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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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We are a church that reflects God’s compassion for everyone wherever they find themselves in their journey towards God – for those who feel joy and wish to celebrate, to those who are weary and need rest, to those who wish to discover God’s will for their lives, for all who hurt and need healing, to those who pray and for those who struggle to pray, for all who want a community of fellow searchers for truth, we welcome in the name of the Holy Trinity.
As Anglicans committed to the Anglican formularies and worship, our life together is founded on reading, studying and applying the Holy Scriptures.
Read it all and see what you think.
It appears that the default position of the communion in the past decade was to assert that what we hold in common is an adequate basis for unity in the communion. What we hold in common tended to get reduced to our “historic bonds of affection”. Everything else was contested.
Such an attitude to unity ignored the centrality of the identity discussion of the communion. When it did deal with the identity issue it drove a wedge between the local and universal and between diversity and unity. It privileged the local and diversity over the universal and unity.
A global/universal communion of churches has two key features: identity and unity. Identity is integrally connected to unity. It is the undermining of the integrity of the identity of the Anglican Communion that produced fragmentation and brokenness we see today in the Communion. The four instruments of unity that were expected to deal with the breakdown of unity in the communion, have failed in the opinion of both Anglican leaders and commentators.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Identity Global South Churches & Primates GACON II 2013 Instruments of Unity * Theology Ecclesiology Theology: Scripture
First, I am an Anglican because it is biblical. I appreciate the great authority that Anglicanism gives to Scripture. Article 6 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion states that the Bible is the ultimate and final authority in all matters of faith, and nothing should be taught as doctrine or necessary for salvation that is not clearly taught in Scripture. Moreover, I believe that Anglicanism rightly places Scripture at the very center of all its ministries (e.g., liturgy), devotion (e.g., Book of Common Prayer), and foundational documents. It wants to immerse God's people in the Scriptures.
Second, I am an Anglican because it is historical. I appreciate Anglicanism's respect for the history and tradition of the Church. While its official conception took place in the mid-16th century, it still identifies itself with the catholic Church of the centuries prior to the Reformation. It seeks unity with the historic Church. As such, it receives and affirms the Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds as authoritative summaries of what Scripture teaches and what the Church believes. Also, it follows the traditional church calendar and draws wisdom from many of the great theologians of the past (e.g., Article 29 mentions Saint Augustine).Read it all.
The first and most important identity for any of us is that each of us is a child of God, created by him and made in his image and likeness. This is crucially important in the way we live, in how we respond to God and in how we treat each and every other person. If we get this wrong, and regard any of our other identities as of more significance, we are simply a danger to ourselves and other people. If we believe that we are each made in God’s image and likeness we can never treat any other person with anything less than dignity. If we do not get this right, everything else will be wrong in our lives. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, once wrote that it is indeed difficult to see the image of God in those who are not in our image. Yet it is essential that we should do it.
A second primary identity for us is that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are disciples which means “learners”, never smug, never totally satisfied with ourselves, never judgmental of others, sometimes falling but nevertheless being picked up and gently placed on our feet again by a loving Lord. An identity that could be summed up as “following, learning, growing, and telling of Christ”. It is to this area that I will be devoting much of the content of my “roadshows” around the diocese next month.
These are the two identities that we should place above all else – made in God’s image and likeness, and our discipleship of Jesus Christ. Anything that takes their place is simply idolatrous.
There is a third identity which should never be confused with those of which I have spoken but which nevertheless should mould how we live in the service of Jesus Christ. We are members of a particular Christian tradition and we should feel confidence although never arrogance in this identity. T
Read it all.
Several years ago, as I watched our diocese and our church head towards the inevitable break with the national church and as I watched churches struggle with hard decisions on the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of scripture, or any other number of issues I went on a journey to see if I really fit in the Anglican Church. Part of my issue was a fear that there would be no professional home for me in the coming years, and I might as well see if I am truly Anglican or if perhaps I was Baptist or some sort of non-denominational Christian… The other issue I struggled with was reconciling my theology with the theology of the National Episcopal Church (who claimed to be Anglican). So I started searching my heart and mind for what I believed, as well as what scripture says to see what Christianity is supposed to be about. And while I am definitely not the scholar that Father Greg is, and while my understanding of pork products and the sacraments pales in comparison with Father Free’s, I hope you might find what I have to say somewhat helpful… In understanding my journey, and in a brief introduction to what we Anglicans believe.
Now I should start by saying that I am not Anglican by birth. I was not a cradle Episcopalian. I was baptized in an Episcopal church as an infant, but through a series of events I grew up in a rural Methodist church. Please don’t hold that against me or my parents… So I can’t claim to be Anglican because it is all I have known. In fact, when I visited an Episcopal church for the first time, I had to come to grips with the fact that it existed at all. My Methodist training and upbringing had neglected to tell me about the Episcopal Church. I didn’t even know it was there. So I claim no birthright.
And to be fair, I went to an Episcopal church because I thought a girl was cute. I was a teenager, a rather typical one actually, whose mind was less on theology and more on what my girlfriend was wearing. So I can’t even claim to have chosen the Episcopal Church. In many ways it chose me. A group of loving adults pointed the teenage me to the Jesus of the Bible, prayed that I might come into a saving relationship with Christ, and then proceeded to disciple me. Anglicans chose me, not the other way around. But a few years ago, I no longer could rest on that fact. It was time for me to choose.
As I searched my heart, and indeed the Bible, one thing was evident to me… Scripture is very important! I know that many of you hold to a very high view of scripture – in fact you would agree with St. Paul as he reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is breathed out by God…”. That the Bible is God’s very word! That God inspired its creation, and He speaks through His word today. But the Bible has an author (God) and an audience (us). While God breathed out the scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament, he did so for his glory and our transformation. Paul continues in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is breathed out by God… and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is sparked by the divine, with all His authority. In fact, because it comes from God it’s profitable for little ‘ol me. God’s word can transform my heart and my life. And through that transformation, I might be made more and more into the image of Christ, ultimately leading to righteousness.
So, I wanted a church that thought as highly about the word of God as I do. I want a church that encourages us to daily take in God’s word, ponder its meaning, apply it to our lives, and live it out according to God’s purpose. So what is the Anglican Church’s view of scripture? Please turn with me to page 877 of the Book of Common Prayer… To the Chicago – Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Lambeth Conference of 1888…
A quarter of the way down the page, you will see a number one. It proclaims, “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the revealed word of God.” And if you scan further down the page to the “A” under the Lambeth Conference, it reads, “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation,’ and as being the ultimate rule and standard of faith.”
So, what does that mean? Simply, it means the Anglican Church, and St. John’s, hold a high view of scripture. It contains all things necessary to our salvation. In the Bible, the gospel is proclaimed to us, in it the grace of God is demonstrated for us, in it we are called to repentance, in the Bible our identity in Christ is made clear to us, and through it we are strengthened by God’s Holy Spirit to live redeemed lives. And we can see the Anglican Church’s view of scripture in this very service. We enter in prayer and then sit under the word of God as it is read to us from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and as if that weren’t enough, even from the Gospels as well. No other flavor of Christianity (that I know of) spends so much time in the word of God. And then to cap it all off, the priest stands up to teach us from God’s perfect word. I sought a church that held a high view of scripture, and in the Anglican Church I found a wonderful home.
And while I tend to view myself as a good boy steeped in the Reformed tradition, I realized that scripture called Christians to do more than just study God’s word endlessly. That we were to live in our world, proclaiming Christ crucified. That indeed we are connected to the historic church through the centuries… That we are to profess the faith of the early church Fathers… And we profess this faith; we summarize what we believe, through the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds.
You know, I was trained many years ago how to interact with the random Jehovah’s witnesses that showed up at my door by telling them exactly what I believe. I was taught to do that by sharing the Nicene Creed. The creeds effectively sum up what the Bible teaches us about our faith… Who God the father is, who his son Jesus Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is, and what the church is. I hold fast to the creeds, especially in recent years.
It seems like every day there is a new preacher, interpreting scripture in a new way, telling us that God really meant this or that. And the best way I have found to combat that is through searching scripture for answers the church has been giving for nearly 2000 years. In the creeds, the doctrine of the church is summed up for us.
If you look back at your prayer book, number 2 and “B” both point us to the use of creeds to sum up our faith. To keep us in check… To make sure that we don’t wonder from essential truth’s about God due to our own selfishness. This is so crucial! In Malachi 3:6, God tells the Israelites, “…I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” I’m sure you have heard it said that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And that is what the verse in Malachi is telling us. That God doesn’t change his mind – He doesn’t go back on his promises… He doesn’t think one thing is sinful one day and then come back to us another day to tell us there is no more sin. And because God doesn’t change his mind, the church shouldn’t either. So when someone argues the deity of Jesus – we point them to the creeds. When the uniqueness of Christ is questioned – we point them to the creeds. When the Holy Spirit is denied – we point to the creeds. So we as a church must continue to profess the same God as the first Christians did. And we do that by learning the doctrine that the creeds teach us. The creeds are useful summaries of our historic faith.
Father Greg has told me several times that the Nicene Creed is placed after the sermon in Rite I and II services to stand as a correction if the preacher wonders too far from the truth found in scriptures. I hope that isn’t too necessary today!
So as I see it, we need the Nicene and Apostles creeds to ensure that we are holding on to the faith of the historic church, to scare away Jehovah’s witnesses, and to correct false teaching.
I feel like this might be getting a bit serious or stiff, and in my training as a youth minister I was taught to break up your teaching as often as necessary to keep people’s attention, to let their minds ponder what you have just shared, and to let the Holy Spirit work on their hearts. So let’s take a momentary detour.
In 1996, I went off to college… Well, by off I mean that I went to the College of Charleston, which is essentially just down the street. And what I wound up studying while I was at college was history. I love history. And my wife doesn’t… I am constantly trying to tell her that I love history because it connects me to the people who came before me. I enjoy going to civil war sites and thinking about the brave soldiers that stood there long ago. I like to think about what they were doing, feeling, and seeing. I love going into old churches and sitting in the pews. I like to think of the countless people who have sat in that seat seeking God’s voice, crying out to him in pain, or praising God’s holy name. I love history. I am so honored to stand here, knowing that great Bible teachers have stood here proclaiming the word of God, that missionaries who have given their lives wholly to God stood on this ground sharing what God is doing through them, that children have grown up at St. John’s and then stood in this spot to proclaim who God is. I love history.
And as I searched my heart and the scriptures I saw that history matters. We see the importance of history in the genealogies of Jesus… We see the importance of history in God’s unchanging promises… If you think about it, that is exactly what God is telling the Israelites in Malachi, that he doesn’t change. He is telling them that his promises don’t change. That verse tells us that history, what God has done and said, matters.
So I longed for a church that understood history. I wanted a church that was connected to the ancient church. It’s like the creeds in that respect. I wanted to be sure that the body of Christ I belonged to was the body that Jesus set to create through the early apostles and by his death on the cross. And that is exactly what the Anglican Church offers. Please look with me at the prayer book again. Number 4 and “D” both tell us about the history of our church. It reads, “The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.” That is a dizzying sentence.
I might need to offer a simple definition… Episcopate = bishops.
We are a church run by Bishops. And as a lay person, that can frustrate me at times. That someone is in authority over me. But many times scripture reminds us that we are not our ultimate authority.
Take 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 for example; “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly because of their work…” Paul is reminding the people of Thessalonica that God has put others over them. And in Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul says, “(God) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for ministry…” Our Bishops, priests, and leaders are gifts from God! Sometimes it is hard to see that, but think back to our recent struggles with the National Episcopal Church… Who would not count Bishop Lawrence as a gift from God? Who would not count our vestry and priests as gifts from God? And Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 13:1 what our respect for God’s gift of leadership is to look like… “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
Now, I realize that Paul was talking about civil authorities, but let’s look at the principal. We submit to the authority God puts over us. In the church the authorities over us are bishops and priests. That God calls to lead us, to shepherd us, to teach us, to equip us for ministry, to counsel us, to love us as God loves us… So we submit – we surrender ourselves (our wills and our authority) to their authority, as they submit themselves to Christ Jesus.
But you might have noticed that I skipped a word that the Chicago – Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Lambeth Conference both use: Historic. And by now you know I love that word. So not only are we a church run by bishops, our bishops can trace a line back to the earliest apostles. So we are an ancient church, confessing the truths that Jesus taught his disciples. I love that, don’t you? Knowing that we aren’t adrift on a sea by ourselves… But that we are connected to a church that spans 2000 years of history. I love that we are connected to a church whose body covers the entire globe. We are connected to that church by the very bishops God puts in authority over us today. That Bishop Lawrence is connected all the way back to the founding apostles. Amazing!
Some of you tuned out the last few minutes either because I was talking about history or because I was talking about someone being in authority over us. All I can say is… I’m sorry?
There is one more aspect of Anglicanism that I have fallen in love with: The Sacraments. Please look one more time at your Book of Common Prayer. Number 3 and letter “C” talk about the importance of the sacrament to the Anglican Church. Letter “C” on page 878 says, “The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.”
I love that the sacraments are the visible, tangible signs of what Jesus is doing and has done for us. I love that they are the very things that Jesus did when he walked the Earth – that he ordained them Himself. I love that he gave them to us. I love that through them I am receiving the grace of God.
For example… Every Sunday, as I am invited by the priest to come to the Holy Table, I am aware of how much I don’t deserve to be called to feast with the Lord. I am aware of what Jesus did on the cross to secure my spot at the table… I am aware that God is looking past my sinful nature and at Jesus, whose sacrifice covers me – and He is calling me his child. Telling me to take my seat… And then he feeds me… And not just with any food, but with spiritual food… The body and blood of Jesus himself, shed for us that we might come to God’s table. It is clear to me that God’s grace rests upon us as we approach his altar. And I love that! Don’t you?
Because sometimes it is hard for me to think in abstracts, and I need that visible – tangible – outward sign of God’s grace. And we have that in the sacraments.
I realize this has been a long sermon, and there is much more that could be said or taught about what makes us Anglican. But I’m going to stop here and ask you a question.
Why does this matter? What difference does it make if we are Anglican or not? That was a question that I wrestled with for quite some time. And to answer it, I need to tell you about fishing tackle… Before I had kids (when there was such a thing as ‘Rob’ time), I loved to go fishing. I honestly didn’t care if I caught too much, I just liked to be on or near the water, with a line in the water – waiting to see what I might bring up. And one thing I learned while fishing in front of my in-laws house was that you need the right sinker for the right type of water.
When the tide is slack, you can use a small, light sinker – the current isn’t pulling it away from you very hard. When the tide is coming in our out – you need a larger sinker (or more than one) to fight against the current. To reach the depth you want to fish in…
Well, the current of our culture, our world is a hard and fast moving current. It pushes us – and it even pushes churches… The culture will try to erode our thinking on biblical issues, tell us that Jesus is just another great teacher – an example to emulate… But He is not God. It will tell us that we have been reading the Bible all wrong, and that we should skip certain parts of scripture because they have no meaning in our world. The culture will tell us – will push and pull us – to be just like them.
So we need a good sinker. And Anglicanism has four heavy sinkers…
1. We hold fast to God’s word. We know it comes from Him and is useful for our transformation and His glory. So we read it, we teach it, we study it, we seek to live it…
2. We use the creeds to summarize our faith and to be a solid foundation of doctrine for us to stand on. Fighting hard against the current of our culture – refusing to change our beliefs since God himself does not change.
3. Anglicans are not a fly by night kind of church. We can trace our roots back to the earliest church. So our sinker is heavy, and we run our church as scripture asks us to – with people submitting to the authority put over them, even as the leaders of our church submit to Christ himself.
4. And our last sinker is the visible and outward sign of God’s grace for us. The sacraments. I am so thankful that Anglicans did not throw out the sacraments like many other churches during the reformation – since they are a means of God’s grace for us.
All four of these sinkers, when held faithfully together, are enough to drop us down through the fastest current. They anchor us to Christ and the church he died to create. And they work together making us Anglican. That is why this matters. And that is why I am an Anglican.
--Mr. Rob Schluter is the Youth Minister at Saint John's, John's Island, S.C. (and this is posted with his kind permission)
In an order published...[yesterday], the Supreme Court of Texas has, following its announcements of decisions in a number of pending cases, granted Bishop Iker's request for expedited oral argument and set the case for hearing on the same day as the San Angelo case (the appeal by Church of the Good Shepherd from the decision in favor of the Diocese of Northwest Texas) -- October 16, 2012, at 9 a.m.
Each side will have twenty minutes for oral argument.
Read it all and follow the many links.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth TEC Polity & Canons * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * Theology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
In the past few months I have read several agonized reports on the supposed death throes of the Episcopal Church. I have not studied the statistics or interviewed masses of people. However, I have traveled in the opposite direction from those who have left the Episcopal church, and am glad that I have.
I've been an Episcopalian for a little over a year. I found a church home with strong preaching, a loving community, and attention to scripture, reason and tradition. The liturgy moves me, the clergy challenges me, and I am both inspired and heard. After 10 years as a Baptist, it has been a welcoming new home.
