Sunday, October 2, 2022

Fascinating exchange … exploring life in a neighbouring diocese

It is a wee bit cheeky to talk about the Diocese of Sydney as a "neighbouring" diocese to the Diocese of Christchurch, but our diocese includes a portion of the West Coast of the South Island, and from there is only a stretch of water between us and the east coast of the Diocese of Sydney!

If the concern of this blog most generally is Anglicanism then the more specific concern is Anglicanism "Down Under" and that region of the planet refers to both New Zealand and Australia.

Within Down Under, for better or for worse, depending on where one sits geographically and/or theologically, the Diocese of Sydney is a "player". It is highly, numerically influential in the Anglican Church of Australia, it has played a significant role in the history and present of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (noting, e.g., three Bishops of Nelson in succession in the 20th century drawn from the ranks of Sydney clergy, and the influential role in the 2018 disaffiliation from ACANZP of a number of congregations), and it is critical to the life of GAFCON.

In this year, 2022, the Diocese of Sydney is asserting its influence as the Australian Anglican church works on its understanding of marriage and blessings of civil marriages. Where the assertion of that influence ends is a matter of concern to many Australian and New Zealand Anglicans, not least becasue Sydney has lent its support to the creation of a new Diocese of the Southern Cross.

Enough from me by way of setting the scene for noting a fascinating exchange of views on Sydney Anglicanism by Martyn Percy (an English visitor to Sydney) and John Sandeman (a local participant in the Diocese of Sydney, and sometimes commenter here at ADU).

Percy has written "Deconstructing Sydney Anglicanism: Past, Present and Futures: A Tetralogy" which can be read here.

Sandeman has responded with two posts on his blog The Other Cheek. First, "Martyn Percy takes on Sydney Anglicanism", then, "More Sydney Anglican Criticism, and a Response". In the first post he makes an acute observation, 

"[Percy's] piece is curiously fuzzy at points and sharply accurate at others."

There is also a related exchange in the comments to a Thinking Anglicans post (but they are inter alia among some 90 comments when I originally drafted this post).

There is much to ponder in the paper and in the response (and much to appreciate about the respectful conversation they conduct between themselves).

The following are simply some things which strike me - by no means are they a guided tour of the main points or the deepest insights to be found in the exchange.

1. Percy reports this hitherto unknown dissension in the ranks of Sydney young adults:

"For example, the largest university church in the city (St. Barnabas Broadway) saw the students threaten revolt and secession over the stance of the Diocese on same-sex unions. They compelled the Rector to make their views known, and he (reluctantly?) obliged."

2. A Percy description of reading the Bible is a moment to think about how evangelicals read the Bible around the world, not just in Sydney:

"the attitude to scripture that is a form of pseudo-science.  Or, is perhaps better understood as a specific mode of congregational engineering. The Bible is read as a ‘manual’, and applied to the breakdowns, repairs and maintenance in the life of a Christian. Thus, if facing the prospect of a divorce (family or friend), you may hear “turn to chapter X and verse Y of Book Z” as the answer and the means of resolution. The Bible is therefore akin to some car-repair manual."

Relatedly, there is also a challenge to all evangelicals about how we understand the authority of the Bible in its parts as well as in its whole:

"Treating scripture as one equivalent text, in which every single chapter and verse is equally authoritative, is a bizarre approach to the Bible, and not one that it ever asks of its readers.  The Bible has no self-conscious identity – the title of this scared book being applied long, long after its (disputed) component parts were assembled and broadly agreed.  (Though please note, ‘broadly’, not definitively).  Treating each verse of scripture as comparatively, equally and absolutely authoritative is a strange approach to take to texts that are variegated in origin, genre and intention."

3. Percy almost makes a point but doesn't quite - let me attempt to explain. He notes in several places sentiments such as, 

"To understand Sydney Anglicanism, one needs to appreciate its similarities to the Exclusive Brethren.

Alternatively, he speaks along these lines, 

"Sydney Anglicanism is sectarian, for sure. But the roots of this stem from antagonisms locked into early Irish Brethren secession, and a complex spaghetti of class-related issues.

