GAFCON 2023 press statement here, final communique: the Kigali Commitment here, news site here.
Via my Twitter feed I paid some attention to GAFCON 2023 as it met in Rwanda last week.
There was so much to commend - clips of beautiful worship, summaries of agreeable biblical teaching (e.g. on the supremacy of Christ in Colossians), a sense of unified direction for a significant part of the Anglican Communion (noting signs of common accord between GAFCON and Global South).
Thus these paragraphs, from the Kigali Commitment are, hopefully, true of each and every gathering of faithful Anglicans whether globally, provincially, diocesan-wide or in a parish:
"Our conference theme for 2023 ‘To Whom Shall We Go?’ (John 6:68), along with our Bible studies in the Letter to the Colossians, focused our attention on Jesus, the one in whom all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form, the Lord of all creation and the head of his body, the church (Colossians 1:15-19; 2:9).
Our Chairman in his opening address encouraged us to be a repenting church, a reconciling church, a reproducing church and a relentlessly compassionate church. This is the church we want to be.
We were reminded that the purpose and mission of the church is to make known to a lost world the glorious riches of the gospel by proclaiming Christ crucified and risen, and living faithfully together as his disciples"
Focus on the supremacy of Christ was where things got ecclesiologically interesting because that supremacy leads to comments I noticed as the Conference unfolded which are mundane in one perspective and dynamic, Communion changing in another perspective.
Mundane: it is a simple matter of logic that if Christ is supreme, aka head of the church, then no bishop or archbishop or Protestant-pope-in-the-pulpit or Roman Pontiff is head of the church. All leaders in the church, leaders of churches are at best to be respected, never to be venerated, always to be subject to scrutiny through Christo-centric lenses. And so forth. Agreeable. Nothing to controvert on this level.
Communion changing: thus Church Times reports:
"THE fourth gathering of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) is under way in Kigali, Rwanda, uniting breakaway Anglican leaders and some of those still within the Communion in their rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the “spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion”.
In his presidential address on Monday evening, the chairman of Gafcon, Dr Foley Beach, said that “with broken hearts, we must say that until the Archbishop of Canterbury repents we can no longer recognise him as the first among equals. It’s time for the whole Anglican establishment to be reformed anyway.”"
GAFCON disagrees with a recent decision of the CofE, about blessing of couples in same sex marriages or partnerships, over which the ABC presides, and so the ABC is no longer worthy to be the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, no longer primus inter pares (first among equals) for the episcopal leadership of the Communion. He has been judged and found wanting.
By the end of the Conference, as written in the Kigali Commitment, this rejection had stiffened to all the Insturments of Communion:
"We have no confidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury nor the other Instruments of Communion led by him (the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meetings) are able to provide a godly way forward that will be acceptable to those who are committed to the truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency and authority of Scripture. The Instruments of Communion have failed to maintain true communion based on the Word of God and shared faith in Christ.
All four Instruments propose that the way ahead for the Anglican Communion is to learn to walk together in ‘good disagreement’. However we reject the claim that two contradictory positions can both be valid in matters affecting salvation. We cannot ‘walk together’ in good disagreement with those who have deliberately chosen to walk away from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). The people of
God ’walk in his ways’, ‘walk in the truth’, and ‘walk in the light’, all of which require that we do not walk in Christian fellowship with those in darkness (Deuteronomy 8:6; 2 John 4; 1 John 1:7).
Successive Archbishops of Canterbury have failed to guard the faith by inviting bishops to Lambeth who have embraced or promoted practices contrary to Scripture. This failure of church discipline has been compounded by the current Archbishop of Canterbury who has himself welcomed the provision of liturgical resources to bless these practices contrary to Scripture. This renders his leadership role in the Anglican Communion entirely indefensible."
But, reading through the whole final communique, one and only one issue sets GAFCON (and, now, likely Global South) against the Instruments of Communion: any approach to permanent same sex partnerships/marriages which softens the strict discipline of celibacy for gay Anglicans. No disagreement on this issue is possible. No deviation from the GAFCON-party line. Thus no respect for the Instruments of Communion which have sought to engage with differences among Anglicans in response to certain realities in both human sexuality and in civic life of different societies.
Particularly disturbing is to read all the antagonism to the Instruments because some gay Anglicans wish to marry but NOT ONE WORD AGAINST THE UGANDAN PRIMATE who as recently as his Easter message, here, publicly supported the proposed legislation in Uganda's parliament which could lead to the execution of gays.
RESETTING THE COMMUNION
Whether we like this hardline against the Instruments or not, it is what it is, and it looks like a significant joining of forces is taking place between GAFCON and Global South so that a key word to consider in the Kigali Commitment is "reset":
"Resetting the Communion
We were delighted to be joined in Kigali by leaders of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) and to host a combined Gafcon-GSFA Primates meeting. Together, these Primates represent the overwhelming majority (estimated at 85%) of Anglicans worldwide.
The leadership of both groups affirmed and celebrated their complementary roles in the Anglican Communion. Gafcon is a movement focused on evangelism and mission, church planting and providing support and a home for faithful Anglicans who are pressured by or alienated from revisionist dioceses and provinces. GSFA, on the other hand, is focused on establishing doctrinally based structures within the Communion.
We rejoice in the united commitment of both groups on three fundamentals: the lordship of Jesus Christ; the authority and clarity of the Word of God; and the priority of the church’s mission to the world. We acknowledge their agreement that ‘communion’ between churches and Christians must be based on doctrine (Jerusalem Declaration #13; GSFA Covenant 2.1.6). Anglican identity is defined by this and not by recognition from the See of Canterbury.
Both GSFA and Gafcon Primates share the view that, due to the departures from orthodoxy articulated above, they can no longer recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Instrument of Communion, the ‘first among equals’ of the Primates. The Church of England has chosen to impair her relationship with the orthodox provinces in the Communion.
We welcome the GSFA’s Ash Wednesday Statement of 20 February 2023, calling for a resetting and reordering of the Communion. We applaud the invitation of the GSFA Primates to collaborate with Gafcon and other orthodox Anglican groupings to work out the shape and nature of our common life together and how we are to maintain the priority of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations.
Resetting the Communion is an urgent matter. It needs an adequate and robust foundation that addresses the legal and constitutional complexities in various Provinces. The goal is that orthodox Anglicans worldwide will have a clear identity, a global ‘spiritual home’ of which they can be proud, and a strong leadership structure that gives them stability and direction as Global Anglicans. We therefore commit to pray that God will guide this process of resetting, and that Gafcon and GSFA will keep in step with the Spirit."
Practically, it looks like the following consequences are now facing us:
1. When ++Welby calls a meeting of Primates, there will be fewer Primates than previously turning up.
2. When ACC meets, there will be fewer faces.
3. The next Lambeth Conference, should there be one, could consist of mostly white faces.
Nevertheless there is time and water to flow under the bridge. If, say, the next Lambeth Conference has a Kenyan-type response (the Primate would not attend Lambeth 2022, bishops were free to make their own minds up re attendance; contrast party-whipped boycott by Nigeria), then it could be fascinating to see who does follow the GAFCON line and who does not.
However, the signs are that the Communion is being "reset", that a significant, but yet to be fully measured, part of the Communion will walk away from commitment to meeting together when called to do so by the Archbishop of Canterbury - the communications and invitations of the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet will be ignored and rejected by a now larger number than previously.
We may feel inclined - I do! - to be highly critical of what is going on here - for example, of a cleavage between "doctrine" and "history", of a shift from an Anglicanism focused on "relationships" to an Anglicanism focused on "texts - but I do not think such criticism will amount to more than a whistling in the wind of change. What we can do is pray (for as much Communion-unity as possible) and resolve to take up invitations to meet (busyness at home is no longer an excuse!!)
CONFIRMING ABC-LED COMMUNION
The challenge is to "stand firm" in what we (who are not GAFCON, who do recognise the ABC as "primus inter pares") believe and are committed to.
The sanity of the centre has a lot to commend it!
Focus on global Anglicanism as primarily relational and only secondarily textual is a worthy commitment.
Whether we be few or many, there are moderate Anglicans and not only in North America, Europe and Oceania. God loves moderate Anglicans as much as God loves GAFCONites :).
Although there are (effectively) two Anglican communion/federation/networks in the globe today, they are not the same. A bit more time will be needed to tell which is which. It will be confusing because of a resolute commitment to the naming rights of "Anglican" (at least in countries apart from those such as the USA and Scotland where a happy distinction between "Episcopal" and "Anglican" exists). But the simplest distinction, it now appears is between those who are with the Archbishop of Canterbury and those who are not.
POSTSCRIPT a few thoughts on GAFCON's divorce between theology and history with its cancelling of the ABC:
The Kigali Commitment is an ecclesiological divorce between theology and history (and, yes, I am well aware that the Church of England committed such action in the 16th century - there is no need to do this twice!).
If the ABC is found theologically wanting and thus is replaced, what happens to the replacement? A certain nervousness that she or he (it won’t be a she, will it?!) must toe the theological line because respect is only gained and held if doctrinally orthodox.
When we divorce history (the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the senior bishop of the Church of England and thus the senior bishop of the Anglican Communion) from theology, we change our ecclesiology: Anglicanism becomes solely confessional: whomever confesses the right confession is correct; and leadership is only granted to those who make the right confession.
Either the purist of the confessors (Nigeria? Uganda? Sydney?) will be primus inter pares; or some kind of election among the purer confessors is held. But no sense of history may intrude such proceedings. Anglicanism may not - on this understanding - be nostalgic for the mother church; nor consider any office of the church significant because of the past, that is, because of how that office came into being.
A certain kind of existentialism becomes GAFCON Anglicanism: what counts is the now of doctrinal purity. Ironically, “history” plays a role in doctrinal purity: the Anglican church is considered to have once been doctrinally pure, but now, alas, no longer. The historic doctrine of the church (on GAFCON logic) judges the present incumbency of significant office; but the significant office of the church is permitted no room to develop that historic doctrine through time.
Even though we may and should observe that historically there was no moment in the past when the Anglican church said, “we now have reached doctrinal orthodoxy”, it is reserved to ourselves (our GAFCON selves) to determine that there was such a moment.
But when was it? Was it 1549 or 1552 (when Cranmer presided over two different publications of liturgy en route to a certain “moment” in 1559, no, wait, 1662! Was it when the Geneva Bible or the Bishop’s Bible or the King James Bible was published? If it was, say, the King James Bible (1611) combined with the BCP (1662), what on earth led modern Anglican evangelicals to embrace, say, the NIV through the last quarter of the 20th century or the more recent ESV? Perhaps weight is put on the Forty-Two Articles? Of course not, they were just the forerunner to the Thirty-Nine Articles!