Yes, I do understand that membership numbers are down. Much of that, of course, is because a number of congregations and many individuals left the Episcopal Church when it accepted gay and lesbian clergy several years ago. Being among the first major denominations to resolve this issue, though, is both a blessing and a curse -- yes, some people left in anger, but I also know where the church will stand from this point forward, and I agree with that position. The wrenching dislocation of that question is resolved. There is a blessed settledness to that.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Music Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Religious Freedom / Persecution
St. James's is the Anglican Parish Church of Hampton Hill, Middlesex.Read it all.
We seek to be a Christian community and local community drawing closer to God. We are:
• Liberal Open to new ideas and possibilities with a critical eye to the past and present, and generous in our attitudes.
• Catholic This literally means ‘universal’ and so we recognise our setting in the wider world and Church, and value the past as well as being concerned for the future.
• Eucharistic Our principal act of worship is the eucharist and we explicitly acknowledge Christ present in the world with all this entails for Christian living.
(Blog readers please note that Father Henderson is a 2009 Graduate of General Theological Seminary currently serving a parish in Connecticut--KSH).
I joined a church that valued tradition and yet was engaged with modernity. I joined a church that embraced the timelessness of dignity and beauty. I joined a church that was engaged theologically and reasonably rather than emotionally in issues of doctrine and order. I joined a church that was a true blend of Catholic and Reformed. I joined a church that valued the uniformities of the Prayer Book even as it explored how to plumb its depths in manifold ways. I joined a church that was sacramentally grounded. I joined a church that believed that how we pray says something about what we believe.
Just as when I went to General [Seminary], finding the Episcopal Church was a joy and it felt exactly like where I was called to be. I felt at home and it was a place that made sense because there was a there there.
I am not sure where the there is now.
As I talk to priests too happy to ignore rubrics and ordination vows to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church because they have decided their sense of “welcome” is more important than the church’s call to common identity,
as I attended a Diocesan Convention at which we sang treacly hymns with narcissistic lyrics,
as I talk to priests in pitch battles in their dioceses about baptizing in the name of the Trinity,
as I attend Eucharists where priests make up the Eucharistic Prayer on the spot (“meal of power” not Body and Blood and “the systems of the world are broken” at the Fraction),
and as I watch the Church one more time hurtle into a divisive squabble, I am feeling profoundly out of place.
The Church that is slashing funding for Christian formation and youth ministry while hurtling toward... “[the Communion of the Unbaptized]” is not the Church I thought I was joining. The Church that has a diocesan convention at which we sing “Shine, Jesus Shine” and ignore the Prayer Book is not the Church I thought I was joining. The Church that is defining sainthood as anyone who has done something good and worthy rather than someone who has done good and worthy things because of their faith in Christ is not the Church I thought I was joining.
Read it carefully and read it all and many of the comments are well worth the time.
Ending three years of sitting on the fence during a breakup over doctrine, leaders of a historic Downtown church decided to break away from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and affiliate exclusively with the Episcopal Church.
Trinity Cathedral's governing board last week voted 11-7 to withdraw from the more theologically conservative sect, overturning an October 2008 resolution to serve both the Episcopal Church diocese and the Anglican diocese.
"This decision was not made lightly or hastily," the Rev. Catherine M. Brall, provost at the cathedral, said in a letter to members. "Many, if not most, of the comments made during the lengthy time of discussion had been previously raised."
Anglican officials said they were "saddened" by the vote.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh TEC Parishes * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry
But matters are proceeding apace. The world is changing. The Global South objected to the consecration of a gay bishop with a partner, but Gene Robinson is no longer alone in that category even in the US House of Bishops (If he ever really was...). They objected to the idea of bestowing a blessing on a same-sex couple, and yet now in many states of this Union, including our own, the church is not only bestowing its blessing, but either seriously considering or already solemnizing the civil status of marriage.
In short, the process of organic development is afoot, it is not going to stop, and reception is or isn’t happening as I speak. In the meantime, the mainstream via media of the Episcopal Church is steadily reasserting our understanding of our authority to vary— to live out the variety of rites in our own context, which is very different from that in much of the Global South. As I learned intimately and personally at the conversation I attended in South Africa just a few weeks ago. The people in those places represented at that conference are free to maintain their various rules and traditions, suitable as they are for their contexts. I will say more in the open discussion about the extent to which the friction between the North and South has been exacerbated by misunderstanding and misinformation. But it is my sincere hope that corrections to those misunderstandings, and better information, through the mandated listening process and the Continuing Indaba — in both of which I have been involved — will assist to lessen the friction and perhaps even help calm the storms that have swept through our beloved Anglican Communion — not just the issue, but the issues behind the issues of Anglican disunion.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Global South Churches & Primates Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Theology Ecclesiology
The Vision of the Church of the Good Shepherd is to exist for those who are not yet members and to be known for…
*World-changing ChildrenOur Core Values are the principles we are unwilling to sacrifice in the achievement of the Vision.
* Centered on the Cross of Jesus Christ,Read it all.
* Centered on Community
* Centered on Mission and Ministry to Others
For those of us who are part of the Diocese of Melbourne it is important that we reflect on what it means to be an Anglican, or to use contemporary terminology, what is distinctive about Anglican ‘spirituality’. We are the most diverse diocese in Australia. On the theological level we have anglo-catholic, liberal catholic, reformed evangelical, evangelicals of other persuasions and charismatic parishes well represented, growing numbers of Chinese congregations and several other ethnic parishes, as well as a complete range of ages. What we see in our diocese at a micro level is magnified on the world scene.
Today, the Anglican Communion is an association of national Anglican churches organised as dioceses in 160 countries with a membership of approximately 80 million people. Following the Reformation of the church in England in the 16th century, catholic and evangelical emphases were from this point part of Anglicanism. The theological differences were for centuries contained within a common liturgical practice grounded in English culture. However in recent times doctrinal, liturgical and cultural diversity has become more pronounced and so differing spiritualities live side by side within Anglicanism. Today the Anglican Communion embraces evangelicals and anglo-catholics (with liberal and conservative strands in both cases), theological radicals and demonstrative charismatics, all modified by the ethnic and cultural variety of the Communion....
Read it all.
I like it for its rootedness also and that it takes people seriously. I like it’s theology (but by no means all of it) or should I say it’s approach to theology.
- First, its diversity, tolerance and the most important : freedom of thought. Second, having TS Eliott and CS Lewis but also John Shelby Spong, Paul van Buren and Don Cupitt....
And of course, current problems surfaced and one said – Sadly, what attracts me most in the Anglican Church are all the things we would lose if we were to adopt the Anglican Covenant....
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Frankly, I find it impossible to reconcile the good Canon's version of our Church's history with the known facts. There was no "Presiding Bishop" created by the founding documents to be "the head of this new Church", much less a lead bishop "reflecting the principles of the young republic" -- see the details about the gradual establishment of that office, and its subsequent mushrooming into its current form, in this earlier post.
Moreover, the Church of England and its bishops were emphatically not unwilling to "embrace [their] child's new status." They simply had to eliminate certain procedural hurdles, and to iron out a few doctrinal differences, before they could proceed with consecrating an American bishop, all as explained (in painstaking detail -- which I know for many readers is the bugaboo of this blog) in this post, in which there are full links to all the historical documents. There, one will learn, for example, that far from being unable to "convince Church of England leadership to consecrate indigenous bishops for the fledgling Church", the Rev. Dr. White was one of the first two American bishops to be consecrated by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury. That august official, together with the Archbishop of York, went to great lengths to accommodate the desire of the "fledgling Church" to have proper bishops to lead it, and to ensure that it was truly a church founded in the image of the Church of England, if not under its jurisdiction.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Commentary Anglican Identity Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Ecclesiology
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Around the world, entire nations are losing their Christian identity. Countries that once spread the Gospel world-wide now see missionaries coming to them. Many churches, once full on Sunday mornings, are now shuttered or used by another religion or remodeled as museums and homes. In America, Christianity’s influence on society is less and less recognizable. In this crucial hour, Christ’s imperative to “hold fast the profession of our faith” is even more urgent.
Hold Fast: An Urgent Call to the Western Church features the preaching and teaching of Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, someone who’s shared the Gospel around the world despite countless challenges.
Read it all and check dates and locations near you.
I am a happy returnee to Anglicanism after many years away. My reconnection occurred while going to the magnificent Washington National Cathedral to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu preach. His message of peace and reconciliation was truly inspiring.
During the service, I found myself praying for the first time in 20 years — for my sick, aged father, languishing in a veterans’ hospital in far-off Toronto. I returned to the cathedral weekly, finding that praying for him gave me a connection to him that was very real.And, of course, the Episcopal liturgy and worship was as familiar and appealing as it was when I was a young parishioner at St. Simon the Apostle in Toronto.
Read it all (page 5).
In his Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, speaks of us as having ‘not fully received the Pentecostal gift of mutual understanding for common mission’.
The differences that focus around questions of human sexuality continue to be very real, very difficult.
ACSA must contribute what we can to the painful debate, not least from our own experiences of dealing with vast diversity.
I am therefore glad that ACSA was effectively represented at the Global South 4th Encounter earlier this year, and that 10 Bishops attended the All African Anglican Bishops Conference in Uganda last month.
For us, what has mattered most is:
· being centred on Christ;
· agreeing on the central matters of who Jesus is and the salvation he brings;
· and therefore recognising one another as being united in him, and, in consequence, with each other.
In consequence, as we have found within the Synod of Bishops, when differences arise, none of us feels called to say to another ‘I no longer consider you a Christian, a brother in Christ, a member of the body of Christ – I am no longer in communion with you.’
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The revisions to the disciplinary section of the Canons ("Title IV") proposed at Anaheim in 2009 lived up to Bishop Jefferts Schori's prediction: with very little time to consider their sweeping nature, and with no line-by-line comparison of what was being changed made available to them (contrary to what the Canons themselves require), the deputies enacted changes the full scope of which no one -- not even those who had labored for years to draft them -- grasped. The extent of the disciplinary powers over other bishops alone which the new Canons give to the Presiding Bishop transform her -- in contrast to what tradition and ECUSA's Constitution say -- into a full-fledged metropolitan. Consider just these points (see this paper for the full details):
* Currently, if the Presiding Bishop wants to bring charges against another bishop, she has to send a written presentation of just the facts, without any editorializing, to an independent "Title IV Review Committee" consisting of bishops, clergy and laity. Under the new Canons, the Presiding Bishop is empowered to refer, "in any form", information about any offense she thinks "may" have been committed to an "Intake Officer", whom she alone appoints.
* Currently, the Title IV Review Committee screens and evaluates each potential charge against a bishop. Under the new Title IV, the Presiding Bishop, along with her appointed "Intake Officer", have two out of the three votes on the "Review Committee" which now screens the charges.
* Currently, the Presiding Bishop may inhibit a bishop only if the Title IV Review Committee decides to present charges, and only if a majority of all the members of the affected diocesan Standing Committee consent. Under the new Title IV, the Presiding Bishop may act alone, and out of the blue, to inhibit a fellow bishop (the word "inhibit" has been replaced by the term "place restrictions on the exercise of the ministry" of a bishop).
* Currently, any inhibition is "temporary", and is "an extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly and limited to preventing immediate and irreparable harm to individuals or to the good order of the Church." Under the new Title IV there are no such limitations on its use -- restrictions may be imposed for any duration, and for any reason(s) the Presiding Bishop, in her sole judgment, thinks are sufficient.
Please read it carefully, follow all the links, and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Conflicts TEC Polity & Canons * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Ecclesiology
f) With the support of the Ecclesiastical Authority a special Diocesan Convention held in October 2009 modified the declaration of conformity, signed by ordinands to the Priesthood or Deaconate, as specified in the Book of Common Prayer and the TEC Constitution….
This is just a wrong understanding of what the Diocesan Convention approved. There has been no modification of the Declaration of Conformity. The ordinands sign only the Declaration as it appears in the Constitution & Canons of TEC and the Book of Common Prayer. The statement referenced is read as clarification of the teaching of this Church for the edification of the faithful in the midst of the many controversies today. I would ask those in the Forum which of the expressions of our heritage they find so offensive—what is expressed in the Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral or the theology of the historic prayer books?
(For an intriguing discussion of this matter I suggest members of the Episcopal Forum or other interested persons read a scholarly article in the Journal of Episcopal Canon Law by Jonathan Michael Gray, an assistant Professor of Church History at the Virginia Seminary http://www.vts.edu/canonlaw )
g) With the support of the Bishop, the Standing Committee of the Diocese proposed six Resolutions for the Reconvened Convention to be held on October 15, 2010…..
In March we recessed the Diocesan Convention with the constitutional question still pending: The ability of a diocese to govern its common life in a manner that is obedient to the teaching of Holy Scripture (to which every ordained person in this Church has given his or her verbal and written assent), the received heritage of The Episcopal Church, and in accordance with the Constitution of TEC. This has remained unresolved or, more accurately stated, entirely unaddressed by the Presiding Bishop; therein leaving in question our ability to pursue our mission, free from unauthorized intrusions.
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At the Clergy Conference held at St. Paul’s, Summerville, on September 2, Mr. Alan Runyan, legal counsel for the Diocese, presented a report detailing revisions to the Title IV Canons of the Episcopal Church, which were approved at the 2009 General Convention. These Canons deal directly with issues of clergy discipline, both for priests and bishops. The impact of these changes is profound. It is our assessment that these changes contradict the Constitution of The Episcopal Church and make unacceptable changes in our polity, elevating the role of bishops, particularly the Presiding Bishop, and removing the duly elected Standing Committee of a Diocese from its current role in most of the disciplinary process. The changes also result in the removal of much of the due process and legal safeguards for accused clergy that are provided under the current Canons. For a detailed explanation of these concerns, members of the diocese are encouraged to review the paper co-authored by Mr. Runyan and found on the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) website.
In response, the Standing Committee is offering five resolutions to address the concerns we have with these changes. View the resolutions. Each represents an essential element of how we protect the diocese from any attempt at un-Constitutional intrusions into our corporate life in South Carolina. In the coming weeks these resolutions, along with an explanation of the Title IV changes, will be discussed in the Deanery Convocations for delegates, as we prepare for Convention to reconvene on October 15th. By these resolutions, we will continue to stand for the Gospel in South Carolina and pursue our vision of “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”
Please follow both links and read all the material carefully--KSH.
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We see in this set of facts, as early as 2004, a recurring pattern. While professing to honor diversity -- and indeed, to seek "unity in diversity" -- the groups allied with Via Media have always taken root only in those dioceses led by orthodox clergy who stoutly resisted the ordination to the episcopacy of individuals in a noncelibate relationship outside of Holy Matrimony as defined (and still defined) by the Book of Common Prayer. For thus upholding the rubrics of the BCP, they have been accused of fomenting schism within ECUSA, sued, deposed and hounded from the Church.
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In a recent webcast, [Presiding Bishop Katharine] Jefferts Schori was asked if she was trying to shore up support from other provinces before the meeting. "That was certainly not the intent," she answered. "It may have been a byproduct."
"We have partners all across the Anglican Communion," Jefferts Schori continued. "These visits had been set up some time ago, well before the timing of the Standing Committee meeting was known, basically as a way of building relationships between our respective provinces."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings
TEC’s recent history reveals that it now has a standard way of doing business—one that exposes its pleas for dialogue as disingenuous. What is that way? One makes changes in disputed aspects of the life and order of the church by breaking the rules and then calling for conversation rather than “consequences.” This standard way of doing business carries with it its own very idiosyncratic notion of dialogue–one that, by laying claim to the prophet’s mantle, will not allow the possibility that one could be wrong and one’s opponent right. When TEC acts, TEC acts (according to TEC) in the power of the Holy Spirit; and when TEC speaks, TEC speaks (according to TEC) in the power of the Holy Spirit. To be in opposition, therefore, is to oppose both the Holy Spirit and the justice it is God’s purpose to bring to the world. These are shocking conclusions but, given TEC’s recent history, they are unavoidable conclusions–conclusions that if ignored by the Instruments of Communion and the member Provinces, will lead to the demise of the Anglican Communion.
TEC’s recent history makes the truth of these charges abundantly plain.
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....the whole question of diversity and communion more broadly has been a consistent Anglican concern, at least since the late 18th-century English bishops required of the nascent Episcopal Church that she reorder her Prayer Book (e.g. replacing those parts stricken from the Americans’ proposed version of the Apostles’ Creed), if she wished to have her ministers and bishops “recognized” through a process of continuous succession with the English Church. It was still a question when the first Lambeth Conference met and resolved that “it is necessary that [newer Anglican churches] receive and maintain without alteration the standards of faith and doctrine as now in use in [the Church of England]”, echoing in this instance TEC’s initial commitments from 1786. The bishops then explained that, nevertheless, “each province should have the right to make such adaptations and additions to the services of the Church as its peculiar circumstances may require”. Immediately, however, the bishops noted a proviso, “that no change or addition be made inconsistent with the spirit and principles of the Book of Common Prayer”, a standard that, if rather loose, at least pointed to a text. Further, the bishops insisted more concretely, “that all such changes be liable to revision by any synod of the Anglican Communion in which the said province shall be represented”. And here, obviously, “representation” is not viewed as a veto power for one’s own interests, but rather as a participatory role bounded by unitive action.
