Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Kingdom theology for such a time as this?

A week or so on from my past post and our world (well, perhaps it is "the Western world" ... no statues being toppled in North Korea) is both as sane and as mad as ever.

The sane aspect is we are reflecting at a deeper level on the subtleties of endemic, implicit racism (e.g. where we white people think we have it all sorted but don't reflect on why it is that (say) the committee we belong to or the leadership structure we are part of is uniformly white). A Press column this morning by a local academic Mahdis Azarmandi captures neatly the difference between intention (to be racism free) and outcome (everything remains dominated by the colour "white").

A further part of the sanity is questioning whether we have fully understood the complexities of the historical background to present situations (e.g. does this statue or that street name over simplify the past through focus on success or virtue rather than on failure or flaw of some historical personnage).

I also appreciate the sanity of comments made here on ADU - thank you!

The mad aspect of the past week or so is a global Western society seemingly willing to turn on itself, to accuse itself of failure without sober estimation of success and to make hasty decisions on the basis of a minority approach to matters which otherwise would be maturely handled with debate and democratic process.

A further part of the madness, however, is yet another black person killed by police in the USA, and the deterioration of democratic process in the normal world leader in democracy, the USA. A Trumpian approach to democracy can scarcely complain about mob rule raging through US cities!

But what is a Christian to do and to think through these weeks?

Is it all a debate between Romans 13 and Revelation 13? (Is that debate even needed when it is city councils voting to "defund" the police? If Trump is your president, has he really been appointed by God? But if he hasn't, he is so bizarre that I found myself - rereading Revelation - unable to see him as a simple beastly manifestation of evil?)

Is it (per one post I read) a neat conceptual analysis in which I refuse to "bow the knee" for Black Lives Matter (because I discover this movement includes lots of socialist-come-communist type agenda) but will "bow the knee" for Jesus? Apparently bishops and politicians around the world have been arranging photo opportunities for the former when the bishops should have been focused on the latter.

Is it possible - it seems it is - that almost any thought I have about these matters, on second thoughts and closer inspection turns out to reek of privilege and shine with whiteness?

My humble (as a not entirely up with the play pundit) but probably privileged (as a white person with a certain set of advantages through education etc) thought is to ask what the Kingdom of God might be in this situation? I hope it is okay to ask this question.

What is the Kingdom of God like?

Jesus gives the answer in a number of parables which is kind of not an answer because we have had 2000 years of debating the meaning of some parables! Some unkind observers might say that we have also had 2000 years of avoiding application of the meaning of the parables we have not debated.

But the Kingdom of God is about life with the King - with Jesus as the centre of society - God's new society. In this society the first will be last and the last will be first. Jews and Greeks, Samaritans and Romans, all from east and west and north and south are welcome. There is no racism in the Kingdom (e.g. Galatians 3:28) because the King is equally King of all in his kingdom. There is no racism in the Kingdom because there is no people group Jesus did not die for.

Yes, many Christians have misunderstood this, from infamous examples like Afrikaners touting the Bible as supporting Apartheid through to all the not famous examples of you and me inadvertantly contributing to the kinds of outcomes Mahdis Azarmandi writes about in the column linked to above.

Also, Yes, when we understand the Kingdom better (as, e.g. Simon Peter did, through the testimony of Cornelius), we cannot go back, only forward towards the realization of Galatians 3:28.

But the Kingdom of God is also like this: In the Gospel according to John, "kingdom of God" becomes "eternal life" (read John 3) and eternal life (also "abundant life", John 10:10) is the complete - satisfying, fulfilled - life of the believer in Jesus Christ. That is, in a situation such as today's, when "action" - protests, statue toppling, statute revision, name changing (to say nothing of counter-action and resistance to change) - is to the fore, the Kingdom of God in this situation is not only about social change towards God's vision for a new, ideal society. It is also about each human person finding their best life in God - Jesus the centre of each life as well as the centre of society.

A whole of gospel witness to the Kingdom cannot see "action" as the sole demonstration of the transformative power of God in the political realms of today's world.

A whole of gospel witness to the Kingdom sees the need for all people to be transformed by God's power: to be free of racism is not yet to be free of all sin - of the flaws within which damage our neighbours and fracture our relationship with our Creator.

When we debate here in NZ whether statues of Captain Cook should remain standing or towns such as Cromwell (named for Oliver not Thomas) should be renamed, isn't King Jesus more interested in who we, today's flawed characters, are, and what we are going to do about our flaws?