Put another way: the historical continuity of the Anglican church could be a continuity of pure doctrine, though that is a tricky case to argue (because life keeps changing, and churches keep changing, even GAFCON ones: do they all use only the BCP (1662) every service? Of course not!).
The better historical continuity is around offices, acknowledging that there will be bumps along the way because no ABC is a clone of a predecessor, and none of the predecessors was perfect.
Godspeed and good riddance!
Thinking missionally, churches founded from the Church of England have long needed regional communions. Effectively, Gafconians in Africa now have one.
Just why they needed schism from the global Communion to get this good result can be left to canonists, psychologists, and historians. Out is out, but I hope that God will use them.
Meanwhile, In is in. This might be an occasion to reaffirm the Lambeth Quadrilateral and explore its implications.
"Homosexuality is currently a challenge because it is being forced on us by outside, foreign actors against our will, against our culture, and against our religious beliefs. They disguise themselves as “human rights activists,” but are corrupting real human rights by adding LGBTQI+ to their agenda."
- Stephen Kaziimba, Archbishop of Uganda
Prof Glenda Gray, the president of the South African Medical Research Council, said: “Being gay is natural and normal, wherever it occurs across the world. Sexual orientation knows no borders. Despite the rhetoric, homosexuality is not a pernicious western import.”
Although the Ugandan President has refused to sign the bill *as currently worded*, he has expressed his agreement with it, and sent it back to Parliament to consider introducting 'rehabilitation camps' for gay people considered to be psychologically disordered.
Peter, given GAFCON HAD NOT A SINGLE WORD TO SAY ON THE UGANDAN PRIMATE, as you observed, what words does the Anglican Church of NZ, Aotearoa, and Polynesia have to say to Kaziimba and the Ugandan Anglican church on this issue?
A post from "Badman" on Thinking Anglicans:
"Kigali usurps an authority it does not have and expresses a version of Protestantism which, although it has a place within Anglicanism, has never reflected a consensus within it.
It says the Bible “does not need to be supplemented” – but the doctrine of the Trinity (for example) is not enunciated in the Bible and is a supplement reflected in the later creeds.
It refers more than once to the “sufficiency” of the Bible, but this sola scriptura position is directly contrary to the prima scriptura position essential to Anglicanism. It is also contrary to the position of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. It is a Lutheran and Calvinist position which has not for hundreds of years been the orthodoxy of the Church of England.
It emphasises the “clarity” of scripture but even the extremely Protestant Westminster Confession of 1646 (not an Anglican document since the Restoration) states: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all.”
Its core proposition on human sexuality is “Any refusal to follow the biblical teaching that the only appropriate context for sexual activity is the exclusive lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage violates the created order (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4–6) and endangers salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9).” However, as others have pointed out, this is inconsistent with Anglican acceptance of divorce, and of the remarriage of divorcees with living spouses.
Kigali will never be orthodox for the Church of England, or for the whole Anglican Communion. It is a factional point of view. To the extent that it claims that no other position is acceptable, it is itself heterodox within Anglican tradition and history, even leaving aside what it says about homosexuality."
A reflective Anzac Day to all.
Some years ago on a visit to the Somme, I stumbled upon the place where my grandfather had fought and was wounded. A serene park now but a place of nightmarish horror then. It was an experience he lived with for the rest of his life. Though he married a devout Christian, he could make no sense of faith or religion. But God knows our hearts better than we do ourselves, and we can always hope in His mercy.
Pax et bonum
Thank you for responses!
It is indeed ANZAC Day and I am not long returned from our Cathedral Square where the Dawn Service was held for the first time since 2010, with our Citizens War Memorial newly restored and resisted outside the fences enclosing the construction site which is our Cathedral - prayers led, William, by Catholic and Anglican clergy!
BW: not sure that I am quite on the “good riddance” page but I do think that if there is to be departure we have arrived at a time when it should take place: to diss all Instruments is surely a declaration of separation.
Mark: I am pondering whether to ask whether our ACANZP might write to Kazimba but I am inclined to think he won’t listen to words from those on his Anglican “blacklist”!
"Godspeed and good riddance!" Lol
BW, you made me laugh, quite an accomplishment re Gafcon :)
"Out is out," ... "In is in."
Good. They give me no joy with their constant condemnations.
I'm determined to hold to this...
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~final verse from “Mysteries, Yes”, by Mary Oliver
"Good riddance." Ah, feel the love.
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of thee'."
Well, it can if it's a liberal Anglican. But how strange that the 500 year old history of Anglicanism should sputter to an end because the dying wing of it wants to bless what Scripture rejects.
But since the Church of England began over sex, maybe not so strange. Meanwhile, I am told that in England the big evangelical congregations are furious with Welby and are redirecting their giving, which will cause bankruptcies in dioceses. All Souls Langham Place and St Helen's Bishopsgate are apparently in conversations with Foley Beach. So it isn't just "Good riddance " to those benighted Africans you never meet, it's the neighbour in your street as well.
And so the agony that tore apart the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA and has torn apart the United Methodists has come to Mother England. Was it worth it?
Pax et bonum,
'Particularly disturbing is to read all the antagonism to the Instruments because some gay Anglicans wish to marry but NOT ONE WORD AGAINST THE UGANDAN PRIMATE who as recently as his Easter message, here, publicly supported the proposed legislation in Uganda's parliament which could lead to the execution of gays.'
This is truly horrific. As the parent of a beautiful lesbian daughter, who is the mother of my two grandchildren, I can't view this sort of thing dispassionately.
Well, Tim, how do you feel about the imminent execution of a man in Singapore for trafficking a kilo of cannabis? Perhaps taking "recreational" drugs is a human right too (a lot of people in Canada and New Zealand believe that). And there's a lot of money to be made out of weed - or at least Colorado thinks so. But Singapore not so much.
The message I take from this is, first, drug smugglers and users should stay away from Singapore and same-sex couples should leave Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana etc off their tourist trail. And Christians probably shouldn't hand out Bibles in Mecca either (though I'm not above smuggling them ...).
So, as you know, there's really a whole raft of issues that divide the world.
Second, it seems in some ways America is beginning to lose its cultural - and political - grip over Africa and Asia. The Obama administration certainly pressured poor African countries like Malawi over homosexuality and the US embassy in Kabul flew the Pride flag. But the international decline of the US under Biden and the ignominy of Afghanistan mean these "western cultural values" are not cutting it like they used to.
Pax et bonum
Thank you for your comment you posted in response to Tim's comment.
I am not going to publish it.
With respect to "reason" it, arguably, is publishable.
With respect to "pastoral care" I find it "off the point" Tim is making.
That point is that it is horrific think that (a) any government, anywhere, would contemplate execution for people who are homosexual (b) that any Anglican prelate (or any other Christian prelate) would openly, publicly support such a move; and (c) it is particularly horrific to reflect on such a matter when one's own kin are homosexual.
Drawing analogy (as your submitted comment does) to how some countries envisage punishing drug smugglers misses that point, which, first and foremost is a concern for Uganda homosexuals, not for tourists.
'Drug smugglers'???!!! I'm doing my best imitation of a Roy Kent snarl right now!†
...and (d) not a word about this is spoken at a Christian conference where the Ugandan archbishop and bishops are present, yet rapturous worship is had around confessing the sovereignty and lordship of Christ.
Thank you for your response, Peter. I don't have any firsthand experience of Uganda, but I do wonder if the proposed law and its draconian penalties (President Museveni hasn't signed it) is more rhetorical in intent, a chance for politicians to showboat their hostility to western cultural and political pressures on Uganda. John Sandeman's long account of the bill in his blog describes some of the political infighting in the land that has gone on for years in Uganda over homosexuality between Museveni and the parliament. I note also that there hasn't been an execution in Uganda since 2003, although there are over 400 convicted murderers under sentence of death in Ugandan prisons. Uganda retains the death penalty on the books but in practice doesn't exercise it, even for murder.
Whether any prelates, Catholic or Anglican, have expressed their views privately, I don't know. But it is notable that a number of African and Asian countries are moving in a more anti-western direction in their criminal laws, especially where Islam is a significant cultural component. It's notable that Indonesia's parliament recently reformed its criminal law, making all pre-marital and extra-marital sex a criminal offence liable to a year or more in prison. That's a law that would criminalise most of the western world.
Pax et bonum,
God allows all of us to worship freely with unrecognised sin. We do it all the time!
Feeling the snarl!
Glad to have made you laugh, but I wonder whether you read 7:18 backward as "Good riddance and Godspeed."
African churches are not branch offices of the modern West. They are still transforming their traditional spirituality into Christianity, much as say the Armenian and Georgian churches did on the edge of the ancient Roman world. It is exciting to see this happening in our own day.
Personally, I wouldn't seek African solutions to Western problems or give unsolicited Western advice on African culture. Nor, where states are still weak, corrupt, and illiberal, could I pick the battles that bishops should fight. To Anglicans especially, a certain local discretion is part of the point of having them.
They should do what they have to do to get a unified and faithful African communion. If the Anglican one is truly an obstacle to this, then of course they should go.
We might note, re recent comments above, that the Kigali Commitment was drafted by a group of mostly white Anglicans [Sydney, North America, Europe to the fore] and reflect on what they might mean about who is calling the shots in what is, on at least one level, a turf war for control of the entity known as the Anglican Communion.
Members of the Conference Statement Committee:
Chair – Rt Rev Dr Michael Stead – Australia
Ven Kara Hartley – Australia
Rev Canon Dr Mark Thompson – Australia
Rev Anne Kennedy – Anglican Church in North America
Rt Rev Sammy Morrison – Chile
Rev Tim Anderson – Ireland
Rev Andrew Symes – Anglican Network in England
Rt Rev Dapo Asaju – Nigeria
Rev Canon Dr John Senyonyi – Uganda
Rt Rev Alfred Olwa – Uganda
Mrs Felicity Stead – Secretary
Rev Nigel Fortescue – Secretary
(from here: https://anglican.ink/2023/04/21/kigali-gafcon-closing-press-statement/ )
Hi Bowman, tbh I think for the most part I was selfishly thinking about me! Their language triggers memories of my first two decades of evangelical christianity. Speaking for myself, honestly/ungraciously, "good riddance" works fine on its own. I deplore the evangelicalism I was brought up in and Gafcon seems little different to that. Their strident criticisms, always worded in language familiar to me, made me doubt and second-guess the progress I've made. From now on I'm taking no notice of them. Enough!
From the beginning, GAFCON has been a confluence of three separable discontents--
(a) Non-Western, and especially African, bishops want koinonia centered on their own realities that is less buffeted by tempests in the North Atlantic teapots.