One can argue whether this Lambeth resolution was consistently followed through in a strict sense. And so, with respect to the broader diversity-unity question, the Communion has tended to address difficult issues on this score as they have arisen, rather than through a strict censorial mechanism, whether constitutional or confessional. But does this lack of a defined template that can measure when diversity becomes “too much”, or when the “recognizable becomes unrecognizable” indicate that in fact there is no means of discernment at all? Certainly not, since the dynamic of recognition – unity and separation — has performed this task quite adequately: when one church is no longer recognized as representing other Anglicans before the world, diversity has exceeded the measure of unity.
And, indeed, if the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, based on whatever means by which he has made this determination (in this case, years of consultation) no longer recognizes TEC as representative of the Communion that – for TEC and many other Anglican churches – is substantively defined by their bonds with him, then it is a simple descriptive fact that TEC’s particular convictions have undercut common Communion commitments. There is not some other mechanism that awaits application to reveal this fact. Indeed, the claim made by the Presiding Bishop that a Covenant is needed first before this can be done, — and therefore it cannot be done now — only underscores TEC’s choice to move to the side of previously acknowledged means of discernment regarding appropriate Christian diversity with the Communion, and to claim a kind of Communion chaos on this matter that even more desperately seeks some kind of covenantal resolution.
Finally, what are we to make of the fact that the Presiding Bishop and other leaders of TEC have long sought to undercut the strength of local diversity within the American Church – there are vast swaths of no-go zones in TEC for traditional and conservative Episcopal clergy and scholars, imposed quite consciously by bishops and the committees they lead? Or that they have now put in place disciplinary canons (the revised Title IV rules) that would give the Presiding Bishop the arguably unconstitutional power to inhibit fellow bishops without prior consultative permission? None of this suggests a stable understanding of the relationship between diversity and Christian unity, despite claims to the contrary in her Pastoral Letter. While the diversity-unity question deserves (and has received) significant Scriptural and theological scrutiny, its practical import is nonetheless contained within these kinds of “actions”, as Lund put it: one judges the character of a tree of unity by its fruit, if always somewhat retrospectively.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology
It seems to me that love must, by its essential nature, be always unconditional. We welcome Katharine Jefferts Schori to this pulpit because we love our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church of the United States; not because she is female, or a woman bishop ahead of us, or has permitted a practising lesbian to become a bishop (As it happens she couldn’t have stopped it after all the legal and proper canonical electoral processes resulted in the election and nomination), we welcome her because she is our sister in Christ.
The lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures is enormously topical. Disaffected Anglicans have been threatening to ‘walk separate ways’ for many months. Abram and Lot travel together and their herdsmen bicker and fight, in modern translation there is 'strife' between them. They reach agreement to take separate paths and settle down and so their mutual belonging as members of one family is secured. The lesson is even more pertinent because it describes how Lot ended up near Sodom, which was a very wicked city, and of course it is sodomy that so curiously and constantly preoccupies so many disaffected Anglicans. The story of Sodom is often misrepresented from scriptures, the abuse which leads to its reputation and much social mythology, current even today, in Chapter 19, is a more sophisticated story of torture and coercion than misrepresented as a matter of sex.
It may be that some Anglicans will decide to walk a separate path. I believe the Chapter and congregation of this church will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church of America, the links are deep in our history, especially here. Their actions in recent months have been entirely in accord with the Anglican ways of generosity and breadth. They have tried to ensure everyone is recognised as a child of God. They have behaved entirely in accord with their canon laws and their freedom as an independent Province of the Church, not imposing or interfering with others with whom they disagree but proceeding steadily and openly themselves.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Preaching / Homiletics * Theology Ecclesiology
It is as if the breath of the Spirit has the capacity to translate the gospel of the Word made flesh, not only into the different languages of the first day of Pentecost, and all the languages of our twenty-first century world; the Spirit can also translate into every culture of our world – and between the inculturation of the gospel in different cultures. So, when we cannot understand each other, we must be sure that we have listened carefully to the still small voice of the Spirit. Is the Spirit speaking to each of us? Can we recognise the presence of Christ, which is the touchstone, the standard, of the true Spirit of God?
I am convinced that in our current situation within the Communion neither have we done, nor are we continuing to do, enough of this sort of listening to one another. We do not understand one another and one another’s contexts well enough, and we are not sufficiently sensitive to one another in the way we act. Autonomy has gone too far. I do not mean that we should seek a greater uniformity – I hope it is clear I am saying nothing of the sort. But we risk acting in ways that are so independent of one another that it becomes hard for us, and for outsiders, to recognise either a committed interdependent mutuality or a common Christian, Anglican, DNA running through our appropriately contextualised and differentiated ways of being.
Bishop Katharine, what I am going to say next is painful to me, and I fear it may also be to you – but I would rather say it to your face, than behind your back. And I shall be ready to hear from you also, for I cannot preach listening without doing listening. It sometimes seems to me that, though many have failed to listen adequately to the Spirit at work within The Episcopal Church, at the same time within your Province there has not been enough listening to the rest of the Anglican Communion. I had hoped that those of your Bishops who were at the Lambeth Conference would have grasped how sore and tender our common life is. I had hoped that even those who, after long reflection, are convinced that there is a case for the consecration of individuals in same sex partnerships, might nonetheless have seen how unhelpful it would be to the rest of us, for you to proceed as you have done.
There are times when it seems that your Province, or some within it, despite voicing concern for the rest of us, can nonetheless act in ways that communicate a measure of uncaring at the consequent difficulties for us. And such apparent lack of care for us increases the distress we feel. Much as we understand that you are in all sincerity attempting to discern the best way forward within your own mission context, the plea is: be sensitive to the rest of who are still drinking spiritual milk and are not yet eating solids.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Southern Africa Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Global South Churches & Primates Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has described the decision by Lambeth Palace to remove Episcopalians serving on international ecumenical dialogues as "unfortunate ... It misrepresents who the Anglican Communion is."
Jefferts Schori's comments were made during a June 8 press conference at the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod 2010 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Before the sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church as a consequence for having consecrated a lesbian bishop, Jefferts Schori said she had written a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressing her concern.
"I don't think it helps dialogue to remove some people from the conversation," she said shortly after addressing General Synod. "We have a variety of opinions on these issues of human sexuality across the communion ... For the archbishop of Canterbury to say to the Methodists or the Lutheran [World] Federation that we only have one position is inaccurate. We have a variety of understandings and no, we don't have consensus on hot button issues at the moment."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Theology Ecclesiology
The Episcopal Church
* The Episcopal Church is an autonomous church which is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, serving God and working together to spread through word and action the good news of God in Christ.
* The Episcopal Church has over 7400 congregations in 109 dioceses plus three regional areas in 16 countries with 2.2 million members.
* The Episcopal Church has members in the United States, as well as in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, the Virgin Islands, and the Convocation of Churches in Europe.
* The Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead The Episcopal Church as well as any of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Instruments of Unity * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Ecclesiology
Another major topic before the Synod is the Anglican Communion Covenant. We are one of the first provinces to consider the final text. We are blessed to have had an Anglican Communion Working Group guiding our study of the drafts of the Covenant and inviting our input by way of critique and revision. And I know that those comments from our Church have been viewed by many within the Communion as constructive and helpful.
Section IV, Our Covenanted Life Together, continues to be challenging for many in the Communion. On the one hand it speaks of respect for the autonomy and integrity of each province in making decisions according to the polity reflected in its Constitution and Canons. On the other, it speaks of relational consequences for a Church should it make decisions deemed incompatible with the Covenant. These consequences could range from limited participation to suspension from dialogues, commissions and councils within the Communion. In my opinion, they reflect principles of exclusion with which many in the Communion are very uneasy. For if one is excluded from a table, how can one be part of a conversation? How can our voice be heard, how can we hear the voices of others, how can we struggle together to hear the voice of the Spirit? How can we hope to restore communion in our relationships if any one of us cannot or will not be heard?
In his 2010 Pentecost letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of “particular provinces being contacted about the outworking of these relational consequences.” To date we cannot be identified as “a Province that has formally through their Synod or House of Bishops adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently affirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order”. However the Archbishop’s letter also refers to “some provinces that have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor The Communion has sanctioned”. One is left wondering if provinces whose Primates continue to interfere in the internal life of other provinces and extend their pastoral jurisdiction through cross-border interventions will be contacted. To date I have seen no real measure to address that concern within The Communion. I maintain and have publicly declared my belief that those interventions have created more havoc in the Church, resulting in schism, than any honest and transparent theological dialogue on issues of sexuality through due synodical process in dioceses and in the General Synod. I also wonder when I see the word “formally” italicized in the Archbishop’s letter. It leaves me wondering about places where the moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions is in fact ignored. The blessings happen but not “formally”. As you will have detected I have some significant concerns about imposing discipline consistent with provisions in the Covenant before it is even adopted; and about consistency in the exercise of discipline throughout one Communion. There are also lingering concerns in Section IV on monitoring discipline and procedures for restoring membership in our covenanted life together.
All that being said, I have every hope that our Church will embrace the request to consider the Covenant. Our Anglican Communion Working Group is committed to providing educational resources to aid our study. Bishop George Bruce will give us a brief overview of those materials in the course of Synod. I have every confidence we will use them faithfully and that we will offer valuable comments in response to the request for a Communion-wide Progress Report on the Covenant at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012.
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What has been exercising the minds of Anglicans in recent years, as the culture wars over human sexuality have raged, is the relationship of Unity and Truth. How to reconcile radically divergent opinions in a single communion?
Some have put a premium on Truth – and so have been prepared to take unilateral action or to cross ecclesial boundaries in order to uphold it. Others have openly preferred Unity. Heresy, as one American bishop tersely put it, is to be preferred to schism.
And there has been no respite. No sooner had the crisis over women in the episcopate subsided than another conflict took its place – over the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of practising homosexuals....
The Windsor Report (2004), instead of addressing this pressing issue head on, chose by procedural sleight of hand to avoid it:
‘The mandate of this Commission has been to examine, and make recommendations in relation to, the formal results, in terms of our Communion one with another within Anglicanism, of the recent events which have been described. We repeat that we have not been invited, and are not intending, to comment or make recommendations on the theological andethical mailers concerning the practice of same sex relations and the "blessing or ordination or consecration of those who engage in them [italics theirs].
Having outlined the problems, and sketched the deeper symptoms we believe to lie beneath them, it is time to examine more fully, in this Section, the nature of the Communion we share, the bonds which hold it together, the ways in which all this can be threatened and how such threats might be met.’
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... this leads to our final point. It is the preservation of this catholicity, the relationship of bishop to the college of bishops, and these finally understood to include some kind of universal college, that is most important. In the past, TEC has exercised its autonomy with accountability in communion with the other Anglican churches. Anyone familiar with the formation of TEC will know that this accountability, although voluntary, was expressed in very concrete ways, including in the formulation of our Book of Common Prayer and the consecration of our first bishops. And within TEC, its autonomous dioceses were able to exercise their autonomy with accountability both to the other dioceses of TEC and to the Anglican college of bishops. But TEC has now repudiated any accountability to the larger communion. This presents TEC’s dioceses with an awful choice. How will they exercise their autonomy? To whom will they be accountable? To no one but themselves? To an isolated and declining body that itself rejects accountability to the church catholic? Or, through the Anglican Covenant, to the wider Communion?
Autonomy without accountability leads to denominationalism and isolation. Accountability without autonomy leads to authoritarian structures. Communion with both autonomy and accountability is the Anglican hope manifested in the Covenant. For us the choice is obvious, but we recognize that it is not without cost.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology
See what you make of it.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Conflicts TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues * South Carolina
What does it mean to be Anglican? I have not always been Anglican. I was Roman Catholic when my family visited Truro Church in 1974, but my wife and I sensed the Lord calling us to make our church home there. I find that my catholic heritage has been deepened as I have learned to understand the Scriptures through evangelical Anglican eyes and to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in making my faith real. One could give many answers to what is the essence of being Anglican, but to me the most important is that Anglicanism is situated solidly in the Great Story of the redemptive love of the Creator God Who we know as a Trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be Anglican is to be in continuity with the ancient Church’s way of understanding the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by the Apostles. Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, the Messiah of Israel, fulfills the promises God made to Abraham to bless the whole world through his descendants, as we learn from both the old and new testaments of the Bible.
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MT: I’d like to talk to you a little about Grace Episcopal in particular. Can you give me an overview of the place of Grace Episcopal in the Anglican Communion? How does the relationship between the members of the Communion work in practicality?
TV: The Anglican Communion, coming as it did out of the Reformation, is what I call ecclesiastically schizophrenic. Basically we’re Catholic (just not Roman Catholic) but, with our Reformed fear of papal authority we’re very decentralized. Grace is a mission (meaning the Bishop is the rector, head, of the parish) in the Diocese of San Joaquin which in turn is part of the Episcopal Church. Each national church (e.g., Canada, Nigeria) is autonomous, within a loose confederation headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who, however, has more of a bully-pulpit authority rather than a legislative one.
MT: What are the primary doctrines of Grace Episcopal? How are these connected to the broader Episcopal Church? Are there differences or are the doctrines consistent?
TV: Grace was founded as, and is, a welcoming and inclusive parish, which means, especially in Bako, that we fully welcome LGBT folk. We were also founded as an outreach parish, reaching out in love to others rather than focusing overmuch on ourselves. The two main tenets that separate Grace and the Episcopal Church (TEC) from the schismatics is that we embrace our LGBT sisters and brothers and we ordain women.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts TEC Departing Parishes TEC Parishes Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology
The creation of ...[the Anglican Consultative Council] required no canonical change in the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and Canons, but it did have implications nonetheless, for someone needed to appoint the three representatives to the ACC, and someone needed to respond to the request for approval of the ACC’s constitution. The special session of the General Convention in 1969 “acceded and subscribed to the Proposed Constitution of the said Anglican Consultative Council,” and took responsibility for election of representatives to that body.34 Subsequent General Conventions approved later changes in the ACC constitution.35 The convention’s Joint Committee on Nominations initially proposed names of ACC representatives for election by convention, but in 1982 the Executive Council (the name adopted in 1967 for what had been called the National Council since 1922) took over the responsibility for selection of ACC representatives.
An additional development in the Anglican Communion had taken place in 1960, which would also bring the Episcopal Church into closer relationship with the Anglican Communion. In that year Stephen Bayne, former Bishop of Olympia in the U.S., had accepted a position as the first Executive Officer or the Anglican Communion, a position later renamed as “Secretary General.” Bayne served until 1964. The fourth person to hold the position (Samuel Van Culin, Secretary General,1983-94), was also an American.
The General Conventions of 1964 and 1967 responded to the call of the Anglican Congress in Toronto that it was time for “the rebirth of the Anglican Communion, which means the death of many old things but—infinitely more—the birth of entirely new relationships.” The Presiding Bishop set up a Committee on Mutual Responsibility, which reported to both conventions. The 1964 Convention adopted a resolution proposed by the committee that resolved
That this Church, speaking through its episcopate and its duly elected representative in the lay and clerical orders in General Convention assembled, accept the message of the Primates and Metropolitans of the Anglican Communion entitled, “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ”, as a declaration of God’s judgment upon our insularity, complacency, and defective obedience to Mission; and be it further
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this Church undertake without delay that evaluation and reformation of our corporate life, our priorities, and our response to Mission, which is called for by the leaders of the Anglican Communion….
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Polity & Canons Instruments of Unity * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Theology Ecclesiology
Historian Robert Prichard of Virginia Theological Seminary described General Convention’s call, in the early 20th century, for more business-like models of management, which led to organizing dioceses into provinces; changing the Presiding Bishop from the longest-serving bishop to an elected executive; and establishing a national council, now known as Executive Council.
Dr. Prichard noted that The Living Church was the first publication, in response to those changes, to apply the courtesy title “the Most Rev.,” normally reserved for archbishops, to the Presiding Bishop.
The 20th century also led to greater ties with the Anglican Communion, Dr. Prichard said, including the appointment of the Rt. Rev. Stephen Bayne as the first executive officer of what is now the Anglican Communion Office.
The Episcopal Church’s two major trends of the 20th century — greater centralization and stronger ties with the Anglican Communion — are now at odds with each other, Dr. Prichard said.
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You can find the documentation here. When I saw this Monday night I tried to find it on all sorts of Episcopal Church websites but could not. When I mentioned this at a committee meeting on Tuesday the only person in the room other than myself who knew of it was Bishop Lawrence. Read it carefully and read it all--KSH.
...there apparently is a new ACC constitution (now referred to as Articles of Association) that changes the membership procedures for the ACC. This new constitution (which has not been made public) also applies in some way to the adoption of the Covenant by other churches.
