Monday, February 25, 2019

So, this is what the ABC himself thinks is going on at Lambeth 2020!

Since last week's post looking ahead to Lambeth 2020, Archbishop Justin Welby has given his Presidential Address to the February 2019 session of the CofE General Synod.

I reproduce the address here in full, with some commentary on the Lambeth bits. (The whole address is valuable and I intend using various bits of it in an imminent address I am giving, but my focus here is on Lambeth 2020.)

In case the point gets lost, a Lambeth focus here on ADU is not simply about "an Anglican conference" and even less so "my personal hopes and dreams" for the conference. Rather, I see "Lambeth 2020" as a cypher for (i) the future of global Anglicanism, at least inasmuch as it has been associated with the body known as the Anglican Communion, and (ii) the theological heart, soul and mind of global Anglicanism, at least inasmuch as a rival for that heart - GAFCON - is making claims that it and only it is the true heritage of the English Reformation.

Archbishop Welby's Address:

"This Synod is devoted to the Great Commission to seek to make disciples of all nations. Inevitably we will talk much about what we do.

Far more important though is the question of who we are when we seek to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.
We are not a club with a membership drive. Evangelism and witness are not means to something else, any more than worship is a means to something else. They are ends in themselves.
Both worship and witness spring from our own experience of the unmediated love of God in Jesus Christ, a love that captures and constrains us.
Next year, at the Lambeth Conference, the theme will be God’s Church for God’s World. The Conference seeks to unite all who come in turning outwards to the world around and in love and passionate discipleship to seek to serve the mission of God, to share in the work of God in His world. 
Commentary: is the Anglican church "God's Church for God's World"? The future of Anglicanism globally does not consist in (say) perfecting the liturgy (important though that it) but it does consist on the genius of Anglicanism - developed willingly or unwillingly through its "state church" character - on being a church FOR the world.
The biblical book of the conference will be 1 Peter. I am therefore at present spending a significant amount of my own prayer and study time reflecting on this letter in the New Testament.
Commentary: personally, I am really looking forward to these studies. 1 Peter is written for Christians in exile and "exile" is a good description of the experiences of Anglican Christians around the world today. 
1 Peter speaks to us of holiness, of suffering, of mutual love and commitment, of the transformation for each of us and for the world in the creation of the church of Jesus Christ, of its great themes of “what you were”, “what you are” and what you will be” through being a disciple of Jesus.
Commentary: Yes! 
The letter is written to insecure churches, threatened from without and uncertain within.
Commentary: so, relevant to 2020.
It is beautiful in its sweep and call for pragmatic action to avoid adding unnecessarily to the offence of the gospel and at the same time it calls for absolute faithfulness to Christ, against the current culture.
Commentary: "against the current culture" ... precisely important in working out all issues before us as Anglican churches today.
It says Christians are always to be ready to give a reason for their hope, but to do so with gentleness and grace.
Out of the cosmic change of their incorporation into God’s people comes the utterly down to earth need to witness faithfully, to live well and above all, “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart”.(1 Peter 1:22)
In one extraordinary verse Peter brings together salvation, truth, holiness and love.
Commentary: it is an extraordinary, and pertinent verse for Anglicans today.
Even if there were not hundreds of other examples in scripture this one verse puts paid to the absurdity that truth and love are somehow alternatives, that we can be in favour of one but not the other.
Commentary: exactly.
To separate them is like separating breathing from the beating of the heart. The absence of either stops the other and brings death.
In holiness God brings salvation through Jesus the truth, overflowing in love to every person on earth, and as we respond to that love we cease to be what we were and become something new.
Commentary: I have just ordered an entrancing theological tome, Modern Orthodox Theology, which has the sub-title "Behold I make all things new!" What a wonderful summary, biblical description of the gospel and of the goal of theology.
Yet Peter writes this letter because there is so much pressure to conform, and so much behaviour which is what the recipients had been, behaviour like those around them in their culture, the absence of love, competition, no grace, no hope.
There is too much of what they were, too little of what God in Christ has made them.
Commentary: a watchword today is "formation" (alongside "discipleship") and none of us is as well formed, discipled as we might be.
Peter calls for a holy and loving church, reaching out to a world that does not know the power of the resurrection, nor understands that the suffering of Christ were for them. And the church exists to communicate this extraordinary truth.
Communication is so very complex and whatever is said has also to be heard and whatever is heard is not always reflected on in the same way as the original speaker may have intended! 
Sometimes our passion and enthusiasm can be in danger of being misunderstood or can be mistranslated as synod has another debate on standing orders or we agree to set up a working group to bring forward a paper in order to set up a commission to investigate a problem which, in due course, will lead us to having a debate.
At the Lambeth Conference the communication of truth in love, of holiness and salvation in one sentence is made more difficult by 100s of languages and cultures, by the very fact that phrases that mean one thing in one culture have a completely different meaning in another.
Commentary: I suppose ++Welby is guarding against over optimistic imagination of how wildly successful Lambeth 2020 might be.
That is why It is a great joy to welcome our Communion and ecumenical  guests with us at this group of sessions. 
