Tuesday, April 21, 2015

For once I agree with our bishops

Actually I agree with our bishops quite a lot of the time, but in this case I agree with them and with the Catholic bishops of NZ who together have issued a joint statement about the TPP - the Trans Pacific Partnership which could become the TPPA(greement). Here is the statement:

"The Anglican and Catholic bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand have written to the Government asking for more transparency concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated, so that New Zealanders can better evaluate its implications.

The bishops acknowledge the right and duty of any New Zealand government to promote our country’s trading opportunities and are mindful that the well-being of New Zealanders depends on economic growth.

However, the lack of transparency and public involvement relating to the TPP is a cause for great concern. The sense of unease stretches across the community, and includes people in business, academics and unionists.

Corporate interests are party to the TPP negotiations and able to exert influence in favour of their own interests, while the people are excluded. This leads to the belief that ordinary New Zealanders, and particularly those who are poorer, will be disadvantaged by the TPPA and all the benefits will accrue to those who already have considerable wealth.

The bishops accept that secrecy may be the norm in ordinary trade agreements, but the TPP is more than just a trade negotiation. It has the capacity to reach into domestic economies, and to dictate what happens within a nation’s own political and legal systems.

In the parallel Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) much of the secrecy has been lifted by the European Commission with the introduction of a number of measures to enhance transparency in the negotiations and to allow public scrutiny and consultation.

The bishops have asked the Government to give serious consideration to making the draft text of the TPP available, so that New Zealanders are able to evaluate for themselves, according to their own principles, the potential negatives and positives of the TPP. 

For more information please contact:

Jayson Rhodes – Communications Adviser for the Anglican Bishops – 021 661 319

Simone Olsen – Communications Adviser for the Catholic Bishops – 021 611 052"

Solo Scriptura and Inhospitality to Conservative Theology

Has Sola Scriptura been bastardized to Solo Scriptura?

Michael Bird offers an intriguing paragraph from a book I have just ordered.

The book is

"Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation Paperback – January 20, 2015

by Michael Allen (Author), Scott R. Swain (Author), J. Todd Billings (Afterword)"

Of course Reformed Catholicity means 'Anglican' doesn't it?

Turning from the true character of Sola Scriptura as an internal debate among conservative theologians, this morning's news also gives pause for thought about hospitality being shown to theological conservatives in mainline denominations.

In this PennLive report on a dismissal in the Presbyterian Church of the USA the spectre looms of inhospitality (if not of hostility) to conservative theological views as a consequence of a denominational change in respect of same sex marriage.

This kind of story from overseas focuses attention on how the future of church life in ACANZP is going to play out.

From a 'hospitality' perspective we have at least two groups seeking hospitality from the whole church: those who oppose same sex marriage becoming a canonical norm in our church and those who wish to conduct same sex marriages (or, at least, blessings of same sex partnerships).

An obvious question is whether we can provide hospitality to both groups? (That, more or less, is the great question our current Way Forward Working Group is working on).

A less obvious question (I suggest) is whether each group can recognise the right of the other group to seek such hospitality. As a conservative myself I recognise that in various ways inhospitality (on a variety of matters in diverse contexts) has been shown to conservatives in our church over many decades. So fears of a US Presbyterian scenario unfolding here are not irrational. Yet I wonder whether we conservatives recognise that those wishing to be able to bless same sex partnerships may have similar fears of inhospitality should the status quo prevail.

Another way of thinking about these things is to ask ourselves how we give expression to forms of dissent which may not require division of the church.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is GAFCON founded on the truth, the whole truth (of all Anglican life) and nothing but the truth?

Nick Baines makes two very, very good points in this post.

Responding to criticism of the Church of England in the recent GAFCON Primates' Communique, Bishop Nick observes:

(1) Most of the Church of England most of the time is going about the business of sharing the gospel, baptising new Christians and making disciples but you would not know this from the Communique.

(2) Most Anglican bishops, hearing stories of a bishop or bishops in the Province of X stealing funds (or other calumnies), do not make global statements about Province of X being a church which is 'unfaithful' to the gospel.

In short, GAFCON could find, should find a greater appreciation within itself for the complexities of church life and for the everyday faithfulness to Jesus of most Anglicans most of the time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

GAFCON settles future re Communion: "We are not leaving the Anglican Communion."