11. On the second question, “who can invite,” the Covenant is explicit in saying that this may be done by the “Instruments.” On its face, this means that any of the Instruments, e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Primates’ Meeting, could issue such an invitation, which would then invoke the procedures indicated: approval by the Standing Committee and consents from the Primates.
12. None of this is meant to suggest that such an invitation is necessarily imminent, but the procedures are far more flexible and responsive to developing circumstances than many have been led to believe.
13. With these principles in mind, we urge all churches and dioceses interested in committing to the life of mutual accountability and interdependence required by the Covenant to adopt and affirm the Covenant as soon as practicable and communicate their decisions to the Communion and its churches. We note that paragraph 4.1.6 provides that “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.” Thus, the Covenant will become active as soon as member churches begin to adopt it, and the Global South churches have indicated their intention to begin doing so as early as April 2010. By committing to the Covenant, a church or diocese will immediately begin to share in the Communion life represented by the Covenant even as the formalities of the Communion Instruments necessarily will take longer to implement.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Analysis Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils Instruments of Unity Windsor Report / Process * Theology Ecclesiology
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Anglican Covenant is now in its "final" form, and it has been distributed to the Provinces of the Communion for their consideration. It is not greatly different from the third draft that we saw several months ago. I believe that the first three sections are an excellent - truly excellent - summary of what Anglicans believe and have in common. The full text is available at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm
Section four is in a sense what the whole exercise has been about. The drafting of this Covenant was first proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report which was produced in response to the Primates' concerns over the election and consecration of an openly non-celibate gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire.
It has been a lengthy process, and it will not be concluded soon. But section four of the Covenant outlines a process by which the majority of the Communion might be able to declare that a given action on the part of one of its member Churches (such as the consecration of an openly non-celibate homosexual bishop) is or would be "incompatible with the Covenant" and there might then be "relational consequences."
From the beginning of the Covenant drafting process the Archbishop of Canterbury has been clear that he hoped we would create a Covenant that each member Province could voluntarily decide to "opt into" or not. He has envisioned a "two tier" or "two track" Communion in which those Provinces that choose to "opt into" the Covenant remain in "constituent membership" in the Communion, and those Provinces that "opt out" of the Covenant move into "associate membership" - something which he has compared to the status of the Methodist Church: it has an Anglican heritage, but it is really a separate denomination.
The Episcopal Church's Executive Council has said that the earliest time in which TEC as a whole can officially consider the Covenant is the General Convention of 2012. But, in his response to my inquiry on behalf of our Diocesan Board, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that dioceses are certainly free to "affirm" the Covenant if and when they choose to do so.
The Covenant has created a procedure by which those Provinces that "opt into" it can take action on behalf of the Communion as a whole to declare that certain actions are outside the bounds of our corporate life, and while the "relational consequences" are not spelled out in the Covenant itself, they clearly are foreshadowed by those Provinces which have declared "impaired" or "broken" communion with The Episcopal Church over the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire.
Both our Diocesan Board and our Standing Committee have already affirmed the first three sections of the Covenant, and there is a Resolution to be considered by our 41st Convention next month to do likewise. Now that the fourth section has been finalized Fr. Eric Turner (who proposed the original Resolution) will offer a substitute Resolution that the Convention affirm the Covenant as a whole.
I have repeatedly said that I believe the only hope for the Anglican Communion is in following the Archbishop's lead in drafting and adopting this Covenant. I now urge the delegates to Convention to study it and affirm it on January 30.
It remains my personal commitment to uphold the Covenant, and I give you my assurance, again, that I will never consent to the election of a bishop (or for that matter a priest or deacon) living in a relationship of sexual intimacy other than marriage as the Book of Common Prayer defines and understands it (one man and one woman, in Christ).
Warmest regards in our Lord,
--(The Rt. Rev.) John W. Howe is Bishop of Central Florida
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process
What many people do not know, and others, I'm afraid, choose to ignore, is the legal independence of the Episcopal Church from other jurisdictions. In fact, it was in Chestertown, Maryland, in 1780, that a convention of clergy and laymen began the process of making an American Church separate from the Church of England, in the spirit of our declaration of political independence of 1776.
After that, the Archbishop of Canterbury had no more legal jurisdiction in this nation than King George III, the "Supreme Governor" of the established Church of England. So when Archbishop Rowan Williams says that he regrets Canon Glasspool's election and urges the American church to reject her, he does not speak in any official capacity.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Theology Ecclesiology
The covenant by itself cannot save Anglicanism — I’m not sure it’s structured in a way that would allow it to do that — but the process of studying the covenant, responding to it, receiving it, and recommitting ourselves to one another may do so, and it will leave the Anglican Communion stronger. A strengthened Anglican Communion will be confident in itself while actively working for Christian unity through joining with our brothers and sisters in mission and by standing ready to share the understandings born from our comprehensiveness.
Two points in the Ridley Cambridge draft seem especially important in such a task and in light of a call to be reconcilers and interpreters. The first is in §2.1.5, which affirms that “our common mission is a mission shared with other Churches and traditions” and recognizes that “the ecumenical vocation of Anglicanism to the full visible unity of the Church in accordance with Christ’s prayer that ‘all may be one.’ ”
The other is §4.1.5, which states:
It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments.
Leaving open the possibility that other churches might adopt the covenant is, in my mind, a wonderful gesture that seems born from reflection on the ecumenical vocation of Anglicanism mentioned in section two. This provision has inspired resistance in some quarters of the Episcopal Church, for fear that it might play into the perceived schemes of some of our departed brothers and sisters to replace the Episcopal Church as the officially recognized Anglican body in the United States. While I understand the origins of such concerns, I wonder if they are the fruit of a conflict mentality that is unhelpful and could lead to an even longer period of being internally focused. The key portion of the provision for those who have these concerns would seem to be that any body’s acceptance as part of the Communion would come only with the approval of all the Instruments of Communion, not simply one or two.
In the end, the inclusion of this provision within the covenant prevents it from being a document purely internal to the Communion as it is, and instead turns a portion of it outward in a gesture of invitation and welcome.
Read it all.
Read it carefully and read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) General Convention TEC Bishops TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process
...the Anglican experiment is far from over. For in a world of mounting religious tension, now more than ever we need the witness of precisely the sort peace treaty attempted by the Church of England.
Not, of course, that we as a church have been very good at resolving our differences over women bishops. Which gets us to the core of the problem. What happens when principles clash?
This isn't a churchy problem to be waved away by those not involved. For what's at stake here is how we live alongside those with whom we fundamentally disagree. The Anglican answer has always made peaceful co-existence the priority. And that can mean compromising one's principles in the name of a greater good. And yet, of course, compromise has a limit - especially when the issue is regarded by many as a fundamental question of justice. So here then is the tragedy: even in a church of natural compromisers, compromise can't always keep people together.
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CROSSROADS ARE FOR MEETING (AGAIN)
AN ADDRESS TO THE CONVENTION OF THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF DALLAS ON THE PROPOSED ANGLICAN COVENANT
THE REV. DR. PHILIP TURNER
As you know, my subject is the Anglican Covenant. Is it really Anglican? Is it really necessary? Is it theologically defensible? Is it an effective way to address our present difficulties? I will get to these questions and others in due course, but first, to make sure we know what it is that we are talking about, I must take you on a little trip down memory lane. The first book I published was a collection of essays entitled “Crossroads Are For Meeting.” The date was 1986, and the particular cross in the road faced at that time by the Anglican Communion was the nature of its mission, and in particular its mission as a world-wide communion of autonomous churches. Previously, in 1963, The Anglican Congress had defined the inter-relation of these churches as being one of “mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ.” At this gathering, the assembled delegates took a dramatic step in defining the nature of Anglicanism as a communion rather than, say, a federation; but there were divisions over the Communion’s calling. If Anglicans are to understand themselves as bound by mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ, just what is the purpose of this communion under God?
The collection of essays I helped assemble revealed a profound division over this matter, one that is with us to this day. Is the mission of the Anglican Communion to join other Christian bodies in spreading the Gospel of reconciliation and redemption through Christ’s victory on the cross, or is it, with other churches, to join Christ in a sacrificial struggle to include the oppressed and marginalized and so to establish justice on the earth? Despite very articulate pleas that these two views need not be in conflict, they were in conflict then and remain so to this day. This conflict over the mission of the church has returned in our own time with such ferocity that it threatens any possibility of meaningful communion.
I hope I do not have to defend the statement that divisions over the mission of the church are lodged just below the surface of our current argument about sex. The crisis we now face has been building for quite some time, and it involves matters far more central and complex than disputes over sexual identity and conduct. To my mind, the big issue is how autonomous churches called to carry out God’s mission at a particular time and place can remain at the same time in a communion that is catholic in both belief and practice.
In its modern form this question was posed at the Lambeth Conference of 1948—the first to be held after the Second World War and the first to take place during the dismantling of the British Empire. At this meeting a committee of bishops asked, “Is Anglicanism based on a sufficiently coherent form of authority to form the nucleus of a world-wide fellowship of churches, or does its comprehensiveness conceal internal divisions which may cause its disruption?” This question defines the struggles of Anglicans in the post-modern period, but its roots go down into the soil of Anglican beginnings. The Church of England established itself as the church of a nation, but it sought to do so as an expression of catholic Christianity. The Episcopal Church sought to establish itself as a church independent of the Church of England, but nonetheless bound by its doctrine and discipline (and so also by its combination of both national and catholic identity).
Similar tensed goals are to be found in the numerous provinces that had their beginning the middle of the 19th Century and came to full flower after The Second World War. Just how are these churches to remain both local and catholic? That is the question. In response, Anglicans have at best stumbled toward an answer. In 1867 the first Lambeth Conference of Bishops was called to address governance issues brought into focus by growing independence within the colonial churches, the publication of Essays and Reviews, and by the Bishop of Natal’s view of Holy Scripture. The birth of many new and autonomous provinces after The Second World War issued in the Pan Anglican Congress, The Anglican Consultative Council, and The Meeting of Primates. The crisis brought about by the consecration of a woman to the Episcopate produced The Virginia Report along with linkage of a congeries of consultative bodies that were labeled “The Instruments of Unity” (now “The Instruments of Communion”). Finally, the actions of the Dioceses of New Westminster and New Hampshire in the matters of gay blessings and ordinations issued in the Windsor Report and the proposal for an Anglican Covenant.
All these institutional developments have been directed to the same end—both to guard the autonomy of the various provinces of the Anglican Communion and insure that each “recognizes” in the others fellow members of a communion of churches. This goal is easy to state, but extraordinarily difficult to achieve. To this point, the Instruments of Communion have not been able to provide the several provinces of the Communion with confidence that they, the instruments, can achieve this goal. Failure to address adequately the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and those of The General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) has strained the credibility of each and every one of them. The proposed Anglican Covenant is, in my view, the last best hope for achieving the goal of a communion of autonomous churches bound by common belief, practice, mutual responsibility, and interdependence. As I hope to demonstrate, it does so by placing responsibility for communion firmly in the hands of the autonomous provinces themselves. The proposed Covenant asks that the provinces and local churches of the Communion covenant one with another (rather than with a legislative or juridical body) and within this covenanted relationship exercise their autonomy within the limits imposed by membership in a communion of churches.
Now, is this proposed Covenant really Anglican? Is it necessary? Is it theologically sound? Will it succeed in achieving the goal its supporters have in mind? The best way to respond is to work through the main points of the proposed covenant with these questions in mind. You will remember that the latest version of the Covenant has four parts—the first three of which, along with an “Introduction,” “Preamble” and “Declaration” have been approved for circulation to the provinces for ratification. The fourth section, largely procedural in nature, is now being reviewed. Since they have already been approved for circulation, I will focus on “The Introduction to the Covenant Text,” the “Preamble”, and sections one through three. Though it is of central importance, my remarks on Section Four will be brief because we do not know what its final form will be.
Though it is not part of the Covenant itself, the” Introduction” provides the theological base for all that follows, and it does so by reference to the primary theological theme present in the ecumenical dialogues of the Anglican Communion. The foundational theme is “communion”. The churches, all of them, are called through Christ into communion with the Triune God. In this communion, Christians share one with another in the very life of God. The mission of The Anglican Communion is, therefore, to share with other churches in calling all peoples, through Christ, into the life of God and to manifest that life in the relations of its various provinces one with another. The Covenant, its proposers contend, is not intended to change the nature of Anglicanism. Rather, its purpose is “to reflect, in our relations with one another, God’s own faithfulness and promises towards us in Christ.” To reflect God’s purpose for the creation in this way, it is necessary that God’s mission be “carried out in shared responsibility and stewardship and in interdependence among ourselves and with the wider church.”
It seems to me that nothing could be more Anglican than this theological starting point. It accords with the catholic identity we have claimed since the Reformation, it accords with our self-representations in ecumenical dialogues, and it is faithful to our internal deliberations. Nevertheless, you are surely aware that many object to the Covenant because they believe it compromises the autonomy of the provinces and for this reason is “un-Anglican.” I can only say in response that neither in the foundation of the various Anglican provinces nor in their ecumenical self-representations have Anglicans understood the autonomy of the various provinces to exist as an unfettered right. Neither have Anglicans, despite claims to the contrary, understood mutual responsibility and interdependence to have no relation to common belief and practice. If anything is “un-Anglican” it is an unfettered claim to autonomy in which each province claims to be judge in its own case whenever its “autonomous” decisions are questioned by other provinces. So it seems to me that the covenant drafters are quite Anglican when they say in the “Preamble” that the churches of the Anglican Communion covenant together “in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the grace of God revealed in the Gospel, to offer God’s love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and together with all God’s people to attain the full stature of Christ.”
So far, at least, the Covenant seems to me to thoroughly Anglican and certainly theologically adequate. It surely can’t be a mistake to root one’s ecclesiology in the sacrificial death of Christ and the life of the Triune God. But let us test further to see if we can make similar affirmations in respect to the specifics of the proposed covenant. Section One concerns “Our Inheritance of Faith” and like the other two sections is divided into affirmations and commitments. The affirmations seem to me both thoroughly adequate and thoroughly Anglican.
What is affirmed in respect to our inheritance of faith? Communion in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that worships one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The Catholic and Apostolic faith uniquely revealed in Holy Scriptures and set for in the catholic creeds! This faith to which authentic witness is born in the historic formularies of the Church of England and appropriated in various way in the Anglican Communion! To this list of affirmations is attached the four elements of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral and participation “in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God.”
To what are Anglicans committed in respect to “Our Inheritance of Faith?” The answer is to a number of things but they all stem from a faithful and communal reading of Holy Scripture that is attentive to the councils of the Communion, our ecumenical agreements, the teaching of Bishops and synods, the work of scholars, and prophetic and faithful leadership.
Now, once again, (taking due note of the fact that the Covenant does not require subscription but only affirmation that the formularies of the C of E bear authentic witness to the catholic and apostolic faith) I see nothing “un-Anglican” or theologically inadequate in this. The rub for the Covenant’s opponents comes with the commitment to seek a common understanding of scripture that must be attentive to a host of voices that may well challenge deeply held convictions on the part of an individual province. But, once again, it seems to me less than theologically adequate to place the primary weight of interpretive responsibility on the shoulders of individual readers or even individual churches, as it appears many within our own church would prefer. It also seems to me theologically inadequate to define communion apart from unity of belief and practice—a cry heard with increasing force among the Covenant’s opponents.
Now to Section Two that concerns “Our Anglican Vocation”! This section affirms that the communion of the churches is to be placed within God’s providential ordering. The Anglican Communion is also to be understood as part of that ordering, and within that context the mission heritage of Anglicans is affirmed as offering unique opportunities. These opportunities are given greater specification by five commitments that echo the Baptismal Covenant found in TEC’s Book of Common Prayer.
Though I have quibbles with some of the wording of this section, I doubt that it will be the subject of much controversy, and so I will pass immediately on to Section Three that, if grasped in its plain sense, most certainly will cause great controversy. Here the Covenant addresses “Our Unity and Common Life”, and here we come to the heart of our present conflicts. How shall we understand communion on the one hand and autonomy on the other?
What is it that the covenant asks us to affirm? We affirm that by incorporation into the body of Christ we are called “to pursue all things that make for peace and build up our common life.” For Anglicans this affirmation signals a resolve “to live in a Communion of Churches” in which each “orders and regulates its own affairs…through its own system of government and law.” In doing so, however, it understands itself to be living “in communion with autonomy and accountability.” This accountability is not mediated through a “central legislative and executive authority” but by “mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference and the other instruments of Communion.”
From this basic affirmation flow certain commitments. Chief among these is “to respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the churches of the Anglican Communion while upholding our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole.” Concretely this means that each of the Churches of the Communion, before taking a controversial action, will seek a shared mind through the Communion’s councils. Further, it means that when an action “by its intensity, substance or extent” threatens the unity of the Communion or the credibility of its mission, a province will only act (if it does so at all) with “diligence, care and caution.”