It is always both informative and intriguing to hear observations and comments on what we do and how we do it from our fellow Christians, fellow Christians from different cultures or churches.  
Their observations enable us to realise and learn from what we believe are obvious and transparent ways of behaving that that is not always the case and it is good to hear what Anglicans do in other parts of the world that is not necessarily what we do here or how we behave here. Nor do we necessarily and understandably share the same priorities.
Commentary: Anglican diversity.
Yet the language of love, hope and holiness is a common language.
Commentary: Anglican diversity in unity is not an impossible dream, if only we keep finding our common language in Scripture.
The language of love, hope and holiness walks in the light. It recognises that its own interests are not the final word, but that self-giving and self-sacrifice is.
It does not constantly seek advantage or gain.
It is a language that the church has always struggled with, from the time of Paul writing his first letter to the Corinthians to this very day.
It is a language made harder to speak by the real complexities of the world in which we live, the clash of cultures, and the differences of personality.
The brokenness of the world is also the brokenness of our church.
There is an eternal struggle in each of us and among all of us to speak love fluently, and our tongues stumble over its expression and find law and rules and exclusion and a certain tribalism and club mentality comes so much more easily to each of us.
Commentary: more guarding against over optimism about the outcomes of Lambeth 2020!
But such living in so normal and earthbound a way cannot express the wonder of salvation or the glory of the treasure laid up in heaven for us (1 Peter 4-5).
It cannot set us free to declare to the world the  wonderful works of him who brought us out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
To put it in the simplest terms, we must look like what we speak about.
As Leslie Newbigin said the “business of the church is to tell and embody a story”. So, we cannot talk about Jesus without looking like Jesus.
Commentary: did Newbigin ever say anything which was not brilliant-and-simple?
I am grateful to Bishop Steven of Oxford for reminding me of this in a paper he wrote recently, “Rethinking Evangelism”. I hope he will speak to it and might even get a bit longer than some of us!
He sets out eight marks of witness to Jesus Christ, but at the heart of what he says is that the witness is both the carrier of the message and its embodiment. 
Here we are not only any group of Christians but a meeting of Synod. Synod and synodality is something being discussed by many churches and with many groups at present. 
I do think it is well worth while considering what is our purpose here as Christians who are journeying together, we are ‘in the way’ ‘syn’ ‘odos’  walking together, those who are both trying to hear one another, understand one another and walk with each other in the light of Christ.
Commentary: would that all synods remembered this!
Synod is the focus of our day to day work, but also of our differences. It is a test tube in which we mix up the ingredients of the church and heat them to see what happens.
If the resulting reaction is to be holy, hope filled and truthful, it must be loving. In many places it is.
The Church of England is not only alive and well but is showing signs of growth, renewal and reform and for this we give thanks and rejoice with the God who made us, loves us, and call us to the hope that is in us. 
Numbers of ordinands continue to grow. Parishes and chaplaincies work even harder than ever, at the front line of spiritual, emotional and physical needs in our country.
Dioceses are showing immense effort and imagination in developing new models of church. Church planting goes ahead with over 2,500 planned before 2030.
We are alongside people either to give debt advice or to deliver food or shelter for those in need, or to provide relationships and friendship for those who are struggling with the daily grind of being human.
We continue to educate more than 1 million children.
The work we will hear about from the estates evangelism group is encouraging. We are present for people in some of the most difficult and complicated situations.
Most of all we serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and whose activity we see all around.
Because of the resurrection we have hope, whatever happens.
Yes, we argue, yes, we fail, yes, we disagree about inclusion and we let people down and we mess up, but do not leave the wonderful work of the Spirit of God out of the equation.
And thus, we have good news to share and show. Thus, as we journey towards Lent some of you may be considering what you might give up during the penitential season.  
I urge you to consider especially as members of General Synod giving up cynicism and renewing love for those with whom you and I differ.
It is not easy. Some of them have views we find so obnoxious that we wish they were not in the church. We even convince ourselves that really, in God’s mind, because he agrees with us, they are not with us in the church.
Yet they and we are equally loved by God in Christ, equally sinners needing to repent, equally part of the body of Christ. 
So, let us hear a little of why each of us has hope in Jesus Christ. 
I am now going to ask you to turn to your neighbour or perhaps even better to be in a group of three and to share your faith story with each other. 
Each in one minute, without jargon, explain your hope, not in the Church of England, but in Jesus Christ. 
 [Pause for discussion]
So as we listen to each other, and through this Synod as well as in legislative business we turn to evangelism, let us recall that we are in the presence of Jesus Christ by his Spirit. Let us praise God afresh that we carry the ultimate good news of salvation and love, the news of Jesus Christ.
Let us allow the Spirit to warm our hearts with affection and love for one another, to constrain us with the love of Christ. Let the Spirit of Jesus cause us to imagine how we can be the good news we proclaim.
We are not, in this Church, optimists or pessimists. We are those who hope because we are all followers of the risen Christ, sinners yet justified, failures, cracked pots of clay, yet with the only treasure that is the only final answer to the bleakness of a world that too often finds its despair in seeking its own answers without Christ, and needs the light and hope of the Gospel that is in our hands to proclaim. Amen. "

