Monday, October 28, 2019

Post Newman thoughts on shape of Down Under Anglicanism Part 2 of however many

While out and about on household chores on Saturday morning I flicked the radio on, to find myself in the middle of a fascinating interview by Kim Hill with Australian author Christos Tsiolkas about his fictionalised story of Paul in his novel Damascus (recording here): "The subject matter for his sixth and latest novel Damascus couldn't have got much more ambitious; it's an excursion into historical fiction tracing the formation of the Christian church using the writings of St. Paul as its source text." (Wellington literary festival details here.)

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!


Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bishop Peter, for encouraging your readers to further contemplate the root problem with what happened in Christchurch on Saturday 19 October re the schismatic entry of a 'Confessional' Church. Relative to this, and your inclusion of our American friend Bowman's reflection on Anglican 'Body of Christ' theology; here, I think is a seminal paragraph from Bowman's comments:

"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."

This surely reflects the reality that Anglican inclusivism - not its distinctive protestantism - encourages us to believe that all moral justification comes from Christ - not from ourselves, or our efforts to purify ourselves by obedience to The Law. This latter seems, to me at least, to be what the new 'Confessing, quasi-Anglican Church' insists upon. We Anglicans are not perfect, but at least we are trying to be part of the Body of Christ - sinners, and yet redeemed.

Here is my constant prayer: "O God, for-as-much-as without you we are NOT ABLE to please you; mercifully grant that, in all our words and works, your Holy Spirit so rule and direct our hearts and lives, that we may do those things that you expect of us; to the glory of your name and through the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Unknown said...

Four brief thoughts on your OP will follow over the next few days, Peter. The middle one will have an eye on discussions in two other threads.

(1) Like Martin Luther and Louis XIV, Henry VIII was a Gallican ;-) Whatever their theology, when all northern Europeans looked south and East, the Body that they saw east of Trieste had petrine unity in the Patriarch of Constantinople, but national churches with autocephaly (they elected their own primates) and autonomy (they enacted their own canons). Why then should archbishops in Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Nidaros, Uppsala, Turku, Utrecht, Canterbury, Paris, Gniezno, Bremen, or Friesing have their hands tied in provincial matters by an ultramontane Italian princeling in decadent Rome?

From the Arctic Circle to the Alps, all could be grateful that the papacy had once filled a power vacuum in the West. But through the rise of so many unified realms in the north of the West, this vacuum had long since been filled by kings like those of the south of the East. By the C16, the Western monarchs, although usually theologically conservative, were demanding some devolution of power from Rome.

This created an opportunity for theological Protestants, but it has no intrinsic relationship to their distinctive theology of justification. Luther's Augsburg Confession petitions the Holy Roman Empire, not for a break with Rome, but for a papacy that willingly devolved power to meet the civil and pastoral need for Reformation.


Unknown said...

Peter, so far as I have seen here up yonder, those who have departed Down Under have not spoken for themselves on what they believe about the Spirit's gifts. And the words that I have seen from them echo those of factions in circumstances so different from theirs that they do not explain very much (eg ACANZP is not TEC; the OoW was not SSB; St Louis apostasy language is bizarre even here.). We may simply have to wait for someone among the departed in New Zealand to discern and explain the theology that they live *in situ*. In passing, my third and fourth comments will venture a hopeful guess about what that might be.

In the meantime, it seems charitable and irenic to point out that the three blessings are a package. Speaking systematically, the third blessing above-- the richer ecclesiality that we know as Anglican-- depends on the second blessing of salvation through participation in Christ and incorporation in his Body. Thus neglect of the second blessing tends to inhibit the bonds of affection and instruments of communion that we know as Anglican. We can put this positively thus--

(2) Participation in Christ and incorporation in his Body entails a pilgrim church making discernments, often reparative ones, in historical time.

For fans of the 39A, the obvious examples are Thomas Cranmer's expansion of the 10A and Matthew Parker's reworking of the 42A to produce them, but others might look to the continual improvement of the BCP within Cranmer's ordo. Either way, without (2) we have no Anglican orders, no Lambeth Conference, no Anglican Communion, and no Anglican identity beyond a particular aesthetic. And indeed, without (2) there is no global need or authority for any of these things.

Now the louder friends of the departed speak here and there as though what we take to be a Spirit-given reality is merely arbitrary man-made law to which we adhere, not organically, but by will. Again, we should reject ventriloquism here and let the departed speak for themselves. But meanwhile (2) illumines a pair of problems that this view could hypothetically pose for the departed at such a moment as this one.

(a) If a body does not have a lived faith that induces timely discernment in Christ, then it has no place in the councils of a Communion that exists to discern.

(b) If a body does obey arbitrary man-made laws rather than the discernment proper to participation in Christ and incorporation in his Body, then it is not living as the fellowship of the apostles.

Such a body is unlikely to be in any way wicked, and a saying of Jesus suggests that he accepts even non-disciples who invoke his power to do the Father's will. But it may all along have been confused about what it believes and among whom it belongs, so that only now in the crisis of leaving ACANZP could the deep questions about its practice surface to view, not only for those who have left, but for the Communion itself.


Unknown said...

On (1) above, Edward Feser just happens to have an OP up in which the exception proves the rule-- the first northern pope in several centuries explains the Christian virtues of the nation-state. If his Reformation-era predecessors had believed anything like this, the C16-18 and our whole civilisation would be unimaginably different today.


In (3), forthcoming at the weekend, I will digress to remind readers here of our past ADU discussions of: (a) the scriptural basis for the BCP language of participation and incorporation, (b) the recent retrieval of St Paul's *union with Christ* among even conservative confessional Protestants, (c) a pilgrim church's use of the scriptures to discern with authority, and (d) the way *exclusive* reliance on law-soaked doctrine can obscure participation and incorporation in even an Anglican mind blessed all along with the apostolic faith. There is only time and space for a precis of ideas already explored in long threads here, but readers unable even to imagine how Protestantism can be anything but "snake-belly low" will be able to look further to see that even the confessional Reformed have been capable in places of something like authentic Anglicanism.

Which brings us to (4) next week, a comment on how the Communion-- and maybe ACANZP-- might live with the scriptures in a way that helps the many formed in a low church sensibility to make head and heart sense of the way an apostolic church discerns and lives the will of God through time.


Glen said...

Hi B.W.,

In the meantime I read that Joe Biden was refused the Sacraments at a Church in Carolina because of his stance on abortion.

Father Ron said...

Thank you Bishop Peter; this time, for your lihk to Kim Hill's radio interview with Christos Tsiolkos. I think ALL your readers on ADU would benefit from hearing this 'non-Christian' (gay) contemporary writer's understanding of what he sees as the 'Christian' insistence on love of the 'other' as a basic philosophy of living. He also sees the problem of fundamentalist domination in the world of religion - something we all have to be wary of as ministers of the Gospel.

Craig L said...

Yes agreed - it was an excellent and very interesting interview.

Might even read the book - I'm interested in how he deals with the conversion of Paul - he touched on it, but got side-tracked somewhat - it seemed he struggled with the supernatural aspect of what could explain Saul/Paul's dramatic change from persecutor to the person who could write say Phillipians - "...yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus".

If Paul didn't have an encounter with the risen Lord then I'm not quite sure what else could explain it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Glen.

Offhand, I do not see a connection between something done by an RC priest in SC and + Peter's OP and thread. Can you make that link a bit more explicit for us?