(b) Repristinators of Edward VI Anglicanism want a stable magisterium over against today's deracinated militants.
(c) Sydney wants power. Or at least influence.
Each faction severally and sincerely finds innovation on That Topic disagreeable, but uses the alliance against that as a means to its own ends.
Whether such motivation is cynical depends on whether the ends are actually coherent. You can guess better than I whether Sydney could actually enforce the theology of the Tudors in the whole global south and bits of the churches on the pond. Sinners in the hands of an angry Oz?
Personally, I think that sensible criticisms lie behind (a) and (b), but that GAFCON is a bad package for solutions. A better one, as I have said, is a more polycentric communion in which prelates who are not primates rotate in the presidency of regions defined loosely by continent (Africa), ocean (North Atlantic), or both (Asia and Antipodes). As in the past, the ABC would still preside at Lambeth Conferences, but these might be less often convened in the British Isles.
This solves (a) by giving Southern bishops what they want.
It addresses the deracination of (b) by stimulating bottom-up curiosity about the regional reception of Anglican commonalities.
It solves (c) by giving the ACA a place in the regional rota equal to that of the ACANZP, the CSI, etc.
And for happy warriors? https://youtu.be/KnmIoF_2Q4Y
Of course, nothing happens according to plan or counterplan, even if adopted. But this sketch suggests that the present impasse was not inevitable and is not necessarily the end.
"tempests in the North Atlantic teapots"
"Sinners in the hands of an angry Oz"
Personally, I have no problem with Kigali breaking free from Canterbury, as Canterbury once did from Rome. Great, just don't call yourself Orthodox Anglican, or scapegoat gay people in the process. The latter is truly horrific/bad faith e.g. Uganda.
It doesn't solve the problem of power and authority, though, or the location of spiritual truth. It doesn't solve the problem of oppression and diversity, it just hands it on to gay people, or to those within the Gafconian Communion who can't submit to the bible as a self-interpreting, infallibly-true 'Paper Pope'.
Welcome back, Mark.
Nothing has happened until primates who lead churches do it. The roster + Peter's posted at 7:26 may lack ecclesiological principles but because it also lacks ecclesial principals the declaration may stir the pot without being implemented.
From the St Louis Affirmations to the present, this movement has indulged a taste for hyperbolic insult and narcissistic grandiosity at big meetings. GAFCON bishops with dioceses can agree with these sentiments without doing anything differently. Or they can be acting in ways somewhat ahead of agreed statements. To put it mildly, canonical order has not been a habit of the Continuum.
Nor has enforcement of regularity been a practice of the Communion. Yet because bishops cannot network with saboteurs or discern with propagandists, Lambeth Conferences are somewhat degraded by even the prospect of their participation.
By the rules most of the world's Christians follow, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conferences have intrinsic authority. Bishops talk to bishops because they are figures of unity in the Body.
In the early and middle C20, ABCs convened Lambeth Conferences that believed that ecumenism had been commanded by God. With respect to other traditions, these Conferences set useful ground rules for Anglican churches developing bilateral relations, and oversaw collective bargaining on behalf of most Anglican churches. As I showed yesterday, The Episcopal Church has found this useful in its own ecumenical work.
Apart from that and similar work by the Church of England, what else has been accomplished by the Communion apparatus?
Historians a century hence may conclude that when archbishops and conferences began to institutionalize themselves into a supranational organization with members, representative bodies, resolutions against and then for birth control, etc it gave too many hostages to fortune for a tradition that had not resolved the tensions among its theological tribes.
Indeed, all of our ecumenical partners have pointed out that they were troubled by the discrepancy between the agreeable high ecclesiology of the official ecumenists and a more fissiparous strain they saw in daily life that styles the primate of all England as the realm's "Chief Presbyter." And indeed, these are the pot on the stove that is always about to boil over, the North Korea that is always threatening war, the poker player who is always bluffing.
Is the very faction that has held back the only work that the ABC and Lambeth Conferences actually and necessarily do now threatening to leave them alone for good? Bad for the ACO, probably; bad for the Commonwealth, maybe; but good for the ecumenical Body, certainly.
Call the bluff.
Impressive list of Sydney Anglicans channelling the spirit of Gafcon there, Peter.
With all this sabre-ratthlling and claims to higher truth, observing my own tendencies to grandiosity and righteousness, I'd like to make a plea for uncertainty.
Bowman, triple expresso as I'm about to quote Deepk Chopra. William, you might need the smelling salts...
"Dr Chopra, van we or can we not know the truth about God!
I think in a certain state of awareness, where we can experience deep stillness within us, we can get a great taste for it. But I don't think we can ever in the relative know the truth, unless we embrace our own uncertainty and take that leap of faith and say I trust the unknown because of what I've experienced. But you know, my faith doesn't come from a book."
Yes, I was making one. How did you know?
Ecclesiology is lower truth. Easy to know. Applied by maybe a billion or so. Useful if your religion does groups.
Something rattled, but we don't hear horses.
And if we ever do, which way will they be going?
What happened after 7:59 and 8:39?
What has Varanasi to do with Jerusalem?
We do groups.
Maybe it's just caffeine, but I expect each of the several factions to eventually get what it wants in a way that it did not expect.
Mark, have I mentioned Arthur Green? Hearty Neo-Hasidic Monism. You might like this--
It might be Varanasi -
or Pendle Hill.
Or the cleft in the rock.
Stillness is a cloud of witnesses.
I am at a loss to understand how ++Foley Beach can be so understanding of Uganda culture, the predicament of the ++Uganda living out his faith in the tricky and trying circumstances of life there, and so little understanding of culture, er, closer to his Western home!!!!!!!
I am also at a loss to know why it is so difficult to acknowledge the challenges of context which the Uganda church faces [I acknowledge them too] and gently ask why ++Uganda cannot dissociate himself and his church from the capital punishment aspect of the bill.
Overnight, were hearing reports of outbreaks of sudden stillness
Across southern Kigali
And Winchester Cathedral!
Due to the nature of the internet,
We can't confirm or deny.
Beth Keith, Is liberal theology dead? A nice primer.
"I will preach only homilies that are born from my experience. I will never preach sermons that demand merely, as so many do, that we worship Dear Leader, as if broadcast from loudspeakers in Pyongyang...
Why do we give in to this temptation to ‘spin’, to big ourselves up?...
As a minister I have only one message really, and it’s that we all have Christ within—the divine core like a pilot light on a gas stove. We begin to get glimpses of the Divine when we start to know ourselves through self-examination."
Thanks for the Rabbi Green recommendation Bowman. I do appreciate your tips. I found the Rabbi too speedy for me, like he'd had several triple espressos before the lecture.
But I've wen near this topic, somewhat, this weekend, lulling (poetically, not scientifically you understand) over a quote I came across from John Polkinghorne:
"the nearest analogy in the physical world [to God] would be… the Quantum Vacuum."
Yes, as a coherent body of thought, liberal theology-- the orthodoxy of my great-grandparents' generation-- expired when I was young. Beth Keith chronicles the facts recounted from time to time here at ADU by persons of very different theological positions.
Since theological movements come and go, that is neither a surprise nor a failure. Apart from history and biography, what's interesting about liberal theology after its demise is that the funeral for it never ends. Militant mourners do not go home; rabid haters show up to kick the corpse.
Why? Partly, the Grand Topic: what *is* the Body after the end of the alignment of secular civil power with the visible Body of Christ that was called Christendom? In the present left-right polarization, those who do not have a solid answer to this question default to treating a wordle of associations with liberal theology as a marker of which irrational aversions are muddling their thinking. Today, a position for or against liberal theology conveys not a take on actual C 19 mediation-theology, but a choice of present day enemies that might make at least political sense if the Body were still established by the jailer and the hangman.
Partly too, there are aging institutions and tribes for whom liberal theology was the keystone of identity because it was in the air when they were founded. The useful ones will continue with new mottoes under their shields, but until those are devised they will call themselves theological liberals by inertia.
Why can't liberal theology climb out of the grave, if not now then in the future? After all, some words of that wordle are still slogans today. And if one speaks from the blind spots of those who hate it, then what is that if not liberal theology? Might a resuscitated liberal theology do for deracinated progressives what calvinism sometimes does for deracinated evangelicals? Simply, can liberal theology continue as a mere ideology?
Maybe. Since a grandiose model of Noah's Ark has been built as a pilgrimage site in Tennessee, it may be unwise to insist that any theology cannot have some afterlife in nostalgia or churchmanship.
But religious ideas compete, gently or violently, in a marketplace, and ours is a global bazaar. Serious shoppers choose traditions with the philosophical and theological depth to resource their journey over churchmanship that seems merely ideological.
A musician friend of mine who wanted more discipline and spirituality than he could find in the liberal Methodism of his family ricocheted from a fundamentalist street mission into the regular prayer of Sufi Islam. Another, a psychotherapist from a family of Reform Jews, followed his desire for an earthy, experiential mysticism to worship of the goddess Kali in the Kashmiri tradition of Trika Shaivism.
Fragments of the old liberal theology gave each the spiritual aspiration that he followed, but they gave neither a working philosophy and theology for spirituality proper to YHWH. In the final centuries of Christendom, churches.and their neighboring shuls took the form and matter of belief in God for granted in a way that nobody does today. This is why post-liberal and ecumenical theologians of the present Body are usually doing *ressourcement* and are often cheerfully dogmatic.
Thanks for your own links, Mark
I hope it's clear that I am not unfriendly to flights from the alone to the Alone as such. Merkaba spirituality is explicit in Ezekiel and St Paul, and maybe implicit in St John.
On the ground, I resist churchly unreliability that bruises souls into *disorganized attachment* to God. Very often, the unreliability is in the service of some ideology that has displaced the Body's authentic calling.
As old monasteries have walls against brigands and pirates, churches need at least hedges.
For your mulling, Mark, a psychoanalytic postscript on ceremonies.
As already noted here, the procession of psychologists in the Viennese tradition with a mystical temper is rather long. Conversely, the monastic texts canonized in the Philokalia use *therapeia* to describe the *healing of the passions* preliminary to divine illumination. These traditions are not identical, but they have family resemblance, and sometimes, as when Dan Merkur reads the English contemplative Walter Hilton, we seem to be in both houses at once.
Ana-Marie Rizzuto, a Catholic psychoanalyst, argued that the father force that Sigmund Freud described is the seed in every person of the knowledge of God. Implicitly, knowledge of God improves through the lifespan as that preconscious force enables more wholehearted worship of him.
