Sunday, November 13, 2022

Lambeth 2022 wasn't a failure, was it?

Whether Lambeth 2022 was a failure or a success, on some definition of each, may or may not matter in the great scheme of God's plan for the unity of all things (Ephesian 1:9-10), but I am interested in the "lesser scheme" of God's work within that part of the Christian world described as "Anglican", and the contribution Lambeth 2022 may be judged - short, medium or long term - to have made to that work.

Thus in recent days my eyes have alighted on the following articles, some of which have only appeared in the past week.

+George Sumner  (TEC), writing back in August 2022, offers a nuanced, hopeful, Global South-oriented view of the Communion's future, and looks forward to Lambeth 2032.

Andrew Goddard (England), writing as recently as 9 November 2022, offers a significant, detailed critique of what was said at Lambeth 2022, principally by ++Welby, in relation to matters of dispute and decision-making for the Communion as a body variously filled with provincial autonomies and interdependence aspirations. He concludes, in the end, somewhat bleakly:

"Elements of the Archbishop’s contributions, particularly in his final address, give hope for some degree of continuity with the Communion’s historic self-understanding and vision. Other elements, however, raise a number of serious questions and concerns particularly concerning autonomy and subsidiarity. These apparently represent a major break with the received account of these key concepts. This then results in drawing dangerous implications for ordering the Communion’s life. If these features are embraced as the fruit of the Conference’s “intense ecclesiological development” or simply allowed to stand by default (rather than being subject to further scrutiny and refinement, such as that implicit in the Global South’s communiqué) then sadly Ephraim Radner will be proved right and we have just witnessed, despite all the good it has accomplished relationally, “The Last Lambeth Conference.”"

So, what did Ephraim Radner (Canada) make of Lambeth 2022 in the article Goddard references? Writing in First Things in October this year, Radner opens with this paragraph:

"July’s was probably the last recognizable assembly of the Lambeth Conference we shall see in this generation (and perhaps the next). No longer will “all” the bishops of the Anglican Communion gather, but only some, and only from some places. No longer will the deliberation of the Communion’s bishops give rise to common teaching on matters of doctrine and morals. No longer will Anglicans around the world see themselves as engaged in a common evangelical mission."

His analysis of the situation, borne along by his resolute view that the threads which we hold in common are devoid of any substantial common agreements, leads to this - frankly bizarre - estimation of the Communion's common theology and mission:

"To judge by the words of its most public leaders, the Anglican Communion has come to represent a progressive version of the works of mercy: addressing injustice, fighting corruption, combating climate change. The time has come to admit that works of mercy provide the only framework for the current Anglican vocation."

On the other hand, there is the Lambeth 2022 conference I actually attended which highlighted our common commitment to discipleship - to following Jesus as the giver of divine life and embodiment of divine love.

Back to Radner: his final paragraphs about the future of the Communion could be summed up by the word "bleak." 

Is there hope?

Thankfully +Joseph Wandera (Kenya) offers some hope for the Communion's future. Before we get to that expression of hope, I love the observation Wandera makes in this paragraph about a phenomenon I saw myself (and felt a bit guilty about not myself making videos for consumption back in my diocese):

"It was quite common during the breaks to see a number of bishops, especially from the West, rushing to set up in a corner and convey news of the conference back to their home dioceses, using their digital devices. At one point, I was invited by an American bishop to be interviewed for his home diocese. How was I to communicate the deliberations at Lambeth back home to my largely rural congregations, where our infrastructure is limited, and smart phones are a luxury they cannot afford?"

The crucial and critical observation Wandera brings to this post's set of articles is Lambeth 2022's failure to engage with damaging, longstanding issues in economic injustice (such as the crippling effects of national debts), not least because we First World bishops only superficially connected with Third World bishops. Fair point.

But Wandera's conclusion is hopeful that Lambeth conferences will continue and will learn from shortcomings of the past:

"The Christian story is woven around the event of the Incarnation, and so embodiment such as what we experienced at Lambeth was an experience of a lifetime. However, such embodiment ought to be extended to our communities in real ways if it is going to have impact.

There is need for a new orientation around Lambeth, making it more relational, and sustainable around our common issues.

Thankfully, we are all on a pilgrimage, and Lambeth remains a powerful reminder of our connectedness as followers of Jesus."

A specific transition to a new future for the conference proposed by Wandera would be for it to take place away from England, say, in Nairobi. Why not?

Lurking in all the articles linked to above is the question of "who" is actually in rather than out of the Communion. If we bewail the lack of communion for the Communion, what is the Communion that suffers this lack?

++Linda Nicholls (Canada) opines in an article that Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda have effectively separated from the Communion by not turning up to Lambeth 2022. (Others quoted in the article take different views).

Interstingly, at this point in time we can reasonably ask an important question of the Anglican province with the most Anglicans and most bishops in it.

What is Nigeria up to? It's with GAFCON rather than with the Communion isn't it? Well, "you be the judge" after reading this report in which Nigeria is busy establishing a Nigerian Anglican church in North America which is not part of ACNA (the GAFCON-alternative to TEC and ACCanada) - a move which has led a Nigerian bishop in the States, with his Diocese, to choose alignment with ACNA and not with Nigeria.

In the ten years between now and 2032, assuming there will be a Lambeth conference that year, what changes to global Anglicanism will we see take place? 

Will a blogpost in 2031 be reflecting on how Nigeria's global aspirations for its ruthlessly pure form of Anglicanism relate to GAFCON's more conciliarity global aspirations for pure Anglicanism relate to the Anglican Communion's bold faith that 90% of all provinces are represented at Lambeth 2032?

If there is one thing missing from the most critical articles above, it is the failure to recognise that the Communion consists of 42 provinces and only three failed to have representative bishops show up.


Anonymous said...

First koinonia, then authority, then discernment.

God turns his kaleidoscope, the world is different, and global fellowships deepen their koinonia in new ways. Because Lambeth Conferences are more in that reality than hovering above it, consolidation of a fully post-colonial Communion is taking time. 2022 was a long step in that necessary journey.

When the koinonia has settled into the new pattern, the Conferences will have a bit more intrinsic authority. Whether that is then exercised in *pronunciamenti* to reporters about Great Issues Of To-day or something more useful to the lives of contemporary churches cannot be foreseen.

So Andrew is as usual right-- poor Ephraim needs ice cream-- that 2022 set precedents that strain the received expectations about authority in the Communion. But the lesson of repeated failures to define those in a way that resonates worldwide is that simpler and more missional relationship building very far from Canterbury is a step that cannot be skipped.

Concretely: if TEC has no meaningful and missional relationship with Nigeria, why should anyone have thought that Lambeth Conferences could arbitrate their conflicts? Viewed that way, the mediation that has been done was as much as could reasonably have been expected when neither church recognises a stake in the success of the other.

Or: GAFCON and Global South, while unruly about catholic order, have been right to affirm the importance of bilateral and regional relationships in a global fellowship. Canterbury and Conferences are centre enough and all that can ever resonate in the pews; we now need to build missionally and well the periphery that the dissidents built factionally and flimsily.

Mediation is not arbitration, but it should not be disparaged. Still, if we think more than that would better serve the future, then diocese-diocese interactions between continents need to be far stronger than they were in the days when the climax of a Conference was tea in a garden with the queen.

+ Peter was right to say several weeks ago that the gravitas of 2022's Conference depended on its aftermath. A decade spent building fruitful relationships and institutions would be good to see.