That not quite made point is this: whatever the roots of Sydney Anglicanism as we experience it today (Irish Protestantism, history of marriages between Anglicans and Brethren, etc, as outlined by him), there are exclusionary if not sectarian ways in which Sydney Anglicanism acts.

We see such acts in the support it gives to GAFCON (i.e. to member provinces of GAFCON which have more or less formally seceded from provinces of the Anglican Communion or directly from the Anglican Communion), and now, in 2022, to the formation of a new Diocese of the Southern Cross.

We also see such acts in the unwillingness to accept a female presbyter or bishop from outside the Diocese of Sydney as having the status of presbyter or bishop inside the Diocese. 

Conversely, the Diocese of Sydney struggles to understand that the church could be broad (a both/and church) rather than narrow (an either/or church): cue the previous Archbishop of Sydney's urging those who wished to see change re marriage to leave the Anglican Church of Australia. Asking people to leave the church over disagreement is something the Exclusive Brethren do! A sect cannot cope with multiple views on a matter deemed critical to the identity of the sect.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is about to tour Australia. He will visit at least one ministry in Sydney city. Will there be a formal meeting between the Archbishop of Sydney and the Archbishop of Canterbury? [UPDATE: 9 October. I see some Tweets which say there are at least two or three events for the ABC in Sydney, and a dinner with the Archbishop of Sydney.]

In some ways the exchange between Percy and Sandeman is a discussion of how things are within Sydney and raises the question whether all critiques of the actual reality of Sydney Anglican church life made by Percy are valid. 

My elucidation of Percy's not quite made point offers consideration of how things are when Sydney faces outside of itself: to the wider Australian Anglican church and to the Anglican Communion as a whole.

We can genuinely wish Sydney Anglicanism well as it engages in ministry and mission with the people of Sydney. Sandeman helpfully sets out challenging realities of being a gospel church in a growing, diversifying city.

We can also reasonably worry about Sydney Anglicanism's engagement with Anglicans outside of itself. if such engagement is driven by exclusionary, sectarian characteristics then is it an "Anglican" engagement with Anglicans?

If Sydney is an exclusionary sect, and it continues to seek for the Australian Anglican church to be remade in the image of Sydney, it is not possible to see this having a happy, peaceful, unitary ending.


Liz Cowburn said...

Reading Percy's article I was puzzled because his description of Exclusive Brethren seemed more like Open Brethren to me - the denomination in which I grew up. Interestingly Sandeman confirms this. My late dad was a regional leader in the NZ Open Brethren and many of my growing-up years were lived in an ex Exclusive Brethren church hall (partly rebuilt into living quarters by my dad). Some ex-EB folk still lived in our rural valley. There'd been an edict for EB people to move to the cities and it split the local families. I've heard the valley had formerly been known as 'Goshen' because the whole valley had been EB families!

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, firstly, thanks for your Presiding at our Festival (concelebrated) Mass at St. Michael and All Angels on our Patronal Feast Day last Thursday evening. Your personal episcopal presence is always welcomed among us.

Secondly, on the subject you are addressing in this thread: I am always amazed at how - perhaps when we least expect it - the daily reading of Scripture, or some scriptural Commentary (like ours from 'New Daylight') today; offers a startling new insight into a currently important situation.

Apropos of the Sydney Diocese of the Southern Cross (about which you have drawn our attention in this post); this morning's N.D. commentary, entitled 'The Babel Disaster', uses Genesis 11: verses 1-4, with this note: "The story begins with a world (A.C.A.?) that is united by one language (provincial government?) Until a particular group (Sydney/Gafcon diocese?) decides it wants to be one up on the others (A.C.A.?) by building its own ziggurat (Diocese of the S.C.?)".

The brackets, above, are mine, but I was struck by the similarity of Sydney's attempt to raise up a tower (a Confessional Church?) that the Archbishops of Sydney - past and present - are hoping will shine out as a testimony to the Anglican Church in Australia and around the world, that the Sydney/Gafcon Brand of Anglicanism is much preferable to any other.

The inference of the confusion that can be wrought from this act of self-aggrandisement might well be a lesson for today's Church.