Few, I think, realize how strong the words “intensity, substance or extent” and “diligence, care and caution” in fact are. The same lack of recognition applies too much of the vocabulary deployed in earlier sections of the covenant. I speak of terms like “shared discernment, accountability, and autonomy.” In deploying these terms, the Covenant’s drafters refer to a substantial and well-developed body of Anglican thought.
The generally accepted meaning of these terms places a heavy burden of proof on any province that exercises its autonomy in ways that other members of the Communion believe threaten their unity or their credibility.
I am forced to say (sadly) that by any reckoning, the recent actions of TEC’s General Convention are of sufficient “intensity, substance, and extent” to threaten the unity of the Communion. Further, given the seriousness of the threat and given the fact that TEC’s actions have been taken both against the counsel of all the Instruments of Communion and a direct plea by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it stretches credulity to say that they are actions that manifest “diligence, care, and caution.”
Indeed, given the fact that the first section of the Covenant clearly understands unity of belief and practice to be, in part, constitutive of communion, and given the fact that the third section makes clear that autonomy must be understood within the context of communion wide accountability, it would appear that TEC’s recent actions amount to a provisional rejection of the covenant. Apart from reversing the decisions recently taken, the only way TEC can with any integrity ratify the first three sections of the Covenant is to deny its plain sense and openly define communion univocally in terms of forms of mutual aid and hospitality that are decoupled from unity of belief and practice.
It is just this sort of talk that appears on the blogs and issues from the mouths of many of our present leaders. They do not like the Covenant because it compromises provincial autonomy and so is “un-Anglican.” By this charge they mean that the Covenant places limits on doctrinal and moral innovation, hinders innovations made necessary by the requirements of the mission of particular provinces, and places a curial hierarchy above the governing structures of individual provinces.
In response, one can only say that living in communion does place limits on doctrinal innovation and it does require that local adaptations for purposes of mission not make innovations other churches of the Communion cannot “recognize” as in accord with Holy Scripture and apostolic teaching. What, however, are we to make of the charge that the Covenant creates a curia that compromises the autonomy of the provinces? Opponents level this charge particularly against Section Four.
Since we do not have a final version of Section Four, I cannot respond in any definitive way to this charge. I will only say that in all the versions submitted so far the drafters have bent over backwards to protect the autonomy of the provinces. Rather than creating a curia that has legislative and juridical authority, they have sought procedures that will allow the provinces to act jointly and in good order when an action by a province, because of its “intensity, substance and extent”, is not “recognized” by the provinces as in accord with the belief and practice of the Communion as a whole.
The final section of the covenant in its penultimate form is procedural only. It does not establish an international hierarchy. It seeks only to present an orderly process for the provinces to preserve their unity and credibility through a process of “recognition” rather than adjudication. It is just such a process that the Anglican Communion has lacked and because of this lack, reactions to TEC’s recent actions have been piecemeal, chaotic, idiosyncratic, and productive of greater division rather than more extensive communion.
The simple fact is that without a strong Section Four that creates credible procedures rather than additional hierarchies, the Anglican Communion will perish as a communion of churches. So is a covenant necessary? I prefer to use the word necessary like St. Luke does only in reference to God’s providential ordering of his world. Whether a covenant or, indeed, whether Anglicanism itself are in this sense necessary I do not know. I can only pray that they are. Whatever the case may prove to be it is still reasonable to ask if a covenant is likely to be an effective means of preserving communion? I cannot answer this question with any degree of certainty. Nevertheless, I believe the Covenant is the only hope we have if we wish on the one hand to preserve a communion that involves more than mutual aid and hospitality; and on the other, in doing so, avoid the creation of an international hierarchy. At this point, I must be utterly clear. From a human point of view our choices are extremely limited. Either we have a covenant with real consequences like the “two track” proposal or the Communion will collapses. Many provinces from the Global South that support a covenant with consequences will simply go their own way, and those who have rejected a covenant with consequences will be left with something that is a Communion in name only. To return to the beginning, I believe the Covenant is our only hope to arrive at our present cross in the roads and meet rather than part forever.
i The Lambeth Conference 1948 (London: SPCK, 1948), p. 84.
ii For verification of this point see William Curtis, The Lambeth Conferences: The Solution for Pan-Anglican Organization, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), pp. 17-77.
iii Ibid, passim.
iv See e.g., the various reports of ACRIC and The Church of the Triune God, The Cyprus Statement of the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox theological Dialogue, 2007.
v Ridley Cambridge Draft (hereafter cited as RCD), “Introduction to the Covenant Text” (here after cites as Introduction) #5.
vi RCD, Introduction #7.
vii RCD, Preamble.
viii RCD, 1.1.1-1.1.8.
ix RCD, 2.2.2a-2.2.2e.
x RCD, 3.1.1.
xi RCD, 3.1.2.
xii Ibid. See also “A Letter from Alexandria”, the Primates, March 2009.
xiii Ibid. See also Lambeth Conference 1930.
xii RCD, 3.2.2. See also Toronto Conference 1963, and the Ten Principles of Partnership.
xiv RCD, 3.2.4; 3.2.5.
xv See Anglican Communion Institute, “The Anglican Covenant: Shared Discernment Recognized by All”, Anglicancommunioninstitute.com.
The larger problem is that the Anglican Church, along with most mainline Protestant churches, has lost its identity. In a well-intentioned but misguided effort to soften its image, the Anglican Church has embraced a big-tent strategy that has driven away its traditional members and made itself even more irrelevant to potential worshippers. The crowning example of this confused strategy came in February 2008 when Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, told a British radio program that the adoption of some parts of Islamic Sharia law in Britain "seems inevitable." Though this can be considered as much an indictment of the present depressed state of British politics and society as much as of the Anglican Church, nothing in Williams' tenure suggests he has committed himself to lifting the Anglican Church out of its decline.
So what must the Anglican Church do to avoid its demise?
First, it must be Christian and unapologetically so.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Episcopal Church (TEC) * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI
Bishop Ackerman said he has heard from the Diocese of Bolivia regarding the Presiding Bishop’s actions. “Having heard from the Diocese of Bolivia, I understand that I’m a priest in good standing in that diocese,” he said.
Bishop Ackerman said he is troubled by the Episcopal Church’s apparent inability to transfer bishops peaceably to other provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
“It must see itself as highly independent,” he said. “If orders are not universal in the Anglican Communion, they cease to be catholic in the full sense of the word. … The Episcopal Church does not own the ministry of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
Neva Rae Fox, the Episcopal Church’s program officer for public affairs, said the Presiding Bishop was unlikely to respond to Bishop Ackerman’s remarks.
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“This will bring further recognition of our diocese as a part of the Episcopal Church, as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, and in communion with the See of Canterbury. When I shared with the Archbishop of Canterbury last month the plans for a resolution of this nature, he responded favorably,” the bishop said.
The bishop also spoke of why he believes the diocese needs to remain within the Episcopal Church.
“We need to stay where we are because our Lord needs the faithfulness of the ministry this diocese has to offer, and does offer, through the commitment of those who make this their spiritual home, and in turn are striving to build up the kingdom of God in this place and the life of Christ’s Church,” he said. “We stay also because our historic identity with the Anglican Communion demands it of us. Without ordered processes there is no catholicity, no claim to the ancient Christian unity, which we claim is at the very heart of whom we are as members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
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I have suggested that authentic Anglicanism is Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Reformed. But what do we mean when we say that Anglicanism is truly 'Catholic'?
The term 'Catholic' is open to considerable misunderstanding. Almost five centuries of use to distinguish the Roman church from evangelical Protestantism has made it difficult for many to understand it apart from these institutional overtones. To suggest that a Protestant denomination might be 'Catholic' seems like a betrayal of its distinctiveness or, at best, ecclesiological confusion. One is either Catholic or Protestant, certainly not both together. This is at least part of the popular Protestant unease with retaining the word 'Catholic' to describe the church in contemporary translations of the Creeds.
In addition, since at least the nineteenth century, the term has been used to describe an emphasis within certain strands of Protestantism which has re-centred Christian corporate life on the sacraments, priesthood, notions of apostolic succession, and the like. In this way 'Catholic' describes one tradition within Anglicanism (alongside, and in certain tension with, evangelical and charismatic traditions). One is either Catholic or Evangelical, certainly not both together. A century or more of tension between the catholic and evangelical traditions within Anglicanism has made it difficult for some to accept the word 'Catholic' as an appropriate description of authentic Anglicanism.
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What we need is a vigorous and informed discussion of Anglican identity, one which explores why the Anglican heritage is worth promoting, protecting and joining in the twenty-first century.
In order to get the conversation going, I'd like to suggest that Anglicanism that is true to its classic identity is Catholic, Protestant, Reformed and Evangelical and that there is something entirely worthwhile about each of these dimensions.
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Often, The Episcopal Church is called a “bridge church” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Many couples who join The Episcopal Church do so when a Catholic marries a Protestant. Both find in The Episcopal Church a theology and a style of worship that honors the faith traditions in which they were formed.
The foundation of faith in The Episcopal Church is often described using the image of a Three-legged stool.
The first leg of the stool is Holy Scripture. The catechism in the Prayer Book says of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament that “God inspired their human authors” and that “God still speaks to us through the Bible” (BCP 853). The Old Testament conveys the story of the covenant relationship between Israel and God. The New Testament reveals the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Holy Scripture serves as the touchstone of our lives.
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See what you make of the answer presented here.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has recently published “reflections” proposing major changes in the way the Anglican Communion is organised. Because of growing willingness in the Episcopal Church (TEC) both to consider it possible that lesbians and gays, including those who are partnered, may be called to any kind of ministry within the church, and also to respond positively to requests to bless same-sex unions, he has suggested a “two-track” approach. Provinces such as TEC in North America would not be able to carry out certain functions such as representing the Anglican Communion in ecumenical circles, while those which signed up to a Covenant would have a more central position.
This research paper describes the background, examines the evidence on which the Archbishop’s main points are based and discusses the implications. It is suggested that some of his claims about the nature of change in the church are historically incorrect, and that TEC has made greater efforts to abide by decisions made at international Anglican gatherings, and the overall ethos of the Communion, than many provinces which might sign up to the Covenant. Important aspects of the Anglican heritage have been rejected in recent years by some of TEC’s most vigorous critics, at a cost to the vulnerable in society and church mission and ministry.
While the intention of the Archbishop’s proposal is to promote Christian unity and spiritual growth, there is a strong possibility that the results will be the opposite. A different approach, less focused on institutional structures, might be more effective in addressing divisions and ultimately enabling Anglicans to move towards a deeper unity.
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This is important, first, because it marks the public rolling out of an agenda by the Communion Partner bishops, hopefully with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s full and forthcoming public support, aimed at preserving some remnant of constituent membership in the Communion for covenanting Episcopalians.
Second, and more profoundly, this step effectively serves as a petition to God for the preservation of Anglicanism, to a larger end of reconciliation and communion. “The divisions before us,” after all, have to do with much more than “differences of opinion on matters of human sexuality,” as the bishops note. They finally touch upon ecclesiology — the nature of the Church, as a global communion, committed to “discerning the mind of Christ together.” And this point, like the text of the Anglican covenant itself, drops us into a rich field of ecumenical discernment and decision, since communion in Christ is always larger than the particularities of any one divided church or family of churches....
For this reason especially: that the Catholic Church precedes and follows, comprehends and judges, our feints at autonomy, independence, and party spirit, as well as our flirtations with one or another false unity, we applaud the movement forward to covenant by the Communion Partner bishops, and pledge our support.
Read the whole thing.
Where does all this leave us as Anglicans? Our problem, as has been made painfully clear in the current crisis, is that we do not really know who we are. It will not do to defer to scripture as if scripture stands outside the catholic and ecumenical tradition, for this attitude easily suggests, however unintentionally, that we read the scriptures alone, and that we alone mediate their interpretation.
Instead, let us follow the vision of Lambeth 1920, at which the bishops urged “every branch of the Anglican Communion” to “prepare its members for taking their part in the universal fellowship of the reunited Church, by setting before them the loyalty which they owe to the universal Church, and the charity and understanding which are required of the members of so inclusive a society” (Resolution 15).
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Two members of the Communion Partners rectors advisory committee say the group is striving to be an irenic voice as the Episcopal Church discusses the Anglican Communion’s proposed covenant.
“We aim to be constructive in relationships between orthodox clergy and their bishops whose theology may not be the same,” said the Rev. Leigh Spruill, rector of St. George’s Church, Nashville.
Communion Partners has begun filling the void left by congregations and dioceses affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network, but it is cautious about becoming another political force within the Episcopal Church.
“We’re trying to find a better way than the political structures that have arisen in response to volatile issues,” said the Rt. Rev. Anthony Burton, former bishop of Saskatchewan and rector of Church of the Incarnation, Dallas.
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ACI believes that, on the basis of the Constitution and Canons of TEC and their historical substance and meaning, dioceses have the power to withdraw from General Convention. We do not deny that there are probably legal complications involved in exercising that power, most of which are untested. But granting this—and defending the constitutional structure that might permit a San Joaquin or Pittsburgh or Fort Worth to withdraw as well as opposing as uncanonical the means by which bishops of these dioceses were disciplined—is not the same thing as approving of specific decisions here and there.
And there is a fundamental difference between what is at stake in CP dioceses adopting the Covenant and the actions of the dioceses mentioned above: in the former case, the dioceses in question would (and should) adopt the Covenant on the basis of their powers as laid out by the Constitution and Canons of TEC itself for its own dioceses. There is no question here of “leaving” TEC, but of TEC dioceses doing what they are meant to do.
Brian seems to think that doing this would cause a free-for-all among anglican churches in the world. But what is at issue is precisely that TEC’s polity is DIFFERENT from the polity of most other anglican churches. And its “provincial” personality exists only according to this unusual, even unique, polity. That personality operates according to individual diocesan decision-making, which either coheres or does not with the collective that is designated by the General Convention. The former shapes the latter, not the the other way around in terms of “hierarchical” powers.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of our Constitution. But our argument is that is it not up to the Instruments of Unity to interpret our Constitution and Canons on behalf of American dioceses. Over and over, the Instruments have prescinded from such a task, and on principle. Unless the constituional question is resolved amongst the members of TEC themselves, it will finally be resolved in the civil courts of the United States. That, in fact, seems to be path now being taken.
Until such time, we have two vying interpretation as to who has the “authority” to adopt the Covenant within TEC: we argue that only dioceses can do this, in any final way; others have argued that only the General Convention can do this. No other Anglican Church has in fact exhibited such a disagreement, and none is anticipated given the shape of other churches’ constitutions. Those provinces who do end up adopting the Covenant will finally have to make the decision themselves as to who they will recognize as Covenant partners amongst those American Anglicans who formally express their desire to be party to this Covenant. But nothing now prevents, from a legal point of view, TEC dioceses from such formal expressions apart from General Convention. Nothing. It is not illegal, it is not rebellious, it is not unAnglican, it is not a declaration of war, it is not impertinent: it is rather the exercise of diocesan responsibilities, with its bishop, to remain faithful (as we see it) to the Anglican commitments of its formation and vocation.
We must go further, however. Theologically, the provincial system is itself flawed, or at least many believe it is, and I have argued along these lines recently in my paper “The Organizational Basis of the Anglican Communion”. These flaws are ones that have increasingly been noted within the Communion itself, despite our generally (but not uniformly!) provincial organization. The Christian Church ought properly to be ordered, I have argued, according to what I call “pastoral synodality”, which is episocopally centered and structurally ordered along what amount therefore to diocesan lines. Cultural, regional, and political considerations ought not to define the character of these structures, but rather the persuasive pastoral witness of self-expenditure that discples of Christ provide. There are good historical and theological reasons for seeing matters this way, and the Anglican Communion itself, I would argue, has long been evolving in this direction, and away from the national-provincial structures that were pragmatically and often unthinkingly and problematically adopted in the wake of colonial expansion and then ecclesial and national independencies. I would prefer to see the present turmoil less as a simple matter of a clash of theological commitments, than as the transformational pains of a more faithful adaptation to the Church’s intrinsic order.
It so happens that TEC’s Constitution is shaped more in accord with the character of pastoral synodality than some other Anglican churches! But it is not surprising, therefore, that this very Constitution and its implications is now being subverted by those whose theological commitments demand the justification of nationalistic and/or cultural priority over the authority of particular sanctified witness that pastoral synodality represents. That is, TEC’s leadership is promoting a new understanding of the Episcopal Church, and one that contradicts our Constitution, that demands subservience to a purported cultural revelation that General Convention has arrogated to itself and the PB the power to impose. The subversion is one of political convenience.
Any attempt to defrock bishops or priests who seek to uphold our Episcopal Constitution in opposition to these subversions would be meaningless in substance, and practically so unless and until any court ruled in favor of the defrockers. CP dioceses and bishops should adopt the Covenant when its text becomes recognized, and assuming its acceptability. If other covenanting churches do not wish to receive these dioceses and bishops as full covenanting partners, that will be to their shame.