Liz Cowburn said...

Thanks Bishop Carrell, looking forward to exploring the links as time permits.

"God turns his kaleidoscope, the world is different,.." ~Bowman
Love this!!!

Father Ron said...

I was most interested, Bishop Peter, with this statement made by Ephraim Radner - a leading conservative Evangelical Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College, an evangelical seminary of the Anglican tradition at the University of Toronto: _

"To judge by the words of its most public leaders, the Anglican Communion has come to represent a progressive version of the works of mercy: addressing injustice, fighting corruption, combating climate change. The time has come to admit that works of mercy provide the only framework for the current Anglican vocation."

Is it not possible that he is correct in this assumption, when speaking of 'The Anglican Communion Leaders' who, indeed, are mostly interested in the Works of Mercy taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes. In this way, they are surely following the instructions of Jesus; rather than concentrating on dogmatic arguments about the 'orthodox' interpretation of scripture (sans the ongoing wisdom of the Holy Spirit)? In the other hand; the GAFCON conglomerate (which both Radner and your other quoted associate of Gafcon, Andrew Goddard, seem to ally themselves with) seems to be building a new, quasi-Anglican empire (re)built on the old understanding of 'Sola Scriptura' - which most Christians around the world (not only Anglicans) have either abandoned or never embraced.

The original Anglican Communion was once known as the 'Bridge Church', mediating between the Catholic and Evangelical Traditions, in order to celebrate the very best of both traditions. However, those (like Radner and Goddard) who favour the Gafcon 'Jerusalem Statement' Creed, appear to want to narrow down the more catholic inclusivity in the Gospel that - with the advent of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England in the modern era - sought to encourage the use of God-given human intelligence and reason in a more eirenic and contemporaneous understanding of God's Spirit dealing with the reality of progressive revelation for each new generation of the Church in the world - as it is still being socially and scientifically revealed to us in all its complexity and wonder. (Jesus: "The Spirit will LEAD YOU INTO all the Truth". a progressive understanding of revelation.)

Anonymous said...

Nah... grumpy Ephraim is not for injustice, corruption, or climate change. He would just like the Communion at its apex to signal, in addition to the usual global virtues, a little more about YHWH. Something that could not also be said by oh the International Fruit Packers Association or the World Quidditch Federation. Perhaps a son could dream a dream or a daughter could prophesy?

And Andrew worries, not that Anglicans jump out windows, but that they do not set safe places to land before they do. If you silently condone fox-hunting, rather than owning up to it in a clear statement with footnotes, what intercepts the perception that you also condone elephant-hunting? Authority is a terrace on life's slippery slopes, and he remembers that Lambeth Conferences used to guard against mudslides.

But our life is hidden with Christ in God, which can be hard to explain to reporters, fanatics, and Very Serious People. From all that we have heard, the inner Conference was a little better than the last which was better than the one before that. In postmodern settings, the Bible is a permission structure for dreams and prophesies that the unimaginative and humourless would never otherwise hear.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead a Conference into some fragrant African savannah with wild elephants and people who wear paint, no communiques or reporters at all, and plenty of ice cream? It would not be Progress-- there is no such thing; we lose something with everything we gain-- but it might be adaptive to God's present glory.


Peter Carrell said...

God is working his purposes out.
Whether we who are social media pundits are working out what those purposes are is a moot point!
The future is always with those who turn up for it.
I am confident there will be a Lambeth Conference in 2030-something [but it may be on Zoom if air travel is banned by then!].
The intervening years will be well spent in meeting locally [BW’s excellet point above] as well as worrying globally.
Disintegration in global Christianity may highlight the resilience of the Communion in unexpected ways - sadly for global Christianity.

Father Ron said...

Love your sense of humour, Bowman:

"Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead a Conference into some fragrant African savannah with wild elephants and people who wear paint, no communiques or reporters at all, and plenty of ice cream? It would not be Progress-- there is no such thing; we lose something with everything we gain-- but it might be adaptive to God's present glory."

I suspect you might be pointing to the next GAFF CONN - in Rwanda, Nigeria or even Sudan. Sadly, though, it may not be uncomplicated BY CLIMATE-CHANGE - at the very least (and I do wonder about the ice-cream). However, there will surely be plenty of US Dollars to finance the ensuing idyll (with, maybe. a couple of Aussie dollars from Sydney to help out).

Liz Cowburn said...

This thread is wild! :D

Mark Murphy said...

The (worldwide, US-based) United Methodist Church has now agreed to divide and birth a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church so that conservatives (in the GMC) and progressives (in the UMC) can be released from the impasse of constantly debating That Topic, and move on with their missional endeavors.

They've been debating this issue since the 1970s, the reports I read say, and are now too tired to keep doing so. Bowman and Peter may know more - I'm just catching up.

One report I read was of a (elderly) father and adult son who are both Methodist ministers but will be in separate denominations now. Interestingly, the father has stayed with the UMC and believes Jesus was committed to social inclusion so would take an inclusive view on LGBTQI folks, whereas his son seems more excited and committed to moving on as part of a vibrant, *global* evangelical church. Both feel sad that they are no longer in the same church, though they remain in the same family.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect you might be pointing to the next GAFCON..."

No, Father Ron, I was excited by what + Joseph Wandera says in the OP just above on our screens.

In is in, out is out.


Mark Murphy said...

Beautifully written piece from Bishop Joseph. Absolutely the next Lambeth should be embodied in Kenya. Or Waitangi.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I linked that article here early this year. The Methodist debate was better than the Anglican one.

The Methodist opponents of SSM did not so vehemently deny the churchliness of proponents.

The Methodist crisis was posed, not by a hypothetical rite, but by clergy who presided at the lawful weddings of same sex couples.

The gracious division, although imperfect, is superior to the schism and persecution here up yonder.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Father Ron, I've had a persistent rumination that dollars from up here and down under should go to Africa to found an Anglican centre for spiritual and theological reflection. African hospitality, global participation.


John Sandeman said...

"A Kaleidoscope of Pieces" was the name of a 2016 book from the progressive wing of the West Island Anglicans which I assume Bowman has not read. actually neither have I maybe Ron Smith has... Anyway I suspect the better rejoinder to Bishop Peters compilation of responses to Lambeth is to ask "What does success look like?" Is it to meet again in 2030? - setting the bar very low. To have a community of thriving Anglican Provinces? - possibly setting the bar too high with predictions of extinction. Maybe we can settle for a middle measurable version - the majority of attenders at the next Lambeth growing numerically - and apply the same criterion to Gafcon and GSFA. fair enough?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John
The majority of attending provinces at Lambeth 2022 are growing numerically so I would hope the same would be the case for the next Lambeth.

Would success for Nigeria include growth and it trusts ACNA? :)

Anonymous said...

"What does success look like?"

Mundanely, the Conference is a body for occasional discernment and collaboration. We now see that inter-provincial relations are too weak for it to accomplish those tasks.

Non-failure is the strengthening of those relations to the point where the Conference can work. This requires vision for the Communion periphery, and metrics of improvement in inter-provincial relations. The burden of this falls mostly on leaders far from England.

In the 1970s, TEC was projected to be gone by now, and yet here we are.** I love statistics used intelligently to test missionally relevant hypotheses in the field, but not the use of them as a scoreboard for spectators not actually playing in the game. Is there any relationship between the Conferences and useful numbers? One would like to think so, but the relationship is oblique.