Concluding commentary: some recent talk here on the blog has pointed readers to "canonical theism" which (in my words) is an approach to theology-in-the-life-of-the-church open and eager to receive from the Holy Spirit all the canonical gifts - not only the canon of Scripture - but also the canons of ancient (and universal) church life. ++Welby is drawing Anglican bishops together Lambeth 2020 in an openness to the Holy Spirit, anchored into the canon of Holy Scripture, and paying attention to an ancient and a modern canon. 

The ancient canon is that a bishop is a bishop (and so should be invited to Lambeth). 

The modern canon is Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 - true, not strictly a "canon" (per "canonical theism" because not a decision of the universal church, and not even a resolution of the Anglican Communion which is universally well received) - and this canon/"canon" is restricting which spouses are invited. 

Consternation and controversy about the manner of invitation proceeding from these two canons are arising but ++Welby is being driven to find a formula which is likely to gain lots of bishops willing to gather, not a select few. Again, from ancient times, we know that the strongest impact of conciliar decision making comes from the greater councils and not the lesser councils.

(Postscript: I saw somewhere on the internet yesterday a plea for bishops from the likes of TEC, Canada, Scotland and New Zealand to boycott Lambeth and for such bishops to plan their own episcopal gathering, separate to Lambeth. I reject that plea and if such a gathering takes place I will not be going. The point of Lambeth 2020 is not to form groups of unhappy bishops into various happy conferences. The point of Lambeth 2020 is to gather together the bishops of the Anglican Communion, as many as possible, whatever their feelings.)


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, I note your general agreement with the ABC's address to the C. of E. General Synod on the prospects for Lambeth 2020. For me, personally, its most profound message is contained in just a couple of sentences which, I hope, are not considered out of their proper context. They are these:

"Both worship and witness spring from our own experience of the unmediated love of God in Jesus Christ, a love that captures and constrains us.

Next year, at the Lambeth Conference, the theme will be God’s Church for God’s World. The Conference seeks to unite all who come in turning outwards to the world around and in love and passionate discipleship to seek to serve the mission of God, to share in the work of God in His world"

In this context, one has to understand that our capacity for loving others has to come from experiencing the Love of God for ourselves, personally. When this experience is absent, it must be difficult for even the most dedicated Christian to emulate the example of God's love for ALL humanity (e.g. "Love your enemies" - Jesus). The love of Jesus, himself, came from his experience of the Father's Love.