The Episcopal Church is in a Level Five conflict. It's not getting better, it's getting worse. We continue on this trajectory and the entire communion is affected. The best thing would be for The Episcopal Church to withdraw for a time certain, work through their theological issues, and then come back. Perhaps in that time, the rest of the communion will have worked through and discovered that yes, God is Doing A New Thing and glory hallelujah. Or not. Then The Episcopal Church can decide whether it belongs in the Anglican Communion.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process
An Anglican church cannot simultaneously commit itself through the Anglican Covenant to shared discernment and reject that discernment; to interdependence and then act independently; to accountability and remain determined to be unaccountable. If the battle over homosexuality in The Episcopal Church is truly over, then so is the battle over the Anglican Covenant in The Episcopal Church, at least provisionally. As Christians, we live in hope that The Episcopal Church will at some future General Convention reverse the course to which it has committed itself, but we acknowledge the decisions that already have been taken. These decisions and actions run counter to the shared discernment of the Communion and the recommendations of the Instruments of Communion implementing this discernment. They are, therefore, also incompatible with the express substance, meaning, and committed direction of the first three Sections of the proposed Anglican Covenant. As a consequence, only a formal overturning by The Episcopal Church of these decisions and actions could place the church in a position capable of truly assuming the Covenant’s already articulated commitments. Until such time, The Episcopal Church has rejected the Covenant commitments openly and concretely, and her members and other Anglican churches within the Communion must take this into account. This conclusion is reached not on the basis of animus or prejudice, but on a straightforward and careful reading of the Covenant’s language and its meaning within the history of the Anglican Communion’s well-articulated life.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process
I mean, can we really say that none of that stuff matters as long as we eat his flesh and drink his blood? Is it really all about what we do and not at all about what we believe? Well, no, not quite. If there are no limits at all, we don’t even have fudge any more, just goo, and I’m not here to commend Anglican goo.
Take this business about the sacrifice of Jesus. I suspect many of you haven’t heard this story, because unlike what happened at General Convention, this didn’t lend itself to being misrepresented by a secular press that is just looking to whip up anxieties and tell sensational stories, whether they’re true or not. A certain priest was elected bishop in one of our dioceses. Now even though our dioceses choose their own bishops, the Church as a whole has to approve episcopal elections by a majority vote of all the diocesan bishops and a majority vote of all the diocesan Standing Committees. Usually this sort of thing proceeds without much attention being paid, but in this case, for various reasons, people started to get suspicious about this priest’s theology, and more and more people began to think that he had gone too far, even by the rather generous standards of Anglicanism. One of the turning points in the whole process came when one highly respected bishop – who is very much on the liberal side of things – wrote a public statement saying, basically, “I can’t see that this guy believes that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice, or that it accomplished something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves, in any way whatsoever. So I can’t consent to his election.” In the end, a majority of both bishops and Standing Committees said no.
Though I grieve for the diocese that now has to go through the election process all over again, I rejoice – you have no idea how much I rejoice – that our beloved Anglican fudge was not allowed to melt into Anglican goo. After all, how can we really accept the gifts of God for the people of God – how can we feed on Jesus in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving – if we do not acknowledge in some way that Jesus gives his flesh to be broken for the life of the world?
There have to be some core elements somewhere, to keep our Anglican fudge from melting into a pile of goo. But what are they? They are the essentials of believing without which our doing makes no sense.
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(Please note that the post of Mark Harris to which this responds may be found here).
So what if your main point is, as we believe, wrong? What if the move forward (C056 and D025) has been undertaken regardless of the threat to Communion and its unity, out of a sense of justice and rights? What if proponents of the new sexual ethic truly want to be a church on its own and fully reject the logic of a Covenant or Windsor? Interdependence in a Communion, as is intimated by 3.2.5, is precisely what is being rejected in favor of autonomy and a federal association. The nominations in LA and MN make that abundantly clear. So again, we hold that your main point is wrong and that TEC is moving clearly and resolutely in the opposite direction of the approved covenant text.
It is because of this that ACI speaks of provisional rejection. What we do not understand is why supposedly liberal Christians wish to hold hostage to their way of thinking those who prefer interdependence in Communion. On logical terms, why must all be bound to go the way of autonomy and a national denomination? Why do you not see that some truly wish to belong to a catholic church and an Anglican Communion via a covenant, instead of being lumped with those whose understanding and hopes are very different? Moreover, most of us believe that in so doing we are upholding the constitution of this church. No one is contesting that your way of being an Episcopalian is winning out in General Convention voting. What we do not understand is why you don’t declare that this entails an autonomous church, and a way of being Anglican the proposed covenant does not embrace, and then let those who wish to embrace this do so? Surely that is congruent with a liberal position and mindset.
What remains terribly confused for those wishing to embrace a covenant of interdependence is your insistence on saying nothing has changed, that there has been no rejection, that we are studying the covenant, etc., but insisting at the same time that the American Episcopal way is a way of autonomy and independent action. If this be so, why not declare it and concede that those who wish to be Episcopalians in Communion ought to do so?
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In response to the decisions taken at general convention, The Archbishop of Canterbury, has outlined a "two track" future for provinces in the Anglican communion, with a choice of covenantal or associate status. One track is for those who are willing to intensify their relationships of interdependence in the communion, through signing the proposed Anglican covenant, and the other is for those who prefer federal automony, not signing the covenant.
The Anglican communion is involved in "intensifying" its current relationships and those who do not wish to continue on that "intensifying" trajectory may remain where they are, which will become track two, while the centre of the Communion moves on with glacial gravity into track one. Not exclusion, but intensification: not force, but choice.
Who cares? God does: for communion mirrors the love of the trinity better than a loose federation – the federation of the holy trinity? Hardly. Who cares? Those in the precarious positions of Tutu and Gitari, in Pakistan and Sudan today, and all those who support them in solidarity, such as the 36-year interweavings of the Episcopal church of Sudan with the diocese of Salisbury, in which I now serve.
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[Mark Harris] asks why those that want TEC to sign the Covenant do not wait for the next General Convention and there cast 51% of the votes for ratification. If this time were taken before a final judgment, there might, he says, be some possibility of a provincial decision by “the so called ‘local’ Church.”
It is of course the case that if no provision is made before that time for dioceses to ratify the Covenant, then dioceses would not have to hold off casting their votes. They would have no vote to cast. The question would be moot. However, if provision is made for diocesan ratification dioceses that want to ratify the Covenant would simply be foolish not to do so. First The Episcopal Church has already taken steps that both effectively repudiate the approved portion of the Covenant and make ratification of a Covenant that limits its autonomy impossible to imagine. Second, a provincial decision that is the result of consensus building among those who support the decisions of the General Convention and those who do not now sadly lies beyond reach and has, in any case, been contradicted by a majoritarian system of decision-making. Pronouncements of victory have been heard resounding from the halls of our deliberations. “It’s time to move on” is the mantra that focused the attention of the vast majority of all three orders and both houses. How then can there be consensus building that includes those who have a problem with the majority if they have no way to contribute to building such a consensus. According to the reports we have received, a declaration of consensus by majority vote has already been made.
In such a context “minority influence” must be exercised in new ways. Thus, in taking the step of direct ratification the minority would, as previously noted, be saying no to a Christian identity defined first all by boundaries of a nation state and the confines of a denomination that locates itself first of all within those boundaries. Again, as previously noted, the primary objection we lodged against Fr. Harris’ first two articles on these subjects is that they locate the identity of The Episcopal Church first within the boundaries of a nation state. His further explication of his views makes doubly clear that this is indeed his position. And having stated it in this way, it becomes increasingly clear that Fr. Harris not only believes this innovative understanding of our polity is true, but also that it must be enforced as true by making all dioceses and members suffer whatever fate is in store for a province that does not intend to sign any covenant restricting a course of action undertaken, for example, like that of the last General Convention. All must go where the church of the nation goes, whether they want to or not, even if to do so calls into question their belonging to the Anglican Communion.
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The authority of the Episcopal Church resides at the diocesan level. This is witnessed to by the structure of the church as “that of a voluntary association of equal dioceses.” Also, the Constitution and Canons of the Church make no provision for either a central hierarchy or a Presiding Bishop with metropolitan authority. Furthermore, our General Convention representation is as dioceses and not as communicants, with only an administrative role for the convention leadership, the voting members of the leadership themselves drawn from the diocesan deputations. In addition, the ordinal does not contain any language acknowledging or committing to submit to any metropolitan or central hierarchal authority.
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This is a very forthright document by Bishops who are trying to keep The Episcopal Church together but are not willing to do so at the price of cutting themselves off from the Anglican Communion or acquiescing to novel interpretations of the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church. They are in effect insisting that The Episcopal Church be The Episcopal Church and act in accord with its own law and traditions. This is precisely what Bishops ought to do when they intend to be faithful to their vows.
There are a lot of questions raised here for future discussion. I am completely convinced that the Statement is an accurate description of the polity of The Episcopal Church as it has ever been and as it now stands. Our polity is indeed unique but not for the reasons usually put forward about the participation of the different orders in decision making but rather because it envisions a provincial structure with a level of diocesan autonomy unparalleled in most other Anglican jurisdictions. Unlike most provinces we have no archiepiscopal order. It remains to be seen how this order can be integrated into a true communion of churches. The proposed Anglican Covenant is a step in that direction and would represent for Communion Partner Bishops and their dioceses a willing surrender of some aspects of their present autonomy for the sake of the ongoing unity and communion of the church.
There is also the very pertinent question of how the instruments of unity in a church whether they be the instruments of unity of the Anglican Communion or of a local diocesan synod or convention are actually and practically in the service of unity in faith, witness and mission.
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Viewed as a political prize, however, the Church ceases to be a Church. Its mission is being determined by politics rather than under the governance of the Holy Spirit. So long as the battle rages for the prize, the fiction that it is a Church has to be maintained at all costs, because no one who could affect the outcome must realize what is at stake. And with the publicizing of views like those expressed in the Bishops' Statement, the risk is now great that the momentum so carefully accumulated over the years will be seen for what it is: nothing more (or less) than a political attempt to take over a money machine.
And that is why the Bishops, the ACI and its lawyer have received the treatment they did. Only those who are plotting already can regard the publication of such a power-renouncing statement of subsidiarity as "an unprecedented power grab by anti-gay bishops who will assert they are not bound by the Episcopal Church's governing body: General Convention."
The spectacle of taking over a church politically, of even speaking in terms of a church "power-grab", is so antithetical to the essence of a church that in the end it must be self-defeating.
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My main quarrel with the Bishop’s Statement is not that it is defective in its assessment of what was envisioned when PECUSA was established but rather its silence about what has evolved subsequently. Like it or not, the powers of the diocese in the matter of church property and the election of rectors has evolved, most particularly in the past 35 years. In part it is framed in the Dennis Canon which seems to claim ownership of church property by the diocese rather than the parish and by the national church over the diocese. It is also suggested by the creation of local diocesan laws which have largely taken away the rights of parishes to call rectors. A miriad of diocesan regulations have emerged, ironically on the grounds that dioceses have the right to establish methods of rectorial election, unsupported by national Canons. In short both the National Church and the dioceses, and diocesan bishops now claim authority far from that claimed by the founders of PECUSA. In some areas this has established laws far beyond those our founders granted to the National Church, and dioceses have established regulations which have limited parochial rights as established by the Canons. In short both the National Church and the Diocese assume to theirselves authority far beyond the intentions of the founders or the text of the Constitution and Canons.
Our founders were persons who believed that rational people could compact a union which permitted each level of organization to function at that level with little coercion. People of good will might be trusted to act as rational human beings. It was perhaps a Utopian ideal but one which inspired the creators of the United States. Subsequently a more cynical/practical view emerged, reacting to what was perceived to be abuse of power at differing levels. Thus, at least to my mind, it is not sufficient to evaluate TEC solely in the light of “original intent.” Yet I would suggest that a contemporary evaluation cannot lose sight of original intent and in this context the statement of the Communion Partners Bishops is a valuable recall to that intent.
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“Our Anglican tradition is blessed by the ability to share common prayer and sacraments while holding different interpretations of scripture and different opinions and practices. Our diversity reflects God’s creation and allows us to proclaim the Gospel in many forms to people in many settings.
“We are especially dismayed that this attempt to undermine the Church’s governance involves leaders who have held positions on the Communion-wide body that produced the proposed Anglican Covenant. The various drafts of the Covenant have each created impediments to the full inclusion of all baptized Christians in the Communion and thereby undermine God’s gift of unity. Regrettably, we must now question the full intent of these documents.
“We pray that our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion Institute will return to embrace our common tradition and polity and recognize the reconciling power of the Spirit to make all things new.”
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I am sure Fr. [Mark] Harris is well aware that the articulation of TEC’s polity in the Bishops’ Statement is hardly novel, but has long been the standard understanding of our governance. See, for example, the widely-used series on “The Church’s Teaching” by Dr. Powel Dawley of GTS, the work by Dr. Daniel Stevick of EDS on Canon Law and the article by Dr. Robert Prichard of VTS, one of TEC’s leading historians, in the current issue of “Anglican and Episcopal History,” who reviews this history and my paper and concludes that my work is “cogent and based on good historical argument.”
Finally and most importantly, none of this should deflect attention from the Bishops’ Statement itself. It is what it is says it is: a statement by fifteen bishops of this Church, including a candidate for Presiding Bishop in 1985 (Bishop Frey), a candidate for Presiding Bishop in 1997 and one of the three Senior Bishops of the Church who exercise canonical responsibilities under Title IV (Bishop Wimberly) and the immediate past president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice (Bishop MacPherson). I urge Fr. Harris and others to focus on this Statement by fifteen distinguished Bishops rather than discuss obviously confidential emails that should never have been made public in the first place.
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We, the undersigned laity and clergy of the Episcopal Church, offer the following as a testament to our concern for the life and witness of our church and its membership in the Anglican Communion. The God-given bonds of affection that unite us to one another are based in the prior unity of love that is God’s own Trinitarian life; for this reason, our corporate life should continually strive to be an icon of this same love. At the present moment, we are particularly mindful that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (II Cor. 5:19), and that because of this we have been given a “ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18). It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will give the Episcopal Church a renewed awareness that at the heart of our common mission lies the ministry of reconciliation, which endeavors “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP Catechism, p. 855).
To that end, we
Affirm that evangelism lies at the heart of the Church’s mission, understanding evangelism to subsist in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls all people to repent from sin, to be united in the Body of Christ through baptism, and to be continually discipled in the communion of the Church.
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A communications initiative to tell the Episcopal Church's story was launched on Ash Wednesday at http://www.episcopalchurch.org where visitors will find a new interactive feature called "I Am Episcopalian."
The so-called "microsite" contains short videos of people "sharing their deep, personal connections to the big, wide, vibrant church that we are," said Anne Rudig, who joined the Episcopal Church Center in New York as communications director on January 5.
Not only will the videos illustrate the diversity of Episcopalians -- "all ages, all walks of life, all ethnicities," said Rudig -- but the site also will let users upload their own videos.
Uploaded videos will be monitored before being posted and should be no longer then 90 seconds, said Rudig. "I am Episcopalian" will be the website homepage throughout Lent, with a link to the rest of the Episcopal Church's web content.
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I do not believe I would be guilty of exaggeration if I were to say Anglican polity simply couldn’t work apart from general acceptance of the account of communion TSAD sets out and defends. Apart from this understanding and its centrality, the mechanisms of governance and consultation Anglicans have put in place over the years will work largely in support of local concerns and commitments, and will move the life of the provinces relentlessly toward more and more fragmentation. Progressives will move toward increasingly particular moral and social agendas and those who place central importance on common confession will find themselves ever dividing into opposing theological camps.
Even under the most ideal circumstances, even if “mutual subjection” is agreed upon as the operating principle of the Communion, it is still the case that a covenant would be of no effect if it had no means to address the question of what happens if a province refuses to ratify its terms or, having ratified them, does not abide by its commitments. This question clearly posed the most difficulty for the drafters of TSAD. Given the Anglican propensity for muddling through, it is not surprising the proposal put forward presents an involved process for reconciling differences that can last up to five years.
Having said this, however, I hasten to add that the proposal, though it does not use the word discipline, does involve real consequences that would place a recalcitrant province in what the Archbishop of Canterbury has nicely termed “a diminished status” in relation to the Communion as a whole. Time does not allow me to sketch the entire process. In its present form it is cumbersome, complex and far too lengthy to be effective. But in brief, if a matter comes up that threatens the unity and mission of the Communion, it is referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn can send it on to three assessors who in turn can send it on one or another of the Instruments of Communion. If at the end of all this, it is determined that a province has gone beyond the limits of diversity and refuses to alter its behavior, either the offending church or the Instruments of Communion are to understand that “the force and meaning of the covenant” has been relinquished. In short, the offending province by its own choice or by the decision of the Instruments now is in a diminished status in relation of the rest of the provinces of the Communion. That means it will not take part in the common councils of the Communion, though it may enjoy bilateral relations with one or more of the provinces.
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This is only one example of what people do not want to lose in the life of the Communion. And it is a good Pauline principle, if you read II Corinthians, that we should be glad of the honour of being able to support other churches in their need. Who knows whether some other structure than the Communion as we know it might make this possible? But the bare fact is that what now, specifically, makes it possible is the Communion we have, and that is not something to let go of lightly. Hence the difficult but unavoidable search for the forms of agreed self-restraint that will allow us to keep conversation alive – the moratoria advised by Lambeth, very imperfectly observed yet still urged by the Primates as a token of our willingness not to behave as if debates had been settled that are still in their early stages at best.
The Communion we have: it is indeed a very imperfect thing at the moment. It is still true that not every Primate feels able to communicate at the Lord's Table alongside every other, and this is indeed a tragedy. Yet last week, all the Primates who had attended GAFCON were present, every one of them took part in daily prayer and Bible study alongside the Primates of North America and every one of them spoke in discussion. In a way that I have come to recognise as very typical of these meetings, when talk of replacing Communion with federation of some kind was heard, nearly everyone reacted by saying that this was not something they could think about choosing. We may have imperfect communion, but we unmistakably want to find a way of holding on to what we have and 'intensifying' it – to use the language I used last summer about the proposed Anglican Covenant. Somehow, the biblical call to be involved with one another at a level deeper than that of mere affinity and good will is still heard loud and clear. No-one wants to rest content with the breach in sacramental fellowship, and everyone acknowledges that this breach means we are less than we are called to be. But the fact that we recognise this and that we still gather around the Word is no small thing; without this, we should not even be able to hope for the full restoration of fellowship at the Eucharist.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury Anglican Identity Anglican Primates Primates Meeting Alexandria Egypt, February 2009 Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) Lambeth 2008 * Theology Ecclesiology Sacramental Theology Eucharist
In respect to this issue, a final comment is in order. If the Communion makes provision for individual dioceses to ratify the Covenant, it will prove easier for that to happen in TEC than in many other churches of the Anglican Communion. It will be easier because of the unique character of TEC’s constitution. TEC’s constitution makes no provision for a metropolitan bishop, givens no real authority either to its Presiding Bishop or its General Convention to impose its will on a diocese; and I am convinced it allows for a diocese to remove itself from TEC. If provision were to be made for ratification at the level of a diocese, individual dioceses within TEC would have a degree of freedom in this respect that dioceses in many other provinces would not.
So now we come to the question, “What then shall we do?” For many in TEC a covenant with any real consequences is out of the question. It is likely that they will answer the question “What then shall we do” by refusing to ratify the covenant and forming an alliance with other provinces of like mind. In all likelihood they will continue to claim membership in the Anglican Communion, seeking from within their diminished status, as they are want to say, “the greatest degree of communion possible.” It may well be, however, that in forming such an alliance, they in fact end up by creating another communion altogether. In any case, the forces at play in these circumstances will be centrifugal rather than centripetal.
For others of a more confessional frame of mind a covenant may be a part of their future, but, at present, they are skeptical that the final draft will have sufficiently clear commitments to shared doctrine and practice. For those who have cast their lot with ACNA, their future in relation to a covenant is at best uncertain. At present, only provinces can ratify the covenant. It is unlikely that ACNA will realize its goal of provincial status in the near future. Further, should there be an arrangement for individual dioceses to ratify, there are only three, perhaps four, dioceses now a part of the ACNA group. They might be given access to ratification, though that is doubtful. Even, however, if they were allowed to ratify the covenant as individual dioceses, the majority of ACNA’s membership would not be so allowed because it is unlikely that they would be able to establish diocesan status.
For my own part, these first two options appear fraught with difficulty. I believe that the present proposal of the Covenant Design Group, even though it is surrounded by questions, provides the best way forward for Anglicans if they wish to maintain both communion and catholic identity.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Common Cause Partnership --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts * Theology Ecclesiology
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Over the years of my adult life and ministry I have witness[ed] Catholics and Evangelicals adopting more rigid and isolated positions in the face of Liberal triumphalism and in the process become more and more distressed by the abandonment of many in all sections of what we used to term Anglican Comprehension of a commitment to mutual tolerance and symbiosis. It is as if Anglicans have divided into two camps, the one planted in dogmatic conclusions about a past “golden age” of Anglicanism as solely authentic and the other intent on burying for good the traditions, spirituality and theological conclusions of Anglicanism in its “past” multifaceted ethos.
And now I find myself on the edge, on what a friend of mine describes as a conveyer belt leading out of the church I have loved all my life, first in England and now in America. Even during my long years as an extra-mural Anglican bishop, as I sought to serve those who left TEC, I worked hard to keep at the fore the breadth and depth of an Anglicanism which embraced the truths taught and lived by men and women of many forms of what we once termed Churchmanship which made up the whole cloth of our tradition.
I have mentioned before the irony of my entering TEC because it was the American expression of worldwide Anglicanism in communion with the See of Canterbury and now finding myself in a church which may purposely sever its links with that Communion as it affirms independence over mutual interdependence and may become the largest of those groups which have abandoned Anglicanism for sectarianism: a liberal trendy modern Deist group wrapped in the garbs of sacramentalism or a respectable form of Theosophy.
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The call for an Anglican Communion Covenant resulted directly from the Windsor Report (sec. 113-120), and the Windsor Report itself was a crisis response document. It is therefore not possible or desirable to evaluate any document that emerges from a drafting process without asking the question: “Will it address the crisis facing the Communion?”
That said, the crisis has also raised issues of the identity and governance of the Anglican Communion that have lain dormant for many decades. From time to time, the Lambeth Conference began to address these issues, but more often than not it punted them further down the field. Now many of us feel that the conflicts and contradictions of Anglican identity and governance must be squarely faced. A covenant could be just the sort of document to do this. Or not.
It is my contention in this essay that the official Anglican Covenant process under the direction of Abp. Drexel Gomez will not be able to produce an adequate document to meet the requirements of the hour. In the two years since the formation of the Covenant Drafting Group in September 2006, a new team has taken the field, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Meeting in Jerusalem in June 2008, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) published a statement of identity – “The Jerusalem Declaration” – and formed a Primates’ Council claiming extraordinary authority to separate from a heterodox Province or to recognize an orthodox Province. It seems likely that this Council will soon recognize a North American Province separate from The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
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I mention this because as we prepare for the upcoming 218th Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina the stormy seas have not abated in the almost six years since General Convention 2003. If anything, the swath from the northeaster has broadened and intensified, engulfing more and more provinces of the Anglican Communion. While nothing is certain at this point, it seems clear to me that there is no immediate solution to our present crisis. In the midst of a storm, most of us can only react to changing circumstances as they develop. My commitment is to keep in line with the Scriptures, the historic faith of the Church, and the larger Anglican Communion. So long as we can remain Episcopalian and keep with these three instruments of trustworthy navigation, there is no reason at this point to man the lifeboats. Though many would like to see this crisis ended, or hear prophetic predictions of calmer seas, such are not likely to be forthcoming. The next foreseeable sounding of significance is the Primates’ Meeting in February 2009 and the Anglican Consultative Council in May. At both meetings, issues regarding the Anglican Covenant and, I suspect, the proposed new province in North America will be in the forefront. Then comes TEC’s General Convention in July. It’s questionable that any of these will be ports of decisive destiny; still, vigilance is a virtue.
While there are many dimensions of our present situation we cannot control, (what else is new?), that does not free us from discerning God’s vision for the Diocese of South Carolina as we near the end of this first decade of the 21st Century and prepare to enter the next. Rather, it makes it even more imperative. This raises for me the question—“What is a diocese supposed to do?” Theologians often reflect on what a diocese is—such as those who say, the Diocese is the basic or fundamental unit of the Church. But that is a statement of being, not of doing. I have spent more than a little time lately reflecting on this question. And from there, the more specific question—“What is the Diocese of South Carolina supposed to do?” Or put another way, “What is God calling the Diocese of South Carolina to do?” This is demanding but essential work if we are to maintain both a macro and micro-perspective in God’s kingdom. In fact, it is all the more essential if we are to be proactive about our future rather than merely reactive to the tossing of every gusty wind and swelling wave. Therefore, I will seek to articulate what I believe this is at our upcoming convention.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Covenant Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts Instruments of Unity Windsor Report / Process * South Carolina * Theology Ecclesiology
This essay focuses on theological reasons for being suspicious of recent proposals within the Anglican Communion for resolving the conflict over homosexuality, including the suggestion that the Communion introduce novel doctrinal specificity, or more rigid forms of Communion authority. The substantial weaknesses of these initiatives are explored particularly through an analysis of the recently introduced concept of "core doctrine." The paper argues that Anglicanism's approach to the authority of Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of doctrinal confession serve as important speed bumps to place in the path of the present momentum toward ecclesial innovation. Although there are considerable practical and ethical questions to raise about the present crisis within the Anglican tradition, this essay focuses on theological reasons for caution, as many of the current proposed solutions to the crisis represent substantial and problematic modifications to Anglican theology and ecclesiology.
The uproar within the Anglican Communion over the question of sexual orientation is threatening to alter the very nature of Anglicanism. Many theologians and church leaders have responded to the contemporary crisis by calling for a novel emphasis on doctrinal confession within the churches of the Communion. One symptom of this concern is the emergence of the concept of core doctrine, which some recent church authorities have resorted to in order to respond to the current dispute. Since the "heresy" trial of Bishop Righter in 1996, the term "core doctrine" has been invoked by the Windsor Report issued by the Lambeth Commission in October of 2004, and subsequently by the St. Michael Report of the Anglican Church of Canada in 2005. Although this desire for greater doctrinal clarity is understandable, such recent innovations are plagued by considerable theological problems. Careful analysis of the limitations of the concept of core doctrine and consideration of proposals for more centralized ecclesial authority within the Communion demonstrate that further theological reflection is required before such proposals are adopted formally by churches of the Communion.
Although there are considerable practical and ethical questions to raise about the present crisis within the Anglican tradition, this essay focuses on theological reasons for being cautious about the introduction of core doctrine and Communion-wide forms of canon law. Throughout this discussion, I question whether the current obsession with securing more rigid forms of church authority is consistent with the Anglican tradition, particularly its emphases on the authority of Scripture, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of doctrinal confession.
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These convictions and commitments are reflected in patient and enduring witness rather than in strategies and tactics designed to bring about desired future states. They grow from trust that God will use faithful witness in his own time and in his own way to bring about his purposes—purposes that do not stem from our imaginings or our desires but from God’s justice and God’s mercy.
Just what are these convictions and commitments? Here we must summarize a host of conversations to which we have been party over the past several years. The convictions revealed are these.
1. The weakness and disarray of TEC (and indeed of the churches of the West) are best understood as the result of divine displeasure at pervasive misconstruals of Christian belief and practice coupled with a common life that blows neither “hot nor cold.”
2. It is a form of delusion and disobedience to place oneself and ones friends outside the judgment God intends for the health of his church. Rather, fidelity calls for acceptance of the judgment as both just and merciful. It calls also for faithful Christians to live through that judgment to the end. This way is none other than the way Christ himself walked, believing not in a future state of his devising and constructing but in God’s power, through his death, to give life to the dry bones of his people.
3. The pattern of Christ’s life suggests the necessity of a clear differentiation between a way faithful to his life and teaching and one that has simply assumed the form of the culture with which the leadership of TEC has identified.
4. The obedient form of differentiation suggested by the pattern of Christ is not separation but faithful persistence along a different path within the fellowship of the church that has nurtured one as a Christian but has, nonetheless, gone astray.
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Update: Sarah Hey has a lengthy response to this here which concludes this way:
Let's be clear. There are Episcopalians who are most interested in the "inside strategy." The fact that the ACI and I assume the Communion Partners group eschews the "inside strategy" does not mean that those Episcopalians do not exist.
On the other hand, it is good to see the ACI and the Communion Partners continue to clarify their goals publicly. Their expressed goals do not make them "bad organizations." Their goals merely express who they are and what they intend to do -- and it's important for clergy who are making decisions about participation in either organization to be aware of what those organizations mean to do. There are some good people in both organizations and, from the perspective of this layperson, the Communion Partners is currently the only place that an inside strategy clergyperson can gain some fellowship.
In the same way, we all know what the new Anglican entity -- the ACNA -- is clearly seeking. Those who leave for the ACNA have obviously abandoned any "inside strategy" as well.
At this point, those Episcopalians interested in the inside strategy need to connect with one another, and seek counsel where they can -- but with crystal clarity that there is no organizational or institutional or national help for them. We are, as I have said for the past almost two years, on our own. Acknowledging that fact is the first step towards clarity and healing and seeking help where we can find it, with those who share our goals -- and of course, fellowshiping with joy with all orthodox Anglican brothers and sisters, whether in the ACI, the Communion Partners, or the ACNA.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Common Cause Partnership --Proposed Formation of a new North American Province Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Conflicts Instruments of Unity Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings Windsor Report / Process * Theology Ecclesiology
Prof. [Ephraim] Radner, one of 10 members of the group drafting the proposed Anglican Covenant, made no bones about division as an endearing reality in the church’s life. He called unity a thing not to “cleaned of division,” but rather emanating from “the blood of the cross, from which there is no escape. We are called to be one,” he said, “but our soul depends on the sharp sword of division.”
Bishop [James] Stanton, billing his talk “a report from the front lines in the struggle for a Communion Covenant,” took issue with too-easy attempts to define the Greek word koinonia as mere “fellowship,” when the “koinonia” of God through Christ – his entering into flesh and blood” in fact brings unity through restoration of “fallen, broken humanity.”
“It belongs to koinonia,” he said, “to endure sacrifice and suffering until the battle is through.” Among the obstacles to achievement of koinonia, in Bishop Stanton’s recounting: inadequate education concerning the whole question; the lack of “corporation memory” concerning the church’s own promises to rein in divisive, free-lance activity by advanced spirits; and, last, inability “to articulate in a compelling way why the office and person of the Archbishop [of Canterbury] is critical to our continuing Communion.”
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The failure of the House of Bishops to discipline our own for lesser infractions than pulling a diocese out of TEC (thereby giving incontrovertible proof of violating the oath to “conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church) is a matter of significance, I think. Bishop Duncan in particular has done a number of things which should have called for a disciplinary response from the HoB. Indeed, he asked for it specifically, back in September 2002, when he stated to the House that he had deliberately "provoked a constitutional crisis" (his words) by interfering in a parish in another diocese. And nothing happened. That the present Presiding Bishop is acting may be closing the barn door after the horse has left. But just leaving it swinging in the breeze would be dereliction of duty.
In the final analysis, our polity exists to support a dynamic missionary expansion as its first priority, and it does this admirably. After all, TEC, despite our small size, has launched about one-quarter of the provinces of the Communion. As such, it is less well suited to resolving significant conflicts about doctrine and discipline, because sufficient agreement on these is presupposed in the structures themselves. How can you undertake to evangelize the world if you do not have enough basic trust in each other's grasp of the Gospel and catholic order—the synthesis that is the genius of Anglican ecclesiology?
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Pittsburgh TEC Polity & Canons * Theology Ecclesiology
Like an unwatched pan of milk, readers of the Church Times have seethed up and boiled over in response to an analysis of the Church of England by the ever-controversial historian Jonathan Clark.
Professor Clark, once the enfant terrible of Peterhouse and All Souls, now wields his scalpel from remote Kansas, but it cuts as sharply. The Church of England, he argues, is "losing command of its history", thus losing its identity (as if a man had lost his memory, one might say).
In the 20th century, he notes, "Anglicanism was powered by German theology rather than by Anglican historiography". One result is a loss of authority, which "is ultimately historically grounded". That's why, he says, "feminism and gay rights should today occupy so much of the attention of Anglicans".
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Perhaps we are seeing three developments, overlapping and reinforcing each other. First, increasing numbers of able ecclesiastical historians in England have for some time been Roman Catholics — Aveling, Bossy, Duffy, Gilley, Hastings, Ker, Mayr-Harting, Morrill, Nockles, Questier, Riley-Smith, Scarisbrick, and others — and the Church of England has found no adequate reply.
This cannot just be chance. Increasingly, the Anglican history of the years since the 1530s is implicitly emerging as a phase, not a norm.
Second, the Church of England is increasingly indifferent to its historical dimension, neglecting the teaching of its history, unconcerned at the fate of ancient libraries, actively resistant to promoting scholarly clergy who might have historical views that would threaten a reigning consensus established on other evidential grounds than the historical.
Third, the few Anglicans who are historically aware now often depict the Church of England as essentially a radical Protestant denomination with a revolutionary foundation in the early 16th century, and revolutionary implications for morals and manners in our own day.
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So it's official; we are past the worst of the crisis in The Episcopal Church. The presiding Bishop has told us so. The remarkable thing was surely not that she predicted the imminent end of the crisis, but that she admitted that there was a crisis at all.
The eerie thing about TEC has been the 'business as usual' attitude of its proprietors as parishes and dioceses have abandoned ship, clergy have been jettisoned and litigation has grown. In the Church of England we have been nervously asking: what in the world is going on, and could it happen here?