Might we also say that a Kingdom perspective would also raise questions about "realms" and "reigns" as the presence of "other kingdoms" is felt by Christians?

There is something chilling in the air these days when not only statues but also other viewpoints are "smashed". When dissent is not tolerated, freedom to preach the gospel of the kingdom is threatened. Whether we are in the realm of Trump (suppressing the truth, dismissing dissenters, making fun of worthy opponents), or the reign of Xi Jinping (cracking down on protestors in Hong Kong, imprisoning Uighur Muslims, playing games with the Vatican) or in the kingdom of protest feeling pressed to change the name of a pub, we Christians have a lot of work to do between Romans 13 and Revelation 13 because, frankly, I am not sure that any of these realms are addressed comprehensively by either chapter!

What does it mean to be in the Kingdom of God in the kingdom of this sane and mad world?


Anonymous said...


Tom Wright diagnoses white Christians' complicity with racism, despite so many earnest renunciations, as the reduction of their vocation to be God's unifying sign of the new creation in the here and now to ethnic denominationalism and earnest virtue-signaling with a gospel of escape to heaven.

What the Body forgot, the Enlightenment half-discovered. But moderns insisted on an equality that erases difference, whilst postmoderns value identities that can never overcome competition and grievance. In contrast, God's new creation is a differentiated unity.

In the present crisis, Christians should take steps to materially signify that unity in a new ecumenism that spans races to integrate the Body. They should do so, not as a social supplement to an already adequate discipleship, but to return discipleship to the forgotten spirituality of the Resurrection.


Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that employers may not discriminate among employees with respect to their sexual orientation.


The opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch, a justice appointed by President Trump. In a 6-3 vote, the opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and four justices regarded as progressive.

Justice Gorsuch and his wife are Episcopalians; she was raised in the Church of England.


Anonymous said...

This from Richard Horton at The Lancet is more pertinent to the OP than is at first obvious.



Peter Carrell said...

Brilliant article, Bowman ... I shall link to it in my regular letter to the Diocese tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

"[It is] unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, SEX, or national

-- §2000e–2(a)(1), Title VII, The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"As one Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Commissioner observed shortly after the law’s passage [in 1964], the words of ‘the sex provision of Title VII [are] difficult to . . . control.’ The 'difficulty' may owe something to the initial proponent of the sex discrimination rule in Title VII, Representative Howard Smith.


"On some accounts, the congressman may have wanted (or at least was indifferent to the possibility of) broad language with wide-ranging effect. Not necessarily because he was interested in rooting out sex discrimination in all its forms, but because he may have hoped to scuttle the whole Civil Rights Act and thought that adding language covering sex discrimination would serve as a poison pill. Certainly nothing in the meager legislative history of this provision suggests it was meant to be read narrowly.

"Whatever his reasons, thanks to the broad language Representative Smith introduced, many, maybe most, applications of Title VII’s sex provision were “unanticipated” at the time of the law’s adoption. In fact, many now-obvious
applications met with heated opposition early on, even among those tasked with enforcing the law."

-- Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the SCOTUS in Bostock v Clayton County. Citations omitted, link added.

Inscrutable indeed are the ways of Providence.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Wright, Horton, and Gorsuch are all brilliant in their ways.

My guess is that you are linking to Wright. In all his voluminous writing, that video may be the most concise presentation of his overall position.


Peter Carrell said...

Ah, no (well, yes, all are brilliant), I was specifically commending Horton’s Lancet article!

Anonymous said...

Why now? An article published in March predicted the protests of May and June.


"Why now, White People?" Apart from the militarization of police, the obvious thing about the protests here up yonder is how white the protesters are. Off the streets, white concern about racism is also obvious in several books topping bestseller lists at the New York Times and Amazon. Businesses would not be abandoning or repositioning profitable brands if data did not show that they were in trouble with consumers. But the brutality has been constant for decades. Why the sudden passionate concern? National Public Radio's Code Switch investigates.


More from Code Switch


Do Republicans agree with models showing the improbability that the president will be re-elected? Not their state and local leaders. They argue that as the country moves on from COVID-19 and the economy bounces back, approval of Trump will rebound to some level high enough to ensure his election by the Electoral College. They are professional optimists, but could they be right?


Because COVID-19 is surging in normally red states right now, one could more easily think that the opposite is likely: as infection spreads in states Trump must win-- helped in some by Trump's own rallies-- even those states will turn from red to purple, putting Biden over the top in a few of them.


Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the Episcopal Church in the USA tries one of its own bishops William Love for upholding the orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage. Unbelievable. Or not. Was this not foretold in the Gospels? Welby must be glad that Lambeth is not going ahead this year. He has already lost Gafcon, but the Global South will be next. And George Carey, still revered in the Global South has had his permission to officiate taken away - again. When has such a thing happened to an Archbishop of Canterbury since Cranmer's day?
If the English ever open their churches again, how many congregations will they discover have quietly died off in the past four months? This is a very low point for old line Anglicanism.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi James
That is a bleak picture but there are different things going on in different places.

The removal of ++GC's PTO (which does seem extraordinary) is related to the peculiarities and particularities of the CofE trying very hard to be much, much better at "safeguarding." Can any church in the world say that it has now arrived at the perfect approach/system?

I do not see any connection between his situation and the situation re +Albany which is an outcome of specific doctrine-come-discipline decisions of the TEC General Convention re marriage and nothing to do with "safeguarding" processes.

Incidentally, having recently completed formal form filling out for clergy to be "safe to receive" from our church to TEC and CofE respectively, an extraordinary level of detail re Q and A is required by each church ... clearly reflecting evolution of detail required through previous instances of "bad eggs" wriggling through the system as it then was!

Anonymous said...

"This is a very low point for old line Anglicanism."

James (and Bryden**), thank you for connecting these dots for us. Although I see the horizon a bit differently, I do think that you are on to something, and that something relates both to a recent comment of Bryden's ** and to + Peter's OP above.

What strikes me about the two cases you mention is that they concern bishops, not as teachers, nor as disciples, nor as colleagues in *episcope*, but rather as institutional apparatchiks. Those acting against them are not defending the apostolic faith, nor are they rescuing sinners from evil, but rather both actions defend the institutional facade that a *particular church* (yes, Bryden?) presents to the godless world. This is not like the historic discipline of the Body; it is like markets suddenly fearing to sell Aunt Jemima pancake mix.



Anonymous said...

To be sure, those who act may feel very righteous about the respective kinds of wickedness obliquely implicated in what they oppose. But neither bishop is any less opposed to evil. Nobody seriously argues that Love advocates homophobia or that Carey advocates pedophilia. But to image-conscious institutions they, like Aunt Jemima's dark face on that pancake mix, fit stereotypes abroad in the world with which the respective churches believe that they cannot risk an association.

The enforcers do what they do by churchly procedures, but the substance is the same as say Franklin Templeton firing the karen who called the police on the black birdwatcher in New York's Central Park. To be fair and balanced, it is almost *** the same as Franklin Graham et al defending the president precisely at his most indefensible because by a straightforward calculation of their institutional interests, they need him.


What on earth do TEC and the CoE have in common with Franklin Templeton (investment bank) and Franklin Graham (evangelist, humanitarian)? Left or right, all reductively view sin and error through the prism of an institution's material interest in its public face. If there is anything like institutionalism in the Bible, it is the tower of Babel. That reductivism comes to mind when we hear of Judas Iscariot's development initiative or commemorate Pontius Pilate's invention of the focus group.

Anonymous said...

Kindly note-- I am not trying to stir self-righteousness here-- that we should think well of the interest that each seeks to defend. No matter what one thinks about homosexuality etc, TEC does good when it welcomes gay Christians in from social margins that have been horribly destructive for them. The schools of the CoE are among the treasures of Christendom and it is reasonable that its bishops take safeguarding very seriously. As an investment bank, Franklin Templeton has both power and privilege and is right to mind the ethos with which it manages wealth. Franklin Graham's charity Samaritan's Purse has done good work where others feared to tread, most recently a COVID-19 clinic in New York. These are good works whatever the public may think of those who do them.

But the public does think of them. And in pursuit of their missions, postmodern institutions try to manage that thinking as a non-tangible asset. Accountants measure it in audits; CEOs discuss it in annual meetings and reports. In this respect, businesses and charities are intrinsically the same. Are churches?

I have never thought so. "Old line Anglicanism" means different things to different people, but when it means some emulation of what Jesus was doing, it has to have meant both an insightful concern for the person and a firm indifference to his or her public appearance. Fidelity to the Lord's example at this point is part of the "losing one's life" that enables participation in his Body. However much we care about the good that institutions can do, this bars the way to thinking that the Body itself or any *particular church* (eh, Bryden?) can be an institution at all. In the two cases you mention, we see churches sleepwalking past their Lord.

