Monday, June 19, 2023

Technical "Anglican" question (or, "ecumenical" question)

Look, if you don't want to read what I write below, there is a stimulating post here you might like to take a squiz at, "The End of Evangelicalism and the Possibility of Reformed Catholicism." It doesn't hugely move my theo-ecclesiological boats, but it may do so for yours ...

Alternatively, Bishop Kelvin Wright has posted a lovely reflection on the meaning and content of prayer, "Prayer as Relationship."

Otherwise, unless you stop reading now, you're stuck with me!

The Other Cheek reports here that in Australia eight Uniting Church ministers [conservatives feeling unable to continue in that denomination] have been welcomed into the Diocese of the Southern Cross [a new development in Australian Anglicanism whereby a Diocese of Sydney supported venture with no recognition/status within the Anglican Church of Australia, but naming/claiming to be "Anglican", including having an overseeing bishop, retired Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies].

This post is not about the reasons for the Uniting ministers joining Southern Cross nor the reasons for the formation of the Diocese of the Southern Cross.

This post is about the intriguing claim - a technical-theological-ecclesiological question - that the newly joining ministers' (from a church which does not have bishops) need not be re-ordained by a bishop but simply be recognised as fully functioning "presbyters" within Southern Cross:

"Bishop Glenn Davies presided at a service titled “The Service of Recognition of Ministers of the Word and Sacramentsts.” The Ministers newly recognised as “presbyters” are ... The “recognition” of these ministers is distinct from “ordaining” them which would indicate that they are becoming ministers. Instead the term “recognition’ is used to indicate that they have already been serving as ministers in a different denomination.

Our sister and brothers, have already been baptised into Christ and have formerly been ordained as Ministers of the Word and Sacraments, under the rules of the Uniting Church of Australia, ” the Bishop said in a liturgy welcoming them. “They now wish to have their orders recognised by the Diocese of the Southern Cross and seek our prayers in the fellowship of this Church.” 

Turning to the Minsters, Bishop Glenn continued “”My brothers and sister, we give thanks that you have been lawfully ordained to the office and work of a Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the Church of God.

“I have therefore resolved to recognise you as Presbyters in the Diocese of the Southern Cross.

“That we and this congregation may know that you desire, by God’s grace, to continue this ministry in the Diocese of the Southern Cross, I ask you these questions.” Each minister was asked a series of questions, the key one being, “Do you embrace the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church as described in the Fundamental Declarations and the Jerusalem Declaration?”

The diocese points out that this procedure is not novel. “Similar expressions of episcopal welcome with laying on of hands occurred in the establishment of the Churches of North and South India, and were also contemplated in the Anglican-Methodist conversations in England last century.”"

Now, in a further "not", this post will not attempt to settle questions herein raised - partly because a post on a blog is not a synod let alone a general synod, and mostly because the questions raised by this action have been and are lively questions for a church such as my own and more generally for the Anglican Communion:

- "lively", when, for example, as mentioned above, the Churches of North and South India were established (and the Church of Pakistan also?) - see further below;

- when, for example, in my own church, ACANZP, we engage in dialogue with NZ Presbyterians and NZ Methodists about the status in our eyes of ministers ordained as presbyters/ministers of Word and Sacrament for those respective denominations;

- when, for example, also occasionally happening hereabouts, a ministers seeks appointment as a Vicar, but their ordination as presbyter/priest has taken place in, say, the Free Church of England or the Church of England in South Africa (now = REACH-SA) - churches with bishops. 

The word "lively" applies because from time to time in ecumenical dialogue the question is raised and discussed and exploration takes place of how things might change (or not).

(Simpler, by the way, is recognition of, say, a Roman Catholic or Old Catholic priest seeking to become a licensed priest in ACANZP, or a minister ordained by a bishop in an episcopal-Lutheran church. (See appendices below from our canons.)

There is also the fascinating question, in respect of the report above, whether a bishop may make such a decision re recognition alone, without synodical support - but this is not a question this post is concerned to discuss.

Back to the question du jour:

When I first noted this report I posted a comment on Twitter (along the above lines) and invited Bosco Peters to respond, which he did: (read from bottom upwards):

In other words, our church, other Anglican churches of the Communion (i) find everything most straightforward when recognition of ministry orders is 

(a) according to the principle that ordination is by a bishop and not otherwise, even by churches we are close to, such as the Presbyterian and Methodist churches of Aotearoa NZ; 

(b) according to the canons and standing resolutions of our church (i.e. as governed synodically, and in particular not at the determination of  bishops acting alone);

(c) in coherency with decisions made elsewhere in the Anglican Communion (e.g. from below, re the Porvoo Concordat 1992);

and, (ii) find things somewhat messy (ecclesiologically speaking) and thus requiring considerable working through when (a) to (c) are not aligned (cf. Bosco Peters' point about it taking considerable time for orders for one of the Indian churches to be recognised in contrast to the other).

Back to the Diocese of the Southern Cross and the report above:

(1) Insofar as this decision may be hailed as "Anglican" it would appear to be subject to critique as not, in fact, being a particularly Anglican way of going about things (lack of recognition of local synodical authority, lack of reference to the wider Anglican Communion).

(2) From another perspective, this decision could be hailed as "ecumenical" because it is a decision to treat the same, within the one church, the ordinations of bishops and the ordinations which are not of bishops.

Logically, (2) implies that the Diocese of the Southern Cross may be a new, ecumenically oriented church, yes, with Anglican roots, but not with an emerging, developing Anglican character (because in it ecumenical concern to welcome theologically like minded ministers and their congregations, it has taken an essentially ecumenical and not Anglican step in this recent announcement).

Does this matter?

As is often the case, Yes and No!

No, it doesn't matter particularly what a church, even one calling itself a "Diocese" does re recognition of ministries. Churches make decisions! And, in this case, as a safe harbour for conservatives in Australia, this decision (so to speak) widens the harbour to welcome a variety of ships from more than one navy.

Yes, it potentially matters if the Diocese of the Southern Cross claims some kind of Anglican-moral high ground. Then the question arises why a specifcially Anglican claim (e.g. that Anglicans here and there have ceased to be properly Anglican because, well, you know, That Topic) has relevance when other aspects of being Anglican are playing fast and loose with.

Appendices: (derived from here)

Title G Canon 13



Admission of Clergy of Churches in Communion with this Church



The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia recognises as being in full communion with  itself   (a relationship  of  unrestricted communio in sacris including the mutual recognition of ministries) these Churches, namely:  The Church of England and all other Churches of the Anglican Communion, and such other Churches as shall be recognised by General Synod from time to time as being in the same full communion.

6.1.1     The Lutheran Churches of the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran (Episcopal) Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as listed in the Third Schedule are recognized by the General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui in terms of clause 6.1.

Churches in full communion.










A Bishop may permit any Bishop, Priest or Deacon from a Church in full communion with this Church as defined in clause 6.1 to officiate in any church, parish or congregation for one or more services upon being satisfied that the person is duly ordained.

Permission from Bishop.


Any Bishop, Priest or Deacon from a Church in full communion with this Church as defined in clause 6.1 of this Canon shall be eligible to be licensed or issued with a Permission to Officiate pursuant to Title A Canon II, or to hold office as a Bishop in this Church.

Eligibility for licence.


Admission of ministers ordained by Bishops not in Communion with this Church. 



When a Priest or Deacon ordained by a Bishop of the (A) Roman Catholic Church or other Church in communion with the See of Rome or (B) 15 Autocephalous (self governing) and 4 Autonomous (self ruling) Orthodox churches as listed in the Third Schedule,  or other such Church as shall be recognised by General Synod for the purposes of this Canon shall apply to a Bishop of this Church to hold office in the same, that person shall produce to the Bishop:

Other churches.


(a)   Letters of Orders to the priesthood or diaconate;



(b)   Testimony of character and quality of life from persons specified by the Bishop;



(c)   A signed Declaration of Baptism and membership in the form set out in the First Schedule to this Canon or to the like effect.



The Bishop shall be satisfied that such a person meets the requirements set out in Clause 5 of this Canon.

Role of Bishop


The person to be licensed, in addition to subscribing the Declaration required by Part C clause 15 of the Constitution, shall renounce all recourse to any other ecclesiastical jurisdiction.




 Lutheran Churches

 The Church of Denmark, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, the Church of Norway, the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

 Orthodox Churches

 The Autocephalous (self governing) Orthodox Churches namely the Churches of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Jerusalem, of Russia, of Georgia, of Serbia, of Romania, of Bulgaria, of Cyprus, of Greece, of Albania, of Poland, of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and in America; and the Autonomous (self ruling) Orthodox Churches; namely The Churches of Sinai, of Finland, of Japan, and of Ukraine"

and, from Standing Resolutions on Intercommunion, in respect of Title G Canon 6 Section 6.1 above: "such other Churches as shall be recognised by General Synod from time to time as being in the same full communion.": 

This includes: churches such as the Old Catholic Church (SRIC 1) and various other churches in SRIC 2-10) then:




Adopts the Porvoo Concordat of October 1992  (between the Anglican Churches in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England and The Nordic and Baltic Lutheran [Episcopal] Churches); the Waterloo Declaration of 2001 (between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada); and the Concordat of Agreement / Called to Common Mission of January 2001 (between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A) for the limited purposes of recognition in terms of Title G Canon XIII  clause 6.1, to officiate in terms of clause 6.2; and to be licensed within this Church in terms of clause 6.3 for  any bishop, priest of deacon from the  churches (not being within the Anglican Communion) parties to these Concordats and Declaration, namely the Church of Denmark, the Estonian Evangelical-Lutheran Church, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Lithuania, the Church of Norway, the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada: [2008]



Anonymous said...

Bosco and + Peter are correct.

"ordination is by a bishop and not otherwise"

Anglicans in the classic, Protestant tradition have broadly accepted the unified canon of creeds, scriptures, and episcopate as the Body had received it by the end of the C4. As organic continuations of the apostolic witness to global unity and local discipline, they pass even Calvinist tests of valid tradition (cf Richard Muller on Calvin and Tradition). The reforming Church of England did not sharply distinguish scriptural and patristic practice as the Reformed did as they diverged from Anglicanism.

In Scandinavia, where bishops led the Reformation as in England, Lutheran state churches have also conserved the apostolic succession. In the oldest Protestant tradition, the Moravian Church continued an historic lineage of bishops. So too have various Anabaptist churches with Continental roots. That is, we can see a cultures of episcopacy comparable to that of the C4 across the Protestant world. This influenced the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC (Lima Document) to urge member churches to reconsider any resistance to episcopacy that they might have.

In the modern United States, synodicalism has sometimes led to restored episcopacy. John Wesley's *connexional* understanding of the episcopate (cf Francis on *synodality*) has not only been prescriptive for Methodists, but has influenced some other traditions to understand the actual work of synod presidents as pastoral and ecumenical and so episcopal. By a similar logic, T. F. Torrance-- both Moderator of the Church of Scotland and honorary protopresbyter of the Church of Alexandria-- once proposed that even the Kirk consecrate bishops.

None of this requires or permits belief in the magical powers of lone bishops. Nevertheless, we saw such belief in say the last properly liberal bishops in TEC, men of the 1950s and 1960s whose sacramentology was too Reformed to make sense of the high ecclesiology of The Episcopal Church, where the Ordinal still provocatively charges new bishops with the cure of "all baptised persons" in their dioceses. To orient themselves in the gap between low symbolism and high responsibility, they borrowed an uncatholic magic from misunderstood and misunderstanding Roman manualists.

In that error, a sort of purple shirt juju is thought to empower even retired bishops to act alone apart from a locale, its neighborhood primate and bishops, and any synod that happens to meet there. Here up yonder, the same juju was invoked by liberals for the first uncanonical ordinations of women for, but not in, TEC and by reactionaries for the founding consecrations of bishops in the Continuum. At both ends of a certain spectrum, a bad pneumatology permitted or encouraged a sacramentology corrosive of the ecclesiology that began with Jesus's teaching in Galilee.

No catholic believes in this juju. From the C4 through the present until the end of time, all valid episcopal acts-- Anglican, Methodist, Moravian, Lutheran, Roman, Orthodox, Oriental, etc-- are performed for the church of some definite place in collegiality with its primate and the whole communion of bishops everywhere. Roman canon law speaks for the broad *consensus patrum* in codifying that those who act otherwise incur excommunication *latae sententiae*. Excommunication from the Body is intrinsic to episcopal acts apart from it. Out is out.


Anonymous said...

This does rather remind me of bald men arguing over a comb. Or is it the fox and the grapes?
But maybe Glenn Davies knows his Anglican history a little better than some voices here. No doubt he is aware that in the 16th century numerous Reformed ministers were admitted to the ministry of the Church of England without episcopal (re)ordination. Adrianus Saravia was one of these, and Martin Bucer even became a Professor of Divinity in Cambridge. Scottish Presbyterian ministers were also admitted to livings in England at that time.
Anyway, to return to the disputatious bald men, I am a bit puzzled by the hair-splitting. Don't Protestant churches recognise the ministry and sacraments of other Protestant churches? I know what Catholics understand by ordination to the sacrifice-offering priesthood, but what do Protestants mean by ordination? Do Anglicans believe that Presbyterian ministers are not "real" ministers? (This must be a bit confusing for the Supreme Governor of the Church of England when he's in Scotland, but then again, King Charles has never been a very clear thinker.)
It is a little hard to avoid the impression that some Anglicans seem to believe that other Protestant churches don't have "real ministers" and "real sacraments". I can see how you might hold that if you believed in the "branch theory" of the church, but are there any Anglo-Catholics left?
Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman

Hi William
Well, maybe. Glenn Davies didn't actually cite that precedent so we shouldn't put words in his mouth etc!
Yes, there are a range of views re the ministry of other "presbyters" and I don't want to speak for Anglo-Catholics on how they might view their ministry and the "real"ness or otherwise of communions they preside over.
I respect all eucharists presided over according to the order of their respective churches and try not to runaround (or blog around) what are valid or invalid eucharists.
Nevertheless, the Anglican church is a committed church: committed to having bishops, committed to ordination at the hands of bishops, committed to discerning synodically which episcopal churches we are either in full communion with (and thus accepting their ordinations) or in full respect of their episcopal ordinations (and thus, e.g., accepting priests of the Roman Catholic church who may choose to come into our order).
We could, theoretically (and, according to the above, have done so historically), choose to 'recognise' other ordinations and not re-ordain, but any such choice is a synodical governance matter, and not an episcopal led matter.
So, no, I don't think we are bald men arguing over a comb. The question is the ordered or not ordered character of an episcopal church. It may not be a substantive matter for a Roman Catholic observer but does that matter?

MsLiz said...

Thanks +Peter for the options.. I've at least glanced over everything but only just noticed the 'prayer' link to a post by Bishop Kelvin Wright (who I previously had no knowledge of). I'm glad to learn of his presence online, and admire his writing and photography.

William, those "disputatious bald men" sound pretty hair-raising.

Anonymous said...

Well, Peter, you took about two hundred words to say "We choose to do this because we choose to do this." Which is the very definition of a circular argument. I remember an old British sitcom called 'Yes Minister' where Sir Humphrey used to do this brilliantly!
The 'synodal government' argument sounds a bit ex post facto to me - for most of its history Anglicanism wasn't synodal, was it?
Isn't it the case that Anglican ecclesiology is more political compromise than theological principle: the high church claim that episcopacy belongs to the 'esse' of the Church but the low church say it is for the 'bene esse'. While those who care nothing for theology simply think we should be ruled by our titled betters.
(It's an insidious kind of thinking: why, even those who claim to be republicans who believe in the equality of all have been known to receive a Damehood from the British Crown!)
Meanwhile, the Mooloolaba Church has been dissolved by order of the Uniting (Dissolving?) Church of Australia. It is good to know they are taking a stand against heresy.
Liz, an etymological fun fact: "calvinus" means "bald man". But Calvin himself was fairly hirsute, so "nomen non omen".

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

MsLiz said...

Cool! Thanks William. And esse and bene esse had me scrambling for info, not least because +Peter had also used them in a tweet yesterday. So what I found from the Episcopal Dictionary of the Church after the initial definition, was:

The statement "No bishop, no Church" would reflect the position that the historic episcopate is of the esse of the church. This view, strictly applied, serves to "unchurch" Protestant denominations that do not have the episcopate. It also serves to restrict severely the possibilities for Anglican ecumenical relations with these churches.

Ah ha! Most helpful.
PS. Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister.. awesome :D

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
The Anglican Church is an amalgam, including an amalgam of “esse” and “bene esse” adherents. Such amalgams are held together by rules (and relationships). We may choose to do what we choose to do but we would be different if we chose differently. Imagine what church we would be if we chose to swim the Tiber! Or flee to Geneva. In fact, having stuck around Canterbury, we are trying to be neither!

Sure, for quite a bit of time the Anglican Church wasn’t synodal but now we are and have been for quite a while. And when we weren’t bishops were constrained by a different form of synodality, the British parliament!

Anyway, synodality isn’t a bad thing is it? Francis is pushing it along :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Liz
There is a connection but it seems to me the difference is this: a federation of churches is a federation of churches and as a federation it might then align itself with, e.g. the Anglican Communion (cf. Churches of North and of South India and of Pakistan), doing so on terms acceptable to, e.g., the Anglican Communion. What is happening in the Dio Southern Cross is an ostensibly Anglican entity doing things in a non-Anglican way [no synod, no reference to the General Synod the ACA] which will continue to critique Anglicans for doing what it views as non-Anglican things (even when agreed by synods and General Synods).

MsLiz said...

"continue to critique Anglicans for doing what it views as non-Anglican things"

Ah, yes..... thank you.

Anonymous said...

".... doing things in a non-Anglican way ... to critique Anglicans for doing what it views as non-Anglican things ...."

Well, heaven forfend anything should be done in a non-Anglican way! Although the Diocese of the Southern Cross is run by the Gafcon Primates, who do represent the large majority of Anglicans in the world ...

Meanwhile, the range of things which Gafcon considers "non-Anglican" but the Church of England thinks are pukka Anglican keeps geting longer. Just this week, the Church of England gets its first "transgender" archdeacon and C of E high school in Sussex, Rye College thinks you can self-identify as a cat but pupils who think there are only two sexes are "despicable".
Ah for the innocent days when "Lola" by The Kinks was on the radio and we had no idea what the song meant. Sancta simplicitas ....

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

MsLiz said...

I know nothing about those CofE situations William but I think you've voiced concern in the past along the lines of, well if the Church allows this [something].. then what's going to be allowed next? And tbh I actually share that concern. It's like, where's it all going? - and it seems there's no clear limits. Meanwhile all denominations (episcopate or non-episcopate) have scary issues with religious abuse and sadly most often respond by favouring their own interests over proper care of victims. I just wish the Church would fully focus on this really appalling issue, and avoid getting so distracted with every other cause imaginable.

Mark Murphy said...

I find myself in the strange position of feeling sympathetic to the Diocese of the Southern Cross!

As a son of the Church of North India (All Saints, Malabar Hill), and the grandson of someone who served in that church for decades, the major ecclesiastical story I remember is this: Indians Christians said 'We aren't interested in your divisions, your denominations. We are interested in Christ.'

I imagine most 'new' Christians, or Christian-curious people, feel exactly the same way.

Is Anglicanism part of the Protestant genius that looks to recapture the dynamic essence of original Christianity, of Christ (for whom bishops, presbyters, deacons etc were hardly worth a mention)?

Or is Anglicanism an attempt to reform and purify Catholic ecclesiology? And when the answer is 'both', where do loyalties lie when there is the tension between the two becomes activated once again?

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman and Mark
I am not unsympathetic to what you say Mark but there are questions:
North and South India, the failed proposal in the 1970s here for Union, involved Protestant Churches with a strong history back into the Reformation considering possibilities re union and with it recognition of ministries. Would any similar recognition in ACANZP today be agreeable to us synodically? If it were, would there be voices which also say, "What about ... the ordained AOG pastor ... Elim Church ...etc ...?", are they also recognised? (If so, or if not, on what grounds?)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
You are missing the point: Anglican/non-Anglican in this context is about the synodical agreements we make.

I am not aware of GAFCON supporting in a synodical way the recognition of orders of other (non-episcopal) churches. Are you aware?

It would be surprising, given the role of Anglo-Catholics in GAFCON if such synodical agreement was reached.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Peter - I am sure I am missing many points but one thing I try not to do is tell other churches how they must conduct their own lives. As an outsider observer, I don't even know if Gafcon has a "synod" or what that would mean in a trans-national association of Anglican bishops. I presume they agreed together to sponsor the establishment of the Diocese of the Southern Cross; if so, is that a "synod"?
As I am sure you will agree, these are very volatile times in the Protestant world (and not just for Protestants), marked by great decline in practice in the West, bitter arguments about sexuality that are tearing churches apart, and a historic shift to the Global South as the centre of world Christianity. And Anglicanism, so widespread in Africa and south Asia as a legacy of the British Empire, is feeling the brunt of these changes. More significant than scruples over "synodality" is doubtless the fact that most of the Global South has now rejected the Archbishop of Canterbury as their assumed leader. You are now in comparatively unchartered waters where the (British) King's Regulations don't apply.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

As you know, I hope, I have enjoyed all of your comments on concrete spiritual practice. Sitting in silence, washing beans, all of it.

And when you disdain the poor benighted Reformed, I lean too far toward points East to care. But I used to be surprised by this.

For when you pit individual yearnings against the Logos's local corporate presence, you sound precisely Reformed. The dream of being graced as an individual and only later and instrumentally joining a like-minded support group was and is the chief selling point of Calvinism: unshakable assurance of salvation apart from any priest, sacrament, or church.

So, to me, it does not sound at all "strange" for you to be "sympathetic" to a Reformed diocese without city, church, synod, or canonical order. Nothing could be more perfectly de-materialized from life on earth than an opinion club that is part of no local human community.

I've bitten my tongue about this affinity for a year. But now that you see it too, perhaps it is irenic to ask: what positive value, if any, do you see in a group of people who simply are being the Body together in the place where they live, work, marry, raise children, get sick, die, and will be remembered? As you see it, what is their inner life?

Kindly note that I am not in any way disparaging individual yearnings! Indeed and as you know, among Christians they have had and they still have their own no less local corporate presences and traditions-- hermitages, confraternities, monasteries, villages of beguines, even monastic republics. Without them, where would we nurture spiritual elders?

(Part of the pleasure of having relationships to several monastic communities is seeing yesterday's novice become today's abbess, or meeting the cell-mate of several years ago as a new metropolitan, or just seeing the variety of people who show up for the counsel of a gifted spiritual guide.)

But I am puzzled-- aren't we all?-- when I hear someone praise the salt by disparaging the pepper. If you could make some robust case for something of spiritual value that people who share a street address and maybe a roof-- in India, in New Zealand, anywhere-- do together in the Lord, then all your comments in this vein would be much clearer.

There are differences that we will probably not bridge, but who knows?

The new Christians that I know do not want to go it alone and they have other ways-- too many other ways-- to do hashtag politics. They want deeply rooted trustworthy communities *with* saints, spiritual practices, and a supportive metaphysic and *without* inorganic institutionalism, psychological ignorance, or people who pass without actually believing. "Either get all in or get the hell out!," as one put it.

Like the Church of North India, TEC just somewhat belongs to the Anglican Communion. People here began to talk about Anglicanism mainly to further clarify that they are not Reformed (see above).

The Communion's rather catholic ecumenical agreements about bishops, priests, and deacons have expanded my personal spiritual family toward many people and communities who have certainly seemed dynamic to me. I can only pray that you and others are so richly blessed.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
If GAFCON doesn't have a synod (I know it has a Primates Council) then it is not the body (yet) to assist the Dio SC making such profound decisions as appears to have been made by episcopal fiat.
An alternative route would be for the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney to offer some guidance - that Synod does exist and does support the Dio SC.
We may be in comparatively uncharted waters but that doesn't mean that synodical considerations have been left behind at the most recent port the good ship Anglican sailed into!

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Bowman

I can honestly say that I don't know what you are talking about. Because a community doesn't have a....what?...synod? relationship to the Archbishop of Canterbury?.... they are "perfectly de-materialized from life on earth", and merely "an opinion club" disconnected from "local community"?

I'm pretty sure the Dio of the SC have a functional, vital group life.k

I can't think where I've ever hinted or implied that "a group of people just being the body together" have "no positive value" or "inner life".

I have noticed that when I question the value of episcopacy and creeds you seem to get more strident in your responses. Is that it? But surely you can imagine vital Christian community without these forms, or with these forms decentered by other commitments and values (individual and communal)?

Mark Murphy said...

Look, I also want to say that these days I am convinced of the truth of the Quaker way. That said, I know many Anglicans who would be less concerned about, say, synodality and more concerned about the vitality of one's prayer life (individual and communal).

Anonymous said...

Peter, it is very heartening to see folk lining up to advise this new diocese how to run its own affairs. I had thought most Anglican bishops in Australia were rather peeved that it existed in the first place; didn't Peter Stuart, the Bishop of Newcastle NSW write to his clergy demanding to know if they had any communication with "an entity called Gafcon Australia"?

But as you know, pioneers and missionaries follow different rules than long-settled institutions do. George Selwyn may be the father of Anglican synodality, but he had to plough his own furrow first, didn't he?

Oh wait - some breaking news! A distinguished papyrologist has just discovered letters from the Synod of Crete complaining that Bishop Titus had been appointing presbyters for Crete without their advice (Titus 1.5).

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

I feel uncomfortable that my words might be interpreted as bashing bishops. That's not my intention - forgive any offence caused, Peter (and Bowman!).

Peter Carrell said...

No problem, Mark
Not feeling bashed
Feeling (appropriately) provoked to think about the essence of church and whether that requires bishops (overseers, superintendents) or not.
Many Christian acitivities and pursuits do not require bishops in the foreground.
As an Anglican I have had many wonderful experiences of people gathering together to study the Bible and to pray and to never think about where the bishop is!
But also as an Anglican I have had wonderful eucharistic experiences and offer the thought that this particular experience needs "order" and that is properly given by an ordered person (presbyter) who has been so ordered by ... a bishop.

Peter Carrell said...

Hmm William
If a new institution is being formed, why does it call itself a "Diocese"?
And what is with seeking Gafcon support if it is ploughing a new furrow?
Occam's Razor suggests the new Diocese is very keen on "old" Anglicanism ... except when it wants to do things it sees fit.
Why bother with a synod? (A bishop near where I sit writing this might sometimes be likewise tempted ... I couldn't possibly comment :). )
But, true, why should one comment on their affairs?
Oh, wait, it could not possibly be because they offer commentary on the affairs of other Anglicans?
Let it not be so!!!!!

Jean said...

Hmm… quite a lot to mull over.

The crux of the posts query, do the new Diocese of the Southern Cross have a leg to stand on in terms of boasting about being truer Anglicans than others if they accept the orders of Ministers from other denominations who do not follow the episcopate? Honestly when it comes down to it I think this is a bit of a trifling matter. My guess would be any claim to superiority coming from such quarters would be based primarily on their adherence to scriptural teaching compared to other Anglican arms, as opposed the cultural/traditional aspects of Anglicanism. If they haven’t properly followed the latter to every jot and tittle does that undermine any future claim to be truer Anglicans than others due to the the former, umm….??…. And yes like William I have a concern too regarding the can of worms that is being opened with approaches to definitions of gender and how we view this through a christian lens and so can empathise with those who ‘jump ship’ if you like. As I have yet to form a firm opinion I usually refrain from sharing it but my concern regarding the social experiment aspect of it all which goes beyond ‘that’ topic and into the ethics of women having children via sperm donors etc etc remains.

On the other hand the comments to the post are quite the intrigue. I see the biblical pattern if you like of the passing down of spiritual leadership alongside the need all groupings of people have for a form of structure in order to operate. I also relate to Mark’s mentioning of the Church in India and their lack of concern about denominations. Years ago reading the book “Double Agent” about a Chinese pastor and his wife who escaped due to persecution of Christians he had remarked how upon entering the United States they had to tick which denomination they were and he had no idea there actual were any, they identified only as Christian. Since he came to faith and after time led an underground church and when he was discovered went to prison for doing so. I have no doubt his life was qualification enough to be called Pastor without ordination by a Bishop - not discounting that it is likely he was mentored and discipled by a leader in the underground church. Being inherently practical if one is involved in a particular church/denomination then it makes sense to get to know and understand the underpinnings of said church and the different traditions and worship styles pertaining to denominations add depth, I am just not convinced any one part of the church can claim superiority in what qualifies as a stamp of approval in terms of calling or ministry or even baptism (having known Anglicans who went to a Baptist church and refused to be baptised again).

So my thinking which is no doubt as un-theological as you can get in terms of accuracy, that there is credibility in spiritual leadership being passed down through discipleship/teaching and anointed appointment yet not limiting that to the context of the Episcopal understanding of it being passed down from Bishops since the time of the Apostles but widening it to recognise the same pattern operating in other arms of ‘the’ Church. I like Fr Cantamalessa’s saying ‘the war ended 30 years ago’ in reference to the charismatic movement where the Holy Spirit revived all denominations… he was citing as a metaphor the example of the Japanese army officer who hid in the jungle for 30 years after the end of WWII not knowing that the war was over.

Anonymous said...

Peter asks: 'why does it call itself a "Diocese"?'
Presumably to differentiate itself from the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross? If I understand Anglicanism correctly, a diocese is a fellowship of local churches under the leadership of a bishop, and that's what the DSC is, as far as I can see.
Peter also asks: "And what is with seeking Gafcon support if it is ploughing a new furrow?"
I think you know the answer to that: they want a global Anglican connection and fellowship but reject the control of the local Anglican leadership as apostate or severely compromised. You know this is happening all over the Anglican "west": ACNA, AMiE, CCAANZ .... Australia is just a little late to this ball. (Typical ...) They know that many of their bishops want to introduce same-sex marriage, and then probably approval of medically assisted suicide, the next cause du jour after transgender archdeacons. They know also that "western" Anglicanism is cratering, as every liberal innovation fails to make their message more attractive to a post-Christian society and children are absent from their churches. Which will be the first Anglican province to implode - Wales? Scotland? The despair you see in blogs like "Thinking Anglicans" is almost palpable.
Not that I am a triumphalist. The Catholic Church also faces stormy waters (when has it not?) and if Francis mishandles the business of the Latin mass, he will alienate some of the most faithful.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark

"forgive any offense caused"

None taken. Never happens. Seven times seventy...

You and I both inhabit more interesting ground that is not often explored online. If our conversation could someday center on that, good things might happen. This episode is about fishbones that keep getting caught in our throats just when we should be talking about something better. But if you're not interested, then of course we'll move on.

"I can honestly say that I don't know what you are talking about."

Only your affinity for a Reformed non-community, and that only as a peg on which to hang the usual contrast in our comments.

(Bosco and + Peter settled the bishop thing a few days ago. The ancient canons have not changed this week. If an ancient ecumenical council meets again, + Peter will probably mention that in an OP.)


This word makes your sentences unclear to me. It means non-dead, but you seem to use it to refer to something more. What? And what is the *non-vital* to which you implicitly contrast things?

"I'm pretty sure the Dio of the SC have a functional, vital group life."

It looks more like a missionary district-- may be nearer to their self-perception-- than a diocese like oh the Faroe Islands or Prague or Cairo.

"surely you can imagine *vital* Christian community without [episcopacy and creeds]...?"

I'm trying to figure out what *you* are imagining when you say things like that.

Offhand, the obvious answer is that nobody can. Creeds and episcopacy have been shaping *Christian* from before (ca 1200 BC-- Deuteronomy vi 4-9, Deuteronomy xxvi 4) the time that St Peter acknowledged the Lord who in turn designated the Twelve. The creed is integral to the rite of baptism; somebody holds together the congregations of the baptised.

More recently, explorers in unknown parts did not find indigenous peoples with Christian communities that lacked creeds and bishops. And thus far, we have not made contact with extraterrestrial communities saying that they are Christian-- how indeed would they do this?-- but have no creeds or bishops.

"surely you can imagine *vital* Christian community... with [creeds and episcopacy] decentered by other commitments and values (individual and communal)?"

Yes, the C4-8 canonical order of creeds, bishops, and scriptures already allows or requires such decentering-- "hermitages, confraternities, monasteries, beguinages, even monastic republics"-- and we could easily add the original Quaker meetings to the list as a modern variation. We should also acknowledge a third category of chaplaincies and missions to constituencies with special needs for churchly participation and care.

However, none of these have existed as Christian communities apart from a church defined by creeds and bishops. Missionary monastics in say ancient central Asia or the modern Aleutian Islands had bases in regular home churches. The Church of England explained who Jesus was so that George Fox did not have to do so.

For Anglican purposes, I see bishops binding civic, contemplative, and chaplaincy communities into a single canonical order in each inhabited place. From student days on, I've worshiped equally often in the three kinds. My closest friends have done likewise when they could.

You seem to see the civic ones as dead, the contemplative ones as alive, and order as a lethal virus. Have you mentioned chaplaincies? Do I misunderstand?

At ADU, I usually refer to the ancient sources of this synergy, but here up yonder it is also in the TEC Constitution and Canons. I've had the thought-- threads like this one encourage it-- that the churches that retrieved liturgy and contemplation from the sources in the C20 will do so again with catechesis and canonical order in the C21.

Thanks again for reading.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
On the technical matter of the DioSC being more synodical in its decision-making it seems to be continually overlooked by you that they have plenty of referents to consult: the Diocese of Sydney etc are hardly "apostate" in the eyes of DioSC!!!!!!!

But, more generally speaking, the threat of implosion of various forms of Christianity is palpable in the world today. But, frankly, I think the threat lies most scarily from the disinterest of secularised Westerners in all realms, Protestant and Catholic, and not from synodical, synodal or episcopal moves within our various churches!

Mark Murphy said...

Ah, William, when discussing Anglican matters, you are like a joyous mourner at a funeral!

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Peter. I do take your point about the need for right "ordering" and Jean talking about the whakapapa of spiritual leadership. I know my Mum gets rather upset when a visiting minister makes a hash of the eucharist, or treats it like a quaint, old-fashioned add-on (like singing songs around the piano at Christmas).

And when you are such a big organization, quality control is even trickier.

Of course the Spirit has its own way of ordering, and that can be symbolized though never secured by outer canons and rituals.

Mark Murphy said...

Right-o, Bowman. I'm going to attempt a response though this might be a bit sketchy. And the kids need to be taken to school very soon...

'Vital' - I mean spiritually alive, but don't ask me to define that further! We all know the feeling of a dead group from an alive group, and I'm not taking about respiration and heart rates. If a group is spiritually alive - if there is an openness to the wind of the spirit blowing through, comforting and disturbing and always already being beyond our control - it will feel more emotionally bright and warm, emotionally attractive, but also broad, peaceful, loving, and wise. Do creeds etc secure such aliveness? I don't think they do, but that might depend on what we mean by creed. Do bishops suppress such aliveness? They might, but they also might encourage and secure its continuity over time.

I find it odd that you can't image a vital Christian community without creeds and bishops, except maybe on Planet Mars. The soup out of which the Anglican Church emerged included many, many, many of these: Seekers, Ranters, Baptists, Muggletonians, the Family of Love, and, of course, Quakers. Alec Ryrie (The English Reformation, Being Protestant in Reformation England, Protestants; The Faith That Made the World) argues that Anglicanism emerged as one other 'new church' within this contested field. Those who where drawn to a nonconformist chapel on Firbank Fell, and first heard Fox preach, were drawn by a hunger and a great hope - to practice Christianity with the same power and spirit as the first witnesses, disciples, and peeps of Jesus did.

So, Quakers. Certainly not every Meeting is spiritually alive! But here is a church that seeks to be radically centred around the person and spirit of Christ, that has punched above its weight in terms of contributions to bringing the peaceable kingdom into the world, and that doesn't have creeds or bishops.

Clearly, Quakers are a tiny minority. Many others of us seem to need more structure to coordinate, hold together, and persevere over time. Fine. But (belief statements follow with no time to justify any of them)...

The spiritual heart and vitality of Quakerism is surely not Quakers' alone: it warms the hearts and moves the nerves of Christians throughout the wider world body, such a a bible study group in rural Maharashtra, coffee encounters in suburban Timaru, or a psychotherapy centre in Christchurch. Creeds and bishops aren't central to any of these, though we could imagine creeds and bishops being supportive (or not) of such vitality over time....

My daughter has finished her eggs.

Anonymous said...

Mark, you are quite mistaken if you think I feel any joy over the implosion of "western" Anglicanism or other forms of Protestantism - quite the reverse. Even while a teenager in Dunedin I was dimly aware of the fallout from the Lloyd Geering affair (before sexuality was on anybody's radar) and it was dismaying (even to Catholics) to watch the Principal of Knox College move from liberalism to vague "spirituality" to atheism and now the bleakest kind of eco-pessimism. (In my youth, it was the right who thought the world would end in nuclear war, today it is the left who are the climate armageddonists.)
What has happened to NZ Presbyterianism? Only a shadow of itself.
Years later, I saw Anglican bishop Richard Holloway on the same trajectory of liberalism (theological and sexual) to atheism - and the Scottish Episcopal Church has now almost sunk without a trace.
So I weep that the Christian faith that once lived in these young men has died - and in those who followed them. No joy at all.
Saddest of all is the spectacle of unhappy young people today growing up in scepticism, with the default religion of wokeism promoted in schools and secular culture - a very poor substitute for living Christianity (of which it is really a distorted atheist offspring). Yes, Christ is risen, and that is the source of my joy. But at this stage, I feel how I imagine the prophet Hosea must have often felt.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark.

The fog is lifting.

As you define terms, religion is vital when it is a psychoactive intervention, presumably for good.

You don't think creeds or bishops are active ingredients in any such interventions, not even baptism or ordination.

I give more weight to the continuity of some folk religion from the middle ages to the C18 (cf Ward on evangelicalism) than you seem to do, and less weight to continuity from the C18 to the present (cf Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Charles Taylor).

You see Christian identity as less intrinsically difficult-- and maybe less important-- than I do.

We can connect the dots later.


Peter Carrell said...

Quickly and briefly from me!

William: there is any amount of evidence supporting a bleak view; but there is also the possibility that such evidence is not the whole evidence. NZ Presbyterianism, for instance, is working very hard to find new and different ways to proclaim the gospel and to be the church of God. Many such stories are not (yet) well known.

Mark/Bowman: reference to your child eating her eggs catalyses the following analogy: if we all have our own few hens in the backyard (and we can ensure by natural means that none get diseased etc) then we each get to eat eggs and have no need for rules about egg production, care of hens, etc.

But that is not the way life works and so we appreciate egg farmers but then find we need to oversee what they do - that their buildings are built to standard, that the hens are visited by vets and when ill have the right medicines (and, if need be, the eggs from the sick hens are not sold), etc, etc.

Isn't Quakerism (and I mean this as a compliment) akin to a hen house in each backyard; and organisation such as vicars/vestries/bishops/synods, presbyteries/sessions/clerks/moderators etc akin to large scale egg production?

Mark Murphy said...

Bowman, obviously I'm a live process...I'm working this out as I go through a big shift in my Christian identity. I only sound like I know what's happening!

My sense is that bishops, priests, baptism, eucharist are all important, but ultimately they are spiritual realities or functions- oh I know you're going to love this! - that become incarnate in a variety of beautiful, cracked, ordinary, earthly forms. Some of these may even correspond with orthodox church forms!

Don't think you'll find that in the 39A, though their view of spiritual communion is connected.

I find I don't need to take physical bread for communion anymore, though I very much need to participate in an earthly, bodily 'liturgy' (just more minimal and flexible too that lining up for the host). That when I sit in silent waiting on the light (on my own or with a group), I feel more refreshed, whole, and loving by the end. You might say that's progressive relaxation or psychoactive mind techniques, but the experience is much greater. Often I get images of being fed actual bread during this time. As one 18th century English woman put it, by the end of Meeting we feel like we've been served the 'bread of heaven'.

Let's not limit the ways that Christ can do this. That's all.

Oh you're going to love this next one....

People go through baptisms throughout their life. Who can tell when we are fully baptized into Christ with water, fire, and the Spirit. Yes, we can engineer a ritual for this to happen, and that's probably a good thing, in terms of expressing our openness, desire, consent. But the Spirit has its own way, and time. Blows where it will.

Quakers say they didn't abolish the priesthood, only the laity.

I realize that this way will sound bizarre and occultic to many Christians, and that only a tiny number seem to be drawn to it. We have more members of the Mongrel Mob than Quakers in NZ! But like I said, I also believe - without footnotes! - that this spirit and body is the essence of a Christianity that is more than just the tiny Religious Society of Friends. That might sound arrogant, but without believing this wed just be various bowling clubs talking together over beer and doritos.

Mark Murphy said...

Should we keep our own chickens or buy them from large scale farmers? If we choose the latter, as you say Peter, who is ensuring health and safety?

Mark Murphy said...

Don't worry William, the death and implosion you speak about is surely part of the renewing work of the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

A Breton nun that I know makes cheese in New England. She sells it to chefs in Boston, New York, and points west.

They buy it because she makes it in the centuries old *slow food* way of a small town in Brittany. So she uses presses and molds constructed from certain hardwoods to ensure the characteristic flavor.

However the Food Code requires that all food be produced in sanitized stainless steel. Health inspectors have sometimes cited her for using wood.

Icky, they say. But she is also a PhD in microbiology from Institut Pasteur, Paris.

She proves to the judge that stainless steel is inert to dreaded bacteria but that the wood she uses is lethal to them. The judges scold the inspectors, let her go, and sometimes buy her cheese


MsLiz said...

"Let's not limit the ways that Christ can do this. That's all."
In case anyone's interested.. growing up in a clergy-free church.

In the old-fashioned Open Brethren I was raised in, each church had a small group of elders (men only). Communion, generally called the 'breaking of bread meeting', was at 11.00am Sunday in all the Assemblies. No music, no order of service; we sang hymns (as announced by men), men prayed, some men might share briefly from the Bible. One of the elders would preside over communion, breaking the bread and pouring the wine. These would be passed around hand-to-hand, then the collection. If my Dad was present he'd be the speaker after communion, unless we had a visiting Bible Teacher. An elder would read the notices and maybe include a letter from a missionary. If there was a baptism there'd also be a trip down to the river.

Larger churches would also have a 'gospel meeting' on Sunday evening. Different hymn book to the morning, and musical accompaniment acceptable such as organist/pianist. Hymn singing would be followed by a proper sermon, or sometimes by a missionary on 'furlough' who'd update us on their work.. about 45mins I suppose. And most churches had Sunday School, usually before 11.00am communion.

Many regions had a Christian camp with various youth camps being run by people from the churches of the region. The Open Brethren took pride in not having paid clergy and that the money from the collections went to missions. Dad was a 'full-time worker' - I doubt the church fully supported us but certainly subsidised us with random 'gifts' from their offerings. One church gave Dad a brand new car (a Holden Belmont) to replace our old Zephyr!

There were conferences - there was always a very intense 3-day bible teaching conference at Easter. And other activities like the Every Boys/Every Girls Rallies. Some people taught Bible-In-Schools once a week. Many churches had active Youth Groups.

This was the old-fashioned form of the Open Brethren, 1960s/70s!

Jean said...

Well at the moment one is grateful just to find any eggs 🤣… home laid or otherwise

- Sorry I couldn’t help myself [BW we currently have an egg-supply problem downunder].

One of many amusements I come across has been two Christians I know in their 20’s who have both come out in discussing finding a church home with not really caring about “you know the domination.” Inevitably they end up going to several different churches, church hopping or attending a life group at one, worship at another etc.

Mark I can relate to the leading of the Holy Spirit in times of prayer, worship and meditating on scripture, however, I do not know how you reason Baptism and the Eucharist to be only experienced ‘in the Spirit’ so to speak when Jesus himself performed these things in the flesh.

Liz thanks for sharing. I have a friend who goes to a similar style Open Brethren Church currently and I went along one time, having no one up front certainly created a sense of all being before God. The singing without music did nothing to enhance my voice which should not really be heard in public 🙈.

Anonymous said...

What, Bowman? An American judge gave in?! To a FRENCH nun? And bought her produce?

He must be ... a cheese-eating surrender monk, eh?

Eh, je cherche mon manteau.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

MsLiz said...

How interesting Jean - that some OB churches still exist like that! Dad would visit various churches to support them, sometimes moderate-size churches with lovely singing and people harmonising, other times to tiny churches with literally a handful of people - and we'd all valiantly do our best - and choose easy hymns :D

Mark Murphy said...

Hi Jean

Jesus performed many things in the flesh. Do we have to imitate everything he bodily did?

Liz, is there anything you miss from your Brethren days?

An attractive aspect of Quakers is that women were seen as equals - and assumed equal speaking and leadership rights - from early on.

Anonymous said...

Churches of the old Christendom will not thrive without change in an environment where the... I will call them the hopeful rather than the faithful... are rarely more than a third of the population of their societies.

I like free churches and very synodical churches *of the past* as much as anyone here. But they were and are still too dependent on the religion in the society around them to carry on as integrally Christian in the present and foreseeable future.

The experience of missionary and minority churches is more indicative than that of build-a-better-mousetrap churches and innovations that did well under hothouse conditions we will never see again.

Inner *cultural* vitality that is not an echo of the surround is very hard to achieve. This problem has not been taken seriously by those who are still thinking about church-world as though it were 1823.

When we do, the most basic marks and means of Christian identity assume an importance for who have... hope... that they did not have when the culture as a whole was plausibly churchly.


Anonymous said...


Possibly this is better on the blessed isles, but here up yonder churchgoers of all denominations without any known exception are much less well catechized and versed in the Bible than in the past. It is easier to describe the hope-there's-a-god-somewhere majority as sincerely hopeful than as believing and faithful. This constrains laicism today more than past tradition or anything that clergy do.

The inner *culture* that local bodies need is both the sort that ethnographers study and the sort that musicologists study. There will always be-- there should always be-- missionary copycats who mimic the latest thing. But the expectation that one can build sound churches that way will decline.


MsLiz said...

"Liz, is there anything you miss from your Brethren days?"

Hi Mark, thanks for asking.. and yes. The hymn singing, we sang so many! No choirs, everyone in the congregation just sang together. In a larger congregation with some folk singing in parts it was truly beautiful. But even in a tiny group there was something very genuine and unabashed, and trustful, in raising our voices anyway! And the words in most of the old hymns are just wonderful.

And what Jean said.. "having no one up front certainly created a sense of all being before God". Yes! On Sunday morning when we celebrated "the Lord's supper", we sat on pews arranged around the table. When the men rose from their seat to say something, they stayed by their seat and sat down when finished. The communion table was our sole focus. If it was Dad's turn to preside, I always remember how he'd walk ever so carefully to the table.. so the metal protectors on the soles of his shoes didn't make a racket on the wooden floor! The service felt very reverential and sacred.

And our faith about communion was very simple and beautiful. "Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my Name, there am I in the midst". We absolutely believed wholeheartedly that this is the Lord's Table and his presence is with us as we worship.

Mark Murphy said...

My generation and those coming after me are *much* less well versed in the Bible than my parents and grandparents. But there are other factors equally important - and challenging - for spiritual life. One is the loss of silence. Our online, 24/7 lives have very little openings to silence in them. Morton Kelsey believed that experiencing - and crossing - 'the river of silence' was the *first step* in Christian meditation. Beyond silence is the positive encounter with God, something a lot of contemplative and Eastern meditation traditions suppress. But always silence first and silence afterwards - a sort of safety valve for the sometimes confronting, overwhelming, potentially inflating encounter with the divine. I have known clients who encountered God with too little silence to help them: it certainly challenged them to straighten their lives, but the experience took a long time to recover from.

Silence doesn't come easy these days. In our more rural times there was lots more opportunities perhaps. My stepfather is a very blustery, talkative former farmer. I can see that walking the paddocks and staring at the flocks, leaning on a fence, did much to balance and settle him - and put him in touch with Being.

These days when Quaker meditation is taught quite a lot of time is taken, and instruction given, regarding becoming silent and still. In the early days this seems to have come much easier - in the days of walking between villages, and phone-less, internet-less dark evenings.

Our loss of contact with silence and the natural world, as well as unfamiliarity with the Bible: challenges to spiritual vitality.

Jean said...

Happy Saturdaying Everyone,

They do indeed still exist Liz : ) … although I must admit I was surprised upon attending as the only other Open Brethren Church I had been too was in Wellington and is very big and modern in the sense of music, buildings etc etc.

Hmm no Mark I wouldn’t think we would imitate everything Jesus did in the flesh, however, for Baptism and the Eucharist the umm what would you call it …impetus to do so also comes from the multiple scriptures encouraging followers to do so. Such as ‘do this in remembrance of me’ … ‘be baptised by water and the spirit’…. As well as both being central aspects of the ministry both preaching and practice of the first apostles and early church. This being said many churches do not keep or regularly hold to what may be called core christian practices. A number of churches from multiple denominations only have the Eucharist occasionally or not at all - and I do not think this necessarily means God is not at work in their midst; But I do think it is not the best scenario. It always seems to me that what is encouraged through God’s word is for our benefit.

It seems Quakerism has much to recommend it, yes women in ministry, and the living out of faith in the real world as well. The life of the founder of Cadbury who continued to pay his workers during the depression is one of faith in action.

BW “Inner *cultural* vitality that is not an echo of the surround is very hard to achieve.” Is it ever, achieve and sustain in our current environment. I couldn’t say whether NZ echos the US in terms of being versed in the bible, probably it is quite the mixture here. It is definitely harder in my current context to gain peoples interest in bible study and corporate prayer than it is say offering practical help, I think in my setting a lot of this comes because the majority of the congregation come out of an upbringing whereby society was more churchy and so maybe the assumption is there is no need because one does these things privately?? I don’t know to be honest. It is not necessarily a reflection of people’s faith.

MsLiz said...

"Our loss of contact with silence and the natural world, as well as unfamiliarity with the Bible: challenges to spiritual vitality."

Beautifully said Mark! I do, very much, feel this too. And I'd really like to see churches doing something special to encourage this type of contact with silence and meditation, via whatever land they have available around their church. It's something my OH and I look out for and sometimes discuss (he's a landscape architect).

[Fellow readers, do please let me know of churches you've come across that've done something special, whether here or overseas]

Anonymous said...

Liz, are you acquainted with *shape note* or *sacred harp* singing? Perhaps you recall the choral singing in the film O Brother Where Art Thou?

This music began in choir-less congregations of New England that abandoned it centuries ago. But it emigrated down the ridges and valleys of the Appalachians to the mountain South and a new life.

There, people gather for meetings called schools to sing their hymns *a capella*, not for an audience, but to enter a meditative state in the Lord. If very traditional Quakers (eg Barnesville, Ohio) in an old meetinghouse burst into song, they would look, and maybe sound, like that.


MsLiz said...

BW, although not acquainted I surely love this story of music migration!

Moya said...

It occurs to me that the Quakers, in abandoning the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, are moving away from the Hebrew view of a person being an enfleshed soul or spirit. The oneness of spirit, soul and body is what Jesus inherited in Jewish culture and seems to me to be the most real view of human beings. Various heresies have tried to separate these elements in different ways, quite often by discounting the necessity of the body. The sacraments counter this tendency.

Mark Murphy said...

Hi Moya

Quakers, especially the early ones, like George Fox, would see themselves as reclaiming the original Christian genius ("Primitive Christianity"), including it's Hebraic roots.

As radical Protestants (sometimes called 'Puritans'), Quakers develop that Hebraic sense that 'God is Spirit', as John confesses, and that any attempts to localize God in one person, place, or object is not just idolatrous, but a disaster for one's own spiritual journey. Despite reformed theological treatments, Quakers are suspicious of the tendency to separate what is sacred from what is secular and treat things like church buildings, church altars and cemeteries, Christmas day, Sunday morning, and consecrated water and bread as anything more sacred or Spirit-infused that, say, the field in front of my house, the banana my daughter will eat for breakfast, this ordinary Monday, or the water flowing through the creek at the bottom of this hill. So, for me, it's actually a bigger embrace of the earthly, material, and bodily. Spirit is everywhere, and pops up in surprising intensity. We can't control that. Sacrament is everywhere. We don't know which parts of creation God will foreground for our attention today.

Quakers don't reject sacraments per se, they just have a bigger vision of the sacramental (and the material, bodily) - though many non-Quaker mystics have shared this vision too. Sure, I can hear Bowman say that vision is so large and nebulous as to lose any sense of clear, distinct meaning around the word 'sacrament'. Yup. Maybe.

This bigger vision can feel a bit puritanical sometimes. My wife asks me: 'Don't you miss beautiful church architecture, the colours of the liturgy etc. Quakers are so plain!

I do miss singing hymns in a group :(

But, surprisingly, no, because the aliveness of the Spirit that we encounter in silent waiting making everything glow, or opens our eyes to the glowing colour and beauty of the world *just as it is*.

The other main Quaker objection to the orthodox practice of sacramemts is a sense of handing over responsibility for our spiritual life to an outward person, form, or authority (be that a Pope, priest, canon law etc). Inevitably this results in the misuse and abuse of power (footnote: past and recent Christian history). But it also creates great obstacles in the search for God because we are conitually seeking God in fallible, finite human forms that are inevitably disappointing.

The light is within, the Teacher is within, says Fox. *Not* within in the sense of deifying and worshipping our inner psychological process, but met within the ground of our being, encountered directly, as in Jeremiah's vision...

"I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 31, 33).

Anonymous said...

Yes, Moya. Your query about the anthropology of early modern Quaker practice is interesting. Still, without thinking that it should be manualized and replicated today for postmoderns everywhere, or forgetting that Western and especially English sacramental culture was already notably thin in their day, one can admire the Body-life that flourished in their movement.


Anonymous said...

"The sacraments counter this tendency."

Yes, they do. But perhaps this is the place to note an anachronism: from the late middle ages on, disciples and even churchgoers have experienced the sacraments in successive correlations with their suspicion of worldly power, inhabitation of free civic space, recognition of the Holy Spirit's work on souls, and now re-enchantment of the creation, including not only the planet but humanity as a whole and each human body. A sort of humbug in every denomination exaggerates the rationalism in these changes as though churches were opinion clubs rather than organic bodies muddling through their own transformations in time.


Moya said...

Food for thought there thanks - though finding the Spirit in everything is a bit too vague for me! ‘Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…’

Anonymous said...

Vegans don't reject meat per se; they just have a bigger vision of meat, one that includes mushrooms, coconuts, aubergines and jackfruit.


MsLiz said...

Mark, I'm glad to learn about Quakers and I've just read a British and a NZ site about what a service is like. It sounds a little like an old-fashioned Open Brethren Sunday morning service albeit sans singing/communion/prayers but still with "ministry" as people feel moved to individually speak.

Some thinking aloud.. (these things are all new to me)
What strikes me from all these new things I'm learning is that Episcopate denominations are seemingly very invested in their apostolic succession and Quakers are right at the opposite end of the spectrum and adamantly so! Seems to me the Open Brethren as I knew it (elders and no ministers/pastors/liturgy/altar) were very close to the Quaker end. I suppose Presbyterians and Baptists are somewhere in the middle. Where do Methodists sit? Or are they 'Uniting Church'? I'm confused by all these names!

So as I tentatively understand it, Dio-Southern-Cross and the Uniting Church ministers are blurring the distinction between Episcopate and not-Episcopate, and it's like making a new and unauthorised hybrid ministry? If so, I can see why that might not go down well!

Mark Murphy said...

I await correction but off the top of my tired head....

Methodists are episcopal in the sense of having bishops and a very Anglican structure. John Wesley, I think, didn't really envisage them breaking from the Church of England. In fact, I'm entirely confused as to what doctrinally separates Methodists and Anglicans these days, apart from decades of separate cultural development.

Presbyterians and Baptists don't have bishops, though Presbyterians have a more ordered ecclesiastical structure. Of course they *have* had different theological emphases, though these days mainline Protestant churches, at least in NZ, tend to soup together into pan-denominational conservative v liberal forms.

United and Uniting Churches generally - I think! - refer to local amalgamations of Methodist, Presbyterian and sometimes Congregationalist ???? congregations. I think!

A useful spectrum is something like..

Catholic.....Protestant.....Radical Protestant

Mark Murphy said...

Anglicans (and Lutherans and Methodists ) on the Catholic leaning side of the Protestant place in that spectrum, Presbyterians to the right of Anglicans in the clearly Protestant camp and Baptists and Quakers further out to the right. The further right you go the less centralized/more local the organizational structure (ie no bishops).

MsLiz said...

Mark, thank you, you're right about Uniting Church (Australia)

"The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) was formed on June 22, 1977, as a union of three
churches: the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia".

I'm wondering if the liberal/conservative divide is more influential these days than old denominational differences. But given I'm only a beginner in learning about such differences, the larger context/trend is hard (for me) to understand!

Mark Murphy said...

I think the liberal conservative divide is probably much more influential for my generation and the those coming on.

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Liz. From the article:

"In Philadelphia, the group visited Penn Treaty Park on the anniversary of the 1683 treaty between the Lenni-Lenape Indians and William Penn — whose affinity they share with the Quakers."

That Penn treaty was referenced my nineteenth century British humanitarians, mainly evangelical Anglicans and Quakers - who pressed Britain to deal with Maori in such a way. In other words, there's a line that runs from London to Waitangi via Pennsylvania (I wrote my MA on this many moons ago).

Anonymous said...

Writing on deadline elsewhere, so only sententiae and a memory here--

Dogma is to opinion as food is to cigarettes.

Dogmatism is more cheerful than manualism because it is also more generous and less confused.

If one can enjoy chasing butterflies with a net, killing them with gas, pinning them under glass, and framing them on a wall, why not denominations too? Similar hobbies.

But trying to understand God-- and isn't religion a waste of life without that?-- by understanding what denominations say is like trying to learn French by memorizing every sentence ever uttered in Gaul. AI more or less does this, of course, but is that a human understanding? Life is short-- why do this?

Like the future, the past is a foreign country. Visas are hard, citizenship impossible. Round trip tickets are expensive but better than rumors.

On the other hand, osteopaths can read skeletons from both ancient gravesites and today's scenes of atrocity.

Some know in their skins that Jesus brought a salvation pill for individuals and churches are just the pharmacies that dispense it. It does not matter how a pharmacy is organized as long as there a counter so that money can pass in one direction and pills in another. If only there were agreement on the formula, hospitals could dispense salvation pills to patients just as they already teach Buddhist meditation technique.

But others know in another way that Jesus transformed the family of Abraham from a political state to a new sort of Body to which any sane person wants to belong. As a fringe benefit, there is also some kind of residence when the New Jerusalem arrives.

Pill-seekers cannot understand bishops no matter what denomination they are in (see above on food and cigarettes) because they they have a thin understanding of the Creator and none of the Body. On the synoptic record, Jesus on warmly approved people like that, but also did not count them among his disciples, let alone as the Twelve. Christendom blurred the distinction he drew, which confuses many today.

Conversely, Body-members discover bishops, even if they have never heard of them, as they see what they believe about the Creator and his Body personified in a ministry of continuity, unity, and presence without which they would be no kind of body at all. In fact, here up yonder we have seen a few churches whose founders were suspicious of bishops gradually accept in merger talks that the officers they were calling moderators, synod presidents, etc were in very fact their bishops because they were doing or leading the work of enabling the Body to be in their respective locales.

In times and places when nobody has understood the ancient sacraments as well as liturgists do today, some (eg Symeon the New Theologian or Marguerite Porete or George Fox or those founders) have nevertheless re-discovered the Body without them. Of course they did: the Body is the transformed family of Abraham and his God, not a pharmacy! But today it is much better to have both the family and the liturgy.

Jesus apparently re-founded a Body for every locale without expecting every person to join it, let alone understand it from within. The customer service desk at the pharmacy will fight this to their bitter end-- they can't help it; it's who they are; the Holy Spirit has used them-- but the future Body will replace it with a studio.

Anonymous said...

"If married men can be Orthodox priests, why can't they be bishops too?"

"Because Orthodox bishops are also monks, although other kinds of bishops are not."

"OK, why are Orthodox bishops monks?"

[Historically, bishops in West Asia were married until the Mongols killed them all. The only prelates left unharmed were the monastics. As these survivors were consecrated to rebuild the sacked and ruined cities, the present tradition began.]

"Traditionally, monastics are the successors of the prophets in the early Christian communities. As there can be no church without prophets, there can be none today without monastics. There cannot be a car without wheels."

"So bishops must be prophets?"

"Obviously, yes. 'Without vision the people perish.'"

"But everything churches do is traditional or institutional..."

"Jesus said to read the signs of the times. A godly vision of the way believers inhabit this village, that island, maybe part of a desert or a city is prophecy from God. We trust the Holy Spirit to give that vision to the one anointed for that place. Others have no faith."


Mark Murphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Murphy said...

Poor bishops - asked to be monastics, as well as teachers, judges, diplomats, spiritual fathers and mothers, liturgists, parish rent collectors!

At least in the Anglican tradition they are allowed to have a sweetheart-helpmate.

Like all in leadership, bishops are tremendous transference magnets. We project onto them our hopes, longings, emotional and spiritual needs (fulfilled and unfulfilled), our own unlived talents (prophecy, interpretation of scripture etc), as well as our deepest suspicions, tortures and fears.

One goal of therapeutic process, as well as spiritual life, is to *gradually*, and in the context of human relationship, take back our lively projections and turn them into compost for the fruit of our souls. So we realize our full potential as whole human beings.

I suppose the best bishops understand this - in all manner of ways: that they/we are part of this great transmuting process, the goal of which is stand before God without need of any mediator apart from Christ and the Spirit he left us.

MsLiz said...

Love what you shared, Mark. I like the emphasis you've put on gradually.. it encourages me to be way more patient/forgiving of my own failings (and also of others).

Not being accustomed to bishops and formal church hierarchy, I'm overwhelmed by all I don't know! I like that a bishop provides a recognisable authoritative voice for the church in the public square and is accountable.

Last night I remembered the term 'priesthood of believers' and read a bit about it (I didn't realise it goes back to Luther). It seems to support what we believed when I was young - that a group of believers (even just 2 or 3) - may celebrate communion without it being necessary for an ordained person (or elder in our case) to preside.

I'll need to learn more! I assume I'm off-side with Anglican belief. If it's mandatory for an ordained person to preside, it would seem (to me) to encourage a sense of dependence on clergy (perhaps at the expense of learning to develop a close personal relationship with Christ).

Moya said...

Actually Liz, it goes back to 1 Peter 2:5, written to all believers of their new status before God.

Peter Carrell said...

At risk of sounding defensive [smile], I suggest emphasis on priest/bishop (e.g. presiding at eucharist) is (or ought to be) some distance removed from any sense of "dispenser of the sacraments" (which would be antithetical to the point of "priesthood of all believers", that there are not two classes of Christians, clergy and laity).

The emphasis should fall on
(i) worship being conducted "decently and in order", with this being understood through history, with revisions such as the English Reformation, to involved worship presidency involving "ordered" persons, set aside through discernment by the Body, ordained as priests and bishops, but for the sake of the Body, not to divide the body into clergy and laity;
(ii) church leadership being conducted by a mix of bishops/overseers and presbyters/priests (per NT examples, albeit the NT is not particularly clear about the difference between bishops and presbyters).

Two further notes:
(iii) I am leaving out the role of deacons for sake of simplicity in discussion;
(iv) It never helps discussions such as here that at the English Reformation the word "priest" was retained and not "presbyter" (though this word is found in NZPB ordination service for priests/presbyters); and, further, that the English word "priest" is a contraction of "presbyter" and is used both for the role of "presbyter" in the NT AND for the role of "priest" in the NT (e.g. Christ as our great High Priest, the priesthood of all believers) - when two different Greek words are at stake, "presbuteros" and "hieros".

Personally I respect differing "orders/ordering" re worship so if at a Presbyterian church or a Brethren church, I am happy to receive the eucharist there, because the traditional order is being followed etc. Slightly differently, I never present to receive communion in the Roman Catholic church, because I know that in that order I am not welcome to do so (excepting the few, and wonderful, occasions when I have been invited to receive by the priest.)

Jean said...

It is interesting isn’t it Liz. I probably sit in-between, whilst I grew up in a formal church setting by the time I was young it faith was no longer an integral part of decent society as such, and then when I owned my faith as an adult it was all but unpopular and the church I belonged to then was more charismatic and spirit accepting albeit still in the Anglican family. I too am not sure why it is ordained people only distribute communion although I have never experienced as a power dynamic as communion has been regularly available where I have worshipped. +Peter can probably tell us!

I relate to the priesthood of all believers and in the last church I mentioned above all the areas of church life were lead by lay people who had gifts in particular ministry areas. If I wanted prayer I was more likely to ask the leaders of the prayer ministry than our minister at the time. I do value leadership though, I respect the wisdom and the calling put on people’s lives to lead God’s people. Certainly not all church leaders have acted or do act appropriately, however, a bit like not all beneficiaries are bludgers I am not prepared to discount the greater good because of a few bad eggs. I have also often been grateful of ministers being subject to Bishops or the equivalent leadership as accountability seems to defer our natural human inclination to want to be in charge. I have seen a few Pentecostal churches implode when leaders started making their own rules that began to deviate from scripture. That aside our Minister was mostly permissive and would go outside Anglican boundaries when ministry appropriate to context of the congregation, which was largely multi-denominational in background, made it appropriate, e.g. he was happy to water baptise those from Pentecostal churches or do a formal first communion for attendees who came from a Catholic background etc…

Mark I don’t think I have projected much onto the hierarchy of the church but have approached them for advice/wisdom/prayer etc…. I have also projected many things onto to people who are not in the church 🤣… so I am familiar with the practice, however, I get your drift. Perhaps that way of seeing those in church leaders is/was more common for generations were authoritarian figures in general more commonplace? I knew a lady in her nineties who had been told by the minister when her husband left her that it was her fault because she was the female of the species. Times have definitely changed… In my case the poor leaders have to earn my trust and respect.

MsLiz said...

Not at all +Peter, and I'm grateful for such a helpful response to my genuine feeling of wondering/uncertainty. And in regard to church leadership, the Anglican way of doing things seems to have a lot going for it! I mean, I've lost confidence in the kind of evangelicalism I knew, hence my interest. The info re presbyters/priests is very helpful.. I sure was confused by those terms. Thanks also Jean/Moya. I really appreciate the responses received, I wasn't expecting so much so quickly! Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Gosh + Peter you have just given me a lot more understanding regarding the terms other denominations use in their organisational structures.

So +Peter if the Greek in ‘the priesthood of all believers’ refers to presbyters which means elders and yet elders in the church are chosen from within the body and are not all of the body how do we reconcile that? Where or how does the differentiation between presbyters plural and presbyters/elders chosen arise?

One can imagine in the early days (okay quite early) overseers and those appointing elders would be a lot closer geographically and therefore have a more in depth knowledge of the congregations. Spiritual learning also as opposed to our formal colleges of today must have been more like the disciples or our modern day apprentices.

Mark Murphy said...

"Decent" and "ordered". Is this a liturgical or ethical statement?

Without the presence of (centrally) "ordered" persons, Christian group life/worship is at risk of becoming indecent and disorderly?

And who ensures the bishops etc are decent and ordered? Themselves? This is an urgent worldwide question, of course.

I suppose in centralized systems (Anglican, Roman Catholic) the drift is towards synods, synodality, to backstop the gaps and potential abuse within this politics.

Which may bring us full circle to Peter's point about the Diocese of the Southern Cross running foul of the safeguards - liturgical and ethical - within the Anglican system?

Mark Murphy said...

Look, this isn't an easy *human* conundrum. A teenage boy is shot mercilessly by police in France and it's the last straw for young people. The system is corrupt, they know that. While curmudgeonly elders wonder if subsequent riots are stoked by Russian trolls, cars are set on fire. Young people gathering in great groups finally feel more heard, powerful. Macron mobilizes 45,000 more "ordered persons" (in riot gear) to re-order the situation, and, like a curmudgeonly presbyter, appeals to parents to 'keep your children at home'.

Order, disorder, abuse of power, institutional distrust, the violence of the mob.

Is there a Christian, spiritual, response to this conundrum?

Mark Murphy said...

"More than 1,300 people were arrested on Friday night and early Saturday morning after more than 230 buildings, including town halls, and 1,350 vehicles were set alight, according to France’s interior ministry, who said the average age of those taken into custody was 17. Some were as young as 13."

Mark Murphy said...

"However, two of the country’s biggest police unions, Alliance and Unsa, issued an inflammatory statement describing protesters as “savage hordes” and “pests”, and warning the government: “Today the police are in combat because we are at war. Tomorrow we will be in resistance.”

Aotearoa had a taste of this with the Parliament protest over mandates.

Why am I posting this news within this thread?

Because the language of ordered persons ensuring group life remains decent and ordered is deeply problematic now, to say the least.

Is there another Christian response to this?

Mark Murphy said...

*Under supportive conditions*, worship itself *should* be "ordering", insofar as contact with God brings a deep pattern of meaning, wholeness, peace and loving energy to our lives and communities.

So church structure (presbyters, elders, bishops perhaps, 'books of disciple', commonly held spiritual practices) should be aimed at fostering these "supportive conditions" through which a spiritually rooted form of order (George Fox called it "Gospel order") organically arises.

Because the other main alternative is tyranny, right? Humans are by nature indecent and disorderly and need to be disciplined and shaped by a (self-policing) order from on high. Maybe some of us would still go there, but I'm imagining most of us not. Church sexual abuse scandals have surely burnt that idol to the ground, and rightly so.

What are the supportive conditions that allow *Gospel order* to emerge? We are very divided as a Body around this. What is peaceable for some is Spirit sufficating for others But perhaps I'm making this too ecumenical. Though that is at play with the Diocesan of the Southern Cross issue too.

MsLiz said...

I've been aware of trouble in France but not following the news, so thanks Mark!

1 Cor 14 speaks of order in church gatherings (Jubilee Bible):

For God is not the God of disorder, but of peace, as in all the congregations {Gr. ekklesia – called out ones} of the saints.
But let all things be done decently and in order.

I've a particular concern with various kinds of abuse in the church so general "order", and what that means, is a big concern of mine. Too often "order" is used to protect against proper accountability for wrongdoers and to withhold comprehensive care/support/justice from survivors.. indeed in some cases they've been re-victimised by the institution.

I'm speaking very generally, not specifically about NZ. I haven't delved into how things are here.

ps. loads of snow around our house, white everywhere. About a foot deep! Still snowing.

Jean said...

I suspect the ‘order’ in a police force is different from the ‘order’ in a faith based organisation.

France so complicated yet so familiar a pattern: People on the fringes of society end up residing in the cheapest accommodation often creating slum type housing areas. People who are ‘disenfrachised’ in multiple ways become angry. Crime in these areas rises. Police respond. Police end up being weary of those whose profile matches those whom they often encounter in these situations. In France race comes into it because of the Algerian population and the fraught relationship France had with Algeria alongside the very high unemployment rates for Algerian and other immigrant populations.

It happened as everyone likely knows with our Maori population here when the urban drift came, many were disenfranchised from the land and their language, anger and a higher proportion of the Maori population involved in crime and in jail. And police suspicion being higher towards Maori. I know a police officer in Auckland who says it is very hard NOT to be racist (because of the incidents they attend).

Does this parallel what happened with our parliament protests. I guess in some ways although with a more diverse net of people not all low-income or having experienced racial inequality, it was like anyone who felt disenfranchised or annoyed with their lot in life had now an outlet they could attach their feeling too and band together with others.

Is the state responsible? Probably for some of the conditions many of which are historical. And possibly at times for not pro-actively addressing those issues.

Would countries be better off without a police force…….?? A state?? I suspect not but lets wait and see re the US elections!

Mark Murphy said...

Interesting thoughts, Jean and Liz.

Liz, I'm very excited that it is snowing where you are (Dunedin)? Hope it makes it up here to Banks Peninsula.

I recently attended a talk on violence in Aotearoa by a lovely, experienced social worker and social work lecturer who has created and run recovery programmes for some of the prisons most violent offenders.

His big lens view (no surprises) is that untreated trauma and social inequality are the root causes of violence. Conversely, treating trauma and creating greater social equality reduces the conditions through which violence becomes endemic. It strikes me that this is applicable for churches too.

Mark Murphy said...

The times when I've felt most violent towards my kids is when I was most traumatized (following brain surgery).

Most people who abuse (sexually, psychologically, spiritually) others in churches (and families) have been abused themselves.

English reformed churches (Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Brethren etc) arose at a time - or just after a time - of massive national trauma. One historian has likened civil war England to bombed, divided, post- war Iraq.

Appallingly high Māori suicide, domestic violence, mortality, imprisonment etc statistics follow a time of unprecedented, accelerated social change, loss, and trauma (confiscation/theft of lands, suppression of language and culture, rapid urbanization etc).

Mark Murphy said...

Violent trauma is at the heart of Christianity. Our central figure was tortured and executed by a brutal imperial state, with varying degrees of complicity, protest, or solidarity of God, depending on your theology.

MsLiz said...

Hi Mark, I'm in Tapanui, West Otago. Rural town 1/2-hour drive from Gore in Southland. We had a power-cut this morning after my previous comment, could've done without that!

"Inner *cultural* vitality that is not an echo of the surround is very hard to achieve."
A sentence from BW's comment at 2:47am

But nevertheless is this not what we're called to? That is, Love of God and Love of Neighbour. The real kind. Love and humility and care, *especially* for those who are marginalised and misunderstood and ignored. Not shutting down those people's voices when they clearly articulate that we're *harming* them by our actions and attitudes.

Church "order" should surely ensure *those voices* are uplifted and given serious consideration. Because there'll always be more powerful naysayers who try and shut them down for being disruptive.

By properly listening to those voices, and then acting responsibly in wisdom and love, church culture would compare more favourably with "the surround". I mean, I'm in favour of church "order" as long as it uplifts the weak and cares for those pushed to the margins!

PS: the church often seems rather selective about what truth it's interested in!

Mark Murphy said...

I completely agree Liz.

Catholic social teaching calls it the church taking 'a preferential option for the poor.'

Clear skies and roaring southerlies here. My little kaka beak in flower still hanging in there.

MsLiz said...

Mark, thanks. 'a preferential option for the poor.' I like that.
Kudos to the kaka beak! I love their flowers.

A hedge of new small native plants along our driveway, planted in autumn, are buried in snow. Oh dear. I hope they survive this :(

You got my attention re France, I've just read In the suburbs, too many feel France’s founding ideals don’t apply to them via 'The Guardian'.

"The anger is being focused against everything the republic stands for – which is ultimately the democratic ideal of “liberty, equality and fraternity”. The reason is that a large part of the marginalised population in the banlieues feel this ideal doesn’t apply to them, or that quite simply it is a lie."

Yes, I can see parallels with some people's/group's experiences in Christian settings. As a mild example, I found the term "freedom in Christ" perplexing as a female teenager in a strict Christian setting.. couldn't relate! But other things are far more serious.

Jean said...

Hi Mark, I would agree trauma of many kinds and the victim/perpetrator cycle definitely perpetuates and initiates violence. Refugee women are known to be demographically disproportionate at Women’s Refuges. I have great respect for those who have found the capacity to be the short-circuit if you like. I have a single mother friend who as a child was beaten, threatened at gun point by her stepfather and you name it growing up. Although rocky, that she is managing to bring up children and give them experiences she had never had herself is nothing short of a miracle. And there is the more well known people who stand in this place Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. If you haven’t read Martin Luther King Jr’s book of sermons “Strength to Love” I would highly recommend it. Also more recently Matt Brown’s She is Not Your Re-hab although that’s a tough read in the emotional sense.

In regards to the cross, I once saw an art exhibition in Wgtn and I saw two figures of Christ on the Cross, in one He was depicted as Maori and the other had him as a white man with graffiti with not so nice references to white people written on the body. The contrast struck me as a challenge. To hate our enemies or choose to identify with Christ and forgive?

Liz, Brrr…. I thought it was cold here. Re “nevertheless is this not what we’re called to?” - I dare say it is!

Had a good evening and a good week…

Anonymous said...

"Inner *cultural* vitality that is not an echo of the surround is very hard to achieve."

"But nevertheless is this not what we're called to?"

Yes, Liz. Otherwise, we are not (a) making the Lord's presence legible to the world, (b) living presently in the hope of the world to come, and (c) interceding for all creatures to the Father through the Son in the Spirit (ie priesthood of all believers). Empirically, the Body is the community that does these things together in Christ.

As you will have seen, my comments here are not advice on How To Run A Proper Denomination or Why My Anglicanism Is Better Than Your oh Pedestrianism. Tribalism is a childish ego defense against fear. In Christ, we believers do not have the fear or need the defense.

Usually, I am imagining the Body--

(1) Too far in the future to think about this or that generation or cohort.

(2) In the secular West and proudly independent of state support.

(3) Comprising 2-30% of various local populations without any Constantinian nostalgia.

(4) Prophetically mirroring well-recognized settlements-- cities, islands, river basins-- that have some ecological, cultural and political cohesion.

(5) With union dioceses gradually gathering the legacy churches of several denominations over a few generations.

(6) With lay membership in both the local cathedral and also some congregation of another model (eg free church, catholic, monastic, women, refugees etc).

(7) Led by *connexional*, peacemaking bishops in the historic episcopate of the C4.

(8) Honoring at least the WCC Lima document Baptism Eucharist Ministry and the several Anglican ecumenical understandings (eg Lambeth Quadrilateral).

(9) Broadly committed to a *reparative theology* that reconciles divisions in the Body, a *catechetical theology* that fosters a culture of laity learned in the few essentials (dogma), and a *comparative ethnology* that situates actual local belief with respect to the religions of ancient Israel and of other civilizations.

(10) Listening to churches that re-establish full ecumenicity with civic vision more than those that do not.

Anonymous said...

On your 11:56, a few brief thoughts.

(i) Beginning with Durkheim's research on suicide, authoritarian religious communities have been continuously studied by social scientists from the beginning of the last century. In general: they lack a strong doctrinal commitment to personal individuation, so that nothing balances the excessive demands of a charismatic leader or a repressive membership. Communities with little personal thought and expression have been associated with higher rates of depression and suicide than chance alone would predict.

(ii) At the rugged individualist end of the curve, those higher rates have also been associated with DIY individuation that overwhelms souls unsupported by a cohesive community. Historically, mainline denominations, including the UUA, TEC, etc have had rates near this anti-authoritarian peak of the graph.

(iii) Who is in the happy valley between those two peaks and far below them? Moderate Catholics, Evangelicals, and Jews differ in their beliefs, but they are mostly alike in promoting more congregational solidarity than the individualists and more personal exploration of the magisterium, scriptures, or Talmud than the authoritarians. A century ago, Durkheim found few or no Evangelicals as we now know them in France, but he famously did find Protestants up on the individualist peak and Catholics and Jews down in the valley of contentment.

(iv) Is church order associated with any of this? Personally, I do not think so. Similar churches can be found all across the graph. I've seen the *episcopally led, synodically governed* ideal play out very differently among Episcopalians, Methodists black and white, Moravians, Slovak Lutherans (most fun), Greek Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox. The few scoundrels among the many were tempted, not by clear order, but by weak financial controls.

No snow here today but a bright red sunset from Canadian wildfires tonight.


Peter Carrell said...

My tuppence worthm FWIW!

(1) I don't think this discussion is about "who has best (denominational) structure, bishop/moderator/superintendent/none such or vestry/session/council/none such or synod/presbytery/conference/none such?" in a contemporary comparison.

(2) Nor, in my assessment, is it about which church structures intrinsically offer best safeguards against, abuse, malpractice etc. All churches - tragically, painfully, appallingly - have not prevented bad things being done to good people by those in power.

(2) It could be about, which church structures through two millennia have shown most resilience in the face of ... challenges, acute and chronic .... On that score, churches with bishops/similar (which at the least means, leadership that can act and adapt between meetings of committees) have a remarkable record (cf, obviously, the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches).

(3) It could also be about priests/presbyters/pastors in the sense of "elders"or "seniors" set apart for leadership, paid a living allowance (aka stipend) to permit them to focus on the task of leadership and pastoral care ... most churches through most of time have had such leadership. Intriguingly, here in NZ (at least), some (most? Liz may be able to comment) Brethren assemblies employ pastors to do ministry work that once was done by volunteers.

(4) I think all the above can be said while honouring those churches, such as the Quakers (if they are happy to be called, in this context, a church) which stand apart from the mainstream, and in doing so always remind the mainstream that there is another way of Jesus.

(5) Finally, the NT never sets down any single model for church structure to follow!

MsLiz said...

From my childhood I only recall Brethren assemblies overseen by elders but when I moved to Auckland in the early 1980s the church I attended had Pastor and Youth Pastor. The same church still had elders so I assume pastors were accountable to the elders.

Mark Murphy said...

I heartily agree Peter (except with points 2/2 and 3): God works through all structures (with a preferential option for the "poor").

Anonymous said...

+ Peter's tuppence makes pounds of sense!

Amplifications and quibbles on his (1)-(5)--

(1) If someone thought that s/he could draw up a polity for a church as s/he could also order drapes for windows-- think Peter the Great recasting the Moscow Patriarchate as a government department in the benighted C18-- would that person be a believer in what Jesus was doing in Galilee and the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem at Pentecost? Probably not. The machiavellian premise is that there is some one magic thing-- some pill of immortality or ticket to heaven-- that is to be distributed in whatever way makes arbitrary sense, just as ancient amulet makers made Christian charms to sell in the marketplace alongside the pagan ones.

But as Jews and Muslims also know, the biblical narrative is about restoring the creation by drawing humanity into some life in which it is collectively the *image of God*. That is a narrative of what God has done and is doing. and the Body is a part of his work. So, except in a few pockets of modernity, Christians have taken as revealed the forms of order that emerged alongside the canon and creeds.

When persons squirm against that consensus, they are either resisting the biblical narrative or myopically focused on pills, tickets, amulets etc or else both. They believe something that Jesus may indeed acknowledge in his battle with evil, but not the will of the Father revealed to us.

(2a) As Genesis tells the tale, the *image of God* is in the same episode both the whole of humanity and a lonely individual. When the Body is recognized as God's work rather than human invention, we see this in both macrocosm and microcosm, not pitting some organization against a soul or vice versa. In practice, this means that one does not know the Body as a whole first fruits of humanity until one also knows the Light that is in every one who has come into the world.

Again, believers in pills, tickets, amulets, etc are estranged from both the whole and the individual. So of course they are tempted to grievous sins against both. The Genesis story at least suggests that to sages of the ancient near east who believed in a creator god, one cannot heal hearts hardened against the individual *image of God* without also healing a like hardness against the collective *image of God* in the wider creation.

(2b) The Bible and creeds will not bear a tribal interpretation. They could be unreliable or even wrong, in which case the game is up. But if they are somehow truth-bearing, then the Body is universal.

The most minimal universality is a figure of unity in each inhabited place. The early canons on how such figures collaborate make intuitive sense and were crowdsourced over several centuries. Is there a more reasonable way to find universal norms?

Yet again, peddlers of pills, tickets, amulets, etc confuse their estrangement from what God is doing in the creation through the Body on earth with the modern detachment that post-moderns recognize as *the view from nowhere*. When they are making god-like judgements about the Body through centuries, do they think that they are standing in heaven alongside the Father and the Son? The past is real and history is somewhat reliable but efforts to schematize it never fail to embarrass (eg poor Leo on Anglican orders). Tradition is less of a leap.

Anonymous said...

(3) And in the earliest tradition that we can see (Rome), presbyters were teachers who were sometimes delegated responsibility for eucharists held at the stational churches away from the city's main celebration (cf Calvin). Deacons meanwhile were so powerful, presumably through their control of the local assets, that Nicaea had to subordinate them to the presbyters (hence the Ordinal's funny quip about "your inferior office").

Without insisting on a restoration of the past as an end in itself, we would be wise, not to say faithful, to rediscover the values embedded in the churches nearest Pentecost and then look again at how and why we locate celebrations, structure celebrations, and professionalize roles as we do. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has brought us budgetary woes to free us from a foolish and sometimes faithless model?

(4) In the C15-19, every Western church based some reform on (a) pill-peddling and (b) historical error. So in the C20-21, ecumenical churches have been correcting their mistakes through *ressourcement*. Without usually knowing this, most discerning people most admire these churches.

But what are free churches who formed themselves both in and against that past ignorance to do now that their old foils have learned and moved on? And how are we to unify the Body when parts of it fear mistakenly that admitting to facts and insights now shared in the rest of the Body will eviscerate their raison d'etre?

(Mistakenly? Lutherans and many Reformed once feared that the New Perspective on Paul was the end of Protestantism. Now they mostly teach it.)

The end of Christendom foredooms those denominations and styles of churchmanship that need it as a prop or foil to make sense of themselves. But churches with some experience of *ressourcement* can help others with none. With (3) just above in mind, see my (5-6) and (9-10) at 7:46.

(5) The NT shows the transition in the Body from Sinai to Pentecost.


Mark Murphy said...

I love your vision for the Great Tradition, Bowman. Truly I do! It's like watching a great golden sun beaming across hills, plains, housetops, mountains, and surf. It's like watching Aslan gazing at his beautiful world.

It's funny to also know that I see things differently, as the Body evolving towards a future where we will have no need of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, as per Jeremiah 31: 33-34. Though there may well be people walking around who are called Bishop Michael, Deacon Anthony, and Mother Amelda etc. (as happens now).

But I don't want to argue it. Those differences don't seem to matter right now.

he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—

MsLiz said...

I'm paying attention to the discussion but of necessity I'm in deep learning mode!

Reading 'St John XXIII, Aggiornamento and Ressourcement' by Fr Billy Swan

~very readable introduction to these terms, and their relationship with 'tradition', 'culture' and the 'world'.

Of course I'm in no position to judge the quality of what I'm reading, but it's at least helping me better understand what's in this discussion thread.

Mark Murphy said...

You should be awarded an honorary degree in theology by the end of this, Liz. You mow down all these references!

MsLiz said...

Heh! Lol.. but what a beautiful idea! :)

MsLiz said...

I feel a little bit of dissonance when reading this thread, I'll do my best to explain.

(1) from BW.. fab..

"..the biblical narrative is about restoring the creation by drawing humanity into some life in which it is collectively the *image of God*. That is a narrative of what God has done and is doing. and the Body is a part of his work."

(2) also BW, re "forms of order that emerged alongside the canon and creeds"

"When persons squirm against that consensus, they are either resisting the biblical narrative or myopically focused on pills, tickets, amulets etc or else both."

(3) reality from +Peter:

"All churches - tragically, painfully, appallingly - have not prevented bad things being done to good people by those in power."

(4) from Mark, and me too:

"I love your vision for the Great Tradition, Bowman...."


[i]: (1) + (4), the grand vision.. thrilling.

[ii]: The *image of God* in (1) is terribly tarnished by a whole swag of issues that fall into the awful truth of (3)

[iii]: I'm astounded (2) has only two options, "resisting the biblical narrative or myopically focused on pills, tickets, amulets etc or else both."


I think that many folk absolutely do appreciate that life in the Body should be the *image of God* but when we see for ourselves that corrupt/weak/irresponsible leaders aren't held to account for grievous sins and instead supported by their fellows (or quietly transferred to another church), we take note that the *image of God* seems lightly esteemed by their brethren; meanwhile those who've been hurt and humiliated are often left to fend for themselves as best they can. If they seek justice in the church, or push for reform, they'll likely face being branded as disruptive.

I often notice there's a vast gulf between perception of the problem and communication by church leaders, and the lived experience of church victims/survivors.

Eg: these letters from 2022 / Abp-York, ABC .. the tone! .. and a vast void:

Mark Murphy said...

Yes, Liz. Despite all the light there is a darkness within the Christian corporate body that is still a compelling reason shunning the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

God likes the *image of God.*.

If others think it's tarnished, why exactly should believers care?

Votes do not make truth true.


Mark Murphy said...

I can't resist ensuring this thread reaches a hundred posts!

This one's for you, Liz, riffing on the theme of the *image of God* and the suppression of that *image* (for centuries) by churches and Christians themselves:

"And may not the Spirit of Christ speak in the female as well as in the male? Who is it that dare limit the Holy One of Israel? For the Light is the same in the male and in the female, and it cometh from Christ... And who is it that dare stop Christ's mouth?"

-George Fox, 1657

Anonymous said...

"Judas betrayed the Lord for silver and hanged himself, therefore the Twelve were not perfect, the gospel should be shunned, the resurrection was pointless, and we should all drink ourselves to death."

Or maybe there is some more precise concern?


MsLiz said...

Wow, 100.. nice one, Mark!

The quote's lovely, and beautifully written.

Thank you.. on to 101 :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations + Peter!

You have inspired a century of intelligent comments that were not about That! And mostly not about the other dead horse Anglicans flog without tiring, holy orders.

Moreover, it was about the topic of the OP until the very end. If the League of Blogging Bishops give no prize for this, they should.

Warm gratitude to Liz and Mark for thoughts that made my week elsewhere exceptionally blessed and fruitful . Our disagreement on some things points reassuringly to an alliance on other and deeper things that claim more of my heart and time.

Some day I will be able to say more. But today, I can already say

Thank you.


Moya said...

It might be an anticlimax but this week I have wanted to add that all Scripture shows that God always pursues his beautiful purposes through faulty human beings. There is darkness that needs opposing but “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out!” And the gospel coming on 23/7 is the parable of the weeds and the wheat. Jesus is well aware of all our shortcomings but is still bringing in the Kingdom - even through us.

MsLiz said...

BW, thanks for the kind mention--"blessed and fruitful" sounds wonderful.

I've been glad for the light shared by Mark.

True, Moya. I'm concerned for 'lambs' though, many sheep-folds aren't wolf-proof.