the GAFCON Primates. The old hymn: "All things bright and beautiful" seem more appropriate than the hermetic seal of a ghetto mentality, which - like President Trump's venture with the 'Mexican Wall" has the purpose of keeping people out rather than the Gospel initiative of welcoming people to the Feast of The Lamb.
"Fling out the banner, let it float....!"

Anonymous said...

The POTUS* is delivering the SOTU* to Congress in the Capitol. As I watch, parts of this are not awful, and the white dresses of the many Democratic women in this new Congress are a sly visual reminder to everyone that gender dynamics henceforth will not be those of his father's generation. But as he gets boring my mind wanders to the discontents of his archenemy Down Under, Father Ron.

"All things work for good for those who love God," says St Paul. God puts power where he can use it, and while it is not immune to the corruption of all things in this aeon, there is nearly always some worthwhile alliance to be made with those who, for a moment, hold it. God willing, I expect to hear the SOTU from a different POTUS in 2021 and I do a little to further that end, but as a Christian, I am only against bad policies, not bad people.

* Secret Service acronyms that have leapt into the language up here. POTUS = President of the United States. SOTU = State of the Union, a report to the Congress which the POTUS is obliged by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States to give to the Congress. Since Woodrow Wilson, this has been delivered as a speech attended by all constitutional officers of the United States but one. At the link, President Bartlet reads Section 3 in the Oval Office to his Designated Survivor, the Cabinet member in the line of succession who remains in the White House during the SOTU.


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, et al, my daily 3-minute retreat with the Jesuits today offers this reminder of our basic calling by Jesus in the New Commandment:

"Salvation is not reserved for the clever. God made the rules simple enough that all people might have the opportunity to be saved. Jesus makes the Ten Commandments even more concise. In response to a test posed by the intellectual elite, Jesus summarizes all of the law as love of God and love of neighbor. Living a moral life is about living in a loving way. Jesus not only spoke about love, he lived it, embracing sinners and giving his life for our salvation."

In all of the present kerfuffle in the Anglican Communion, I reckon the celebration of God's Love (and our love of God and Neighbour) is our primary calling - superceding all others.

Praying for you in the countdown, Peter.

Father Ron Smith said...

For those of you who were not there at the Christchurch Boys' High School yesterday (Sat.09 February 2019) for the Episcopal Ordination of our blog Host Dr Peter Carrell, I want to say on his website that it was an inspiring and Spirit-filled occasion.

The Maori Welcome (and +Peter's facility with the Maori language in response) was amazing. The Ordination and Eucharist - in the awesome presence of a full congregation of clergy and many bishops - among them the new bishop's father, +Brian Carrell; the Pakeha Archbishop ++Philip Richardson; Maori Archbishop ++Don Tamihere; the Pasifika Archbishop-elect; the former Christchurch Bishop +David Coles; the former Archbishop of New Zealand +Sir David Moxon (also former ACC Representative to the Holy See in Rome) together with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Christchurch - all made for an impressive line up behind the altar set up on stage.

Diana and I were not able to attend the Installation of the new Bishop at 3pm, but I am told it provided quite a spectacle in front of the quake-damaged Christchurch Anglican Cathedral, which Bishop Peter looked forward to entering once it has been restored.

All in all a wonderful occasion full of joy and promise of renewal of the Church and the Diocese in our City. Deo Gratias!

Bryden Black said...

Nah Bowman; give me Kirkman over Bartlet, even if the latter does know Latin.

Anonymous said...

Bryden, I have not seen Designated Survivor. What does President Kirkman think about eg Judges 12 or Ephesians 5?

Incidentally, these segments are among several that lend support to the hypothesis that, although identified as a "Catholic" graduate of Notre Dame throughout the series, President Bartlet and Christian members of his staff are consistently presented as Episcopalians of broad to high churchmanship. For example, Leo McGarry's funeral is taken word for word from the BCP (TEC 1979), pp 469, 482-483. This ambiguity understandably irritated the young Ross Douthat, but every explanation for it that I can conceive has some relevance to the conundrum that I found in Jean's comment: blessed are the peacemakers, but the public more often recognises faith in happy warriors.

A pious President Kirkman would be very interesting to see. David Guggenheim's Designated Survivor, like Beau Willimon's House of Cards, is grounded in an understanding of republican states opposed to that of Aaron Sorkin's West Wing and The Newsroom. Sorkin's series values voting as the deliberative process of an informed electorate that channels power toward the ends of a progressing society. This view draws the palest of lines between the citizenry and its state. In contrast, Guggenheim and Willimon recognise voting as a non-violent, external restraint on the competition for advantage that happens wherever power is concentrated. On that view, the virtue of modern democracies is not that they are especially progressive or wise but that they have tamed and institutionalised the violent and disruptive practice of, say, imperial succession in the Byzantine empire. Guggenheim's premise places Kirkman squarely in such a reality, but of course I cannot say how well he or his writers understand this.