For at this "low point," Anglican churches pride themselves on being excellent institutions with no sense of the sheer kierkegaardian nonsense that this category mistake is. So then when they take up the question that + Peter asks, they usually look for some good works to do as career-builders in institutions, or some public-facing position that they can take that will improve what accountants and CEOs call good will.

God has revealed that the way of Babel is not the way of Pentecost. In order to do, disciples must first be, and if they are, what more is there to say? **** There is a tradition of confusion about that-- what we used to call error or heresy-- that has to be unlearned through a cultivation of deeper, illumined insight without a public face. Nicodemus finally heard the truth about himself when he met the Lord at night.

** Was it inevitable that the reformers' idea of a *particular* church would degenerate into institutions of functionaries muscular in what they do but shallow in what they are? Personally, I have always read *particular* as referring to the Body insofar as it is local, not to deracinated leadership structures that happen to have a following. In that sense, England has only one *particular church*, the Church of England, and the United States was designed to preempt a *particular church* so that believers here ironically sacralized the public sphere itself.

*** Almost, because Franklin Graham's two organizations purport to be, not churches, but para-church institutions. Whether this is exploiting the chronic weakness of evangelical ecclesiology or leading the postmodern missional way of discipleship, or possibly both is debated, often with more heat than light.

**** Or Bryden, how do we show a path from eg Dallas Willard that transfigures the benighted yearning for churches that excel at virtue signaling?


Anonymous said...

BW - wow, what an utter exercise in deflection and whataboutery. Who said a word about Franklin Graham? You did, time and time again, to distract attention.
I couldn't care less about his political opinions - or those Episcopal bishops lining up to worship at the altar of Joe Biden.
Put aside all the over-wrought sociological analysis.
My point - which I thought was clear but you evidently missed - was the utterly uncatholic conduct of your church's bishops of trying a fellow bishop William Love of Albany for refusing to facilitate something our Lord Jesus Christ denies - the "marriage" of a man to a man or a woman to a woman. Think about it! Peter's sidebar with its line from Richard John Neuhaus "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed" is pretty much where you are in your church now, and is where the New Zealand Anglican Church is headed, fast. Not that the world will notice much. The decline of both TEC and NZ Anglicanism have been relentless for decades. Marrying the spirit of the age has done nothing to lower the average age of attenders, and when this pandemic is over, there will be nastier shocks in store for empty churches.
As for 84-year old George Carey's suspension from PTO, it is absurd to imagine this is about "safeguarding". This is about asserting power in an institution that is also very deeply endangered. More on this later.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear James,
TEC has strange ways of going about its attempt to be all things to all people.
I think I understand why they have Love in the dock: in a canonical world of alternatives, he won’t implement the alternative.
But the question is begged, why did TEC get to the point where it passed that particular legislation.

I cannot see why Carey’s situation gets lumped with Love’s.
There are some mysteries within mysteries re the CofE and safeguarding these days, from using it or allowing it to be used against Martyn Percy, to what has happened to Carey.

Anonymous said...

Again, James, thank you so much for your comment and reply. Capcha malfunctions have eaten three attempts to respond. The press of time. The rule of three. Maybe someday.

Peter, the relation between the two cases that I see-- James's view appears to be different-- is that both implement an institution's interest in its public face in a pastoral or theological matter in which the local Body's action should be exclusively God-facing. This suggests that there is at least tension, maybe conflict, between the *generous orthodoxy* that we espouse and the common supposition that a church is essentially a public-facing institution. If *generous orthodoxy* is to flourish, then insofar as the Body is an institution at all, it must be conceived as a community more God-facing than one that hounds harmless old bishops to protect its image.


Peter Carrell said...

Ah ... ok, I see that connection!

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- On the Love matter, a related thought from the decades of discussing That Topic seems pertinent.

*Generous orthodoxy* as anyone would understand that is, among other things, a principled refusal to require that one believe *de fide* any particular set of scientific findings. A figure that most of us have in mind when we use the phrase is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose meditations on evolution and christology went from being censured by his Jesuit superior general and criticised by the Holy Office to being discussed in glowing terms by Benedict XVI.

As I pointed out in a Fulcrum article a several years ago, the Body has no warrant to demand that people hurry up and agree to evolving hypotheses about complex sciences. That Topic is discussed as a religious matter only because a ritual question gives us an occasion to do so. Both logically and actually, straight people have made up their minds about it by first fitting the personal testimony of some not so straight person they know to as much of an evolving body of science as they can, and then trying to square that finding with what they believe has been revealed by God.