(With apologies to New Daylight, for appropriating their text for today)

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Liz and Ron.
Yes, very unlikely that marriages between Brethren and Anglicans would be between “Exclusive Brethren” and Anglicans.
Nevertheless there are sectarian tendencies in Sydney (whether or not they have anything to do with those marriages) which invoke (in my experience and understanding) more of the Exclusive than the Open Brethren as characteristics of an exclusive approach to ecclesial relationships.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for devoting some energy and space to our understanding of a bit of the Anglican Communion. It is odd and sad that for all our talk of being a global Communion, too few have any idea what it is to pray with an Anglican formation in say Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Cairo, Nairobi, Durban, Tehran, or Pondicherry.

This supposes an ecclesiology: *koinonia* happens when faith in Christ enables us to grasp and carry in prayer the particularities of each member place and person. We manifest the rule of the Son by our love, not by our numbers.

Sydney? Martyn Percy's essay contributes a little to such communion, but if one really must objectify others, I prefer more Religionswissenschaft, less sociology of institutions. The more valuable contribution is that John Sandeman has a blog.


Anonymous said...

"A Percy description of reading the Bible is a moment to think about how evangelicals read the Bible around the world, not just in Sydney."

Both Evangelicals and Progressives are laic levelers, mowers of hedges who expect surface meanings obvious to anyone to be the Bible's only meaning to everyone. Thus they read the same pre-modern Bible in much the same modern way, albeit on different sorts of occasions, so that they both run aground on similar sandbars.

Evangelicals building a replica of Noah's ark as a tourist attraction, and Progressives weeping for the Amalekites who perished in a rhetorical "genocide" are trapped in the same modernist anachronism. Likewise, they read moral texts in the same modernizing way and only disagree on whether these texts should have authority or not, as though mere argument could make a difference either way.

Reading the Bible can be much more fun for us than it was for our grandparents because in a dozen ways we have escaped their straitjacket. But few of those ways make a sense worldly enough for levelers who want religion without experts.

"...pseudo-science... congregational engineering... car-repair manual."

Martyn Percy's othering invective does not help us to believe that he understood his subjects. We can be somewhat acquainted with enemies, but without agape we cannot know anyone well.

Wisdom reframed by apocalyptic is not an unusual description of what set the apostles apart from the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc. Those who believe as the apostles did may likewise find the scriptures to be the frame for many concrete life circumstances.

"Treating scripture as one equivalent text, in which every single chapter and verse is equally authoritative is a bizarre approach to the Bible, and not one that it ever asks of its readers.,. Treating each verse of scripture as comparatively, equally and absolutely authoritative is a strange approach to take to texts that are variegated in origin, genre and intention."

To a Muslim or a Mormon, this objection must make intuitive sense. Oracles and golden tablets are sacred because the miraculous manner of their arrival ensures that they are not "variegated in origin, genre and intention."

But to a Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or Protestant, the objection is itself "bizarre" and "strange." Certain texts are intrinsically sacred to each because they are the headwaters of all their subsequent words about their divinities. Each of these religions has a messy stack of documents about its divinity to which no precursors are known. (Has anyone seen The Book Of The Kings Of Judea?) By default, these documents are sacred to the divinity they name, and explicit consent to that fact is superfluous.

Either way, what is sacred enables authority among those who know the divine. Sometimes this is perplexing or inconvenient. Then it is best to eat ice cream.


Liz Cowburn said...

Thanks for your reply Bishop Peter. Where I grew up (far north) 'the Exclusives' certainly lived up to their name! Based on my memory of far north Open Brethren in 1970s/early 80s they weren't very open to other christian denominations apart from Baptists, and I've no doubt they'd have totally excluded any other christians or churches who were thought to hold a 'progressive' view on same-sex relationships. In the last 5 yrs I've become familiar with the Episcopal Church and their approach is vastly different to what I grew up with. Eventually I learned about Gafcon but wasn't aware of the Australian issues till recently. I feel dismayed at being confronted again with this black-and-white thinking and the certainty they're the only ones with the right understanding. It also bothers me that plenty of Gafcon funding appears to come from christian-American RW sources and I wonder how much of this division and schism is the outcome of cynical manipulation by a much larger dominionist agenda from the US.