In the matter of gender and sexuality - which currently exercises the hearts and minds of many in our beloved Anglican Communion - there are still some anomalies that need to be addressed, within the context of the ABC's declaration, above - that the mission of the Church is to practise and exemplify the 'great love of God as revealed in the Son'.

To refer to only one of these anomalies, one cannot overlook the ABC's attitude towards the S/S-partnered bishops and their spouses being separated by the Lambeth invitation to the first and the lack of an invitation to the second - when even those bishops who have divorced and remarried will be welcomed TOGETHER WITH their new partners.

Granted that "We are ALL sinners"; why is one category of sinners invited to a banquet (Lambeth) while another category is excluded?

Is this just to appease the bishops of GAFCON who threaten not to attend Lambeth if any S/S-partnered persons are also invited? Clearly, that will not work anyway, because the 'rule' is not being strictly observed by the Lambeth Host.

It seems to me that 'unconditional love'; as exemplified by the Three Persons of the Trinity; might best be served by a truly open invitation to all bishops and their spouses. This would be a sign of God's perfect love for all people being lived out in a Church that acknowledges its imperfections, while yet aspiring to imitate the Head of the Church, who died for ALL people regardless of their 'worthiness' for redemption.

One recognises the anguish of the ABC and his feeling for the conservatives of our Communion. However, the faulty initiative he has decided upon will not bring about the reconciliation between conservatives and liberals that he so obviously desires. Instead, sadly, it may encourage accusations of hypocrisy - a problem that needs to be addressed in the current stand-off in our Church.

My prayers are for a just resolution that may just open up the possibility for a truly united Lambeth Conference. Miracles happen!

Anonymous said...

++ Justin has gotten very good at saying disruptive things in disarming ways.

For example (precis, not paraphrase): the Lambeth Conference delivers us from the boredom and stagnation of close agreement with others at home. One can argue with the church across the street but then premises of the common culture go uninterrogated. Or one can sound the mystic chords of memory with Anglicans of one's own tribe somewhere, but then nothing stops a gentle sectarian drift away from the apostolic springs. Realistically, there is no substitute for Lambeth as an opportunity to disagree about almost everything beyond the apostolic deposit and some Anglican rules of engagement. Iron sharpens iron; conflict purifies faith.

This disrupts the received idea that the whole purpose of Lambeth Conferences is to reach nearly unanimous agreements decade after decade, until a wall-to-wall consensus has settled everything. If you cherish the thought that bishops at Lambeth are the global expression of a common theology and piety, then you are probably unnerved to hear it described as something more akin to a Silicon Valley start-up with a mind iconoclastically open.

And if you were planning to stay away as an act of protest against the facile institutionalism of the ACO, then what do you do if Coach Justin is opening the gym for Fight Club? If you can't throw your punches where others can punch back, then who will care what you think? Narcissistic wimps not tough enough to take a few on the jaw from + Peter should just stay home.

Lemonade from lemons. As Peter says, expectation management. A preemptive deflation of hissy fits about northern sex and African scruples.

But is this rhetoric authentic? It probably could become that, but such a result is not inevitable. On a continuum of models from Rome to Esalen, conflict to purify faith is even farther from the Roman consolidation of everything than ++ Justin's past emphasis on Lambeth as a discerning center. Of course, it still seems very far from Esalen. But why?


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Ron and Bowman

Ron: I do not read ++Justin as "appeasing." I read ++Justin as creating reasonable conditions for his hope that as many bishops as possible turn up. To do that he needs to demonstrate that the Conference is respectful of all parts of the Communion "spectrum."

Bowman: yes, ++Justin is a disarming disruptor!

Anonymous said...

Well Bishop Peter, this week’s post appears to be challenging if the very few comments are any guide, or maybe some are on holiday.

In this world of uncertainty we still look to the words of our leadership to give us more certainty but sometimes it isn’t there, or at least can’t be found.

The world of mathematics is somewhat the same and sometimes mathematical models can provide useful metaphors. Gödel's incompleteness theorems on the difficulty of synchronising completeness and consistency, or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle on simultaneous quantum position and velocity are often used as metaphors of everyday life.