Even when undertaken in unimpeachable good faith, the matter is and may always be a messy one that eludes consensus. So the proper course is to permit those who can and should act on the basis of the new science to do so without penalty-- generous orthodoxy-- but not to mandate that everyone act on the basis of convictions that they do not actually have-- more generous orthodoxy.

This gives both the most cautious thinkers and the most intrepid ones the agape we owe them in the Lord. But for the rest of the faithful, it conserves the link between inward conviction and collective action. Coercion breaks that link and turns some part of the Body into a fascist simulacrum of a real church.


Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Bowman for helpful setting out of the case for the pathway ACANZP has chosen on That Topic!

Anonymous said...

It isn't about "generous orthodoxy" at all - whatever that is - it is about dying institutions that have LOST their orthodoxy (did you not read the Neuhaus quote?) And are seeking to stamp out dissent - and it is not in the slightest "generous" either. Bishop William Love is quite literally being persecuted by the clerics of Tec for seeking to maintain his ordination oaths, and no speculative word salad can conceal that fact.
George Carey is under attack to make the Church of England hierarchy look "tough" and "decisive" on safeguarding, without any attempt to explain to him why he has been disciplined. This is an outrage against natural justice but is how the hierarchy there functions- as a law unto themselves. There is enormous disquiet that Steven Croft of Oxford has deflected actual complaints of clerical abuse directed to him but has acted against Carey apparently without explanation. All of this is public knowledge.
Against this dreary backdrop of institutional decay, the one bright piece of news is that the 36 parishes in South Carolina that have fought to retain their property have, for the time being, prevailed. Of course, the "generous orthodox" lawyers of Tec will continue their crusade to seize other people's property. One estimate (by Alan Haley, I think) is that Tec have spent $300 million on lawyers so far. I have no idea how much congregations have spent defending themselves against these corporate raiders. It is an absolute affront to Christianity. But these are the consequences of deciding to embrace a non-biblical sexual morality. It is utter folly to imagine you can have a modus vivendi with sin and label it "generous orthodoxy". It is the generosity of God that we must reckon with - the grace He gives us to repent and live His way.


Anonymous said...

You're welcome, Peter. Is that the way your colleagues in ACANZP understand their path?

In Fulcrum it was a case for liberal patience-- if there really is a good scientific case for the underlying premise, then it will only get stronger and less divisive with time. A series of inconclusive reports from various national churches suggested that it would be better to let experts make the case for what knowledge they thought they had than for church leaders (eg Church of Scotland) to try and fail to sort through evidence beyond their qualifications.


Peter Carrell said...

I am not sure how my colleagues understand our path! But I hope they would like your insight, Bowman.

Anonymous said...

In that case, Peter, related to our conversations with Bryden about That Topic, and maybe with James about Love and Carey **--

(1) As no truth of any episteme can be prior to the Son's reconciling work in the creation-- Bryden following Platinga would call this *properly basic*-- so nothing in our allegiance to him is prior to our participation in that work, making peace where we are as souls converted to his peace by God.

(2) *Generous orthodoxy* is generous but identifies a heresy: neither the Body nor its members can be instrumentalized to redistribute worldly power insofar as (speaking here in a pauline way) that is necessarily consorting with the Powers against the Lord.

(3) Our past discussions about institutions, synods, and *paradosis* here at ADU, might have been clearer if we had distinguished the God-facing and public-facing aspects of practice with (2) in mind.

Anonymous said...

When Thomas C Oden said that his youthful Methodist self saw the church as a vehicle for pushing society leftward-- rightward would have been just as bad-- but was ignorant of what C S Lewis called Mere Christianity, Dallas Willard called the protoevangelion, and he himself later called paleoorthodoxy, he is showing that through (1) he was not then a Christian. Full stop. An emergent pastoral problem of the past several decades is that of reconciling baptised persons thus estranged to the Lord and his Body. They are otherwise lost, so far as we know.

If (1) is true, then (2) must be. On the face of it, (2) defines a heresy that cannot be reconciled with any of the Bible's several currents, nor with any of the three articles of the creeds.

Once we see that (2) is so, then a friendly conversation about (3) is necessary for every for every church to have. And when think back over the centuries since the Resurrection, we remember that churches have always been having it. Through forgetfulness about (1) and (2), we are not having a conversation that is helpful in our day.

When you and I discuss synods, for example, my objection has been that, when they are understood as a public-facing practice, they seem to drag the Body toward the heresy defined at (2). The problem is not with representative groups making decisions-- nobody worries that the College of Cardinals has this problem-- but with a recent Protestant practice of synodical rule that legitimates itself with the theory that a church is wholly public-facing. Can a hamster escape this wheel?