Closer relations among provinces would be immediately helpful in a world of migrants. A more equal conversation between north and south might help all churches resist local factions with missionally ruinous ideas. Closer relations within the Communion could remove obstacles to unity with churches outside it. That in turn could help churches to reach parts of their societies to which they are not demographically inclined. In the aftermath of Christendom, local ecumenism precedes evangelism in many places.

Kaleidoscope is a better metaphor for God's glory and providence than the modern superstition that we have certain knowledge of the future, that it is Dr Pangloss's *best of all possible worlds*, and that it is intelligent to hector people to run faster into it. Believers without those delusions have read the Book of Job and some newspapers.

** TEC survived because extrapolators of the '70s failed to foresee that it would become in large measure a body of refugees from other churches. The comments here of Liz are not unrepresentative of what we hear in the places where TEC thrives-- big cities and college towns. The missional limitation of TEC is that it has never had a strategy for parts of American society far from the old WASP establishment and its inland outposts. Neither evangelicals nor progressives have succeeded. But if the Communion took Africans and Methodists seriously, might TEC find it easier as an Anglican church to approach the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Colored Methodist Episcopal Church here? One can pray so.


Mark Murphy said...

Grace and peace to the UMC and GMC, then.

Mark Murphy said...

I've often experienced the Anglican Church in Christchurch at least as a gracious boat for church refugees. At least my last church, the earthquake-destroyed St Luke's in the City, was like this. A sanctuary.

Sometimes it seems so many of the Christchurch clergy in recent years are refugees from other churches or church experiences - bearing scars and, at least some of the time, appreciating the broader air and wide tradition of Anglicanism at its best.

That was part of my journey out of the authoritarianism and sterility of the Roman Catholic Church here, though the Anglican stream has always been a thread part in my whakapapa.

Thinking of your comments further, Bowman, I wonder if conservatives/traditionalists/Neo-Calvinists leaving, perhaps eventually in a similar way to the UMC, might allow some gracious ecumenical realignment...

Schism birthing ecumenism...the Anglican Church here growing a Tikanga Weteriana (a Methodist tikanga).

In this regard, I visited Koukourārata on the weekend - a small bay over the hill from me in Banks Peninsula. There is a cairn there to mark the site of the first Anglican church in Canterbury, which was a missionary church for mama whenua and almost entirely Maori-run. It was also used by Maori Methodist ministers from time to time.

Liz Cowburn said...

Bowman, as a far distant *newcomer* to TEC-world I'm unaware of TEC/AME issues but unsurprised; I'd like to share this though. Earlier this year it was my privilege to find online, a press presentation at the AME Church in Charleston on the 7th anniversary of the 9 lives taken there (in 2015 by a young man who'd come out of the Evangelical Lutherans). PB Michael Curry TEC attended and spoke along with other Christian leaders including PB Elizabeth Eaton from ELCA. The previous night PB Curry had intended to retire early in preparation for his 4am flight but he got a phone call re the shooting at an Episcopal Church in Alabama (3 lives lost) and spent the night in communication with folks there, but he still showed up for Charleston AME. I was very touched by that.

As an aside the main speaker was Rev. Dr. James A Forbes, Jr. with reference to the Parable of the Sower/Soil, and I also greatly benefited from listening to Rev. Dr. Clarence G. Newsome addressing how the church needs to *church* [verb] and about "holes in souls". Rev Eric S. C. Manning, senior pastor at AME Charleston, spoke about their experience of trauma and forgiveness.

Months ago I'd saved the link in my Favourites and I watched the whole thing again just last night! After what happened in my family, that I've previously shared on ADU, this presentation and these speakers, they really touched my soul. I'm very grateful to have been able to listen to them. I'll share the url:

Anonymous said...

Liz, TEC is not in conflict with the AME and CME churches. It just isn't in serious conversation with them.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists, was not only a priest in the CoE but a precursor of the later evangelical, liberal, and anglo-catholic streams in Anglicanism. Because his tradition is a sibling or offspring of our own, we should be engaging it, if not uniting with it.

And because the AME and CME are also black churches, they could help TEC to better engage black America. This would be better than either of the usual alternatives-- ignoring America's racial divide, or thinking of it only in a one-sided woke way.


John Sandeman said...

"Would success for Nigeria include growth and it trusts ACNA? :)"

Not a bad criterion. Arcghbishops Ndukuna and Beach were together at Hull to consecrate the new UK bishops so flesh wounds only I guess.

Probably a harder but still fair criterion for Gafcon would be to develop a more sustainable structure un partnership with GSFA.

For TEC to be more than twice the size of ACNA in two Lambeths time.,

For ACNA to be at least half the size of TEC in the same timeframe.

Anonymous said...

"holes in souls"

Thanks for your comment, Liz.

What Christians say and write about life-shaping trauma is less healing than we ourselves and the world around us expect it to be. We can see that this is the case. But it is harder to see why.

First, visibility. Every pastor knows adults who have said that they were bullied by narcissistic parents. Many are reasonably suspicious of a somewhat lifeless family that is trying a little too hard to look improbably perfect to the world. Some are close to parishioners who still carry the pain of childhood incidents. When calling for a more just society, they argue that the trauma incidental to injustice is unacceptable. Trauma is visible to clergy.

What do they say about it? Some words aim to comfort in the moment, others to address theodicy. If actually living with pain or disorder is mentioned at all, it is to advise the miserable to find a therapist.

Reasonable, professional, and not all that helpful. Indeed, it can seem to be addressing the pastor's own insecurities and *secondary trauma* rather than the lifeworld of the traumatized. Not all the ordained have the ego-strength to engage suffering.

Perhaps there is really nothing that can be said? No, Christians (eg C S Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey) have written just enough to show otherwise. And Buddhists like the late Thich Nhat Hanh have sold millions of books about living with suffering.

Roger Hurding's Five Ways of Wholeness describes a remarkable project in which a CoE parish hosted lenten discussions about living with pain. Also in the CoE, a woman priest concerned about the effects of postnatal depression repurposed the old rite for the Churching of Women.

So why is it so rare for a pastor or author to speak directly about healing emotional pain? Two guesses.

The trauma of bad experience is often to the emotional habitus formed in human development. Bur a rationalistic notion of faith obscures what is spiritually and therefore theologically at stake in trauma. Whence this rationalism? It may be a holdover from old modern understandings of gospel assurance or belief in God.

And it is very awkward that our sort of ministry is almost exclusively to parishes that are collections of families. In such a setting, it is hard to acknowledge that trauma happens in families.

There may be more. But just these two suggest that ministry that heals as Jesus did will be easiest where individuals are the constituency and faith is seen to be organically emotional and developmental. Chaplaincy and spiritual direction.

But who will train and pay for this? Let us be creative...


Mark Murphy said...

"TEC survived because extrapolators of the '70s failed to foresee that it would become in large measure a body of refugees from other churches."

I've often experienced the Anglican Church in Christchurch in a similar way, including clergy. I've seen Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Brethren, and Presbyterians all shuffle across.

At its best, it provides a bigger breathing space and a wider tradition for those wanting to stretch and grow (even for refugees from other Anglican churches).


In a big picture sense, the current 'schism' between the United Methodist Church and the Global Methodist Church, and the current splintering within Anglicanlands, seem part of a wider, global realignment of Christianity. I wonder about the opportunities for ecumenism that such realignment presents.