An answer to those questions is pressing. And so I will try to give it.
What has been happening? The answer is simple but unpalatable. There has been a logical and inevitable outworking of the Doctrine of Provincial Autonomy.
The idea that provinces of the Communion are sovereign in matters of doctrine and order was invented in the late Sixties/ early Seventies to facilitate the ordination of women to the priesthood.
At the time it must have seemed convenient and unexceptionable. The Communion had always been made up of national churches with their own discrete codes of canon law; provincial autonomy (though it had never actually been exercised in the areas in which it now came into play) was merely a function of that reality.
But 'untune that string and Hark! what discord follows'. Provincial autonomy, as understood in the United States, had at one leap rendered doctrine and orders subject to geography and democracy. The POLITY of The Episcopal Church (O fatal and oft-repeated word!) had come to mean that the General Convention, by majority voting, could with impunity reverse the Vincentian Canon. It could do what previously had been unknown to any, anywhere and at any time.
It is strange that Americans, with the glaring example of the Civil War in their own history, were not more circumspect about the consequences of democratic self-determination. Its ultimate result is secession. For who is to determine (except arbitrarily) at what level or in what forum finality resides? Is it the Union, or the States? Is it the National Church or the dioceses or the parishes? And since a democratic vote is merely the aggregation of individual consciences, what place does the individual have in this economy?
In recent times The Episcopal Church has placed a high value on individual autonomy, allowing, for example, the continuance in office of plainly heretical bishops from Pike to Spong. More recently the case of Dr Ann Redding has highlighted this issue. Redding claimed to be 'following Jesus' into Islam. Now her bishop, Geralyn Wolf, is disciplining her for 'abandonment of communion' (the very accusation against those who have left TEC for the Southern Cone).
I have to say that I have a great deal of sympathy for Redding. Her only offence is to fail to take the creeds literally. 'We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the 'only begotten son of God'. That's how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal.' If this is an offence, then it is a very Episcopalian offence. And Bishop Wolf is being inexcusably picky.
In short, it is a strange Church which can tolerate Jack Spong, eject Ann Redding and depose Bob Duncan - in the same breath and for the same reasons. It is a very strange and wholly inconsistent Church which will not extend its tolerance of individuals to dioceses or parishes; and which acknowledges the plenary self-determination of its General Convention, but will not allow the secession of its constituent diocesan Conventions.
What is happening in The Episcopal Church is the gradual unfolding of the implications of Provincial Autonomy. What is remarkable is that no one seems to have noticed the fact.
And can it happen here?
Naturally, what is happening in the United States is taking a very American form. An ecclesial re-run of the War between the States is hardly likely in the United Kingdom - where ecclesial devolution preceded political devolution by decades or even centuries, and where the latter is unlikely to lead to bloodshed. But if the question is: 'will the liberal tendency in the Church of England prove as rapacious as its North American counterparts?' the answer is, most probably, yes.
The aim of Liberal Entryism is to steal the assets (and especially the intellectual property) of the previous occupants. It is important to them to present themselves as the legitimate heirs of the Christian centuries. And in order to do so they have both to re-invent Anglicanism as traditionally tolerant of almost any doctrinal deviation (which, needless to say, it has never been), and to persecute to extinction those who have the temerity to point out the deception.
People talk about 'illiberal liberals' as though it were a paradox and as though there were in fact another kind. But I beg to differ. If, as the proponents of women's ordination and homosexual equality have done, you advance your case by fabricating evidence and rewriting history, you have no course, in the end, but to treat as enemies those who seek to nail the lie.
And if you base yourself on an ethical a priori proposition, you have nothing to stand on except assertion, which will consequently degenerate into violence, physical or intellectual. We can agree with Lady Bracknell that it 'reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?'
What is already evident in some quarters - where revisionists are crying 'We are the real Catholics' whilst shying bricks at the Holy See - cannot, as I see it, fail to become the stance of the whole church, which, to justify its self-will, will wilfully sever itself from the root of which it is a branch.
Mrs Schori may well think (but she would think that, wouldn't she?) that the crisis in The Episcopal Church is nearing its conclusion. But there can be no doubt that the manner in which she is seeking to end it is likely to store up further problems in the Communion as a whole. Bishop Bob Duncan, who is not famous for his jokes, has a good one up his sleeve: that more bishops of the Anglican Communion recognize him than recognize his former Primate.
He is probably right.
--This article appears in the November 2008 edition of New Directions
I realize that for some of you this means that at the conclusion of this Convention, you will no longer recognize me as your Bishop and that the House of Bishops of TEC will initiate plans to depose me as a Bishop of TEC. However, it is important to understand what such an action can do and what it cannot do. I cannot be un-ordained any more than I can be un-baptized. Holy Orders, like Holy Baptism, bestows an indelible character and imparts a grace that is irrevocable. A deacon, priest or bishop who is deposed may be deprived of exercising his ordained ministry in congregations of The Episcopal Church, but he is not thereby un-ordained or removed from Holy Orders. The clergy of this Diocese were ordained not just for The Episcopal Church, but for the one holy catholic and apostolic church. We are deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of God, not an American denomination. As the Preface to the Ordination Rites says on page 510 of the Prayer Book, “The threefold ministry is not the exclusive property of this portion of Christ’s catholic Church.” I can assure you that all the clergy of this Diocese, under the authority and protection of the Province of the Southern Cone, will continue to exercise our ordained ministry as deacons, priests and bishops in good standing in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Our Province will change, but the validity of our sacred orders will remain unchanged.
I am certain that in the months ahead, leaders of TEC will move to depose not only me, but every deacon and priest here present who votes for realignment at this Convention. Sad to say, some of you here in this Convention hall will cooperate with and facilitate those plans. It is my belief that such a course of action is not only unreasonable and uncharitable, but violates our ecclesiological understanding of what the Anglican Communion claims to be. If we are a worldwide Communion of Provinces who share a common faith, practice and ministry, then it does not make sense to depose clergy who move from one Province to another. No one is abandoning the Communion of the Church by realigning with another Province. The far better way to proceed would be for TEC to accept the fact that a realignment has occurred, to recognize the transfer of this Diocese to another Province of the Anglican Communion, and to wish us well in the name of the Lord. There is something deeply disturbing about a Church that would prefer to litigate and depose rather than to negotiate a peaceful, amicable separation among brothers and sisters in Christ who can no longer walk together.
I call upon the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and her colleagues to halt the litigation, to stop the depositions, and to cease the intimidation of traditional believers. Instead, let us pursue a mediated settlement, a negotiated agreement that provides for a fair and equitable solution for all parties, and let us resist taking punitive actions against our opponents. Christians are called to work out our differences with one another, not sue one another in secular courts.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Identity Episcopal Church (TEC) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils * Theology Ecclesiology
I hold doggedly and dearly to the primacy of Scripture. It forms the bedrock of both my faith and my action. It constantly and properly confronts me with inadequacies and failures along with inspirations and opportunities. At the same time, I see no way in which contemporary people can continue to fly in the face of what, for example, a scientific discipline such as Genetics may yet reveal about why any of us is as we are. But through-out my main point is that the dynamic, pro-active theological method of Scripture, Tradition and Reason contains within it an elasticity of approach and a faithfulness of intention to new situa-tions, problems and difficulties: with Scriptural authenticity; within the total Tradition; informed by Reason both in terms of Hooker’s understanding of the natural law as revealing something vital
of God and in terms of rigorous criticism, scholarly acumen and scientific credibility. For none of these I make an apology in an Anglican world. The Church of Ire-land is not a confessional church and the
Anglican Communion is not a confessional Communion. Anglicanism is built on a foundation of the saving work of God in Christ but also on the utter provisionality of existing ecclesial institutions and earthly articulations of belonging. This is to do nothing more radical than to say that Anglicanism, in its self-definition, takes eschatology very seri-ously. I see a great deal of sense in the final sentence of the Editorial of The Church Times of June 20th 2008 following events in St Bartholomew’s Church, Lon-don: ‘The challenge for the Lambeth Con-ference, and for GAFCON before it, is to demonstrate how Christians can disagree profoundly and yet recognize the work-ing of the Holy Spirit in those with whom they disagree.’ This, my friends, is where The Tower of Babel meets The Day of Pentecost and is redeemed in the encounter.
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TWR’s solution was to give extant pan-Anglican instruments of union legislative and juridical authority. Member churches were to commit themselves to submit innovations in doctrine or practice (especially those concerning whom the Church is prepared to ordain and bless) to the instruments of union for approval, and to refrain from giving such changes institutional expression until such approval was secured. In other words, pan-Anglican instruments were to be given a veto power over any changes of ‘essentials’ by national churches. TWR suggested the mechanism of a pan-Anglican covenant, whose provisions would be given legal force through member churches changing their canons.
Rhetorically, TWR is remarkable for presuming its own legitimacy. It speaks throughout as if TWR polity were already in force and as if TEC and New Westminster had violated covenant commitments. Rhetorically, TWR encouraged the instruments of union to act on this presumption. Rhetorically, TWR was persuasive.
So when TWR went on to suggest ways of disciplining TEC and New Westminster (putting them on probation by asking them to withdraw from participation in pan-Anglican instruments until matters were settled, until TEC and New Westminster had repented and enforced moratoria on ordaining non-celibate homosexuals and blessing homosexual partnerships) and of protecting the faithful in (what came to be known as) non-Windsor-compliant dioceses or provinces, the ABC and the primates at Dromantine took authority and proceeded to do just that.
Read the whole argument
An Anglican version of the Roman Catholic church's "inquisition" is proposed today in a document seen by The Times.
Bishops are urging the setting up of an Anglican Faith and Order Commission to give "guidance" on controversial issues such as same-sex blessings and gay ordinations.
The commission was put forward as a proposal this week to the 650 bishops attending the Lambeth Conference as a way of preserving the future unity of the Anglican Communion. Insiders compared it with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body formerly headed by the present Pope as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and previously known as the Holy Office or Inquisition.
This morning's "observations" document is the second in a series of three. The third will be published next week. The document says: "Anglicans are currently failing to recognise Church in one another."
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A postcolonial conversation, a critique of colonialism involving patient listening and that includes everyone equally, is long overdue, yet most Anglicans tend to avoid the discussion, said the Rev. Joe Duggan, an Episcopal priest from the Diocese of Los Angeles and a doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester's Lincoln Theological Institute (LTI).
LTI, along with the Journal of Anglican Studies, co-sponsored the panel discussion, "Anglican Identities and the Postcolonial," a Lambeth Conference "fringe event" held at the University of Kent's Darwin Hall. Featured speakers included: Robert Young, author and a professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University; Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi; Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Pakistan; and Bishop Assistant Stephen Pickard of Adelaide in the Anglican Province of Australia.
Duggan said the panel discussion was planned for Monday, the day bishops would be addressing Anglican identity and mission. "We wanted to initiate a global conversation about what is the postcolonial in a way…not caught up in polarization with controversy in the debate, but a patient listening. Our hope is that you'll take these questions back to your dioceses.
"There's never been a Lambeth Conference that's looked at what is the theology and ecclesiology after the colonial period," Duggan told the gathering of about 75. "If you look at Anglican theologians around the world, the space given to colonialism is very brief and very short. So it's not surprising we're in the situation we are. We are trying to step back and provide resources…to begin asking the questions."
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Is there an argument for weakening the authority of Canterbury over Anglican churches in other countries? Theologian Theo Hobson and the Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Croydon, discuss the importance of international relations within the Church.
Go here and head down to the segment for 08 40.
In contrast to scholars like Ian Douglas, subsequently her professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as a member of the design group for this year's Lambeth Conference, who propose a vision of globalization which she describes as "diversity globalism"--that is, "characterized by the affirmation of cultural and experiential diversity" and "nothing more clearly defined than general mutual good will"--Hassett writes that conservative Northerners and Southerners have together built various networks into the interconnected structure she labels "accountability globalism":
This is no veiled anti-globalism or reactionary vision, in which older authority structures of white male Euro-American dominance are reestablished to maintain order in an increasingly complex worldwide organization. Instead, this conservative vision embraces the diversity and complexity of the contemporary world...call[ing] for power to shift away from traditional centers and to locate instead in a worldwide network of church leaders united in their commitment to Anglican orthodoxy. New, global patterns of discipline are envisioned in the service of correction, help, and, above all, accountability among Anglican churches around the globe.
While Anglicans, like Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, have historically organized their ecclesiastical polities around local bishops whose jurisdiction is largely defined by territorial boundaries, Hassett sees the potential of the nascent affinity networks which are manifestations of accountability globalism to radically transform relationships within the church:
[P]articular connections between individuals, parishes, dioceses, and provinces...bypass and even subvert the centralized, nested geographical authority structure of the Communion. It remains to be seen whether the total "realignment" of the Communion into networked clusters of Anglican bodies defined by affinity rather than geographical proximity will come to pass...Today many believe that such networks will become, functionally if not officially, the new organizing structure of the whole Anglican Communion.
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The answers the fellowship develops to the practical questions raised above in relation to the “how?” question are vital. They will also likely in large part depend on the actions of Lambeth and the Instruments. The ball is therefore now in the court of Lambeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They must consider how they will relate to GAFCON and whether they can offer a more constructive and truly conciliar way of addressing the questions we face. In particular these are the urgent questions concerning reform of the Instruments, the need for an Anglican Covenant, and the necessity (perhaps the fruit of the Windsor Continuation Group) for a clearer and more decisive Communion response to those bishops and churches who continue determinedly to reject the Communion’s repeated requests for restraint and repentance since the last Lambeth conference.
Instant reactions to GAFCON are, sadly, in our day and age necessary and inevitable. This is especially so when its proponents, warning against delay, call on people and congregations to take a stand and make what they describe as fundamental choices in the face of what they portray as a false gospel. There are, however, high levels of fear, anger and past hurts on all sides in the current climate and the power of the existing political alliances and prejudices surrounding GAFCON cannot be denied. These factors – together with the complexity of the current situation - mean it is vitally important that GAFCON’s proposals and reactions to them do not get so fixed that they fuel further breaches in bonds of affection. All of us—from individuals and parishes being urged to sign up in support of GAFCON to the hundreds of Anglican bishops gathering later this month at Lambeth—need time for prayerful discernment as to what God is saying and doing in these tumultuous times and what part GAFCON plays in his reshaping of Anglicanism.
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Fathoming a new Anglican identity will not be easy, because the conference in Canterbury is rigorously designed not to point in any direction or leave any discernible fingerprints.
Business meetings with parliamentary procedure and resolutions that live to haunt another day were scrapped in favor of small group discussions and intense get-acquainted sessions. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, describes them as conversations that go to the root of the words, "to spend time with."
Each day, eight groups of five will merge into gatherings of 40 for Indaba, a Zulu word for purposeful conversation among leaders, a suggestion from one of the African designers of the conference.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.
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That the Episcopal Church is facing a likely split in the United States stirs little interest in most people.
But it should. It’s not about politics. It is about disagreements over basic issues of faith and message that should concern all who consider themselves believers.
The Episcopal Church is the name given to the American branch — or province — of the worldwide Anglican Communion based in Canterbury, England.
And there are many individual parishes and dioceses within the U.S. in serious disagreement with the directions taken in recent years by the church’s General Convention that constitute notable departures from the biblical principles upon which the Anglican Church was founded.
The issues are revisionist views on the nature and divinity of Christ and on the Bible as the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and the literary source of all things necessary for salvation.
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While the Anglican Communion watches and wonders what its bishops will be doing this summer, most at the Lambeth Conference, some at the GAFCON conference, and one in New Hampshire, it is interesting to try to peer past these events and see what the future might look like.
This writer claims no prophetic charism—none of these events will decide anything. The outline of the questions facing Anglicans around the world will probably look the same. What will have changed—and this is a prediction—is that the bishops at Lambeth will begin seriously to examine together what it will take to move the Communion forward, so that these questions can be faced.
While the presenting issues seem to be sexuality and territorial invasions creating new non-geographical jurisdictions like the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, the real issue is ecclesiology. The broader challenge facing Anglicans around the world is to re-commit to and live out in new ways the distinctive Anglican ecclesiology—what makes us Church.
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The answer, I believe, is a resounding and heartfelt "yes."
No one finds God alone. The intricate web of relationships that form our global communion provide an invaluable network of mutual benefit, often bringing desperately needed resources into remote communities that others either cannot or will not reach, often making the difference quite literally between life and death. Those same relationships call us all out of our self-limited little worlds, cracking open our hearts and minds, challenging and compelling us as a kind of corrective, to see and to understand the full spectrum of Christian witness that often takes place under circumstances and with a kind of courage that many of us cannot begin to understand.
We live in a world plagued by division, conflict, and violence, much of it rationalised, justified, and glorified in the name of God. Indeed our world is starving for a more transcendent vision itself. So how about something new? How about a global communion that reveals a deeply challenging but wonderfully divine truth. Runcie said in 1988, "that without relationship difference only divides." But I would add, that in relationship difference actually redeems.
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