Father Ron said...

Re former Dean Percy's extensive commentary on Sydney Anglicanism; here is a part of it that I think can be applied to many conservative (mis)-understandings of the role of the Scriptures in our worship of the Triune God and in our daily lives:

"The important thing to grasp is the actual nature of the Bible you hold in your hand and read. Sydney Anglicans, I suspect, would rather you did not meditate on such things. If the Bible is not faxed by God from heaven, it would be open season on critiquing the interpretations of their preachers".

In an organised community of 'Religious' - which I was once part of - one learns, in 'Lectio Divina', to be more critical of simplistic understandings of particular 'readings'; keeping an eye on the general tenor of Scripture as a whole when interpreted through one's experience of the koinonia Spirit of Christ. For instance, I find the Readings at the Eucharist (O.T. Psalm, Epistle and Gospel) to be more challenging through the consequent lens of my reception of the Word-made-flesh in the Holy Communion. Living in a 'Eucharistic Community'- whether as a monk or a nun, or in a sacramentally-lively parish - seems to provide a more joyous context in which to interpret God's amazing grace. One learns to cherish the gift of God's Love and Mercy, rather than the threat of divine punishment. This truly makes more vital the saying of Jesus: "They will know you're my disciples by your love" (not by your discernment of the sins of other people).

John Sandeman said...

Imagine a conservative writer visiting the Christchurch diocese sometime before the departure of the Confessing Anglicans if you will. S/he spends time mainly with those who one day will leave, and forms their understanding of what is going on that way. They go home and write it up. ISTM something similar happened when Martyn Percy came to Sydney. It s very much the view of "I wish we were in another diocese" people. Views no doubt sincerely held, but not those of the ordinary pew sitter in this Diocese.
Some commenters believe that Gafcon is a means of duplicating Sydney. But take for example the Diocese of the Southern Cross. They are happy to receive women clergy, to lead churches. ACNA is strongly Liturgical. Not very Sydney.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi John
Thank you for commenting - it is appreciated since your posts are cited above!

Isn't the Sydney/GAFCON question more about whether Sydney/GAFCON are similar in encouraging separation? ... than whether Sydney and GAFCON are mirror images re matters such as the ordination of women (though quite a bit of GAFCON, as it happens, is aligned with Sydney on that one) or liturgy (point taken that Sydney is very different from ACNA!!).

John Sandeman said...

Peter, it is slightly embarrassing for such a bit player to be one of the foci of your post. but I will cope.

I read GAFCON as both encouraging separation and integration. let me explain. In the traditional anglosphere, AFCOn can be viewed as encouraging separation, certainly in Aotearoa NZ. But that does not explain Sydney. If it is determined to be a leader in separation why has it not separated? There are those in the diocese who would like to do that. But the Gafcon strategy was one of providing a path to keep the major players like Nigeria in. Nigeria could leave the AC tomorrow if it wished, there is no constitutional impediment at the provincial level. but Gafcon has given them a path to stay in the Ac and reform it from within.

Sydney is starting to believe that the Anglican church in Australia can be dominated by evangelicals and conservative anglo Catholics. my reading of the numbers at the Australian general synod is that it might take only one more bishop to cement the roughly 60:40 majority the conservatives have in the house of laity and Clergy. But please don't read that as a Sydney "victory." There is a coalition of forces in the general synod, which on other questions than the one this discussion returns to is quite diverse. Another way of looking at is that the conservatives have built alliances and the progressives have fallen behind in that task.

Liz Cowburn said...

I appreciate the words shared by Father Ron, "One learns to cherish the gift of God's Love and Mercy, rather than the threat of divine punishment. This truly makes more vital the saying of Jesus: "They will know you're my disciples by your love" (not by your discernment of the sins of other people)." Thanks for this reminder Father Ron.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks John
Your insights are appreciated!
We likely disagree on how reform from within, re the Communion, proceeds when people stay away from Communion meetings; but I appreciate that the "inside" of the ACA is something I am at best indirectly familiar with, and I am aware that something is afoot re numbers x time!