As Tacitus already knew in antiquity, facts on the ground determine which idea better fits reality, the virtues that are native to each paradigm can be vices in its opposite, and the broad course of history can force a shift from one to the other.* Tacitus admired the virtues of Cato, but he also recognised that the republican order that had needed and nourished them had necessarily evolved into a new imperial one in which they had become vicious and former vices had become virtuous. He anticipates Machiavelli's Discorsi in reserving his praise for those who had the sagacity to act well in the demoralizing circumstances given them. It would be interesting to see a plausible character who is fully engaged as a regenerate Christian in a mostly unchecked struggle for power at such a transitional moment. Until we have one, we can read about such actual figures of the C16 as those aligned with Luther and Erasmus.

* This tension is more or less consciously invoked by supporters of Donald J Trump and his Republican Party. But Plato's cycle of regimes in Book VIII of the Republic may be the better explanation of what they see today.


Bryden Black said...

As you would well know Bowman, the history of sociology in the West was itself an attempt as a discipline to understand social and historical change. A vital part of that very discipline has been the evolving paradigms themselves used in such an analysis. The 21st C dilemma created by the tension between global and glocal is just such another paradigm. But all it truly does is to fragment the analysis. That is, the very lenses employed become victim to the changes before us, and the end result is even more out of focus. That is again, in Buber’s phrase, once the eclipse of God is de rigeur, we will ever be confronted with little narratives strung together haphazardly.
I don’t know about you, but if catholic Christianity ceases to be an option, then we’re just back to the end of Judges!
Good luck kiddo!

Father Ron said...

AND, in the meantime folks, as Mother Julian once said (re the reward of trust in God) "All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well!"

Another saying of Jesus for those of you who anguish over the future of the Church, trying desperately to 'put things right' - according to your own understanding - is this: "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and clever and revealing them to mere children, for that is what it hath pleased you to do". Praise and glory to God! Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

Bryden, your 11:07 sounds like a causal assertion, so to construe it, I am looking for its counterfactual. That would be, I think-- if sociologists acknowledged God, then the results of their research would be enduring, so that a master social narrative would accumulate in which catholic Christianity has universal plausibility.

But that cannot be what you mean.

Meanwhile, Father Ron, your 10:18, considered in the same counterfactual way posits-- if catholic Christianity had public plausibility, then the learned and clever would know about it, which would displease God.

Is that what you mean?


Father Ron said...

The real point at issue here, Bowman, is: What dd Jesus mean?

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Father Ron.

Jesus thanked the Father for a renewed creation that could be recognised from everywhere. Because it was not a further evolution of the Sanhedrin, the Second Temple, the monarchy, etc, it was not known from close acquaintance with decadent institutions already passing into oblivion. Thus it could be and was recognised in all corners of the Judaic world by a few in each place who had knowledge of the Father's will. That motivates the gratitude that is the evident emotion of his words.

Yet although centuries of anti-Semitic bloviating have obscured this, the same Jesus was also a master of halachic reasoning from the scriptures who could and did engage the Pharisees on questions of interpretive method. Jewish scholars who can follow his arguments say that he was solving real problems with brilliant arguments. We have no reason to disbelieve that. And neither Jesus nor the evangelists would have wasted time on those arguments if they thought the questions were passing away with the Sanhedrin, Temple, monarchy, etc.

So this new creation takes a whole, integrated brain to live in. There is a work of recognition sometimes loosely associated* with nuclei of the right hemisphere, and there is a work of analytic, rule-bound reasoning similarly of the left hemisphere. To oppose one to the other is, well, it's like an eye saying that it does not need a hand... 1 Corinthians 12.

* Pop culture has more enthusiasm for this model than neuroscience does. Some prefer to contrast the recognition that happens throughout the brain (diffuse mode) to the close reasoning that happens in specialised areas of it (focus mode). Either way, both imagination and logic have distinguishable patterns of brain activity and collaborative work to do in our living of the gospel.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, with all due respect to your argument here; I think that Jesus was speaking more about the understandiung of the heart than the brain. That is - the seat of the emotions; rather than that so-overrated human mental acuity that many of our intellectuals put all their energies (and trust) in.