For example, in Aotearoa, I'm not at all sure about what , doctrinally, separates the Methodist and Anglican Churches anymore. Likewise, some family members of mine attend a 'modern' evangelical Presbyterian Church which seems indistinguishable from a modern evangelical Baptist Church other family members attend in another city.

Justin Welby and others, such as Peter, are attempting to hold together this great realignment in one church for the sake of church unity, which is biblically and humanly understandable. It may not work, and it might be that another unity, over our shoulders, beckons.

"But if the Communion took Africans and Methodists seriously, might TEC find it easier as an Anglican church to approach the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Colored Methodist Episcopal Church here? One can pray so."

Last weekend we visited Koukourārata, a rural seaside community over the hill from us in Banks Peninsula. There is a cairn there to mark the spot where the first Anglican church in Canterbury once stood. The church or whare karakia was largely Māori-led and run, and was often also used by Methodist Māori missionaries for their services.

After earthquakes destroyed our (liberal Anglican) church, I tried to get us to rebuild a shared building with a nearby liberal Methodist congregation. The congregations agreed a plan and proposal but the lawyers couldn't make it work.

Peter Carrell said...

Building on, and not disagreeing with your last comment, Mark, I am finding that the "move across" to Anglicanism is often because Christians are becoming uncomfortable with a "black-and-white" approach to issues of the day, and wish to be in a "grey" church.

Put slightly differently, we are seeing conservatives join us, not to become liberal/progressive, but to breathe more easily in a moderately conservative, moderately liberal environment.

And, yes, there are other factors such as appreciation of liturgy, contemplative spirituality, etc, etc involved as well in other moves towards us.

Liz Cowburn said...

What you said explains something for me Bowman. PB Curry referring to the panel of christian leaders he was with, said something like "we're all cousins here" - and I didn't previously get what he meant!

Love the vision of engagement/unity, I wonder if there's the will to even explore what that might look like?

Reminded me of something I'd read a while ago.. I searched and found a 2021 ENS article about three TEC/Wisconsin dioceses engaged in starting a process of reunion. They had a “trialogue” meeting :)

~ and at their 1st meeting, the month before, the leaders had reported, “There was enthusiastic discussion seeking new ideas and dreams of what could be developed for the 21st century and beyond.”

More enthusiasm, ideas and dreams please! I feel such a need for this.

BTW / I accidentally found a TEC page re "Episcopal-United Methodist Dialogue, May 2017. Revised June 2019; March 2022, July 2022." that (hyper)links TEC Dioceses with UM Episcopal areas so they "can locate one another to facilitate communication, conversation, and collaboration in mission and ministry." I assume though, that this has nothing at all to do with the AME church.

Mark Murphy said...

Yes I agree Peter. I don't want to suggest that progressive Christianity is the great peak we are all travelling too and the Anglican Church is the vehicle for that.

Yes people from other churches are attracted to the breadth in Anglicanism (*Anglican comprehensiveness*), that includes judicious integration of liberal theology, contemporary scholarship, gender equality *as well as * a tradition with deep scriptural roots and scripture comptehensively integrated throughout it's life of prayer and liturgy, *as well as* contemplative wells, liturgical colours, missionary outreach, being part of a global whānau etc.

Liz Cowburn said...

"black-and-white".. and wish to be in a "grey" church.

Bishop Carrell, I can relate. I have a blog 'Exploring Colour' and after doing an intro post 5-6 yrs ago I ventured into the blog-world and met an extraordinarily creative new friend.. both of us had struggled in our early life stages. He offered me these wonderful words in 'colour' language:

“I think to really see the colour in life you have to touch the black and white and work up through the grey, take hold of the shadows until the light can make its way through them, the rainbow gift after the downpour.”

I've held this wisdom close. They were words of encouragement not intended as "christian" encouragement but they have spiritual significance for sure. I've struggled with the shadows but the promise is true and light's making its way through!

Father Ron said...

GOSH! Even the Mormon Church at its headquarters in Salt Lake City has now turned, volte face, to embrace the cause of 'Equal Marriage' in the U.S. ("The Spirit blows where it wills").

Like the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, the Mormons once spent millions of dollars to oppose this cause. Now it turns around to embrace it. The Question is; Will the diocese of Sydney do the same? I am not waiting with bated breath on that issue.

Another question: Can the Holy Spirit work within other bodies than that of GAFCON/ACNA?

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if there's the will to even explore"

+ Michael surely has it, but he orienteers terrain with a complex history that began in 1963. Packing a lot into a few words, Protestant activists for church unity in America are themselves disunited into those hung up on race and those hung up on holy orders. Somehow these have become an either/or in which one is perceived as either fighting for racial justice or unifying ministries.

In is in. Historically, American denominations have only merged on the basis of explicit theological affinity.

And out is out. Presbyterians have understandably feared that their distinctive culture of elders might not survive union.

My own realpolitik would test whether TEC and ELCA (already in communion) could better deal directly with Methodists black and white than wait for some pan-Protestant agreement.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for your link to 'The Other Cheek'.

In the light of the recent Democratic recovery in the Mid-Term Elections in the U.S., the host of that blog certainly makes a valid reflection on the reliability of God's Non-Intervention on behalf of Trumpian political Success for the Republicans:

"But there is an issue when predictions are made about electoral victory in the name of Christ. It sadly brings gospel preaching into disrepute. Abel Praise, who claims to carry out a prophetic and apostolic ministry, published a prophecy on Youtube, proclaiming Donald Trump as an anointed kingmaker, a common theme for the prophets."

Other Right-Wing Republican "Christian Leaders" (including Franklin Graham) who have been praying for victory for their 'Anointed Kingmaker' must have been sadly disappointed. The question is: Is God not hearing their plea, or are they praying for the wrong outcome?

Mark Murphy said...

Thank you Liz for this quote from your friend, among some of the best theological pieces I've read for a while:

“I think to really see the colour in life you have to touch the black and white and work up through the grey, take hold of the shadows until the light can make its way through them, the rainbow gift after the downpour.”

Liz Cowburn said...

"... are they praying for the wrong outcome?"

Religion News Service -- 11 Nov [I first read this a few minutes ago]

"The Republicans, as promised, successfully killed Roe, but what else did they kill?"

"The earth and humanity are collateral damage from the decision of bishops to ally themselves with the Republican Party to defeat Roe."


Anonymous said...

Father Ron, God seems to be granting prayers left and right these days.

Republicans who prayed that our Supreme Court might strike down abortion rights got their wish. But Republicans, independents, and Democrats who prayed that several states would pass anti-anti-abortion legislation also got theirs.

Any evangelicals who prayed for a Trump presidential campaign for 2024 have officially gotten their wish. But they may not vote for him if pious Mike Pence is on their primary ballots.


In other news, the Mormons have endorsed a bipartisan bill in the US Senate that provides for both religious freedom on That Topic and also a Federal right to same sex marriage. This is similar to a state law in Utah that the Mormons also endorsed several years ago.

Mormon teaching on marriage is as enthusiastically heterosexual and procreative as ever. But they do not believe that civil accommodation for SSM endangers that teaching. Pairing that with more explicit guarantees of religious freedom seems merely wise.


Anonymous said...


Some on each side have prayed that God would not give control of the next Congress to the other side. It is now all but certain that the Lord God has granted their requests.


Liz Cowburn said...

Thanks for responding to my mention of "holes in souls" Bowman! don't ask me how I missed it..