Anonymous said...

"the title of this scared book" eh - is that scared, or scarred, or sacred?

Father Ron said...

Dear John; I still believe that the Confessing Diocese of The Southern Cross in Australia is but a ziggurat in the Anglican Church of Australia. I simply cannot believe - despite the pressure of Sydney's superior financial clout - that it will overcome the good sense and democratic principles of most Australian Anglicans to follow the 'Sola scriptura' school of cod-theology! The world has changed since the era of Victoria moral hypocrisy, and you may find that future generations of Australians simply will not go along with it. Sydney Man proposes: the God and Father of The Word Made Flesh - in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - disposes. Deo Gratias! (Where Sermons displace The Sacred Liturgy, life becomes arid).

John Sandeman said...

Ron, the good/bad news is that Australian Anglicans decisively moved in a conservative direction at the last General Synod. Traditional conservative Christianity may not be popular among the wider Australian public - it possibly has never been. the first church in Australia was burned down by protesting convicts. What will future generations do? God Knows - perhaps you and I can agree on that.

Father Ron said...

Meanwhile, Dear Bishop Peter, in an encouraging sign of re-integration after schism; another Anglican Diocese - further away but still our neighbour - The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis in T.E.C., is about to receive an ACNA congregation into its inclusive embrace. The Holy Spirit has informed leadership and membership of this neophyte ACNA group, that it needs to re-join the Episcopal diocese, from which its original founders had schismatically departed:

Father Ron said...

re John Sandeman's comment (above): " But that does not explain Sydney. If it is determined to be a leader in separation why has it not separated?"

My answer to that, John, is for the same reason that Gafcon has not (yet) actually broken away, structurally, from the Canterbury-led Anglican Communion. If this were to happen, it would become just another protestant sect.

Gafcon recognises that, of itself, it is not a Founding Church - like the Church of England, for instance. Gafcon was founded in a spirit of rebellion against the ethos of Ecclesia Anglicana, which prizes its graduation from 'Sola scriptura' to a more Christ-like triumph of Grace over Law, enshrined in the equal valuing of Scripture, Tradition and Sweet Reason. As we are reminded; exercise of the Law is not, in itself, redemptive. But Christ has provided the exigency of Grace, which has already promised redemption for all who believe in the 'prevenient' and never-failing Grace, Love and Mercy of God-in-Christ.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter; I'm loving your spirited exchanges on the 'PSEPHIO' U.K. blog.

I have great hope for our Church here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with most of our Bishops prepared to move out of ways of thinking that refuse to accept how God's world is; constantly changing - and our need to live with what we have, rather than what we might like to have in the way of sheep of the flock. What God requires of us is justice, and 'It well becometh the just to be thankful. Deo Gratias!

Anonymous said...

I read them too, and I was surprised and pleased to read that Peter now endorses Natural Law and what it has to say about the design and purposes of our bodies. I have been saying this for a long time now and I am pleased that Peter has now taken this teaching on board.
I hope Peter will follow through on this, because Nature and the Scriptures have a single Author and are not in conflict.

Ron: for over a week now you have declined to answer my question about hell, whether there is real possibility that a soul after death can be cut off from God for ever. What do YOU believe? You did warn me to beware of God's Judgment and I want to know what you mean. Do you actually know?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

Dear William. I see you have not understood the thrust of my reply to you about my understanding of Hell - something which apparently motivates you Roman Catholics more than us Anglicans. We tend to be motivated by the Love of God, rather than the fear of divine punishment if we take the wrong road. You come from an inheritance of the use of 'Indulgencies', which led Catholics to believe that one could 'pay one's way' to avoid the 'pains of Hell', while we Anglicans tend to look to the way of accepting God's forgiveness and mercy - by doing our best to pursue the ways of justice and brotherly love.

I do believe that Hell is to experience the Absence of God - whatever that might mean for either believers or unbelievers. I cannot conceive of a mediaeval torture chamber where God wreaks vengeance on God's children - whom God created in the divine Image and Likeness. As we ALL are sinners, I believe that eternal life is for those who acknowledge their sins, and look to God's loving-kindness to allow them to access the salvation promised and wrought through the redemptive life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray for us sinners.

