Monday, September 2, 2019

Round up of not insignificant things

(1) This past weekend Teresa and I have been in Nelson for the ordination of Steve Maina as bishop and installation as the 11th Bishop of Nelson. There is a good report with a small video and a photo or two here. The weather was amazing so the town procession referred to in the report was very pleasant. The two and a half hour service seemed not to take that long. It was a joy to be back in Nelson cathedral (one of my favourites).

(2) Bishop Steve's new role in the traditionally conservative Diocese of Nelson in part will be worked out against the backdrop of continuing outworkings of our GS 2018 decision on the blessing of same sex civil marriages. Although, in a sense, the "noise" since then has been about disaffiliations, there has nevertheless been a "quiet" progress in the development of a Christian Community, the option for staying within the polity of ACANZP while strongly signalling a certain distance from the GS decision. Taonga has an update on the development of the AFFIRM-based Christian Community as well as a rationale for it, here.

(3) How important is marriage? How do Christians respond to its breakdown? How should we respond? What is held in common about marriage across the great Christian streams (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox), and what is different? No less a figure than David Bentley Hart has some interesting things to say here, from an Orthodox perspective. His criticism of annulment in the modern age is my criticism. But is he correct in some other things he has to say? Thoughts?


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for the 3 Reflections you have presented here. On the matter of the new initiative from AFFIRM, I note that its proponents are looking to ordain their own bishop to pursue their active opposition to the polity of ACANZP that allows for Blessing of Same-Sex Unions.

It seems to me that the aims of AFFIRM are little different from those of the sodality (FOCANZ) which has already excised itself from ACANZP on this very same issue - nominating its own bishop and distancing itself from New Zealand Anglican Church in order to form its own ecclesial organisation. Why don't they join Bishop Jay?

My question is - in the realisation that both dissenting entities are seeking episcopal ministry separate from ACANZP - has our Church (ACANZP) already 'shot itself in the foot' by inviting communities like AFFIRM to set up a special impaired relationship with us while yet dissenting from our ethos of pastoral openness to S/S couples?

This whole situation smacks of that esoteric avian creature - the 'Flying Bishop', which has brought confusion into the Anglican ethos of 'Unity in Diversity' in the Church of England.

Father Ron said...

You are quite correct, Bishop Peter, to draw our attention to the discussion by Hart of the anomaly of the Roman Catholic position on its treatment of separated couples. The difference between allowing for 'annulment' while yet penalising the divorced (by sacramental deprivation) seems irregular, if not actually scandalous.

And then, there is the realisation that marriage was once considered to be no business of the Church, per se, being thought of rather as a matter of family property settlement. Now that the civil courts have decided to include married same-sex relationships as being constitutionally legal; the Church(es) will have to alter their attitudes towards how best to deal with this secular reality.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
In general terms I suggest you are seeing the half empty rather than the half full glass on this matter.
Where people might be inclined, with no other alternative before them, to leave ACANZP, the concept of a Christian Community is enabling many of our brother and sister Anglicans to remain. I suggest that is a half full glass, and better than an empty glass!
On the matter of episcopal oversight, every member of the Christian Community remains in a relationship with their Diocesan bishop as presently.
The bishop who they seek to "select" (and not elect) must be drawn from among the existing active bishops of ACANZP; and the role of this bishop is limited to support and (where needed) advocacy on behalf of member parishes and individuals of the Christian Community.
There is a degree of "flying bishop"-ness to the proposal but it is not the same as the CofE version.
There is a lot to be positive on the matter and it would be a grave pity if a lack of sympathy to the proposal encouraged people to leave our church rather than to stay.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for the link to DBH's fine article.

Hart chronicles a history that I myself have mentioned here several times, and I am pleased that someone else is paying attention to it. But a reader of Commonweal could miss the forest for the trees: for roughly the first millennium, marriage and divorce were civil matters and the clergy applied the discipline of the church only in response to acts at law performed in family or judicial settings. Nobody, past or present, has ever faulted the apostles, the fathers, the councils, etc with any laxity of discipline in failing to mandate church weddings to replace the customs of time out of mind.

Where then did church weddings come from? The stories are different in East and West, but in both regions the clergy began to enforce the Roman law of matrimony for reasons that were administrative and social, not theological. Only early in the second millennium did theologians struggle-- and fail-- to find a coherent spiritual rationale for the Church's role in this universal rite of passage.

The theory that a wedding is a sacrament just as baptism and eucharist are was the rationale finally adopted. If sacraments have conditions for their validity, and if a wedding is one of them, then hypothetically there can be an invalid wedding. Recognition that a wedding was not valid is an annulment. Broadly speaking, the reformers rejected the sacramental theory.

The sacramental theory and annulment are inseparable. If one thinks that annulments are absurd, then consistency obliges one to think the same of church weddings. Marry in city hall; party in church. Or, if one disagrees with the whole Body of the first millennium, insist that matrimony is truly a church matter so that both church weddings and church annulments for invalid weddings are necessary. Marry in church; treat unchurched couples as unmarried.

But what if one wants weddings without annulments? If weddings are only innocent parodies of real sacraments, wouldn't that be consistent enough? The ids of many marrying couples-- or their mothers-- do not need or want the sacramental theory (rejected anyway by the 39A), but they do want more solemn frippery than they could get into city hall or from a simple event in a stately home, park or museum. Candles, silks, flowers, music, wine, hors d'oeuvres, dancing-- the show, the feast, the party-- are what matters in life's big occasions. They matter so much that our Lord adorned this manner of celebration with his first miracle at Cana in Galilee, a family wedding.

The reformers severed weddings from their sacramental rationale centuries ago, but their churches have continued to administer the civil procedure for the administrative and social reasons that made sense at in the high middle ages. They no longer do. Weddings still happen in churches, among other places, but without a plausible rationale for their location. The cost of this is not so much theological inconsistency as a certain mindlessness about what is being done and why.

Two revitalising innovations seem destined to meet in some future. On one hand, the pastoral preparation of couples gets more extensive as the culture drifts farther from Christian understandings of marriage and family. On the other hand, although church solemnisations make little sense, there is room for the adventurous to imagine these celebrations in churches as gospel festivity. One can imagine a future in which the 1662 rite survives as a betrothal ceremony that admits couples to a course of preparation for a jolly good wedding.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"On the matter of episcopal oversight, every member of the Christian Community remains in a relationship with their Diocesan bishop as presently. The bishop who they seek to "select" (and not elect) must be drawn from among the existing active bishops of ACANZP; and the role of this bishop is limited to support and (where needed) advocacy on behalf of member parishes and individuals of the Christian Community."

This elegant arrangement is precisely NOT a *flying bishop* (eg England) or for that matter an *invading bishop* (eg North America). It ensures effective advocacy for the new Community without making it a non-geographical simulacrum of an authentic diocese.

In fact, it is very much in the spirit of Father Ron's proposal that parishes abstaining from SSB elsewhere in ACANZP join the Diocese of Nelson. They would then have become what canonists of bygone centuries knew as *episcopal peculiars*.

The difference between the two is in the way the Community parishes are related to their neighbors. The first secures additional counsel and advocacy for the parishes while conserving their natural diocesan ties. The second would have required quadrilateral negotiation for cooperation among each parish, its neighbours, and both bishops.

Interestingly, the same two arrangements have been considered in the past where a church (eg Lutherans, ELCA) of one predominating ethnicity (German, Scandinavian) sought to accomodate parishes of an ethnic minority (Slovak). Naturally, the choice somewhat depends on how different the liturgical uses of the two constituencies are.

It would be refreshing to see the Communion adopt these two simple arrangements as the normal and consecutive ways of providing alternative episcopal oversight. That is, before an alienated parish or diocese approaches Canterbury for what amounts to autonomy and autocephaly in the Communion, it should attempt in good faith, first ACANZP's arrangement, and then, if gravely necessary, Father Ron's proposal. Only after the Communion has certified a stepwise regression through these remedies should the relationship between alienated Anglicans and their province or national church come under review.

Such a norm would protect the members of alienated churches in six ways. It would ensure them high level advocacy in the early stage of a controversy. It would equally secure the rights of the majority and minority in each such church. The prescribed steps would be a check on strong-willed leaders seeking as much to avoid personal accountability as to vindicate a popular opinion. It would preempt foreign interference in a local controversy. It would be clear enough to be enforced by trial in the ecclesiastical court with jurisdiction and by Communion-wide penalties upon conviction and sentencing. Thus it would prevent a recurrence of the cruel power plays experienced by many in the anarchy of the Continuum, particularly in North America.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman
Thank you for your appreciative approach to our new episcopal possibilities!
I think it is plausible to have weddings in church, that is, to combine the civil aspect of a wedding (priest as gazetted wedding celebrant) with the spiritual aspect (priest as one who pronounces marriage before God and prays for the couple). This plausibility includes the plausibility of a Christian wedding (i.e. at least one of the couple is baptised) wishing to make their place of worship their place of covenanting for life ... and then later the place of farewelling their spouse in death).
It is of course plausible to take the other route of civil wedding in civic office or other place and a blessing in church.
Intriguingly. on the question of "sacrament" ACANZP takes a kind of half way house approach, thinking of weddings as "sacramental actions" - thus rationalising why a priest or bishop and not a priest or authorised layperson can take a wedding or wedding blessing in church.

