(Please note that this was produced by the voluntary hard work of blog reader zana who blogs here. We are incredibly grateful to her for her efforts since not everyone has been able to listen to the full audio posted earlier–KSH).
Thank you very much this is a very fine welcome and I haven’t even said anything yet! It’s amazing what impact you can make without saying anything. I’ve been on the front pages of the press in Britain without having said anything so we’ll see what happens as a result of saying something.
Well, it is a great privilege to me to be part of this miracle of GAFCON. It really is a miracle ”“ how many people have tried to prevent it but it has not been prevented because it is part of God’s purposes for our Church. And it is about those purposes that I wish to speak this afternoon – the nature and the future of the Anglican Communion. And indeed the one belongs to the other. The future of the AC is to be found in its authentic nature, not recently invented innovations and explanations but what actually belongs to the Church as we have always known it. So let us first think about the Church and the churches. The NT speaks of the church as you know in many different ways. There is the church of the household of Prisca and Aquilla, Nypha, and Lydia, how many women there have you noticed? Of the church at Troaz – the church of the household – and of course we know that the household in NT times was not the nuclear family of the west. It was rather like the family that many of us know ”“ of extended servants and employees and all sorts of other hangers on. The church of the household. And that is very important in the NT. It is the church of those who are in some way like one another. It has to do with likeness. But then of course there is another way in which the New Testament speaks of church and that is of the church in a particular city or town – Ephesus, or Corinth or Rome, Or Antioch or Jerusalem. This is where people who are different from one another, unlike one another, come together. So if you read the instruction about the supper of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 11, or indeed about the Christian assembly in James 2, it is about the rich and the poor, the old and the young. In Galatians 3 it is men and women, Jew and Gentile, all having to come together and to get on with one another in the service of the Lord. The church of the household, the church in a particular city or town, the church in an area. How much of the New Testamant is addressed to the church in a particular area? Whether it’s Galatia, or Asia or the churches in Judea or Macedonia, wherever it may be. And then, brothers and sisters, there’s the worldwide church of God which is described by St. Paul in the letter to the Galatians as “Jerusalem our mother that is above”. The worldwide church from which, of course, all our churches derive and to which we have to remain faithful and, of course, all our churches also make up that worldwide church of God throughout the ages and everywhere in the world.
Now what, you say, has this to do with Anglicans?
Well at the Anglican reformation the church was expressed in two main ways. There was the parish church which had a responsibility for everyone in the community. So the church was incarnate in every community, in every community, and then there was the idea of a national church. At that time Western Europe was coming to a sense of people being in nation states and so it was natural that the life of the church should also be expressed as a national church. What about the church of the household? Well, perhaps it survived in the family: family prayers, being Christian in the family. And Helen Brown has rightly said, I think, that the demise of Christianity as a public religion in Britain dates from the time when it ceased to be passed on in the family, from the parents. Don’t blame anyone else. Of course, the national church reflects to some extent a provincial idea already found in germ in the New Testament in the churches addressed to a particular region but so much promoted by the churches of Africa by Cyprian himself in his relationship with Rome and with other churches. The universal idea of the church as being a universal reality certainly suffered at the reformation. We have to be frank about this and we have to admit it. But it survived in three main ways, firstly in the appeal to scripture. That is to say for every church to derive its authenticity needs to appeal to scripture as the final authority. Secondly, it survived in the universal appeal to antiquity. The Church of England was not doing anything new but was simply continuing with the ancient church of the fathers and the councils. And thirdly, of course, it survived in the hope of a general council which might gather together to settle differences among Christians.
We are faced with a changing situation where people want to be churched with those who are like them. We find this in Africa, with people wanting to be churched in the context of their own tribes. We find it in Asia, and now we find it with the affinity model churches, the network churches for instance or the virtual churches in the north. And that will no doubt spread to the south as well. I used to be quite hostile to people wanting to be churched with others who are like them. Because it could encourage caste based churches it could encourage people from one religious background to become Christian who want to stick with one another. But having looked at the church of the household and the idea that it is possible for people who are like one another to be churched has led me to modify my views a little. And I now feel that it is permissible for people to be churches in this sort of way, networked in terms of their profession of their leisure or where they live or whatever else you can think of.
But there is one condition, and that is that it is not the only way to be churched. If you want to be churched with those who are like you then you also have to be churched with those who are unlike you. You have to maintain that tension which is found in the New Testament. The emergence under God of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches has been raised again for us now, in a very sharp way, the question of universality. How do we make the universal church an effective fellowship of believers and of churches? And as you know historically the various instruments have developed to do this: the Lambeth Conference, the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council. But in the crisis that is facing us at this time we have found these not to be enough because they were based on good manners. And we have found that in our world, English good manners are simply not enough. So we have to find another way while, of course, respecting the need for good manners. I will come back to that in a moment. So we have the church and the churches if you would like to keep that in your mind, and then secondly, communication and culture. We have here among us professor Lamingsani – I could see him for a moment but now he’s disappeared from view – who is the greatest authority on the relationship between the communication of the gospel and culture in our generation, I think. And his work on the translatability of the gospel, work that he did first, on reflecting the translation of the bible in African languages and the impact that translation had on African society, an impact which those that actually did the translation could not have foreseen. But he has pointed out that the question about translatability is not just about the translation of the bible into different languages, valuable as that is, but it has to do with the nature of the Christian faith itself. That is to say that the good news of Jesus Christ is intrinsically translatable from one culture to another. And he points out that even the fact that the New Testament was first written in Greek and not in the Aramaic or the Hebrew of Jesus’ time is itself a fact of translation. You begin with translation. And as you know it was not for another 100 years or so that the New Testament was translated back into Syria or Aramaic. This is in contrast, of course, compared with another worldwide religion like Islam. Islam is also universal, of course, you’ll find it in many different parts of the world. But wherever you go, and whatever the local manifestations there is a certain Arabic-ness about the Koran, about the prayer and about the call to prayer, which cannot be translated. But the gospel can be and has been throughout the ages.