Anonymous said...

"... what response – a pragmatic response rather than an idealistic response – can we make as church to homosexuality now that (i) homosexuals have the confidence in church (some churches, at least) to self-identify and thus to identify that they cannot conform to the usual diversity into unity schema for sex..."

The money sentence.


Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman

That comment was made at (where there are quite a few comments to wade through what I said).

Anonymous said...

I am a little surprised that Ron Smith, a self-proclaimed Anglo-Catholic, thinks that indulgences for Catholics are about "avoiding the pains of Hell". They are nothing of the sort. Purgatory has nothing at all to do with Hell. It is about cleansing the spiritually imperfect Christian soul of sin in order to enter fully into the Beatific Vision of heaven. Funny that you didn't know this but Catholicism is often misunderstood.

And once again, you decline to answer my question whether hell after death exists for those who culpably reject God in this life. Instead, you answer a question that nobody here is asking. I can only conclude that you do not believe in the reality of postmortem hell, so what is the point of your warnings about Divine Judgment? If we are all going to be saved, there is nothing to fear from Divine Judgment. That is the logic of Universalism, but I never u derstood that was a doctrine of Anglicanism. (I suspect it isn't. )

But if hell does exist - and our Lord warns repeatedly about this in the Gospels (more than anyone else in the Bible, in fact) - then I am inclined to believe Him and take His warnings seriously and not a rhetorical trick.

Can we be sure thst our words are not leading others into sin - or deceiving ourselves from our own subjdctive desires?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

BW: "pragmatism" is not - or at least should not be - presented as the opposite of "idealism", an unfortunate contrast that Peter Carrell has made.That is, unless we are falling into the terrible secular Anerican philosophy of Pragmatism (Peirce, Dewey et al) which has driven the knowledge of God out of American academia and public life and declared that truth is not known by revelation but by experience.
"Pragmatism" does not decide the truth - God's Revelation does. Pragmatism may help us to decide a suitable God-pleasing course of action.
Or perhaps the better word would be Prudence, rather than "pragmatism".
Prudence - one of the cardinal virtues - is about using our God-given rationality to decide how to obey God best in the world.
See Father Greg Pine's book on "Prudence" just recently published.

Peter: choose prudence, not pragmatism. Pragmatism is about actions (pragmata) but prudence is about wisdom (prudentia / sophia).

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
Point taken re "prudence" and "pragmatism" though I am literally concerned about practice and not about Dewey etc.
There are plenty of ways in which churches, including the RCC are pragmatic!

I thought Ron Smith clearly said hell is absence of God and I thought I also saw Ron fairly clearly imply that people can miss out on the presence of God/heaven, and thus hell is a reality.

Even John Stott, famous Anglican evangelical, felt (perhaps tentatively rather than definitively) that it was compatible with both Anglicanism and evangelicalism to understand that the fate of those who die separated from God is finite destruction and not eternal punishment - I think "annihilationism" is the technical term. (I am not saying this is Ron's view; just that being Anglican appears to admit of varying understandings, traceable, I suppose, to the teaching on hell in the Synoptics and to John's "perish" in 3:16).

Anonymous said...

Hello Peter - I guess Ron can answer for himself if he wishes. He has never answered my question "What happens to the unrepentant sinner after death?", preferring instead to give an existentialist reinterpretation about the present - which is poetic, no doubt, but has little to do with ghe Bible actually calls the Judgment after death.
So I have to conclude Ron doesn't know or maybe doesn't believe in postmortem judgment but won't say so. If I am wrong, Ron can correct me.

Annihilation rather than conscious punishment is also eternal punishment because the consequences would be eternal.

Pragmatism in political life can take many forms. For instance, you may judge it is better to license prostitution than attempt to outlaw it because the consequences of trying to outlaw it may involve burdens too great for society. But civil society is not the same as the new humanity in Christ. No priest or pastor would tell a converted prostitute to continue in that life because it was "pragmatic".