In light of the rich tradition of ecclesiastical conversation about (2), we can be generously empathic toward the aspirations of those who like social movements. That a soul has more of some moral sentiments than of others is no obstacle to justification, although sanctification normally corrects imbalances and heals vices through the course of life.

But this one-sided view of synods cannot pass the scrutiny occasioned by (1) and (2). To the ever-quarreling public of the world in every society, the Body as such is motivated only to say that God is, that he is love, that he is with us, and that he is bringing peace. Even those with a prophetic vocation to say more to the society at large will only be fruitful if they themselves have the virtues nurtured by that faith. The margin around it is sometimes blessed, but it is as ever-shifting as the tides.

It is not easy to construe all that Bryden says, but he appears to see the ACANZP measure on SSB as a concrete instance in which what I oppose actually happened. I suspect that *low information voters* on both sides see it that way, especially if they are also happy warriors who are, for now, lost.

But in Christ, a peaceable soul should probably regard the same measure as reluctantly but effectively God-facing. That it requires bishops to think with difficult and unusual independence of social pressures and movements worries some, maybe everyone, but this independence for a God-facing judgment for particular souls is what the bishops of every time and place are for. We could be nervous about anyone exercising the power of the keys, but they are from the Lord himself as the Ordinal itself makes clear (St Matthew xvi 19, St John xx 20-23). If we fear that bishops will be faithless, then we should help them to be more faithful. If the gospel is true, the Body has never had any other choice, and neither do we.

So I am inclined to agree with James that the harrassment of old bishops like Love and Carey is dangerous. On any given pastoral matter, bishops tend to disagree. If we think that Carey should have been more independent of his time, we cannot fault Love for being independent of his. And as Ephraim Radner has argued at length in his online analyses of TEC's radical new disciplinary canon for bishops, bishops are by God's provision (see above) the firewall between the Body and the world.

Anonymous said...

** Continuum readers, if any, please note that this comment says everything that needed to be said at the time of the Affirmation of St Louis, but at the same time exposes the outworking of its ecclesiology as heresy that mirrors the malpractice that it opposed. In those years, those who were irreconcilably estranged and avoided both evils by swimming the Tiber or sailing to Byzantium made the happier and safer choice.


Anonymous said...

James, the *national church* here, to use a Communion idiom that does not fit, appears to be the locus of all of your objections. You have a case that it makes bad mistakes. + Peter's readers are accustomed to reading criticisms of it from me that are far more radical than yours.

Ephraim Radner has cogently shown that the dysfunction in TEC's national institutions was caused by its abrupt and recent shift from a loose federation of dioceses that shared a wardrobe and a Prayerbook to a far more centralized corporation in which dioceses are sometimes regarded, not as thinking *local churches* but rather as local representatives of a national brand. The Love matter, in which national busybodies hector a local bishop to fall in line with the General Convention exemplifies the change.

Both national organizations-- the old one and the new one-- vary from ancient canons and standard Anglican polity at several points. The new one is closer to the denominational model that is frankly dying here as everywhere in the West. I do not defend it.

Even my acquaintances in ACNA tell me that there are many good dioceses throughout TEC. I cannot dispute that. I do not know anyone who can.

Taking a longer view toward the future, I do defend what will then be more important-- the traditional authority of canonical bishops in robust dioceses and provinces. The name on their doors is not important to me.


Peter Carrell said...

A few thoughts, Bowman.

A. Yes, Synods no doubt, perhaps unconsciously, have a public facing aspect influencing decisions; but my experience here in ACANZP (where our media takes very little, mostly no interest in our proceedings), is that we are pretty focused on the pastoral care facing aspect of our life together (including ... That Topic). Or, put differently, while our Synods are no doubt influenced by the Zeitgeist, they are much more influenced by the situation of our parishioners (and, yes, to note the obvious observation, parishioners are affected by the Zeitgeist ... but I have never taken the view that homosexuality is solely explained by the Zeitgeist).
B. Generous orthodoxy is a tricky concept - make it too generous and orthodoxy is unlikely to remain meaningful; make it too orthodox and ...! But, here is the thing: I would like to think as an Anglican that I can be generous in my appreciation of my Western, filioque colleagues and of my Eastern, non-filioque colleagues ... each side of that divide might question the orthodoxy of the other, but I like to think we are all "orthodox"! Then we might look at a generous orthodoxy re ministry and affirm that a serious but respectable divide exists on the ordination of women. Of course, any appraisal of orthodoxy on marriage has to reckon with a "generous" approach to how churches otherwise agree that marriage is for life handle broken marriages and desire for a new marriage. Etc re a similar trajectory ...
C. On the Carey case: does anyone know exactly what is going on there? Are there facts we do not know publicly which would offer an explanation for the otherwise seemingly draconian removal of the PTO? And, even if we do know all the relevant facts, is the remover of the PTO solely driven by "public facing" concerns? There might be (to recall A above) a pastoral aspect: that the church to demonstrate care for victims previously not demonstrated needs to undertake actions which speak louder than words?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter.

