The intriguing gist of the interview was that Tsiolkas, having been something of a fundamentalist Christian as a teenager (and then a fundamentalist socialist) now see the importance of the Christian ethic and subscribes to it, but does not describe himself as a Christian.
The disturbing thing is that, having returned from the hardware store, my resumption of the radio was in time to hear Kim Hill read out some comments sent in by listeners, most of which were aggressively anti-Christian. There was a ruthlessness in these comments which anticipated the aggression of a certain rugby team against the ABs on Saturday night. A sign of the rapidly changing environment here in which the gospel is to be proclaimed.
Later that day, with my family, I was in the centre of our city, enjoying warm weather and the culinary delights of our new covered market, "Riverside Market." Loads of people. Happy. Content. Easy to reflect on the challenge of communicating the gospel to people happy with their lot. Also easy to wonder what these "people in the street" would make of ongoing talk since the ordination of the previous weekend (see post below).
What has been unfolding since a week or so ago is an intense, wide ranging discussion among and between Anglicans. But, essentially, this is a discussion within Anglicanism: internal to ourselves. Important, interesting but arguably offering little which forwards the gospel. Nevertheless I guess we have to have this discussion.
Certainly, for me, a critical question through the last week is: What does it mean to be Anglican viz a viz "Communion"/"communion"?
Helpful here is Bowman Walton's comments a while back, because it focuses us on what might be distinctive and valuable about being Anglican.
"From the very beginning, Peter, the reformation of the Body in England was blessed in three exceptional ways that still concretely matter to the lives in Christ of his disciples today.
The CoE has a Reformation doctrine that has freed the believer from the trap of trying to make justification etc happen from the human side. That is immediately and enormously helpful to souls, whether their practice owes more to medieval English contemplatives, Protestant missionary spirituality, or Tridentine forms of religious life. Also, perhaps because Cranmer got his justification doctrine (and his wife) from Osiander (cf Wurtemburg Confession), the 10A of the 39A do not ensnare Anglicans in the confessionalist trap of needing to assent to a diagram (eg Beza's) of the machinery behind that justification. Lutheran faith is trust, and Osiander's trust amounts to theosis.
Perhaps that explains why the CoE also has a BCP from Cranmer that orders the sacramental and devotional life of Christians around participation in Christ and incorporation into his mystical Body. Unlike most other Protestants, Anglicans have not had to adopt an arid individualism or an unreal intellectualism in order to trust God with their justification, sanctification, and vocation. Paradoxically, this richer ecclesiality has supported a warm personalism, a close acquaintance with Christ in the psalms, and a freedom to love God with the mind. Where other sorts of Protestants (eg William Ames) sometimes harbour paralysing doubts about the Spirit's indwelling of souls and congregations, the Anglican style (eg Richard Sibbes) normally and quite properly assumes it.
Finally, that richer ecclesiality allowed Cranmer and the CoE after him to take a paleo-orthodox stance toward ancient tradition: the Vine need not be uprooted for its dead leaves to be pruned. That allowed Cranmer himself and others of successive generations-- Andrewes, Parker, Law, Wesley, Keble, Newman, Maurice, Temple, Williams, etc-- to listen to the fathers as well as the apostles. These voices have been silent to those who assume that a deep chasm yawns between the apostles and the fathers. Moreover this confidence in the continuity of the Spirit's witness to all generations has enabled Anglicans to rely on the holy scriptures in matters of salvation without needing to further believe that it must be a magic book or a perfect book to be God's book. The Spirit's witness graces the Communion with an organic order arising from word of the Lord and the ancient canons without need of modern machinery. And it has opened our eyes to the Spirit's presence among the faithful of other traditions, making the Anglican orthodoxy a generous one and ecumenical engagement a perennial mission."
I think we could add a little to this, but first, I very much appreciate this exposition of the inner, historical genius of Anglicanism: a warm, personal, Spirit-led Scripture and best-of-tradition based approach to being Christian.
The bit I would add is this: why the "Church of England" and not a persistent effort to achieve all the above within the "Church of Rome"?
My answer is that (whatever we make of the presenting issue re H8) it is right and proper for churches to be formed which are organised according to local civil order (i.e. according to nations distinguished from one another by having their own forms of government). Churches continue to incarnate the presence of Christ in the world and the world is a varied, diverse, ever changing place. To respond efficiently to local conditions, culture and community aspirations, it is sensible, reasonable and (I suggest) consistent with Scripture to have national churches. (ADDITION: h/t Bowman Walton: Edward Feser, a Catholic writer, has an interesting post on John Paul II on the virtues and vices of nations here.)
And yet, everything which the New Testament teaches about fellowship, church, communion/eucharist demands that local churches are in fellowship with other local churches, that we express in those relationships our unity in Christ, our common belief and practice.
Hence, properly, the formation of the Anglican Communion as a communion of national churches with a common heritage in the genius of the English Reformation and its organic development, as set out by Bowman above.
Hence, also, properly, the work of the Anglican Communion on communion with other communions: with Rome, with Lutheran churches, with Methodists, with Easter Orthodox churches, etc.
Hence, improperly, the schism in the Anglican Communion which (I suggest, I know there are many arguments and counter arguments) has its origins in a failure to understand well the creative tension required to hold together a bunch of national churches responding to local conditions with the importance of those national churches committing to common belief and practice.
How does all this relate to what is going on Down Under?
I will attempt to get to that next week!