Trying to determine the position of our church on the basis of the origins and boundaries of our faith are somewhat similar to mathematical problems being classed as initial value or boundary value problems.

The Bible describes the beginning in Genesis and the life of Christ in the Gospels, and for many Anglicans and other Christians this is fundamental and alike the initial value problem.

The Epistles describe the challenges of the early church and the difficulties they had in finding boundaries and this is boundary value problem, a metaphor for our church today.

It becomes challenging when we try to reconcile all of this to one single approach, just as it is for mathematicians, and this seems to be occupying much of our thinking whether it is about Lambeth 2020, or GAFCON, or our local parish.

Einstein and other physicists and mathematicians will continue to die having spent a lifetime trying to prove the Theory of Everything, and many others will leave this world satisfied having achieved more modest success.

Maybe we should continue to strive in our endeavours and maybe we should accept there is no perfect description to be found now, in our lifetimes, or ever, except that God loves us, and we should love God, and our neighbours.


Anonymous said...

Insofar as the New Jerusalem is a great city of people with spiritual bodies, one supposes that each will have a home in some neighbourhood. I sometimes imagine that Father Ron's palazzo will be rather high on the hillside of those heaven understands to be Reformed.

That new address would startle those Anglicans, including perhaps himself, who thought that only the tiny shacks on islets of the river below could be accounted among the Reformed. But the jolly Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Germans, and Hungarians, etc near the summit who may share his skyline view of the heavenly cosmopolis will recognise that their neighbour's, well, high views of the civic realm and the embodied Body are quite at home among the Continental Reformed. Among them, what will distinguish Father Ron as an Anglican is a lived life busy with both ideas, rather than with just one of them. And that is the right way for all Christians to live in this aeon.

One of the jolly Dutchmen is Abraham Kuyper, the C19 prime minister of the Netherlands who argued for a high view of *common grace*, the rain that the Lord sends to the just and the unjust. In contrast with a sickly tendency to harangue about the effects of sin so that one seems to be rooting for the human community to fail (cf Jonah v Nineveh), Kuyper argued that, yes, the effects of sin are pervasive, but, no, God has not utterly abandoned states to it, especially when Christians are among the subjects of those states. Much as Father Ron argues that the Holy Spirit is active in the world, and that the children in the light can sometimes learn a thing or two from the children in the dark (St Luke xvi 8, cf St Matthew x 16), the prime minister argued that God cares enough about the institutions of our common life in this aeon to intervene to sustain them in ways that those struggling for power would not do and could not imagine. Father Ron identifies such interventions as a proper work of the Holy Spirit, and so, as a Reformed theologian, did Kuyper.

Anonymous said...

Maybe. I normally think such thoughts about the Son. To save the creation, the Son assumed the humanity of Jesus and in him the vocation of Israel. Why did that work? Because Israel had already been identified with humanity, and humanity has a special vocation in the cosmos. It is because of these scriptural correlations that a church is only the Body insofar as it is identified with any humanity nearby. And that is what sustained the Constantinian idea of a unified *corpus christianum* that lived the gospel's *now and not yet*, presently in this aeon through its state and proleptically in the next aeon through its church. On that view, Christchurch lives presently in its municipal state and proleptically in the aeon to come in the diocese of Christchurch. The English painter Stanley Spencer offers many visual representations of this idea in his paintings for his beloved village of Cookham.

The Holy Spirit must have some proper work in each of this series of scriptural correlations-- Son : Jesus : Israel : humanity : creation.

"He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit..."

"You are the Christ..." "And Jesus said, I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions."

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."

But our thoughts about it are not as clear, indeed as inspirited, as they should be.

For all that we have heard about Galatians iii 28 over the past generation, nobody has painted a Pentecost of, say, the unified peoples resident in Christchurch. Conservatives understandably worry that the Holy Spirit could be confused with some nihilistic Holy Hipster or Zeitgeist. But by analogy with what is usually said about *union with Christ*, could we say that the Son fights the dark powers for the justice of any civil community to which his disciples belong while the Holy Spirit secures the full participation of those excluded from that community?


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Wayne - I like the mathematics of doing theology in the modern age!