A. Zeitgeist arguments matter a lot to happy warriors with *views from nowhere*-- jacobin presentists for whom the whole point of synods is to clear some psychic space for contemporary mores, and hold-the-line conservatives for whom they inevitably mirror the sad declension of all things everywhere from their perfection on the day they were born-- but not to me. The God-facing life of the Body in a given PLACE may well need to take up what has changed or should change THERE.

For obvious example, bishops up here who want to start a CONVERSATION in their DIOCESES about the consequences FOR THEIR LIFE IN GOD of the slavery that began in JAMESTOWN in 1619 should by all means do that in their synods, if they can. A moment in a COMMUNITY's history is what it is, and the Body in every place needs a LOCAL forum in which to consider that moment before God. A strictly quasi-parliamentary sort of synod is not that forum, but there must be something better that would be.

The ethos of the transnational structures of TEC has changed since New Hampshire elected + Gene Robinson, but it is worth remembering that the basic response from 815 was, "We do not have the authority to tell a diocese who its bishop can or cannot be, especially after a super-majority of other independent dioceses has ratified his election." And from other dioceses across the continent the explanation for that ratification was, "We would never do that here, but after due diligence we understand and respect New Hampshire's decision for their diocese." A church school text from the 1960s read, "The highest office in the Church is a bishop in his diocese." At first, That Topic was more a matter of place than time.

Not to begin an extended meditation today on society and culture, American or global, it strikes me that brittle constructs of Progress or the Zeitgeist fascinate or frighten those rootless souls who belong less to a local community than to a faraway brand with which they try to identify. Personally, I like to see innovations adapt and spread slowly and horizontally from place to place to place as the canon of scripture did. Even popes do not confect novelties in Rome and then push them vertically down layers of hierarchy onto the actual Body. We can-- and some fervently do-- imagine structures that are not capable of having any authority because they are too far from the density of actual community.

B. You raised a sensible question about *generous orthodoxy* and then answered it well by taking note of the mutual integrity-in-plurality of authorities within the apostolic tradition. Each tradition's dialogue with the apostles governs its reception today of its past definitions (eg 39A, Nicaea II) and enables it to at least eavesdrop on the parallel dialogues that other traditions have had with them (eg West hearing the East on the filioque and Romans v 12) in ways that enrich its own dialogue, but just so exposes the limitations of the past definitions.

C. "And, even if we do know all the relevant facts, is the remover of the PTO solely driven by "public facing" concerns? There might be (to recall A above) a pastoral aspect: that the church to demonstrate care for victims previously not demonstrated needs to undertake actions which speak louder than words?" How is that not public-facing? I am not seeing your point.


*God-facing*, the term that is carrying most of the weight here, needs unpacking. And perhaps repacking. To some degree, Bryden began that with his comments on the eucharist a few weeks ago. Above, I simply gesture toward C S Lewis (Mere Christianity), Dallas Willard (protoevangelion), and Thomas C Oden (paleoorthodoxy). The trouble with the stew that some observant sociologist once called *Institutional Protestantism* is that it is too watery thin to satisfy the hunger for God.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman,
Rightly or wrongly, I have understood “public facing” as an institution taking care of its image among the public, being seen to do the right thing, being able to say to media questioning, This is how we have responded ...; thus I am making a distinction between a concern for the institution among the public and the concern of the institution for an individual who has been hurt by the institution (e.g. by one of its officers) - that is, a pastoral care concern (whether or not the public knows this pastoral care has been shown).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter.

"thus I am making a distinction between a concern for the institution among the public and the concern of the institution for an individual"

As a speculation about the motivation of the bishops who advised + Oxford to rescind ++ Carey's PTO, that is indeed plausible.