From memory, when Rev Newsome spoke about "holes in souls" he was referring not just to someone like the shooting perpetrator but making a point about people who influence others but have "holes" in their own souls. I recall him mentioning people like "educators, legislators, and EVEN people in churches". He made the point that the church needs to "CHURCH" and to work to repair these "holes". And then eventually society will be better.

Because this was the 7th anniversary of the shooting of the Mother Emmanuel nine, I take it that Rev Newsome had individual+systemic racism in mind on this particular occasion. I feel it also has wider application..

An example, these days I blame the evangelical church for my dad's "holes in soul" because I've no doubt they stuffed his younger head with all their notions of the father as the (strongly dominant) head-of-the-home, strong discipline in the family, and typical evangelical 'black-and-white' mindset. This actually allows me to be more loving, generous, forgiving and sympathetic to my dad's memory (who despite the "holes" was a very loving father).

Now I've run out of steam, but I've this strong feeling of agreement that the church must be stronger in church-ing.. in things like teaching and being an example of Living in Grace (this has been such a gift to me via TEC). And to look for opportunities to influence society in general, to *do* better and *be* better. And of course, it's super important to learn to recognise the bad stuff and *speak up* when injustice is present.

I'll again leave the link for the press presentation that included a panel of amazing people including Rev Newsome mentioned above, in case anyone's wondering what I'm referring to:


Anonymous said...

At the link, a conversation between Jordan Peterson and Yoram Hazony--

Ignore the title; that's YouTube clickbait.

In the actual conversation, a Canadian clinical psychologist with a scientific bent interviews an Israeli political philosopher about the latter's critique of liberal culture and his creative retrieval of English conservatism. The timestamps can serve as an outline of the conversation.

Why would anyone here care? Those who pay much attention to the world at large have surely noticed that conversation on the right has shifted from politics (at least as we have known that) to culture. One can get the impression that, for good and for ill, that end of the spectrum is more engaging and is engaging more.

But in what Mark calls Anglicanland, many of us have never actually encountered integral conservatism. What Thatcher and Reagan popularised a generation ago was actually a right-wing liberalism.

Today's conservative thinkers (eg Patrick Deneen, Ross Douthat, Peter Thiel) are more critical of the liberal state and its society. They care less about political economy than about God, human nature, tradition, religion, personal identity, and the meaning of life.

One could read a stack of their books-- two important ones are by Hazony himself-- but this conversation touches nearly everything in less time and perhaps with more pleasure. In passing, each interprets stories from Genesis in ways you've probably not heard before.


Liz Cowburn said...

Re YouTube conversation: In the "To honour those around you' segment I got on quite well with Hazony talking about honouring another person as 'elevating' them and making them feel good about themselves. That's cool. But in the final 'Why tilt Conservative?' segment Hazony refers to 'woke madness' and I'm thinking there's a big disconnect right there!!!

Anonymous said...

There are controversies, Liz, in which each side prides itself on its own best ideas but assesses the other by what is overheard in the street. It's not a fair or truthful comparison but it is often inevitable since distant outsiders do not overhear the discussions on the inside.

There are some SJWs who do not know how much they do not understand about the culture they criticise. Just so, there are conservatives who have never heard or read the strongest arguments that oppression can be systemic through generations..


Liz Cowburn said...

Did a wee bit of homework tonight. Hmmm....

1. What is Integralism? by William A. Galston / 05 November

2. 'New Right' academics argue for biblical lawmaking at Steubenville conference ~by Brian Fraga / 17 October

Liz Cowburn said...

I've just re-read my no. '1' ref above, by William Galston.

Questions he poses as he concludes his overview, are thought-provoking.

"As we resist integralism, political liberals should ask themselves some hard questions."

... then several paragraphs ...
... followed by final paragraph ...

"If we cannot show that our creed embodies limits to what is morally acceptable that most citizens can endorse, we will lose credibility and open the door to the rule of those who are prepared to enforce limits without regard to the niceties of individual rights or civil liberties. This is no time to be adding fuel to the fire that threatens to consume liberal democracy." ~the end of Mr Galston's essay~

On its own, that made me take notice!

But doesn't this also speak to the 'orthodox' vs 'revisionist' division in the church? Just seems to me there's this constant FEAR from the 'orthodox' side about where things are heading - because I assume - they can't see any bounds to where 'revisionists' are going?

Any thoughts? I'm coming at this very much as a *learner*.

Anonymous said...

Liz, as you are down under and I am here up yonder, I rely on you to say how much sense these very American arguments make in a country with a state that is less explicitly *liberal* than ours.

To be clear, *liberal* refers in your readings, not to the theology of Schliermacher and von Harnack, but to the Enlightenment theory that citizens have natural rights and the state's purpose is simply to guard them. Under God, nobody is in charge of a truly free society.

And so these *conservatives*, whether *integralist* (the Church should guide the state) or *national* (the common good of the nation should supersede politics), aim to govern civil society. In theory-- which we may doubt-- the health and happiness of citizens in the body politic requires protection from error that a new sort of state could give.

"Any thoughts?"

Many! But tonight I will note only that some expect local bodies of the Body to be more or less clear echoes of their national regimes, whilst others expect them to imagine and dare things that those backed by guns rather than inspired by God cannot.


Anonymous said...

I think you are right about that Liz. And the ‘orthodox’ are so concerned for truth that they want to set limits on what is received as truth. But Truth is Jesus Christ and, as long as he is central, we can’t go far wrong. Though, being myself nearer orthodoxy than progressive thought, I do struggle with where Jesus is found in all the debates, (and even the manner of the debates!)

Anonymous said...

PS I guess stages of faith come into it plus that lovely statement about colours that Liz quoted!

Liz Cowburn said...

Appreciate you taking time to respond Bowman. I've only taken an interest in US politics since, I guess, around 2019 and it's diabolical trying to figure things out! It's true "liberal" has been a confusing term for me. The info you've shared here helps (thanks) and an interesting read in your last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

Candidlly, Liz, I've found ancient Roman history most helpful in understanding American politics, but most who are serious about that just read a lot of American history.


Liz Cowburn said...

Re "struggle with where Jesus is found in all the debates, (and even the manner of the debates!)"

*Everything* you said Moya .. yes! I feel all of that, you've put it so well. Recently I was thinking the church should really be in a state of repentance and 'sackcloth and ashes' - pretty sure it was exactly those things you've mentioned that was driving me to think that way. Glad you like the 'colours' quote, I've found it very encouraging, many times. Thanks Moya!

Anonymous said...

Is this what you meant by your 8:25, Liz?

"The orthodox are so concerned for truth that they really want to set limits on what is received as truth" (Moya) ---> "the church should really be in a state of repentance and 'sackcloth and ashes'" (Liz)

When Moya said "Truth is Jesus Christ," I could not help wondering how she considers Truth per se to be true. My guess is that she is thinking along these Johannine lines: when we see the Father in the Son and do their will, then in that doing (and nowhere else) the Holy Spirit inspires an awareness of God and of creatures in him that disciples may take as true."

If that is how you too heard Moya-- is it?-- then the error that you see in the self-styled "orthodox" may be-- is it?-- this: they expect to understand truly by ordinary reason unaided by the relational insight that comes only in God.

Linda Zagzebski, an American and Catholic philosopher, has a theory of ethics in which worship of Jesus's divine attributes reforms the emotional patterns of the worshiper into a disposition to share the Lord's motivations and receive his virtues. Apart from Jesus, worship is unreasonable; apart from worship, the motivation to be a "little Christ" is inaccessible; apart from being a little Christ, one does not live in him; apart from that, one does not know his will truly.

Her theory has an implication for discussions about faith. We can discuss why all this is so, as she herself does in her book Divine Motivation Theory,. We can also reflect, as we have been doing, on how our lives in Christ have lead us to the understandings both of his will and our shared reality that we have.

But apart from that formation which is given by God through worship of God, there is nothing of substance that can be known truly of God's will with respect to creatures. Nothing.

An unbeliever can read "Thou shalt do no murder" and know in a grammatical way that killing is being prohibited, but that is far less than the knowledge of God's will that a worshipper of Christ associates with these words. The rationalistic notion of *authority* is too small to explain the difference.

From her perspective, your "orthodox" seem unorthodox in their worldly rationalism. If the gospel is true, then we have no reason to think that the conventional arguments from authority that we see in the usual squabbles can bringing anyone closer to truth that God only illumines relationally. The happy warriors on That Topic and every topic are *unbelievers with beliefs* like Job's rationalising friends before the annihilating blast of the Whirlwind.

"Sackcloth and ashes?" Maybe as Job himself wore them. He was reasonable both before and after the Whirlwind spoke, but only after that was he reasoning in his true relation to the Creator. Although blameless before, he lived differently after.


Anonymous said...

I think that is what I meant, Bowman, - that a heart given to Jesus knows better what the will of God is than all the quoted verses apparently say. Jesus himself, through the love of the Father, read the Scriptures differently from those who only knew the text.
But it is a lifetime challenge to read with love.

Liz Cowburn said...

Bowman, I'll see what I can type before heading off for some shut-eye.

re: Moya's "the ‘orthodox’ are so concerned for truth that they want to set limits on what is received as truth."

The type of orthodox I grew up with in rural conservative Open Brethren.. this is what it felt like. The idea of being uncertain about anything (for leaders) seemed unthinkable - they expected to discern right from wrong from their prayerful reading of the Bible. I'm pretty sure my dad said stuff at home about there not *being* any grey areas.

When I said about feeling that the church should be in repentance, sackcloth and ashes, that was in reference to the debates and 'manner of debates' that Moya spoke of. Some people (on both sides I imagine) seem intent on not only defending their position but even trashing the other side and making harsh judgements. In the ongoing battle it's hard to discern the outward expression of inward transformation that one would expect of born-again, baptised, mature believers. It's a terrible witness, a very sad failing, and I feel the church as a whole should be dismayed and weep for the deep divisions. Collective humility and lament, from both sides, would surely be preferable to years and years of wrangling.

So as Moya's already said, I too "struggle with where Jesus is found in all the debates, (and even the manner of the debates!)" and - to use a phrase that no doubt comes from my evangelical background - it's very 'dishonouring to Christ'.

But what you said Bowman, about "ordinary reason" and "relational insight", that sounds really interesting. That surely suggests there's a core problem of imbalance between the two; and the more the church divides, the more we as individuals come under pressure to choose one side or the other. Which totally distracts from what we're actually called to do.. which is to take up our cross and follow Him.

Anonymous said...


Thank you, Moya and Liz, for the gift of your online conversation about faith.

The lower 48 states have four time zones, east to west. A certain RC monastic order has parallel governance structures in this country for men and women.

One autumn, the superior general in Rome notified all the American abbots and abbesses that they needed to reach agreement on something in the near future.

So over the next few weeks, each monastery of brothers sat in chapter to discuss the matter and to recommend something for senior monks to consider with the abbot at their regular meeting. All the abbots sent their views in writing to their presiding abbot in America. He, after consulting canon lawyers on due process, scheduled a full debate on the matter for the upcoming spring chapter of abbots.

And the sisters? The day they received the notice, those in convents on the Atlantic coast discussed it over dinner, and called their friends in convents over the mountains. These continued the conversations when they ate their own dinners, and relayed their thoughts to the sisters in convents in the great plains, who then did the same for those on the Pacific coast. The abbesses called around to see where things stood. Consensus. The presiding abbess called the presiding abbot and sent an informal note to Rome the next morning.

There is a difference for which we should be thankful.


Mark Murphy said...

I generally agree, Liz.

Though sometimes being gentle and patient and moderate can be another constriction on the truth, on the presence and movement of the Spirit.

Sometimes we (I!) need to have and move through a "storming" phase before we can develop full trust and intimacy, including respect for difference, and an awareness of our confusion, destructiveness, and separation and need for God.

What is the "sword" Jesus refers to, rather enigmatically and paradoxically (given his teaching elsewhere):

"I did not come to bring peace, but a sword!".

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of Hebrews 4: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”. Maybe we (I!) don’t hear clearly enough from Jesus?

Liz Cowburn said...

Hi Mark, I think the angle you're coming from is perhaps similar to personal thoughts of mine so thanks for bringing this up. I'd been thinking, on and off, about the church at Laodicea in Revelation rebuked for being lukewarm. That makes me feel really uncertain. Does it mean we can overdo the conciliatory efforts? Should church leadership (who've had years to undertake discernment) have taken a stronger line by now, tried harder to provide some kind of bounds rather than persisting in trying to accommodate everybody in the Communion? I'm an exvangelical without a home, watching, learning, questioning, and a wee bit cynical. I'm definitely interested in Anglicanism *but* unwilling to ignore the deep divides.. I've been doing my homework re the history of how the divide came about and I'm trying to get a handle on the christian viewpoint of both sides. I just wish I didn't need to do all this heavy-lifting! [that's not why/how I came to TEC though, my awareness of these issues grew as I engaged more in spiritual things *because of* TEC]

Liz Cowburn said...

Ah yes.. Moya, I just refreshed the screen and I see your comment.
That's a great reminder.. your verse from Hebrews 4!!!

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Moya, I like where you went with that!

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Liz, heavy lifting will give you strong arms!

Anonymous said...

Personally, Liz, I maintain an allegiance to the Son (Colossians 1, Roman 8). That is, I participate whenever transfigured humanity gathers in him to intercede for the peace of his creation.


Liz Cowburn said...

Thanks Bowman! found a gem in Romans 8:14

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God."

Relational insight! And re-reading what you wrote re Linda Zagzebski's book 'Divine Motivation Theory' reminds me I haven't looked it up yet. Wondering if it's written at a manageable level for me!

Liz Cowburn said...

Bishop Peter, after the Lectionary download I noticed a link for 'Women' and found a video where your wife talks about her personal experience at Lambeth. I really enjoyed it! I'm glad she had a wonderful time and also appreciated her honestly sharing a few 'sad' things (including noting that some chose not to join with others in communion). I liked her positivity about the ABC's effort for unity (and it was pretty wonderful the ABC's wife was present in her group). Please let her know I enjoyed what she shared! I don't imagine you'll put this online but it's perfectly ok if you do. Many thanks.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Liz. I'll pass your comments on. I've posted your comment because others may be interested in the video - along with Teresa, two other women share their experiences of Lambeth 2022.

Anonymous said...

"a manageable level"

Liz, philosophers in Zagzebski's tradition strive for clarity and even readability. When their books seem difficult, it is less their ideas that are opaque than their motivations for developing some and avoiding others.

They do signal these motivations in the hope that readers will share them. However they often do so by alluding to the work of other (often long dead) philosophers.

This is like going to meet a friend for dinner and discovering on arrival that she has brought with her twenty friends who are strangers to you. The table talk may be very animated without your knowing just why they all laughed, groaned, and applauded when they did.

I suspect that an "exvangelical" will be most intrigued that she proposes an ethic of virtues that are divine in origin and purpose, yet acquired through, not commands, but admiration of an exemplary god.

It might be simplest to start here--


Liz Cowburn said...

Thanks for treating me to another fab illustration with the dinner description Bowman, beautifully shared! It's true it's most likely I'd know none of the friends but oh, I am *very* intrigued. When time permits I'll start with one of the lectures and see how I get on. My idea of buying the book immediately stalled last night when I found that even the Kindle version costs NZD60.00!!

Anonymous said...

"Should church leadership... have taken a stronger line by now?"

Tricky. We don't have leaders-- fine since we aren't going anywhere-- we have bishops. Bishops as pastors are responsible for such discipline as Anglicans have. So bringing That Topic down to earth, it's just three questions of church discipline--

(1) When (if ever) might particular souls believe in good faith (ie with *moral certainty*) that the civil *condition of life* in which they will best please the Father is marriage to a person of the same sex?

(2) When a Christian contracts a lawful same sex marriage, is his or her status as a church member affected?

(3) May clergy register (or refuse to register) same sex couples for the state?

In roughly that order, this is all that Protestant bishops in countries with SSM have to discern. It's not much, but there is subtlety in complete and consistent answers.

This is why Jesus gave such questions to bishops rather than to a new-fangled sanhedrin. Because they directly concern persons in cases, the texture of intelligent thought about them is more judicial than legislative.

It might have been proper for national synods to simply signal their (dis)approval of the civil laws that enabled SSM in their several countries. Debate on such signals would likely have been more lucid and honest than the sound and fury that we have seen.

They would have put churches either with their liberal democratic states or against them. And they would have clarified whether synods think that churches are liberal democratic states-within-states (or not). Several years ago, that would have seemed pointless. Today, it may be urgent.


Anonymous said...


Long ago, when TEC's House of Bishops and General Convention repeatedly affirmed the received canons on homosexuality, a gay activist priest attacked these pronunciamenti with a fascinating line of argument: the church was abandoning its proper calling as the church in its haste to act like a pretender state-within-the-state.

"Nobody needs or wants or cares for the opinion of this church's governors on a question of psychiatry!," he thundered. "They have no authority from God or man to legislate morality. And in the real church, our job is simply to help souls find their ways through the facts and the world they see."

Wasn't the Book of Homilies a body of moral teaching from the church's governors? Yes, he acknowledged, although TEC had never received them. But it is one thing to promote patterns of life in which many disciples flourish, and another to so legislate punishment for those outside them that eccentric souls cannot be accommodated at all. Uniformity is a principle of civil law, but not of churchly morality.

Very 1970s, but is it true? Today, it often seems to be the rocky point where maps will someday show that a great stream divided into two. Ian, Andrew and I agree on many things, but they tend to be uniformitarian, and I am not and so we narrowly differ on That Topic. Conversely, Father Ron disagrees with me whenever he can, but neither he nor I thinks that lives in Christ are cut from a cookie-cutter.

Which side of that boulder you drift down may well determine what shape you think Christ gave his Body.

Uniformitarians see bishops as "leaders," exemplars of an ideal, the grid to which all should snap. The rest of us maybe-- I for certain-- see them as deciders of the hard cases that arise *zwischen den zeiten*, (between the aeons) when the overlap of two realms makes transitory figures of us all. Some superb bishops have been not a little eccentric.

To uniformitarians, synods simply are their churches. How could they not be? Majorities indicate uniformities and quite naturally express them in rules that those who want to belong to them should follow. It's common sense.

In the other stream, God is the Whirlwind who blasted the common sense of Job's uniformitarian friends to nonsense. His case was particular and their collective failure to acknowledge that was failure to acknowledge the Creator who makes a startlingly diverse cosmos, including for his sport Behemoth and Leviathan. Like other governing bodies, synods are ordinarily prudent, thankfully, but who goes to a hospital trustee for a heart transplant?

Uniformitarians take simple, maybe simplistic, joy in big membership numbers and sorrow in small ones. The kingdom is an aggregation of units-- members in parishes in dioceses in provinces like bottles in cases on pallets in warehouses. Church math is inventory accounting, and growth is just scaling.

The other stream flows through an ecology of niches, and imagines a Body that is complete when, large or small, it, like Noah's ark or the great forest that Isaiah saw on Mount Zion, all the kinds that the Lord has made are present. Church math is marketing statistics, and growth is diversification.

So of course uniformitarians like pastors when they drive their herd into the pen, and the rest like them when they venture out to find the outliers and bring them home. The former dream of wise patriarchs governing large parishes with many families and age-grouped programs. The latter are fascinated by spiritual direction and chaplaincy as earlier generations were drawn to missionary work and founding hospitals and schools.

Liz Cowburn said...

Your points (5:03) I read with interest Bowman, but being a newbie in things Anglican I can only listen and learn. But what I personally had in mind with those words was the issue of actual division-in-the-church; the often-times hostile debate about That Topic concerns me. Paul in 1 Cor strongly confronted the church in several chapters about division. He took the division itself really seriously, dished out advice, and told them he'd sort the rest of it out "when I come"! And yet the deep divides we have, stemming from That Topic, date back to around 1980 I think, and here we are with debates still raging on. ~PS after all my agonising, I've now decided I'm primarily anti the Division itself. But back in the day I wonder if top-level church leadership couldn't have done more to study what was *really* going on, and used their collective discernment and wisdom to deal with the situation appropriately. They mayn't have fully realised the enormity of what they were up against though, back then.. the situation being greatly inflamed by well-funded, well-organised de-stabilising influences from the conservative R/W.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you All for your respectful, insightful, probing comments!

Thank you Bowman for 7.23 am above - a particularly helpful (for me, at least) insight into "what is going on" as various commentators in Anglicanland set forth their proposals.

I don't think it is only bishops who make judgment calls in the moment etc on matters that some may wish for a 'uniformitarian' response - I recall moments when my role was an associate priest or vicar and needing to make such calls.

Certainly, as bishop, I like being part of a diocese of diversity in which differing responses to various issues can be worked out, while always adhering to some uniformity (e.g., under the watchful gaze of our Royal Commission on Abuse, we cannot but ask all parishes, parishioners and priests to adhere to common standards re safe ministry).

Liz Cowburn said...

Your 7.23 makes fascinating reading Bowman! Really wonderful. I've saved bookmarks to these comment-discussions as I'll be back to pore over them, they're a fantastic learning experience for me. Thanks so much.

And I see +Peter has responded - I love the idea and the openness of "diocese of diversity" where differing responses to various issues *can be worked out* in balance with necessary uniformity. ~Amen

This discussion has been good.. I feel less dismayed and more encouraged!
Very grateful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter and Liz, for kind words.

7:23 was interrupted here by some business that could not wait. Perhaps I'll have time to finish it tomorrow.

Yes, Peter, I do have a patristic habit of speaking directly of bishops where it could make as much or more contemporary sense to speak of clergy.