About any ceremonial in churches, this bids the question: is this action modifying souls' preconscious knowledge of God? We might expect that the prayers of the people in the eucharist would help some with harsh fathers to know preconsciously that this Father gives bread not stones and fish not snakes.
Ceremonial action in churches requires an ethos of trust that goes a bit beyond conscious truthfulness.
To be cheerful when we are dogmatic, we want to understand the preconscious self's response to it.
A disembodied brain in a vat could not remove its obstacles to divine illumination.
What you called the GGafcon statement committee is in fact, the drafting committee, an important distinction in that this committee did not write the statement by themselves. They sent out a draft mid-week which delegates voted on section by section, garnered 500 plus submissions anmf especially on contentious matters had input from primates, which given the way Gafcon is structured has the statement passed by them.
Yes, it was a statement of the whole conference and many hands contributed, but it is an interesting composition of a committee, whatever its precise title and role.
While you are, so to speak, here, do you have any observation(s) to make about the statement tearing into the CofE, ABC, Instruments (because two people wish to marry) and saying nothing to Uganda (which, if those same people live in Uganda, may execute them if a proposed law is passed, heartily supported by ++Uganda)?
Some observers of GAFCON 2023 have also noted an interview of ++Beach (The Living Church) where he seems to commit to cultural relativity when he refuses to make comment on developments in Uganda which is not his country or culture to comment on!
I have a piece on "the sexual politics of Gafcon" in the works, that, to some extent at least addresses the question Peter raises.
I will keep an eye out for it.
John, were you and Dominic able to raise the strong ethical concerns of Christians worldwide with the Archbishop of Uganda? How did he respond?
John, could you help us undertstand why, for many at Gafcon it seems, the execution and violent suppression of homosexual peoples in Uganda is not the "salvation issue" that an English priest blessing a loving relationship between two same sex peoples appears to be.
"Ceremonial action in churches requires an ethos of trust that goes a bit beyond conscious truthfulness."
When my (now) wife, who hails from a rural NZ Baptist background, came to her first Easter vigil with me, and saw the priest and acolytes suddenly appearing out of darkness in gleaming white gowns ....our vicar caught sight of her face and said - it's just me, David; I'm not a vampire.
"To be cheerful when we are dogmatic, we want to understand the preconscious self's response to it."
Dogma makes me most uncheerful these days - how many thick hides cover God?
"A disembodied brain in a vat could not remove its obstacles to divine illumination."
Varanasi believes that the body is a great gift for erasing karmic impressions that cloud the Self.
"On the ground, I resist churchly unreliability that bruises souls into *disorganized attachment* to God. Very often, the unreliability is in the service of some ideology that has displaced the Body's authentic calling.
As old monasteries have walls against brigands and pirates, churches need at least hedges."
This is crucially important to me, too, Bowman, if I get your drift.
As you may have heard, I'm currently experimenting with "unprogrammed (Quaker) worship", with mixed results.
Is silent waiting in the light all we minimally need for an "organized attachment"? I think so, that's been my experience to a large degree. There's something essential about waiting on the light for both direct personal contact with God and wise discernment of that experience. But there's so much scripture, hymns, and liturgy inside me - so much dogma too I suppose - there was so much inside George Fox, that I don't really know. I don't know.
I hope that John's reporting sheds some light on why Gafconians (1) still have not produced a serious and persuasive account of how churches in liberal democracies should respond pastorally to SSM, and (2) have preferred schism and disorder to advocacy in the unity commended by the scriptures, the creeds, and the Church of England.
Absent some such account, not of their own sentiments, but of a reasonable and factual policy engaging other minds, it is impossible to take Gafconian invective at face value. One can be critical of the ways Western churches have responded to SSM here and there and still not see allies or kindred spirits or even integral Christians in foreigners who lazily denounce them.
On the face of them, Gafconian actions, both negative and positive, suggest a desire to be perceived as Anglican without responsible membership in the discerning and collaborative Communion organic to that tradition. Negatively, this explains their godless invective and schism. Positively, this explains their preference for staged shows over discerning conferences and their several transgressions of catholic order. The Gafconian defense of their blasphemy and misconduct is that Anglican tradition should be redefined to fit their preferences.
Out is out .Taking the two realities together, churches in the West need a new frame for their relations with churches like the Gafconian ones. Ecumenical relations that explore differences and seek reconciliation are more realistic than koinonia in a shared tradition.
But we know from the history of such relations that it is difficult to pursue them with churches that (a) are embedded in unfree societies with illiberal states, and (b) have not fully understood and articulated their own theological minds. However once those conditions are met, as they were after the Orthodox escaped Ottoman domination, they may bring enormous value to global Christianity.
Put another way, the Communion's present vision of national churches throughout the world with a common faith and English practice makes sense in England itself and in societies shaped by English settlers comfortable with modernity. But it is too small for descendants of settlers who are anti-modern (eg ACNA, Sydney) and for those in whom the common faith coexists with a not-,at-all English culture (eg Africa). We may expect new wine from these constituencies but the wineskin to hold has not been made and they already burst the one we have.
If John's reporting answers our questions, that would be interesting and we would be grateful. But it may matter more as a first draft of the history that the future will need to make sense of our present and its perplexities.
Bowman, progressive ideology never stands still, it is always moving toward the horizon of Total Human Liberation, as the relentless Hegelian Weltgeist discovers and realizes itself through the unending world-process. Isn't Hegelianism really the underlying motive in Episcopalian theo-philosophy? The ignorant dogs may bark but the enlightened caravan moves on. Your Episcopal Church has already made up its mind what it thinks about 'same sex marriage': it is all for it and enacts it with enthusiasm (even if heterosexuals don't seem that interested in marriage any more).
Isn't the actual issue du jour for you transgenderism? I don't think you have yet expressed a view on "That Topic" but it's very obvious where your church is going with that one. Are you on board with it? Do you back the US Justice Dept against the new Tennessee law?
Pax et bonum,
I have been writing about the interaction between conservative Christians and LGBTQIA persons for something like a decade and a half. Somewhere in there I believe I have made a start on the topics you raise. Serious topics require serious long-term consideration, and yes I have tried to do this.
It is important that people investigate seriously what others are saying. Here are a couple of samples of my past writing/editing.
This story came about when i met with the president of ACOn which is the peak body of LGBTQIA communities in Sydney and agreed to put his suggestions of how conservative Christians to the readers of an evangelical paper I edited
David Bennett has just been appointed to a key committee in the lead up to the Church of England General; Synod session in July as that church works out how to go forward with the new Praters ofb Love and Faith. He preached at Westminster Abbey recently. This is the story of how a gay activist became Christian and his interactions with the church.
https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/david-bennett-a-young-man-comes-out/ (I have wrtten of David many times, but this one is his voice.)
Dealing pastorally with transgender people has been a major topic in the Sydney Synod https://www.eternitynews.com.au/australia/when-transgender-people-come-to-church/
And here's a facinating case study from Sydney's Inner West https://www.eternitynews.com.au/in-depth/welcoming-a-transgender-woman-into-our-church-a-true-story/ The author was the media officer at the Kigali Conference, this story was wrtien while I was her editor.
And if you want to see my response to criticism of the Kigali conference please go here. https://theothercheek.com.au/gafcon-q-and-a
John, you write:
"First, but briefly, in upholding human dignity and speaking against demeaning those we disagree with, the Kigali Commitment is a (mild) reproof of the Ugandan laws."
'A mild reproof' - totally incommensurate with the issue of systematic murder of an subpopulation based on their sexuality.
In what moral universe is a mild reproof good enough?
Did the Ugandans present feel mildly reproofed?
"Many readers might wish for a stronger or more direct statement, but the chief advantage of the Kigali Commitment is that the Ugandans were part of the discussions and, therefore, more likely to hear the arguments for treating LGBTQIA persons with dignity."
Of course this is entirely dishonest. Gay people - as well as "revisionists" - are an extremely useful scapegoat for a "reset communion" in identity formation mode. **The majority of the gay community following this issue do not feel treated with dignity**. They feel vilified and scapegoated, and their friends and parents feel disturbed and outraged.
While the Ugandan development deserves our serious concern and strongest reproach, let us not forget the theology of same-sex relationships as "a salvation issue" (for which there is no Kigali 'mild reproof', only constant affirmation and doubling down). As a psychotherapist, I see the toxic affects such beliefs have on people - a sense of spiritual doom and self-hared that goes on for lifetimes, sometimes for generations. It is one of the most insidious, toxic forms of spiritual abuse - 'I'm going to hell, God is a fearful, condemning presence' gets into every cell, every corner of the mind.
Mark, The point of my calling it a "mild reproof" was to underline the inadequacy of the statement. But it can be said of the Gafcon delegates involved that they were prepared to face the Ugandan leaders face to face. As many experts have pointed out, firing strongly worded comments from western capitals is ineffective, and might cause the Ugandans to enforce these laws.
What has your province done to effectively interact with the Ugandans?
Do you know how many people have been executed in Uganda for ANY offence in the past ten years? For murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated rape etc?
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
There are over 400 people on death row in Uganda and probably none of them will be executed. The proposed law is grandstanding for local consumption. So while it looks bad in western eyes, it really doesn't signify what westerners think it does. It is better to learn how Ugandan society actually works, and to appreciate the significance of the Uganda Martyrs in that country's history, as well as the interplay between Muslims and Christians.
Also to consider the pressure the United States State Department tries to put on African Christian countries to promote 'pride' etc - things it wouldn't dare try with African Muslim countries.
Fings ain't always what they seem.
Pax et bonum
"Here are a couple of samples of my past writing/editing."
Thank you so much, John, this will be helpful.
"It is important that people investigate seriously what others are saying."
Yes, but let us emphasize *investigate* and *seriously*, being cautious about *others* and *saying*. That Topic has been a classic polarization with simpletons at extremes shouting over the heads of the more judicious. Going forward, a necessary step toward reconciliation in the ecumene will be listening instead to those who hear quieter voices on all sides with less narcissism and more empathy. Unity is the Lamb's victory over the happy warriors.
What I am very keen to read in your forthcoming post is some form of apologia-come-explanation for why GAFCON 2023 saw fit to explicitly condemn a number of churches in the Communion, along with the Instruments of the Communion, while (noting your comment above) at best implicitly condemning Uganda (archbishop, church, country), and apparently choosing to have a lovely, gracious face to face conversation instead of referencing them in a statement or well published speech.
Why is GAFCON so willing to condemn publicly, textually some and not others?
Further, though this is not an explanation you need to give, since it is up to ++Foley Beach, it is being noted by some observers that when pressed on the issues above in an interview by The Living Church, ++Beach resorted to cultural relativism to explain why he wasn’t willing to criticise ++Uganda … yet “cultural relativism” is one of the key charges made against some of us, elsewhere in the Communion!?
In other words, I find neither your comments here to date, nor William’s above, to get to the heart of the matter of whether GAFCON is a consistent critic of what it sees as wrong in Anglicanland today.
Or possibly GAFCON is a simulacrum, a loose alliance united by a common object of hatred but not actually sharing ecclesiology in Christ with the depth to simultaneously criticize and replace catholic order, church accommodation of SSM, and church accommodation of sexual persecution. The wizards of Oz may have conjured an illusion, pleasant to some, horrific to others, but just an illusion all the same.
Peter, if you are puzzled about these things, all you have to do is ask your neighbour Bishop Jay Behan to give you an inside explanation of what he thinks are the dynamics. I think he was in Kigali and will understand the issues. Liberal churches in the west are of course used to issuing press releases and criticising governments in public, especially conservative ones. Perhaps that isn't the style of African (or Asian) churches. Many westerners do live in bubbles and assume everyone should think the way thry do. But as I said, the legislation is largely grandstanding for home consumption. Not even murderers are executed in Uganda.
It looks to me in any case that the Gafcon churches - about 80% of the world's Anglicans- have said a clear goodbye (if not "good riddance", Bowman) to Canterbury and the old liberal Anglican churches of the west and are making their own way without the colonial baggage of England.
But Bowman shouldn't hold his breath hoping for "reconciliation in the ecumene" because his own denomination has fully embraced same-sex "marriage" and in its last General Convention signed up fully to the transgender movement. So this Bud's for you, Bowman. Your denomination has made up its mind and it isn't going to change it. It must follow the ineluctable path of the Swedenborgians, the Shakers abd other bearers of New Light.
Meanwhile, I am told by acquaintances in England that the evangelicals in the Church of England are in open revolt and dioceses like London are facing bankruptcy. What a can of worms Welby opened!
Pax et bonum
Gosh, William. You think it's ok that these people are held on death row rather than actually being executed?
This is hopeless.
John, if you think the Kigali statement is inadequate I hope you find the courage to say that. The challenge of internal diversity - cultural, theological, *sexual* - is something the new "reset communion", like other Anglican provinces of the world, will eventually have to face square on. The question of authority (oppression, diversity abuse) is not solved by beheading Canterbury.
Your comment does not address the inconsistency of Kigali making a statement re those they consider to out of line in the West and no statement about those out of line elsewhere.
You can be sure I will be asking +Jay about this when I next meet him.
I also express my concern that while you agreeably (and Catholicly) demur from wishing people to be executed for crime, you seem unperturbed by the prospect of incarceration for being gay.
I am glad you agree that the evangelical forces that promoted anti-gay legislation in Uganda was nor Anglican,.The "family" is not and Anglican group. Your earlier comments, using Episcopal sources implied some guilt by association.
We should be willing to look at evidence rather than carefully crafted commentary by church politicians IMJHO. I am glad you have nuanced your earlier comments. It is possible to support the civil rights for LGBTQIA persons while taking a conservative religious position which is where I sit. OIt is not always a comfortable position, one gets flak from both sides.
In describing the Kigali Commitment as a "mild reproff" of the Ugandans I was pointing to its inadequacy. A much stronger comment was called for in my opinion.
But I think it is fair to ask again what has your province done to engage relationally with the Ugandans, and I ask of Peter, as an Anglican Bishop, what have you and your fellow members of your house of Bishops done?
first, I am raising the question whether we have a plan to say something;
secondly, I actually understand that making such statements is tricky (whether one is GAFCON or ACANZP -not least, in my view re ACANZP, because I wonder if ACANZP, already cast as some kind of enemy of the gospel, would have any impact on Uganda, and thus the question might arise about how much effort is worth devoting to such a statement);
thirdly, my specific concern is that the Conference had energy to castigate parts of the Communion etc, but not to call Uganda to account, so the question of consistency arises for an organization which does rather make a point of being virtuous;
fourthly, I acknowledge and appreciate that you are strongly implying you would personally like to have seen something stronger than mild reproof and I continue to look forward to your post!
Peter: yes, I am sure a chat with Jay Behan would answer at least some of your questions.
Meanwhile, wre you going to condemn the Anglican Church in Egypt (where I think you have worked) for not publicly opposing laws against homosexuality in Egypt? Or Anglicans in Ghana?
Will you condemn the Church of Pakistan for the same reason?
Or Anglicans in the Palestinian territories?
Or Anglicans in Malaysia and Singapore?
In any case, the real issue is that Anglicanism has finally gone the way of the British Empire and Anglican churches are now an association and not a communion taking orders from head office. This was inevitable once Anglicans broke ranks over women's ordination and then completely failed to discipline over homosexuality, despite years of conferences.
Now the Church of England is set on the same course as the Episcopal Church in America. This has all the morbid fascination of a train crash.
Mark: like the majority of people, I have no problem in principle with the death penalty for murder. It is not unjust to execute a cold-blooded murderer after a fair trial. Catholic teaching has been clear about this from the beginning. Problems about the death penalty are all about practice, not principle. I know what true justice for Brenton Tarrant would have been.
Pax et bonum
Yes I've been asking Peter if the local bishops will be speaking to the Ugandan ones, not that I know how that works. If +Peter was spending a conference with ++Uganda, and joining a new communion with him, I'd be certainly asking him the questions I'm asking you.
my point is that to talk with Uganda, it has to be talking "with" not "to". Which I think means travelling to Kampala.
Dear William and John,
John: let’s keep focused on the primary question I am raising. GAFCON made a statement, it made no visit to Canterbury or Kampala or Wellington. In that statement it saw fit to critique one part of the Communion but not another. It appears inconsistent. You appear to agree but have yet to make a full post about that. I remain genuinely interested in what you will say.
William: it is not helpful to morph discussion from the question of an Anglican Archbishop endorsing a law which would see execution for gay Ugandans into whether or not ACANZP is going to tackle all jurisdictions in which laws exist against homosexuality. It is reasonable to ask the question I am asking of the Archbishop and to ask why a recent statement critiquing one part of the Communion is not consistently critiquing another part. It is not reasonable to ask a church to take on multiple jurisdictions around the world for laws that church disagrees with since in today’s world that is a task verging on the infinite!
Peter: not helpful or not convenient? I repeat, nobody is going to be executed for homosexual acts in Uganda if even murderers are not executed there. This is grandstanding by local politicians. Part of it, I think, is to see off a threat to Christian communities in the north of the country from Islam. You are no doubt aware, having worked in Egypt, that Muslim activists in Africa often attack Anglicans there because of pro-homosexual voices in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church of the USA. The Muslim activists say that Anglicans want to encourage homosexuality in Africa. Justin Welby admitted as much when he said Christians in Africa might die because of the LLF prayers of the C of E (nevertheless, he said the C of E *must do this).
Anyway, you are not comparing like with like. Political opinions are one thing, but chudch *actions are another. The issue is not whether an African prelate supports a proposed law (which is a political opinion - and Anglican prelates have supported all kinds of political opinions over the ages, like Anglican bishops for Mugabe in Zimbabwe or K. H. Ting's support for the CCP in China or TEC's enthusiasm for abortion in the US) but whether the Anglican Churches in TEC, Canada, Wales and Scotland have changed Christian doctrine on the nature of marriage by introducing and performing same-sex marriages in their churches.
You presumably think that there is indeed such a thing as same-sex marriage for same-sex attracted Christians and that Anglican churches should be conducting these? This is what I understand you to be saying but plcorrect me if I am wrong.
Pax et bonum
"It is possible to support the civil rights for LGBTQIA persons while taking a conservative religious position which is where I sit."
Hi John, I sure hope genuine support is possible in a spirit of grace.
But with regard to Gafcon I feel no confidence:
In the past, two Gafcon Archbishops have referred to homosexuality as a virus in the church!
And this from ++Uganda after the CoE synod vote to permit gay blessings, in reference to the Kigali meeting:
"We will be there with many Bible-believing Archbishops, Bishops, and Anglicans from all over Africa and the world. These are the ones who have not bowed their knee to Baal. (1 Kings 19.18)"
~So others who also name Jesus as Lord but don't share *their* view are idolatrous? It's abundantly clear why +Peter wonders, "..if ACANZP, already cast as some kind of enemy of the gospel, would have any impact on Uganda,.."
Sadly what stands out for me about Gafcon leaders' public discussion and statements is often a lack of love and grace, and a failure to appreciate how antagonistic their statements come across.
I found wisdom via your Eternity News website in the shape of a quote you'd highlighted in 2019 from a Synod speech by Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier:
"When we are in relationship with people in our families or congregations we manage different opinions and identities very differently."
Your distinction between political views of an archbishop and other views is somewhat curious to me coming from an exponent of natural law which, if it means anything at all, means there is coherence or should be when a prelate of the church speaks on any matter.
You are, frankly, avoiding the simple fact that, irrespective of the reality of executions occurring or not, an archbishop has spoken without reservation on the matter of executions for gay persons in support of a law which could see gay persons executed.
Whatever the determinations of Anglican Communion churches re SSM or SSB (but not SSM) or not, we are all engaging with realities of social change, as are the Catholic bishops of Germany and Belgium with their support for SSB, and it might be kind and respectful of other churches to withhold condemnation and engage more with the question of how social change is engaged with, whether there are distinctions in such engagement between those who seek love and life through civilly provided for marriages and those who promote death through civilly permitted abortions, euthanasia and executions.
Modern life is complicated. GAFCON oversimplifies the reality of today's messy world. A messiness which is superbly illustrated in the interview I have mentioned above when ++Foley Beach had to resort to cultural relativism to avoid actually criticising ++Uganda!
Peter, to be clear, I don't have a dog in this fight as I am not a party to the Church of Uganda or the NZ Anglican Church, just an observer of the scene and a lifelong friend of many NZ Anglicans and Presbyterians. My point, however, was that Anglican archbishops - like Catholics in Ghana and Uganda - have taken all kinds of political views, some I would agree with, others I would oppose, but that is a quite different question from enacting a church's doctrine, especially one that concerns sexual morality and the sacraments. If I were an Orthodox Christian living in Russia, I suspect I wouldn't agree with the Patriarch on the war. But I would be more concerned if he was teaching heresy or the acceptance of sin. And I would probably avoid criticising my church leaders in public - as I imagine I would have, had I lived in Nazi Germany. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. We don't all have the luxury of living in countries which are relatively free in public discourse and where people frankly couldn't care less what churchmen have to say. I doubt it is like that in Uganda and you know it isn't like that in Egypt. In fact, I know a couple of Anglican missionaries in Egypt and their lives could easily be endangered if Islamic fundamentalism returned to that land as happened in the awful time of the Muslim Brotherhood.
I asked you if you thought same-sex marriage was God's will for SSA Christians, as TEC, the Canadian Anglicans and the Scottish Anglicans now affirm, but you have declined to answer. Is that because you really don't know or you prefer not to say? I would really like to know what you think on this issue.
Pax et bonum,
"I repeat, nobody is going to be executed for homosexual acts in Uganda if even murderers are not executed there."
William, there's ZERO certainty about that! After 17 years without a federal execution in the US, the Trump administration resumed executions in July 2020, killing 13 prisoners before he left office which was "more federal executions in the final months of the president’s term than in the previous 67 years combined."
In the article via The Atlantic the writer recalls a Louisiana visit: "I think of my own trip to Angola’s death row, and the men I saw there. I think of what it means to have no control over when or if you will die at the hands of your government. To wait for years, for decades, not knowing when you will get the call from your attorney, but always fearing that the call will come."
Clearly a change in Ugandan politics might activate executions any time and if such change leaned into more obsessive religious extremism I fear homosexuals would likely be the first executed.
Further back in this thread you said to Mark, "Problems about the death penalty are all about practice, not principle."
Really??? I don't know how you can say that, *especially* with respect to the Ugandan situation where the death penalty can be imposed for people's personal consensual activity - as opposed to crime that hurts or injures other people in some way.
Can Anglican provinces speak to each other across the divide in the Anglican Communion? I think we don't actually know right now. We all have serious doubts. But it would seem to me - and from what Mz Liz quotes Phillip Frier on - face-to-face is the way this might happen. So Peter's quibble that Gafcon was not in Kampala is not a substantive point it seems to me. The Ugandan leaders were in Kigali with the rest of us. IF the aim is to change minds, then visiting "the other" is the sensible way to go. Oh, dear I thought I was stating the obvious.
Really, Liz, if Kanishka Raffel's words "do your head in", then you have never understood the words of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11.
Your argument isn't with Kanishka Raffel. It's with St Paul.
Pax et bonum
Pax et bonum, William. I'm not arguing with anyone.. but striving to understand what Truth means in terms of love of God and love of neighbour.
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think in St Pauls time there was no way a married gay couple could turn up at church.. due to no offical recognition for that form of committed relationship.
(At least I can probably take it that you've understood what Kanishka Raffel said in the same way I do - which was what my actual question was about!)
So then, re 1 Corinthians 6.9-11, if an already-committed gay couple (who perhaps have been together for years) decide they want to follow Jesus and be baptised and they wish to join with the church in fellowship .. would your response be that before taking the step of baptism they must abandon their marriage and each thereafter stay celibate?
John 3 tells us multiple times that those who believe will not perish, aren't condemned, and have eternal life.
Plus.. Romans 14:4.. Who are you to pass judgment on slaves of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Do ANY of us understand enough about the kingdom of heaven to think we're entitled to lock people out of the kingdom? Jesus condemned the scribes and pharisees for doing just that, in Matt 23:13
Does my head in too, Liz. Pontificating sanctimoniousness has got the church...where?
"Correct me if I'm wrong but I think in St Pauls time there was no way a married gay couple could turn up at church.. due to no offical recognition for that form of committed relationship."
- makes no difference at all. Marriage between free men and slaves or different classes weren't "recognised" either but sexual relationships certainly existed among them. Free men could do sexually whatever they liked (with men or with slave women) but they could not have an affair with a married free woman - at least as far the Lex Iulia was enforced.
"So then, re 1 Corinthians 6.9-11, if an already-committed gay couple (who perhaps have been together for years) decide they want to follow Jesus and be baptised and they wish to join with the church in fellowship .. would your response be that before taking the step of baptism they must abandon their marriage and each thereafter stay celibate?"
- my opinion doesn't matter. What did St. Paul say about some of the church in Corinth? That some had practised homosexuality but did so no longer when they were converted to Christ. Was he right?
"John 3 tells us multiple times that those who believe will not perish, aren't condemned, and have eternal life."
- Quite so. And John 14.15 says. 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments.' True faith isn't about feelings, it's about obedience. St James says, 'The demons believe - and tremble.' That's Christianity 101.
"Plus.. Romans 14:4.. Who are you to pass judgment on slaves of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand."
- Exactly so. If a man of weak faith can only eat vegetables (the subject of Romans 14.1-4), I am not going to condemn him. Heck, he can even come to my barbecues and I'll find a veggie burger for him (some are quite tasty).
Now, on weightier matters: what if a man had abandoned his unsatisfactory marriage and begun an affair with a married woman (unhappy with her marriage as well)? Would you happily accept them ('Who am I to pass judgment?'), maybe crown him as your King and Defender of Faith? Hmm.
Or say a Baptist pastor of many years, a renowned preacher and writer, falls in love with a young man and leaves his wife and children to follow his deep but long suppressed urgings. Do you accept this new couple, quietly agreeing that 'Love is love'? Or would you think there are other things to consider?
"Do ANY of us understand enough about the kingdom of heaven to think we're entitled to lock people out of the kingdom? Jesus condemned the scribes and pharisees for doing just that, in Matt 23:13"
- Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to St Peter to bind and to loose. Was Jesus wrong to do this?
But how do Protestants understand 'the power of the keys'? I imagine life in small sectarian groups can be unbearably intense when everybody is connected through marriage and birth, and discipling one person causes ructions through the whole body. And close-knit groups can easily become tyrannical. Many years ago I met Neville Cooper when they had a farm near Christchurch, and I remember thinking, what a claustrophobic, controlling world. But some would say that about any religious body. Nobody is able to sneak back into Eden.
Pax et bonum,
"Do ANY of us understand enough about the kingdom of heaven to think we're entitled to lock people out of the kingdom?"
Beautifully put, Liz.
We have no idea.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matt 23: 13, in bristling fullness).
Liz, your invoking the kingdom has opened up these frothy thoughts...
While I do see the difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of Putin, when many Christians talk of the Church Versus World it sounds rather spurious to me. I believe there is an inner church - an Invisible Body - rooted in and already ministering the kingdom, but I don't believe that this 'true church' is only, finally, and exclusively administered by outward bishops, priests, a newly minted king, and/or Gafcon bigwigs. And certainly not by the pronouncements of Kanishka Raffel.
What to do with a same-sex couple in your church? Use your own eyes, ears, and heart. Come into presence with them and see how the spirit moves you. Who knows, but I'm pretty sure their sex life will be well down the list of things to attend to. Gosh, you might smile at them. Or ask them to help you with your flat tyre. Why on earth would you ask your bishop for advice (no offense Peter). Grow up. Be a person.
It is dunderhead/immature to appeal to a "law" - either for or against - that is the Church's ruling on same-sex marriage. We need to be extremely local, use our local eyes, ears, and heart to locally discern if this local couple have what it takes to be married and married in this local church.
Surely the inner church, the invisible body, is made flesh in all sorts of outward, local, daily acts - feeding the poor, considering the lavender in our gardens, fetching a glass of milk for a thirsty child. Surely it is always already before us - and in us - spread out across the face of the earth.
The spirit blows where it will - often over our hedges and ruffles.
Does my head in too, Mark and Liz.
Plus, if we're saying this for gay people, why aren't we saying it for divorced and remarried people?
By the way, in the writings of Hippolytus, before a soldier could be enrolled as a catechumen, he had to promise not to kill anyone (!). And judges had to step down, because they would be required to impose the death penalty, which would be wrong for them as Christians.
Funny how selectively we make things 'salvation issues'!
The 'greedy' are also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11. So if a person has two cars or two homes, should they be barred from communion if they refuse to give the extra one away to the needy? I'm curious to hear the answer, as I own two very nice guitars that cost me a considerable amount of money. How greedy do you have to be to be officially considered 'greedy'?
A long way above you ask questions about my views on same sex marriage. To such questions I respond:
- there are many questions about marriage which may or may not have neat answers, and I keep thinking about those answers (sometimes such questions/answers/thinking are expressed here at ADU, for instance, when I muse on the different mainstream answers [Prot, RC, EO] to remarriage after divorce - me being not entirely confident any one tradition has got it right);
- I continue to think about SSM, including, of course, because of the diverse reflections offered here on the matter.
- I am committed to being in a church, and, at this time, leadership in a church, which provides for a degree of exercise of conscience on marriage matters;
- there are various reasons why I am not about to become a Gafconian Anglican nor a Roman Catholic, and one of those reasons is the lack of respect for exercise of conscience on these matters;
- though my personal experience is that Roman Catholics in NZ seem to respect ACANZP's 2018 decision more than Gafcon!
Obedience - to what, William? To the Magisterium's hermeneutics? To a council of sterile men?
Thanks for your response, Peter, it is essential for everyone to keep reflecting on these matters, through Scripture, the undivided Church's tradition of interpretation and a sound Christian philosophy of existence. Pope John Paul's 'Theology of the Body' is the profoundest exploration I know of such a task in recent pastoral theology.
Reading Stephen Evans's book on Kierkegaard and watching Peter Kreeft's online lecture on Kierkegaard vs. Hegel, I was reminded there is a constant temptation to make Christianity easier than it is. As if Jesus had never warned, "Small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life." Who ever said it would be easy?
Mark: Our Lord was not married and didn't have children. I am sure you are not prejudiced against single men and childless people.
Pax et bonum
Liz, only a brief response here because there is really an iceberg under the issues you mention and an iceberg by definition is something most people don't recognise until they hit it.
First, I confess to a fair degree of scepticism and dissatisfaction with much of the social sciences, partly because I was influenced many years ago by Karl Popper's critique of them. Social sciences compare poorly with the hard sciences of laboratory-controlled, replicated investigation in physics, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology etc. I am also influenced by the meta-critique which John Ionnadis of Stanford has made about medical research (see his 2005 paper). And the problem is even worse in the social sciences where convenience sampling, self-selecting, self-reporting, non-replication of results, vague descriptors, and political bias and squabbles about funding can vitiate the whole enterprise.
So I do wonder sometimes about citing personal anecdotes or even papers in mental health - often it seems to me like a game of duelling banjoes. That said, I have to say that suicidality is multi-factorial is because life is multi-factorial and it isn't simply down to stigma and rejection. Rather, suicidality is connected with mental health problems in general, and even in "progressive" gay-affirming places like The Netherlands and Sydney you still find much higher rates of suicide and attempted suicide among male homosexuals in domestic partnerships than you do among married heterosexual men. A 2011 study in liberal secular Denmark found suicidality among men in gay partnerships was eight times higher than among married or formerly married heterosexual men, and twice as high as men who had never married. Being in domestic partnerships seems to make little difference to frequenting gay bars in search of casual sex, or the universal problem of getting old and unattractive. Homosexual men are still men with the libido of men, and that explains why their sexual behaviour and rates of STD infections are completely different from lesbians.
The figues for suicidality among "transgender" people (persons with gender dysphoria) are even worse, and no amount of drastic surgery and hormone treatment will change this,
Make of that what you will. What I make of it is that God has a desigh for marriage, sex and the family, and trying to do an end run round the Creator's design is not going to end happily. This is exactly what the Sexual Revolution (inspired by Freud, Reich and Marcuse) of the last 70 years has attempted to do and the result has not been greater happiness, just more dissatisfaction and more loneliness.
God made men for women and women for men, to tame and control and direct their sexual energies and personalities into creating families.
Yes, the Church should certainly approach this matter with humility and grace: the humility of Christ who submitted his human will to the Father (Philippians 2) and the grace he gives to live God's way in our fallen but redeemed nature.
Pax et bonum,
One point about anecdotes is that they focus attention on a specific person or persons, perhaps someone we know well and love, and wonder whether the church/God will deal kindly with them or not, rather than as a class of people with, perhaps, some kind of "bad stats."
So, for me (and, I suspect, for Liz, Mark etc here) what matters is whether my best friend in the church who is gay could get married with prayerful support from the church; or whether that new couple of people of the same sex who come anew to my church and walk forward to receive communion are going to be turned away by the priest or not.
Your most recent comment simply does not focus on people as persons.
Further, when you write, "God made men for women and women for men, to tame and control and direct their sexual energies and personalities into creating families." you are - you must be aware of this surely - simply not addressing the situation when men find they are not made for women and women find they are not made for men, and thus what are they then to do re "tame and control and direct their sexual energies and personalities ...".
We realise you are going to come back with the one word answer "celibacy" but does that really cut it?
In my brief spell as a member of the NZ Labour Party, I heard Grant Robertson speak in a group of others (Andrew Little, David Parker, Nanaia Mahuta) challenging for the vacant leadership role (Little would win, then hand it onto Ardern - the rest is history).
Having mainly seen politicians in soundbites on TV, Radio etc., experiencing them live gave me a very different feel for them as people. I was surprised at the difference.
Grant was the strongest contender in the room by a long shot - warm, bright, courteous, big-hearted. Such an impressive man.
1. When you write, "I am still uncertain what you believe or if your beliefs are still in ferment.", you are precisely understanding the uncertainties in my mind.
2. All Christians struggle with sexuality, inside and outside of marriage, and being married itself does not solve all problems of desire; but it is a big help. Are we sure enough about the meaning of certain Scriptural texts that we may admit the big help of marriage to those identifying as heterosexual but not to those identifying as homosexual? There seems to be something intrinscally unfair about that; and the unfairness is not resolved by talking about the challenges single heterosexuals face. Single homosexuals face those challenges too.
3. Marriage, of course, is not all about sex; so the case for denying marriage/permanent partnership-accepted-by-the-church is also the case for denying the possibility of two people of the same sex entering into the fullness of love for one another. You do not seem to be allowing that consideration with your focus on brothels for the military in war etc.
4. There are many hard teachings and Christians struggle with them. Christian heterosexuals who enter marriage may have a slightly less "hard time" as Christian disciples than those who are single. Is God so mean as to determine that Christian homosexuals in our modern Western societies today may not also have a slight less "hard time" if they have opportunity to marry? They still have to be faithful to one another and love their in-laws!!
5. Was Paul wrong when he wrote that it was better to marry than to burn?
Growing up in a conservative family I once was more inclined toward your view than I am now. It seems crazy that so much time, effort and emotional energy have been expended within the church in arguing about the homosexual issue.
As a church, the body of Christ, surely we should be faithful witnesses to the light, love, mercy, healing and truth of the gospel. Division when it goes on for so long is harmful.
+Peter cut to the chase when he emphasised "people as persons" and for me this is key to finding an answer, along with Romans 13:8-10 >>
Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Note: Love does no wrong to a neighbor
I don't see how a christian faithfully-committed couple - who happen to be gay - are doing any wrong to a neighbour.
To be sure I'm not claiming homosexuality is divine will but I'm realistic about the situation in which we find ourselves and as you said above, "Nobody is able to sneak back into Eden".
I've now (newly) got to the point where I don't think SSM is a 'salvation issue' or church discipline issue. I want to learn to lean more into love and grace than I have in the past.
But while the matter remains divisive it'll present a challenge to some people in congregations so I recognise that care needs to be exercised.
What Mark said above seems wise: "We need to be extremely local, use our local eyes, ears, and heart to locally discern if this local couple have what it takes to be married and married in this local church." And I'm fairly sure +Peter's responded in similar vein re local responsibility when I questioned him on this topic before at ADU (but I don't know how to find it again).
Anyway.. thanks William, +Peter and Mark ~the discussion's been a big help in moving my thinking along ~Liz
William, you seem to do all your research based on books by scholar A and papers written by scholar B and paradigms developed by scholar C, etc.
Sorry, but that doesn't cut it for me. These are human beings we're talking about here.
You seem to me to be involved in a philosophical controversy rather than actually entering into the struggles of real people.
"The 'greedy' are also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11."
Tim, John Sandeman referred to this in a recent post with respect to opposing oil and gas investment. Very interesting article!
Dear +Peter, you've said above that, "- I am committed to being in a church, and, at this time, leadership in a church, which provides for a degree of exercise of conscience on marriage matters;"
Would it be fair to say that the reason for your stated commitment is primarily that you've prioritised "focus on people as persons."? Although I'm asking this in Y/N format I'm hoping you'll speak to it a little bit more than simply Y/N.
I don't think I have been thinking in that way, Liz - though perhaps I should!
I think my thinking is more that when people marry this is a good thing for several reasons and is a matter both for thanksgiving ("they're so good for each other") and for prayer ("there is no perfect marriage, it can be so hard, they'll need God's help to stay the course").
Where gay people cannot marry in the way humanity is most accustomed to (man-woman), the question arises (with, as we know here, much debate about the answer) whether a civil marriage (now provided for by law, when it once was not) might also be given thanks for and prayed for? Some ministers wish to do so; others do not; some are uncertain. It is, perhaps we could say, both respect for people as persons and for people as thinking-discerning creatures that means my preference is to be part of a church which permits rather than prohibits blessings.
This is helpful for me, and gracious. And a big 'Yes' to your "permits rather than prohibits" (great phrase btw). Because of what you've already shared here on ADU I know "permits" doesn't mean "permissive" - so there's bounds - and therefore what you've explained seems to have just the right balance. Finally I feel like I've come to a place of understanding on this issue that sits well with my spirit! Peace.
Peter and Liz
I sometimes suspect that the matrix of relations from which the first drafts of personalities emerge has displaced the civic realm as the place where the gravitas of God's will is most felt.
BW, sounds awesome but at the same time I doubt I fully understand!
From this excerpt from a 2017 NZ Herald article re our NZ ex-PM Jacinda, are you able to draw anything from the story to illustrate what you mean?
"She grew up in Murupara and Morrinsville, the product of both church and state - her family were Mormon, her father spent 40 years in the police force." [...]
She was in her 20s when she left the Mormon faith, mostly as a consequence of its anti-homosexual stance.
"For a lot of years, I put it to the back of my mind. I think it was too unsettling. If something like religion is part of your foundation, and then suddenly you start questioning that - it's quite a confronting thing to deal with.
"Even before the Civil Union Bill came up, I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I was still going to church every so often and I just remember thinking 'this is really inconsistent - I'm either doing a disservice to the church or my friends'. Because how could I subscribe to a religion that just didn't account for them?
"It was one of the issues that became a real flashpoint. You drift along a bit, there are always going to be things you can't reconcile, but I could never reconcile what I saw as discrimination in a religion that was otherwise very focused on tolerance and kindness."
Never believe an article that begins 'The truth about ...'
There are plenty of reasons for leaving Mormonism. The most important is that it is nuts - 19th century American science fiction meets British Israelitism.
The second is that everybody outside it thinks it's nuts.
The third is that every Mormon kid has to spend two years of their life finding this out.
The fourth is their dress sense is out of 1950 Peoria.
Its views on homosexuality are waaay down the list.
The truth is, Jacinda Ardern became an atheist and a socialist out of conviction or education (I'm sure she had discovered by then that Joseph Smith really didn't find gold plates written in Reformed Egyptians and the Ten Lost Tribes didn't paddle across the Atlantic to become the Cheyenne and the Shawnee) and Tony Blair was there to lend a helping hand.
Tony Blair, on the other hand, became a cafeteria Catholic. I never understood why he left his liberal Anglicanism, but supposed it had something to do with his ambition to become President of the EU. 'Bruxelles vaut bien une messe.'
As for Mormonism, I think it will still be around when liberal Protestantism has submerged into moralism. I think of it in pragmatic terms. If it keeps a section of Maori youth out of motorcycle gangs and electric punga, it serves a useful social function.
Pax et bonum
Liz, it looks like you do understand 10:13.
The coronation reminds us that churches used to do the job of securing civic order. This is why it once seemed logical to highly intelligent people that rulers should execute persons found by the church to be promoting false religion. Occasionally, there is still work in the civic realm that churches can do, and just by practicing the religion they generate some social capital, but few would say today that this is why they exist. When churches take a bad position on public policy, people say that they should stay out of politics, not that they have failed as religions. Liberal democracies can thrive in societies with cultures that are not very churchly.
On the other hand, as your story shows, churches are seen to be doing the divine job of promoting the development of persons. Consider: when they run schools, this is seen as an aspect of their religious mission, but when they run hospitals this is seen as charity that is worthwhile but a step beyond it. And when they demonstrably frustrate personal development somehow this is felt to be and is treated as a crisis of faith, not as a sort of accident or misconduct incidental to the job. Churches can only come back from something like the RCC's sexual abuse scandal by showing that the wrongdoing is not an outgrowth of the religion itself.
That Topic was just a moment in that Grand Topic. Since there's nothing at stake in the former for Protestants generally and for Anglicans especially, the debate was easily avoidable and most people did mostly ignore it.
It happened anyway because some people really wanted to fight some other people, sometimes to flail away at the wind or command the tides, sometimes in the usual struggle for niche and power..
It wasn't edifying but it wasn't important either.
BW, you sound to me like you're putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound!!!
Wound as in "injury, mental or emotional hurt or blow, a rift in or blow to a political body or social group".
A few quotes to illustrate:
1. Betrayal. "Nevertheless, the Bishops’ initial proposals and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “joyful” welcome of them were seen as a betrayal by many bishops around the world,..." --David Ould in a post re GAFCON/Kigali
2. Cancel culture. I found this a bit rich from Foley Beach, but anyway it's part of a Living Church interview with him in Kigali. He'd been asked about South Carolina and the Anglican and TEC bishops/staffs being in discussion:
"Regarding South Carolina, I think they’re just acting like Christians. We’ve seen from a lot of the Episcopal bishops, in response to questions we’ve asked or attempts to get together — it’s almost as if there’s a cancel culture mentality, and [they think] “we can’t have anything to do with them.” To be honest with you I, think it’s going to take some time. In the ACNA we now have more people in our churches that were never in the Episcopal Church than were in the Episcopal Church. They don’t know all this history."
3. Politically motivated. "Protestant schisms are not historically unusual but internationally organised, politically motivated and externally funded splits are unprecedented." ~quote I found in a 2008 online post
Last night I found that Ahmanson who'd been behind the Institute of Religion and Democracy's church "renewal" efforts, had been a member of the far-RW Conservative CNP or Council for National Policy. And on the list of former CNP members I also found Paige Patterson known for his role in the massive conservative resurgence in SBC.
I view these denominational upheavals essentially as aggressive RW conservative tactics as they pursue their dominionist agenda which also includes government and education, etc as per the Seven Mountains mandate. [I'm not saying a lot of people have that motive but rather that powerful forces are inflaming tensions]
"usual struggle" - I don't see it as "usual".
"wasn't important" - not resolved yet! and its importance is that it's part of something much bigger that's a global threat.
Thanks BW. Just trying to see why things have been happening the way they have.
I've something on my mind that I read last night, where the Confederate side in the Civil War is described as the "orthodox side" (cf. [gulp] the other side as "impious" or "liberals, the communists, the secularists, the advocates of women’s rights")..
"In Rushdoony’s debt to proslavery theology, it is also possible to glimpse the outlines of another cornerstone of the Christian nationalist project he helped create. The defeat of the orthodox side in the Civil War, Rushdoony realized, “paved the way for the rise of an unorthodox Social Gospel.” The “Social Gospel,” as Rushdoony understood it, is the mistaken belief that Christianity would have us use the power of government to reform society along lines that conform with Jesus’s teachings about loving thy neighbor."
Stewart, Katherine. The Power Worshippers (p. 116). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
I'm wondering if That Topic is serving as proxy for re-igniting old religious and social arguments about 'created order' and 'hierarchy', and if this old conflict was the catalyst for your "some people really wanted to fight some other people".
I am wondering if the Grand Topic that BW has mentioned more than once is the Kingdom of God? Jesus came to establish it and said it is ‘not of this world’ but it definitely exists within our world, living with a different ethos entirely. It needs to be our focus I think.
What if some powerful countries are heading for a showdown between "Love thy neighbour (and the earth)" liberals and "Kingdom Now" authoritarians? At risk are women, people of colour, LGBT+, other religions, refugees/immigrants and potentially other Christians who hold a different 'heretical' view. Democracy itself could be at stake. Do we ignore that?
Simply: From roughly the C4 to the modern period, churches formed obedient citizens and told their states how to govern them, yet in the West today this is nowhere the case. The Grand Topic is: how do we visibly live together in Christ when influence on the public or state cannot usually be part of that?
"The Kingdom of God. Jesus came to establish it and said it is ‘not of this world’ but it definitely exists within our world, living with a different ethos entirely."
Excellent! But this means not importing an ethos of power-struggle that displaces the one taught by Jesus, and living selflessly in him rather than narcissistically for some image on others' screens. Alas, because we listen too much to those with no imagination for common life in Him, we fritter away our lives on matters we do not influence or control. Then we fail to be the visible Body even to each other.
"It needs to be our focus I think."
The understatement of the millennium.
“Stop striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth.” Psalm xlvi 10
"What if some powerful countries are heading for a showdown between [anybody] and [anybody else]? At risk is [everything in its path]. [Something precious] could be at stake. Do we ignore that?"
No, we pray to God who is ordering all things to good for those that love him. Some classic psalms for this are xxiii The Lord is my shepherd, xci Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, and cxxi I will lift up my eyes.
It is true that the Bishops of Durham had their own armies down to the early C19. But at the time they were prince-bishops responsible for the defense of the northern borderlands. Offhand, I cannot recall a modern occasion on which the regiment was mustered.
I was curious about a couple of things you said:
“…on every topic we should return daily to the creeds. What do they mean? If they are true, then what is not?”
Why would a contemporary Christian do this? Isn’t a more dynamic, authentic approach to begin with prayer first, with contact with the living God, and then proceed to (patient, steady) discernment of what we receive (or not) in prayer? That discernment may or may not include reference to the creeds.
Isn’t it wise to treat the creeds with a hermeneutic of suspicion, much more so than we would, say, scripture? As one historian of the early Church has said (in regard to the Nicene Creed): “I’d hate to say that is all about power, but we’d be very naïve if we didn’t think that this was a power game which was set in place from the early fourth century, and from which we still live under the influence of today.” (Caroline Humfress speaking with Melvyn Bragg on In Our Time: The Nicene Creed).
2. The Grand Topic
“From roughly the C4 to the modern period, churches formed obedient citizens and told their states how to govern them, yet in the West today this is nowhere the case. The Grand Topic is: how do we visibly live together in Christ when influence on the public or state cannot usually be part of that?”
I’m curious for whom this a Grand Topic? Certainly not the majority of everyday believers I would have thought.
In an ever dividing Christian world, Mark, isn't it a grand topic to consider how we can live together in Christ ... instead of apart and separated?
We gained two lovely faithful couples through the breakaway and lost a beautiful worship leader. When churches fracture people get hurt. We used to sing ‘they will know we are Christians by our love’ but with division it is lost, sadly.
That certainly sounds like a good topic for thought but is it *The* Grand Topic for Christianity these days?
Theologically, I would have thought the Kingdom as Moya said. Realistically, deep down, many church going Christians might be more concerned with: is God real? Am I acceptable to God? How can I experience God more directly, more often? How do I square God's existence with the death of my daughter? How come a loving God permits cyclone Gabriele, climate change, the death of my daughter etc....
But those concerns meet the matter of gathering together as Christians well: our human experience of God is an experience of the God we meet in the people in whom God dwells … we encounter Christ through the Body of Christ … etc!
Dear +Peter, I'll speak for myself only but I suspect there's many like me who for various reasons, and very good ones, don't trust the church. And I know you know this. I'm not saying it for the purpose of disagreement but to highlight this other perspective.
I'm dipping into The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich atm and finding it really interesting, like Heidegger, but with the inclusion of the Church and "the God above the God of theism". Finding this very, very interesting.
Pretty sure all the rest of you will have read it anyway - I saw the cover on Scribd and thought that I remembered "Tillich" being mentioned on ADU (maybe by Moya?). Anyway, whoever mentioned this author's name, way back, I thank you!
I love The Courage To Be, or at least did when I read it in my twenties. Best sort of theology: succinct, solid, rooted in life.
But, Peter, gathering together as Christians....if that is what The Grand Topic means now....is hardly problematic for the vast majority of Christians, is it? It's only problematic for people who attend synod or worry, rightly or otherwise, about ecumenism. Am I missing something?
Many Christian gather together unproblematically.
This is a good thing.
Some Christians struggle to gather together in such a benign way: that is a challenge!
Christians gathering together in a such a manner as to make a (good)impact on their community can be problematic: because we struggle to agree on what we might do together to make an impact!
I appreciate, Liz, that the church is untrustworthy in the eyes of some who otherwise yearn for the coming of the kingdom.
On the creeds (and confessional statements): yes, damage has occurred because of them, but so has that "tribal loyalty" which keeps churches going through the centuries.
Further on the creeds: they are not only statements of belief, they are also paeons of praise to the God who is revealed in and through Jesus Christ. We do not only recite them at worship to remind ourselves of what we believe!
Paeans were not just songs of praise, they were battle songs, and nearly every book of the New Testament reminds us that the Christian life is spiritual warfare. Anyone who forgets (or rejects this on squeamish grounds) has forgotten (or rejected) what the Christian life is really about.
Christians in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, North Korea, northern Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Turkey, Uzbekistan (most of the world, in fact) don't need reminding of this fact.
Pax et bonum,
The long-awaited moment has finally arrived: William, I agree with you! The creeds have certainly been used as battle songs.
I've bookmarked links to the creeds and sometimes go through them but I don't have an Anglican's affection! They're very "I", and "we", focussed.
This morning I stumbled on some old-fashioned verse that touches me more (perhaps because I grew up with lots of old-fashioned hymns!). So I'll certainly keep my creed links but also balance them with "Thou" verse:
O Thou! at whose rebuke the grave
Back to warm life its sleeper gave,
Beneath whose sad and tearful glance
The cold and changëd countenance
Broke the still horror of its trance,
And, waking, saw with joy above,
A brother's face of tenderest love;
Thou, unto whom the blind and lame,
The sorrowing and the sin-sick came,
And from Thy very garment's hem
Drew life and healing unto them,
The burden of Thy holy faith
Was love and life, not hate and death;
Anti-slavery poems : songs of labor and reform /John Greenleaf Whittier
The Human Sacrifice | selected verse taken from VI.
Liz, there are many references to the paean in Xenophon's 'Anabasis' (the first book I read in Greek after the New Testament), the writer's autobiographical account of how the army of 10,000 Greek mercenaries fought their way home from Mesopotamia to the Black Sea - when they finally saw it, they all cried out "The sea! The sea! (thalatta thalatta).
Interestingly 2 Chronicles 20 describes how the Judeans in Jehoshaphat's time under attack from a coalition army sent out their army led by the Levitical choir, and as the Levites began 'the Lord's song' (1 Chr 16), the attacking army was devastated by some well-aimed SAMs, I mean, psalms. Some worship bands today have a similar effect on me,
Mark, Arius was the first to put his beliefs into popular songs ("There was a time when the Son was not") in early 4th century Egypt. The proto-Nicene creed of 325 was composed against Arianism but it was a very long time before Nicene Trinitarianism prevailed in the west: Spain was ruled by Arian Visigoths until the conversion of Reccared in the sixth century. It was in Spain as well that the filioque was added to the Nicene Creed. Absent the Nicene Creed, one can readily imagine how many conflicting Christologies would have arisen - just as Protestantism has birthed Christadelphianism, Unitarianism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism and no doubt a host of other heretical sects. I think it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said the Creeds are hedge around a mystery. The iconoclast wants to tear down hedges as well as pictures,
Pax et bonum
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