After hearing Catholics in Boston process story after story after story of their archdiocese's deep complicity in the abuse of children and youth, I certainly understand the outraged sense that Something Must Be Done. Still, I find the English sense of what is right and proper in these cases a little disproportionate **

** "In late January 2018 the Church of England's national safeguarding team issued a statement saying it had passed 'fresh information' on to Sussex Police that it had recently received concerning Bishop Bell. In April 2018 Sussex Police stated that a proportionate investigation had been carried out to clarify the circumstances. As there were no safeguarding issues and Bell had been dead for sixty years the matter was now closed as far as the Police are concerned."



Anonymous said...

The 'passing of 'fresh information' on to Sussex Police' in late January 2018 was a transparent (and successful) tactic to prevent the matter of Bishop Bell being raised at the Church of England General Synod in February 2018 - aka 'kicking into the long grass'. In fact there was no 'fresh information' at all but it got the heat off Welby at the time. A *very narrowly defined* inquiry led by experienced judicial figures was permitted by the C of E, which trenchantly criticised the C of E's actions - but the inquiry was explicitly prevented by its terms of reference from judging whether the solitary accusation against Bell was true or even likely. In fact the accusation was absurd and even impossible (Edward Prebble said so); nevertheless Welby stated 'George Bell is under a cloud and stands accused of great evil" and has never withdrawn this remark. Well, how could he when the C of E paid the accuser £16,000 and removed Bell's name from a school and a building in the close of Chichester Cathedral, besides causing distress to Bell's elderly surviving relative? It is this kind of CYA talk that destroys any confidence in prelates.


Anonymous said...

What Edward Prebble wrote over two years ago when the Carlile Report on 'the Bell Affair' came out: "I can provide an alibi for George Bell for at least one of the occasions when abuse was supposed to have been happening. He was in New Zealand, baptising me. +Bell ordained my father, and both my parents held him in the highest regard – “devotion” is not too strong a word. I am glad they had both died before this matter came out."
Welby has never apologised for saying Bell 'stands accused of great wickedness'. He has, however, apologised for his role in the Amritsar Massacre (1919).


Anonymous said...

" It is this kind of CYA talk that destroys any confidence in prelates."

For many, yes. And that one can have confidence in prelates on very difficult questions about sin is the Lord's own reason for having them (St Matthew xvi 19, St John xx 20-23). Ideally, credibility in this enables them to be figures of unity as well. Ceteris paribus, the deeper the trust that a bishop really gets what God is doing about sin the stronger and more comprehensive the unity that gathers around her or him. Unity is not just nice to have; it is participation in the work of the Son regenerating the creation. No unity, no salvation.

Which is to say that the distinctive unity of the Body is not like other kinds of human unity that are secured only by shared opinions, mutual interests, common history, negotiated agreements, etc. Churches have these things, of course, but so do the demimonde, universities, sports leagues, terrorist organizations, investment banks, political parties, professions, Dungeons & Dragons players, etc. Everybody can bulld a Babel but artists and poets, so a Babel built by well meaning Christians means that they are almost as idealistic as oh Goldman Sachs.

So I myself have to ask what it means *sub specie aeternitatis* that James can type a declarative clause like this one that I and everyone will take to be fact--

"The C of E paid the accuser £16,000 and removed Bell's name from a school and a building in the close of Chichester Cathedral."

Everyone knows what James means. It is undisputed that money did move and that words disappeared. But-- thinking back to the discussion of the eucharist a few weeks ago among many other conversations-- what must we think that a church IS to imagine HER doing that paying and erasing?

I do not say that there is no good answer. But I will say that neither the West, nor Protestants, nor Anglicans, nor-- Oliver O'Donovan's complaint-- the Church of England itself explicitly agree on one. And the question cannot be avoided if the scriptures say that the Resurrection not only happened once upon a time but began something that continues though time and to which we should belong to be saved. Concretely because of James's understandable sentiment above, and apologetically to avoid discrediting the apostolic witness in our own day, there needs to be a reasonably clear line between what is and what is not that Resurrection stream.

A formerly honest but now stubbornly partial reading of the scriptures-- Cross, yes!; Resurrection, how nice...maybe...; Holy Spirit, very obscure...-- allowed moderns to sleepwalk with a dematerialised religion that had no use for that line, and may actually have resented it. This sleepwalking begat the sloppy institutionalism that steps into traps like the ones that we have been discussing.

But the scriptures are better read today, churchmanship is advancing one funeral at a time, and the sleepwalkers will soon enough be haunting boneyards rather than churches. Meanwhile, those with a fuller understanding of the word are looking afresh at the whole material life of disciples and the Body. Some of what they try repeats old mistakes; some of it will be the ancient future.