Liz, all of the English groups that we've discussed here-- Anglicans, Quakers, Plymouth Brethren-- live out a congenital tension between election and participation. (Even without knowing their respective theological influences, you can sense that, if the 39A ground assurance in election of individuals, the BCP grounds it in participation in the communion of saints.) And parties in each have tried to retrieve the sensibility of election from a more participative (not necessarily inclusive) body by breaking away. Or vice versa.

It happens that recognition of homosexuality not only puts indirect strain on systems built up around assurance from election, but positively requires a theology of participation so robust as to rival those same systems.

In comments online, this is most obvious in the ones where an opponent of SSM (eg Ian Paul to + Peter) frames the conflict as one between truth and institutional unity. To someone whose assurance comes from a 39A particular election over against mere churches, this framing is inherent in the mere idea of assurance which is always over against churches. In a more participative BCP mindset where assurance is grounded in baptism and communion, that tension is close to being unintelligible.

+ Peter used to have a commenter in New York who kept a list of all the schisms to break away from TEC over the past two centuries. There have been many, and nearly all are in that same fault zone. At the same time, TEC's theology is now so participative that we are in working communion with Lutherans and Old Catholics.

From which I draw three inferences.

(1) Out is out, in is in. We are discovering that some of our closest relationships are actually ecumenical. Hallelujah! We should stop berating each other and start exploring what God wants us to do with and without them in the present realignment of all denominations. The only way the Anglican Communion will disappear is by building a broader Communion around itself. Which we used to consider to be our calling (cf Lambeth Quadrilateral). Let's get on with it!

(2a) From the BCP participative side, we should distinguish between the 39A *theologoumenon* that there may be assurance of election (which Rome, for example, denies) and systems that sit on that opinion as though it were dogma. The former may be integral to Anglicanism as we have received it; the latter have proven to be foreign to that same tradition.

(2b) Put another way, it is one thing-- a pleasurable and insightful thing-- to explore the undeniable Swiss influence on the reforming generations of the CoE but what we would recognize today as a Confessional Reformed church was neither their intention nor their result. And the countervailing influences that have shaped us since were also known to them albeit much less well than we know them today.

(3) Anglicans who are also Evangelicals will eventually rely less on Whitefield and more on Wesley. Here up yonder, where TEC is in communion with both Lutherans and Moravians and in conversation with Methodists, it would be most organic to explore an evangelism that draws more on Pietism.

"All thyngs shall be well and all thyngs shall be well and all manner of thyngs shall be well." -- Julian of Norwich


Ms Liz said...

Wow.. I'll be honest and confess this is above what I can currently understand Bowman. Hopefully as I continue to learn it'll become clearer! I'm not yet up-to-speed on many of these terms/concepts. It's only recently for example that I learned what 39A is (because at the time I was reading about the history of Gafcon). I have an awful lot to learn! But keen :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry to overwhelm, Liz. Contrasts that you do seem to intuit in comments here have names that you may not have heard until now.

To the theological West , salvation is opt in. All are lost unless they have been saved.

What is your certitude that you have been saved and God is fighting to save you? Assurance. Why do you have it?


Maybe you have it because you sense conversion in yourself and believe that God would only induce this conversion if you had been elected to glory. The 39A discuss this idea, noting that it can induce both exhilaration and despair.

Exhilaration? To some radically sceptical of the churches they knew, this assurance that the Holy Spirit has directly graced them apart from any minister or other material sacrament has been immensely consoling and empowering.

Despair? Notoriously, others have found it impossible to regard the stream of consciousness inside them as plausible evidence of election. Indeed, they have taken the persistence of their sinful thoughts as plausible evidence that the Father elected them to hell, an ironic assurance of damnation.

But this idea that the Father elects and the Holy Spirit graces apart from any external material means of grace is a permitted opinion (theologoumenon) like certain beliefs about St Mary or the Bible. It's not a belief defined by the undivided whole of Christ's Body as necessary to being in it (dogma). Nevertheless, this opinion motivates several distinctive and controversial features of Reformed systems.


Or maybe you have assurance because God who cannot lie has promised you everlasting life in baptism and communion. The BCP prescribes this.

Differing here from the Reformed, the Lutherans only trust assurance given materially by the Son and Holy Spirit. For them, this is as much a matter of Trinitarian faith as of having solid confidence in God's love.


Looking at the stones in his field, a farmer may wonder whether they can be stacked to make a solid wall. This depends on the kind of stones that they are.

The two sources of assurance enable two sorts of relationship between a soul and Christ in his church (totus Christus). One is a close or loose alliance of the elect; the other is participation in a transformative fellowship with Christ.

Empirically, the Reformed are splitters. The solidarity to which the Anglican Communion aspires is not among their gifts. So long as Anglicans practicing in that system try to adhere to the Communion in good faith, we should go the extra mile to support them as one does a weak sibling.

But a visible, global fellowship of shared ministry and discernment cannot disown the participative theology of St Paul nor indeed the mystery of Pentecost. When our refusal to do so drives them away, there is nothing that we can do to keep them.

It could be that the Protestant world is in transition from a pile of pieces to two nearly finished jigsaw puzzle pictures. If Anglicans were in both of them, that could be a very good thing.


Ms Liz said...

Immensely helpful, Bowman! Thanks so much. Pre TEC I knew little about Anglicans and nothing about TEC/ACNA/Gafcon/Sydney. Steep learning curve and lots of detail to learn but I was missing a big-picture perspective, so you're helping a lot with that. I've also tried to learn a little bit about US politics because that affects the other things I'm interested in. And here in NZ I was initially confused about Māori and Pākehā Anglican churches but Dr Hirini Kaa's book about the Māori Anglican Church proved a big help. All up it's a lot to learn, I had no idea what I was getting myself into!

Anonymous said...

"big-picture perspective"

Four thoughts on that.

(1a) "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."

For example, Western Christians, Protestant and Catholic, often share assumptions foreign to the original Eastern fathers and the Orthodox today. Some are concrete-- do marriages end?-- whilst others are theoretical but immensely consequential-- what have Adam's posterity inherited from him? Some questions passionately debated in the medieval and modern West-- how and when is Christ present in the eucharist?-- are nearly unintelligible in the main Eastern tradition.

(1b) Spiritual descendants often remember that their ancestors did far more and far less than actually happened.

Faulty C17 French scholarship led a C19 pope to opine that Anglican orders were invalid. And most people today mistake the rigourist Victorian ideal of the Puritans for their diverse and free-spirited reality.

(1c) Be wary of ideas attributed to Jesus but abstracted from his ministry in Israel. Of course we apply his teachings everywhere, but if we do not acknowledge the difference between text and interpretation, the latter has taken the former captive.

(2) There is not much ecumenical dogma. Strictly speaking, no ecumenical dogmas were defined concerning the atonement, the Jews, the scriptures, or justification. Most of the teaching that churches run on is local, provisional, and somewhere disputed.

(3) Teaching that places more weight on some received idea than it can bear can be more distortive than actual error.

Human nature is obviously flawed, for example, but an unlikely construal of *eph ho* in Romans v 12 cannot possibly bear the cosmic weight of inherited *original sin*.

(4a) Just understanding the tradition without medieval or modern misunderstandings is usually more radical than any revision being suggested today.

(4b) Tradition? Even Calvin found it persuasive when he thought that it was an organic continuation of the apostolic testimony.


Ms Liz said...

BW 5.23pm / *eph ho*

Thanks for including that - I checked online and got plenty of results. I've heard the term "original sin" but didn't know about the east/west difference!