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

Dear William, surveying your comments here - in general, though also in particular regard to the prospects of salvation. I do believe that Heaven might be for all who accept God's place in their lives and, using their God-given reason (you, yourself said this was necessary and happens to be one of the 3 basic tenets of "Scripture Tradition and Reason, cherished by us Anglicans) to discern and follow the teaching of Christ, as they understand the same. Individual conscience is a very wonderful guide when fed by prayer and sacrament.

Sadly, there are those, however, who for one reason or another (sometimes the obdurate false teaching of the local Church) decide against the rule - or even the existence of God in their lives - to the point where, for them, even the prospect of an after-life with God is not something they desire. Then, though for them the absence of God may not be a presently-experienced reality (they are still made in the divine Image and Likeness); the actual post-mortem 'absence of God' could be the hell of extinction - with no heavenly Joy and Felicity.

Yes, I perfectly understand the Scriptural idea of the immediate afterlife, which, though not entirely synchronous with your own antique (quasi- Roman-Catholic) understanding of 'Purgatory'; is still a place of RE-Freshment Light, and Peace (R.I.P.?) that we Catholic Anglicans still for the most part embrace. We, Of course, refer to the invitation of Jesus to the thief on the Cross: "Today, you will be with me in Paradise" - (not Heaven, yet; this is not to be accomplished until the Second Coming of Christ when, as Paul tells us "The dead in Christ, will be raised first, and then those of us who are still alive will be caught up with them in the air" - going somewhere? Presumably into the fullness of heaven?
(1 Thessalonians 13:18)

The word Paradise, which Jesus used; conjures up the vision of a garden (a new Eden?) where souls will be perfected by God. On the contrary - 'Purgatory' conjures up a sort of mini-Hell, that some of you mediaeval R.C.s might quite be looking forward to (No Pain; No Gain?)

Without wanting to appear too blithe or sceptical, I think some Christians seem to be absorbed more by the threat of Hell and Damnation than the Redeeming Love of O.L.J.C.
I remember a wise old priest telling us that we should not give too much attention to the Devil, because He revels in it. Rather make the Sign of the Cross - a powerful form of exorcism for any threatening situation. An even better solution to depression, go to Mass.

Peace to you; and More Joy.
(Father) Ron.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I am glad that you have finally conceded that you may believe in extinction (annihilationism) as the punishment for those who obdurately disobey God. This seems to put you in agreement with the tentative ideas of John Stott, the evangelical vicar of All Souls in London. Perhaps you went to hear him sometimes when you worked round the corner at All Saints, Margaret Street? (I visited both places on a stopover in London once.)

It seems from your third paragraph that you do accept the idea of postmortem purgation and cleansing, even if you prefer to depict it as pleasant re-education in a garden rather than a tough bit of boot camp for recalcitrant sinners. You may not understand that that is what Catholics mean by 'x years in purgatory' - different terms for different sinners.The difference is one of imagery, not kind. You seem to be saying that the soul - presumably operating on he same time scale as earth - has to go on growing in grace until it is fit for heaven. How is this really different from purgatory? (Except that it seems to last a lot longer!)

But is it actually the case that "paradeisos" in the New Testament means a intermediate state of perfecting and re-education in the graces, rather than a simile for the heavenly rest (like "Abraham's bosom")? I think this idea may have been suggested by Origen, who was greatly influenced by Platonic beliefs about the soul. So if I understand you aright, you think nobody is spiritually perfect yet ("in heaven", in the popular parlance), enjoying the immediate presence of God, but all are still being educated and morally perfected ("purged", but in an English - or Anglo-Catholic - country garden)?

That's an interesting view but not one I can find in any of the Anglican divines if the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, who all denounced "the Romish doctrine of purgatory" and taught that the penitent believer, however little he or she was sanctified was instantly in the full, unclouded presence of Christ, because this was the meaning (as the Reformers understood it) of justification by faith. For historical Anglicanism (as far as I know), the "intermediate state" was a place of waiting for our bodies (the Resurrection of the dead), not the perfecting of our souls. Perhaps the Oxford Movement (I don't know a great deal about it) was a time when Origen's speculations were taken up be some Anglicans?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh