Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dissenting Anglicans in ACANZP [UPDATED]

It is not all bad Anglican news today. Thinking Anglicans reports a pleasing increase in cathedral worship attendance. But read the report to see just where the increase is happening. Interesting!

Tomorrow our ACANZP Motion 30 Way Forward working group meets. Many in our church continue to wait with bated breath to see what way forward there might be. My personal anxiety is that some friends and colleagues seem to be involved in second guessing what the way forward is and are preparing for a way out. Patience, brothers and sisters!

Here is a brief thought from me, should anyone in the Way Forward group chance by here today. (If your BFF is on the group, you could forward the link!)

One way to view the situation we are in as we move forward in terms of Motion 30 is to frame it in terms of "dissent."

On the one hand, there is effectively a call for permission for legitimate dissent from those who wish to bless same sex relationships even when the formal apparatus of our church (constitution, canons, formularies) do not provide for such blessings because they continue (or, would continue if we do not agree to change them) to uphold marriage being between a man and a woman. This call for permission for legitimate dissent extends, of course, to those bishops/dioceses who wish to ordain ministers for the church who live in a same sex partnership.

On the other hand, there is an anxiety on the part of those disagreeing with possible (probable?) change to constitution, canons and formularies as to whether, post change, dissent from disagreeable changes will be legitimate. The anxiety extends to concern as to whether legitimate dissent from the authority of General Synod itself - in respect of matters concerning same sex partnerships - is going to be possible. (Recall that to receive a licence to minister in our church, the recipient must declare that they submit to the authority of the General Synod).

Now, I imagine the lawyers among us have their own anxieties about phrases such as 'legitimate dissent.' Not least because in ecclesiastical history it seems to have been difficult for churches to tolerate dissenters and life made easier when dissenters leave to form a new church.

Nevertheless one way of understanding what Motion 30 means and where the Way Forward lies is that we are going to try to find a way for legitimate dissent to occur as part of maintaining our life together.

Now here is a thought to mull over. Please mull before rushing to comment ...

If, from one side, some of us would wish that we might be granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo (if it does not suit our views), should we not be open to others being granted leave to legitimately dissent from the status quo which suits our views?

In other words, if I as a conservative am anxious as to whether future change will be accompanied by the right to legitimate dissent, should I not be open to progressives being able to dissent from the status quo if nothing changes?

What do you think?

UPDATE

In respect of the last paragraph, a correspondent has pointed out to me that for a long time now, conservatives have been open to, or at least accommodated dissent in our church re same sex partnerships being blessed or people in such partnerships being ordained. That is, with rare exceptions, dissenting actions have not been formally challenged by conservatives via legal means. (Probably slightly more than 'rare' have been the occasions when informal challenges have been made, e.g. via conversation with bishops).

A POSSIBLE WAY FORWARD FOR LEGITIMATE DISSENT?

Here is one idea which has come to me since yesterday morning re expressing legitimate dissent in the case in which our church does make legal provision for the blessing of same sex partnerships. 

The proposal below presumes that the canon on marriage has not been changed (that being a bridge too far for many if not all conservatives keen to find a way to remain within the life of ACANZP).

In respect of the signing of Declarations (of submission to the authority of General Synod, of adherence to the constitution and canons of our church) in order for licensed ministers/officers of the church to receive their licence (or to be voting members of vestry etc), that there be two options:

Option A: to sign the Declarations in toto and without exception (i.e. as at present)

Option B: to sign the Declarations with an Exception Clause along these lines, "I submit ... Except in respect of "new canon (re blessings)" and reserve the  right to teach and uphold the Doctrine of Christ as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles and A New Zealand Prayer Book [as at the day before the new canon comes into effect]."

No doubt lawyers among us, bush and otherwise qualified through less prestigious institutions (!!), could much improve on this suggestion.

Your thoughts?

A vital challenge to the actual lawyers among us, to our bishops and other leading figures among us is to provide for such a form of dissent so that it applies inclusively to future clergy and office-holders as to present clergy and office-holders.

Conservatives are not interested in the preservation of present job security. We are interested in the future life, growth and development of our church. We note that in many parts of our church expressions of interest in ordination come from young people in conservative parishes.

It's not rocket science ...


Monday, November 24, 2014

Commenting Policy

All commenters are welcome here who:

1. Offer engagement with issues discussed in posts here. (That excludes bots and spammers!)

2. Are respectful of other commenters (That is, comment on comments, not on commenters).

3. Do not make statements about other commenters not being members of Christ's church (That is, if (e.g.) you believe only Calvinist Methodists make up the true church of God and make a point of saying that others here are not members of the true church, keep that belief to yourself or pronounce it on another blog).

4. Do not make adverse comments about other commenters who remain members of a church (That is, do not comment to the effect that X ought to leave the Anglican Church of Y because it is unfaithful/heretical/etc).

AND

5. Unless I know personally who you are, no pseudonyms. Give a name, first or first and surname. Some rare exceptions will be allowed (e.g. remaining anonymous if sharing something highly personal; for uncontroversial comments some allowance can be made when commenters forget to append their name).

Sacred and Spiritual Links - Monday 24 November 2014

Supplied by a colleague in the UK ...

SERMONS AND TALKS
1. Three talks on The World as God sees it  - Hugh Palmer - All Souls Audio

2. NT Evidence for the Hebrew Jesus Spoke - Dr Steven Notley - Lanier Theological Library Vimeo

Commentary for Sunday 23rd November
3. Preaching Ideas and Commentary - Rev Peter Carrell

4. The Sunday Readings - Rev Stephen Trott

WORSHIP
5. The bells of All Saints Church, Allesley in Coventry - BBC Radio 4

6. Choral Matins [Morning Prayer] from the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace for the Feast of Christ the King, preacher is the Bishop of London - BBC Radio 4

7. Choral Evensong from Clare College, Cambridge - BBC Radio 3

8. Sunday Holy Communion livestreamed from St Helena's Church, Beaufort, South Carolina at 10:15 am Eastern Time, 3:15 pm London Time

9. Sunday Hour - BBC Radio 2

10. Choral services from the chapels of King's College Cambridge
and Trinity College, Cambridge
and St John's College, Cambridge
and New College, Oxford

PRAYER
Please pray for the Ebola Crisis and for those working for a cure; for Christians and all facing persecution and crime in Iraq; for the persecuted church and in particular in Nigeria and Kenya; for peace in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza; and for the Diocese of South Carolina.
11. Topical Prayers - Church of England
Kenya: Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabab 'wants religious war' - BBC News
Nigerian Archbishop on Boko Haram: We must storm the heavens with prayer - Christian Today
South Carolina: Prayers from Lent and Beyond

CURRENT AFFAIRS
12. Sunday Programme - with William Crawley - BBC Radio 4

Food for thought
13. The story of Temple Gairdner and outreach to Muslim neighbors - Bishop Mouneer Anis

FINALLY
14. A Hymn for St Cecilia - Howells - Somerville Choir

Friday, November 21, 2014

Keep within the teaching

I love reading the Bible and finding new insights. The other day there was this gem in 2 John:

"If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them." (v.9, Jerusalem Bible).

This is a little different to the next verse which speaks of our human response to heretics. Here in verse 4 we are solemnly warned that when we go beyond the teaching of Christ we do not have God with us.

At the heart of all theological debates, including those within the Anglican Communion is the question of the 'doctrine of Christ' (to use a phrase from the constitution of ACANZP). What is it? What goes beyond it? What keeps us within it?

John in this verse challenges us about the big picture of theological debate. The point of debate is to clarify the teaching of Christ. To fail to do this, to end up going beyond the teaching of Christ is to run the worst of all human risks, the risk that we no longer have God the Father and Son with us.

We sometimes joke that If God left the church, Would anyone notice?

In the midst of our debates it is quite possible that we would not notice that God was no longer with us. Debates have that ability to focus our attention on the debate and not on (say) the truth, or on the fact that the debating hall is burning down around us.

What if we debated with eyes open to the possibility that if we get the outcome wrong, if we go beyond the teaching of Christ, then we can no longer presume God is with us.

It is possible to have the form of religion without the content. To be sure we have the content with the form, we need to pay attention to what we teach and to strive to stay within the bounds of Christ's teaching.

Likely I will add to this post as I reflect further on 2 John over the weekend.

What does the author of 2 John understand the content of the doctrine or teaching of Christ to be?

From the content of Jesus' own teaching, the author mentions the 'new commandment' of love, 'let us love one another' (5) and spells out what love is, 'that we walk according to his commandments' (6).

So far so enigmatically Johannine! What are these commandments?

Turning back a few pages to 1 John we find reference there also to 'commandments' plural (3:22) yet then are told that 'this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us' (23).

So, back to 2 John, we remain within the teaching of Jesus when we believe in him and love one another.

Yet the author of 2 John has another concern which moves us outside of the 'teaching of Christ' = teaching taught by Christ, but focuses our minds on 'teaching about Christ':

'Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!' (7)

Since the warning to remain within the teaching of Christ follows this verse we may assume that when the author talks about remaining in the teach of Christ he also means we should remain in the teaching about Christ (that is, the true teaching about the truth of Jesus Christ).

In this case the author is concerned about heretics teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh, that is, was not a full human being (perhaps because they taught that the flesh of humanity is evil and Jesus, as one from God could not possibly share in it).

Writing in the 20th or 21st century the author might have another, opposite concern about heresy, about those who teach that the all too human Jesus was not really the divine Son of God!

It is not a stretch in either logic or imagination to see that the author means by the 'teaching of Christ', the teaching which tells us the truth about who Jesus is, who the God of Jesus Christ is, what Jesus commanded us, and what Jesus taught us. Writing late in the period in which the New Testament was composed the author is implicitly affirming Scripture (the gospels and the apostolic epistles which have become our New Testament and the writings which we describe as the Old Testament, since they formed part of what Jesus taught).

The risks are high if we either deny Scripture or go beyond it.

We stand to lose God!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Facts on the ground, ecclesiastical change by stealth, you have been warned!

For quite a bit of the 2000s -as I recall - a mantra doing the rounds of conservative blogs concerned about the spread of liberal Anglicanism went something like this, "Watch Out! Liberals are changing the church through facts on the ground." That is, by pushing some practice or other to be tolerated rather than disciplined, liberal activists (so the narrative went) created 'facts' about church life which laid a foundation for a future change to ecclesiastical polity which caught up with the change.

Well, is another church up to the same tricks? Is at least one 'liberal activist' creating 'facts on the ground' which paves the way for future ecclesiastical polity change. In this case the change concerns marriage and the church. Guess who the activist is?

Answer: here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brutal honesty: broken Communion may not be fixed

++Justin offers a masterful review of state of Communion in his Presidential Address to the current session of the English General Synod (here, also here). The following points stand out for me (within which I have emboldened some words):

"First of all, and this needs to be heard very clearly, the Anglican Communion exists and is flourishing in roughly 165 countries. There has been comment over the last year that issues around the Communion should not trouble us in the Church of England because the Communion has for all practical purposes ceased to exist. Not only does it exist, but almost everywhere (there are some exceptions) the links to the See of Canterbury, notwithstanding its Archbishop, are profoundly valued.  The question as to its existence is therefore about what it will look like in the future. "

"Secondly, Anglicanism is incredibly diverse. ...

At the same time there is a profound unity in many ways. Not in all ways, but having said what I have about diversity, which includes diversity on all sorts of matters including sexuality, marriage and its nature, the use of money, the relations between men and women, the environment, war and peace, distribution of wealth and food, and a million other things, underpinning us is a unity imposed by the Spirit of God on those who name Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This diversity is both gift and challenge, to be accepted and embraced, as we seek to witness in truth and love to the good news of Jesus Christ."

"Thirdly, the potential of the Communion under God is beyond anything we can imagine or think about. We need to hold on to that, there is a prize, the quest for which it is worth almost anything to achieve. The prize is visible unity in Christ despite functional diversity.  It is a prize that is not only of infinite value, but also requires enormous sacrifice and struggle to achieve.  Yet if we even get near it we can speak with authority to a world ..."

"Our divisions may be too much to manage."

"In many parts of the Communion, including here, there is a belief that opponents are either faithless to the tradition, or by contrast that they are cruel, judgemental, inhuman. I have to say that we are in a state so delicate that without prayer and repentance, it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures."

"the future of the Communion requires sacrifice.  The biggest sacrifice is that we cannot only work with those we like, and hang out with those whose views are also ours.  Groups of like-minded individuals meeting to support and encourage each other may be necessary, indeed often are very necessary, but they are never sufficient.  Sufficiency is in loving those with whom we disagree.  What may be necessary in the way of party politics, is not sufficient in what might be called the polity of the Church."

After noting that no Primates' Meeting will be called unless the majority of Primates think that should happen, and there will be no Lambeth Conference if the Primates do not think that should happen, ++Justin observes,

"The key general point to be established is how the Anglican Communion is led, and what its vision is in the 21st century, in a post-colonial world? How do we reflect the fact that the majority of its members are in the Global South, what is the role of the Instruments of Communion, especially the Archbishop of Canterbury, and what does that look like in lived out practice?  These are great decisions, that must be taken to support the ongoing and uninterrupted work of ministering to a world in great need and in great conflict. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be very different from the past."

++Justin is brutally honest here. Realistic, hopeful, yet cannot see how the broken unity (or visible disunity) can be repaired without considerable sacrifice. Are you and I willing to make it?

What if it turned out that Jesus didn't insist on male priests?

Curious remarks here by Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Obviously Jesus founded the church and not Sean. But did Jesus bequeath the church the order of male only priests?

Some Protestant wits might suggest that Jesus didn't bequeath the church any priests, male or female :)