Peter Carrell said...

Sorry: that last sentence above should read at the end "... and not a deacon or authorised layperson ..."

Anonymous said...

"Intriguingly. on the question of "sacrament" ACANZP takes a kind of half way house approach, thinking of weddings as "sacramental actions" - thus rationalising why a priest or bishop and not a deacon or authorised layperson can take a wedding or wedding blessing in church."

"The theory that a wedding is a sacrament just as baptism and eucharist are was the rationale finally adopted... Broadly speaking, the reformers rejected the sacramental theory."

Among other things, Peter, the schoolmen struggled with the awkward fact that sexual congress is the occasion of the rite, and the couple do not need church, priest, license, ring, or veil for that. Their failure is recalled in the lusty adage that marriage is the only sacrament at which layfolk officiate. Also, in the difficulty of explaining just what is missing from a civil ceremony or a Hindu wedding.

Of course, there are other theories of the sacraments. I have heard both a double predestinarian Reformed pastor and a universalist Orthodox monk claim from their mutually exclusive eschatologies that ringing church-bells is a sacrament. Cast your net that broadly and soon you will be with the Byzantine divine who listed 40 sacraments, one for each of the days and nights of Noah's search for dry land, Jesus's sojourn in the wilderness, etc.

The reformers tried to refound the Western system on the gospel sacraments instituted by Jesus himself-- baptism and communion as in the 39A, and penance too in the Lutheran confessions. This drastic reduction startled the bishops at Trent-- Italians mostly; the Germans who might have explained had not yet arrived-- into passing their decree that the true faith was known from tradition as well as scripture. But the reformers' original aim was to simply distinguish acts necessary to a particular soul's salvation from other rites and ceremonies found in scripture or indeed tradition. It was the birth of modern individualism, after all.

But the Body began after Jesus at Pentecost. On the reformers' theory, how well can one account for such acts of the whole *totus Christus* as ordination or anointing of the sick, marriage or burial? These acts are not for individuals alone before God, but for persons as members of the household of faith. And once we think of it, paedobaptism and frequent eucharist are likewise deeply communitarian. Of course the reformers knew that, ours anyway, but they lacked a system adequate to their intuition. Modern churchways were in trouble before they even got started.

As I said before, one can get by with a surplice or a sacramentology that is a bit too short, and that is what ACANZP and all of us seem to be doing. But because of that, the local Body is more mindless in its corporate acts than it would be at its scriptural and inspired best. Throughout my lifetime, the innovations in church life that have excited people here and there-- house churches to emerging to missional-- have aimed at congregations that are less robotic, more intentional in what they collectively do.

And that to me is the real problem with shambling on like zombies solving an urgent problem of the twelfth century. Nobody will ever object that we fill in the forms on our Saturdays so that the notaries etc can have their own Saturdays off. But the Body has seen vast change in sex, marriage, family, etc over the past few generations. I suspect that the mind of Christ contemplates some better rites more fit in our time for the perennial purpose.

Perhaps Bosco is working on them?


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, further to my; your; and BW's comments on the AFFIRM statement - and your own comment that the new sodality seeks not its own bishop but one it can approve of for oversight. In order to retain authenticity as an ACANZP 'Community', AFFIRM would need to operate under the authority of an ACANZP Bishop - rather than that of, say an Australian Bishop or one from another 'foreign' jurisdiction. I, too, like B.W., could imagine newly-ordained Bishop Maina of Nelson could well fulfil AFFIRM's requirement.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, this title of your thread reminds me of the fact that, though I cannot be at our diocesan Synod today, I can offer this pray at the altar of Saint Michael and All Angels in Christchurch in today's Mass:

Dear God and Father of ALL, give to our Bishop Peter, and to all those assembled in our Diocesan Synod, a spirit of wisdom and clarity in the discussion and the decisions of matters that come before them. May the Christ at the heart of all things bring grace, peace and harmony into the midst of this first Synod of our Bishop, for your dear love's Sake. Amen.