I'll walk back my promise re an anticipated 'next post' about being Anglican - it will come soon - in order to note the momentous news coming from GAFCON.

1. GAFCON is committed to staying and not leaving. Read my lips: "We are not leaving the Anglican Communion' means 'No schism.'

Check out the GAFCON Primates' Communique here.

2. But GAFCON is also committed to not standing still and waiting for something or someone to change in respect of future Anglican Communion life. Future Anglican missional work, in and around provinces such as England, is being organised.

Check out Ruth Gledhill's analysis of the situation and interview of ++Peter Jensen here.

Now a mere mortal non-player in these global Anglican manoeuvres is a bit troubled by putting the Communique alongside the Gledhill article. (Maybe I am misunderstanding ... put me right commenters).

3. Why does the Communique not explicitly talk about the new organisation Ruth refers to and the appointment of ++Peter Jensen to the role? (Note the way the Communique lists a group of advisors below the list of Primates which gives the impression ++Peter Jensen played no role in the meeting. Was he there or was he not?)

4. What does 'We have planned for the expansion of our movement in order to touch the lives of many more Anglicans with gospel fellowship' (in the Communique) mean in actuality? 

On the face it the cited sentence offers encouragement to Anglicans who are feeling a bit down about the way things are going in the Communion through these present days. But the Gledhill article implies that 'expansion of our movement' means:
- planting new Anglican (or, maybe, Anglican-like) churches alongside perfectly viable Anglican churches (as happens in a number of places in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in England);
- planting churches which are distinctive both because they will clearly conserve a traditional stance on homosexuality and because they will clearly pursue a 'headship' approach to the roles of men and women in leadership.

If so, why is the Communique not explicit in spelling out what 'gospel fellowship' means?

As for the role of Bishop Ellison (singled out in the Communique), has the Communique honestly informed the Anglican world that there are two sides to his story of involvement in a new Anglican plant outside the jurisdiction of the Church of England?

But let's be clear as I ask these questions: GAFCON is not leaving the Anglican Communion. That means that what it is offering is a mix of (a) missional leadership within the Communion that will not wait for agenda set by (say) the ABC or the ACC, (b) ways forward for Anglican life which may or may not sit comfortably within existing jurisdictions - a kind of 'workaround'.

An important question for the ABC, the ACC, TEC (noting the way that the ACNA Primate is a full member of the GAFCON Primates' Council) and any commenter here demurring at the Communique is this: Are you being left behind as the GAFCON wing swerves, dummies and chipkicks ahead of you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Richard Hooker would understand what GAFCON is (possibly) up to (Updated)

With relevance to talk of parallel churches (below), I note this morning a remarkable analysis of the creation of the NEC as a parallel to TEC in this Seitz & McCall article here.

Richard Hooker was a subtle, careful thinker about the true character of the Church of England. (A sign of that subtlety and care is enmeshed in a current post on a sidebar link here).

That means, of course, that he would understand exactly what GAFCON is up to this week as its Primates Council meets in London. He would understand that there are limits to Anglican diversity. When diversity gets ever more, well, diverse, then something is going to give, in even the most tolerant and inclusive of elastic organisations. Apparently a new Anglican church is in the offing in England. Or is it?

Both the Independent and Christian Today journalists write about what they think is going on in regard to the meeting. Ruth Gledhill writing for the latter - she is an observer of Anglicana of great repute - is likely to know what is what. (See also here). But the Independent report is off to a dismal start when it begins with

'The Church of England is at risk of an unprecedented schism as conservative Anglican leaders gather to discuss forming a “parallel” church in protest against women bishops and gay marriage.'

First, note that there are plenty of precedented schisms in the life of the Church of England. Secondly, note that the GAFCON Primates Council has a severely limited influence on congregational life in the Church of England. A few parishes might breakaway. They won't constitute a "parallel" church.

Back to Hooker and his ability to understand that too much diversity can be intolerable.

The ABC understands this too:

'The move to establish a parallel church comes six months after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warned church leaders that the diversity of the worldwide Anglican community “may be too much to manage”.'

One problem we Anglicans have is that there are different versions of being Anglican. The GAFCON Primates Council understanding of being Anglican emphasises a confessional character (with special reference to the Thirty Nine Articles) which not all Anglicans share.

Other Anglicans (represented, I suggest, by TEC) emphasise an inclusive tolerance for believing many things which cannot be squared with the Thirty Nine Articles. Interestingly this inclusive tolerance has its own built in limits to diversity by being generally inhospitable to the confessional approach. (It is not rocket science to discern that inhospitality to a confessional approach is in its own way another way of being confessional!)

Yet another group of Anglicans would see limits to Anglican diversity in a moderate, middle, via media manner, wishing their own church and the Anglican Communion as a whole could steer a path between the approaches of GAFCON and of TEC.

No doubt you can propose other groupings. Indeed I have not mentioned Global South ...

When the Communion eschewed the possibility of an Anglican Covenant, it also eschewed the possibility of determining what the character of true Anglicanism-for-the-Anglican-Communion is.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have a fight on our hands for the character of true Anglicanism integrated with a battle for the character of the Anglican Communion. "We're the real Communion." "No! We are the genuine Communion."

The question is not who will be the winner of the argument but whether we might all be the losers for engaging in the argument in the way we are doing. Without the Covenant to guide us we are like boxers before the Marquess of Queensberry established the rules!

For myself, as I continue to puzzle over what true Anglicanism is or should be, which may amount to no more than 'This is the kind of Anglican I will try to be', I keep coming back to a few basics. Next post ...

Friday, April 10, 2015

The best (but flawed?) book you will read in 2015 on same sex relationships?

Ian Paul at Psephizo is reviewing in two parts a new book by Robert Song, a British ethicist.

The book is: Covenant and Calling: towards a theology of same-sex relationships

Part One of the Review is here.

Part Two of the Review [will be added when it comes to hand] is here.

The last part of the last sentence by Ian Paul reads, 'what we are left with is a lucid, elegant and powerful theological case for retaining much of the church’s current teaching on the nature of marriage.'

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Anglican Communion at Johannine crossroads?

I recently read a very interesting analysis of the composition of John's Gospel which proposes a two stage composition.* The first stage effectively conveyed a gospel of egalitarian love for a charismatic church untrammelled by the structure of an institution.

Paradoxically, this stage, reaching back to the egalitarian, charismatic kingdom brokered by Jesus himself constitutes reason to think that the Johannine author of the gospel was, at this stage at least, the Apostle John, son of Zebedee.

The second stage, including the addition of John 21 with its rapprochement between the church of the Beloved Disciple and the church of Peter, evidences a church evolving out of the free charismatic movement of Jesus into the institution we continue to have, an institution required to deal decisively with false teachers. The perils of false teachers for the Johannine church are charted through the three Epistles of John; these, on the theory, being composed between the first and second stages of the Gospel.

This is not the only occasion within the New Testament to discern tension between the (original) charismatic and (emerging) institutional church (compare, e.g., 1 Corinthians with the Pastoral Epistles, or Matthew's Gospel with Mark's Gospel).

Running through church history this kind of tension continues as new movements of the Spirit break out and the organisation of the church variously resists or incorporates the movement. A notable British success at incorporation was the Rome-oriented incorporation of the Celtic church at the Synod of Whitby. A notable Anglican failure at incorporation was Methodism which became the Methodist church.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have the Anglican Communion at the crossroads. Will this Communion which has neither resisted nor incorporated the (alleged) movement of the Spirit within TEC find a 'way forward' which clarifies the Communion's approach to same sex marriage? Will this Communion which so far through nearly 150 years existence has resisted becoming overly institutionalised find new momentum towards being an institution in the sense of a 'global church' rather than a communion? Or, will the next few years see the Communion quietly evolve into a series of Anglican movements, ungoverned by prelate or constitution? It is already evolving in that direction but it is not yet determined that we will end all desire to be a global church.

Apropos of which, a comment on the previous post is very interesting! See here.

[*Paul N. Anderson, "The Community that Raymond Brown Left Behind: Reflections on the Johannine Dialectical Situation," in Culpepper, R. Alan and Anderson, Paul N. (eds) Communities in Dispute: Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014, pp. 47-94. Anderson here builds on work by Bultmann, Brown, Barrett, etc.]