Pope Benedict in his very important address at Regensburg which of course drew attention because of what he had said about the relationship between Christians and Muslims also in this lecture he addressed the question of the relationship between gospel and culture, perhaps a more important aspect of the lecture. In this lecture Pope Benedict tells us that there was a providential encounter between the gospel and Hellenistic culture which provided the church the vocabulary to engage with the Hellenistic world. And he refers to the vision that St. Paul received of people calling him to Macedonia, of the vocation to Europe therefore as one aspect of this providential encounter. I doubt personally whether Acts 16 would bear the sort of weight that he puts on it. But we can agree that the encounter was providential. But at the same time there were many other encounters going on.
I have for long been interested in the story of the church in the Persian Empire, the other great superpower to Rome at that time. It’s a very similar history brothers and sisters. Armenia was the first country, the first nation to call itself Christian. Ethiopia became a huge Christian empire about the time of the rise of Islam. And no one can accuse the Ethiopian church of Hellenism. So there have been all these providential encounters and we thank God for them and we have to ask what lessons we can learn from them for ourselves today. When we consider the Anglican situation, the translation of the bible by William Tyndale into English is a landmark not only in the story of the English church but in the English nation and of the English language. It is impossible to think of a Shakespeare or a Milton or a Donne without a Tyndale. And the translation, the rendering into the vernacular of the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, of worship in a language that is understood by the people is all part of the process of translation. This is wealth that we cannot easily give up. And translation belongs to the very nature of Anglicanism.
In the preface to the Book of Common Prayer, in the Articles of Religion, every church has the responsibility to render the Good News in terms of its culture. There is, of course, a downside to this and that is that it is possible for the gospel to become so identified with a particular culture that it becomes captive to it. And Anglicanism has been exposed to this danger, capitulation to culture, from the very beginning. And wherever we are, in whatever culture we find ourselves we must be aware of this danger of captivity and capitulation. The other thing, of course, to note is our founding documents may speak of relating the gospel to culture when in fact we have often failed to do so. And so Anglican Christian churches have not been able to look African or Asian or South American as often as they should. But that brings me then to the question of constancy and change. What is it in this situation of flux that must remain constant? It is to my mind the passing on and the receiving and the passing on again of the apostolic teaching. That is how the church lives and that is how the church derives its strength; that is how the church grows. Now of course in every culture, in every age, people notice things in that apostolic teaching which others have not noticed or which we have forgotten, or neglected, and so that aspect of that apostolic teaching can be recovered. It is also true, and Archbishop Orombi was kind to point out that I had worked with worked with the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, and I sense the truth of this very much at that time. It is also true that the church is faced with new knowledge, and how do you relate the unchanging apostolic teaching to new knowledge? We now know far more about the early embryo, for instance, than people did even 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, and so we must have a healthy view of relating this apostolic view to change; there must be the possibility of development in terms of our doctrine. However, what I would want to say is that this development has to be principled. As John Henry Neumann pointed out in his thinking on this issue any development of this kind must have a conservative action on the past. It must conserve the vigor of the gospel, it must represent a continuity of principles, it must provide a basis for change that is not simply laxity and giving in. When any question arises as to whether something is an authentic experience of the apostolic teaching or not in such changing circumstances then you have to test it against the Bible. Because the Bible is the norm by which we appreciate what is authentic apostolic teaching. That is the reason for the Bible being the ultimate final authority for us in our faith and our lives and this is, of course, the reason Anglicans have taken the study of the Bible so seriously.
We study something because we regard it as important, not because we regard it as unimportant. In the study again there are a number of aspects to it, to which I want to draw your attention. The first is the study of what lies behind the text. Why was a particular text put together? What were the purposes of those who were writing it? What were the oral traditions that lay behind it? We are all used to studying the bible in that way. What is behind the text, what is in the text, a careful study of the grammar, of the literal value of the bible, and then of course what is in front of the text. How we relate the bible to our circumstances our culture, our context, our situation. This process of enculturation must go on of course but there are two important things to be said about it. First of all there are limits to this process. They can’t just take place anyhow. And the limits have to do first of all with the nature of the gospel itself. Whatever the process of enculturation does or does not do, it cannot compromise how God has revealed his purposes to us, how Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, what he has done, who he is, all of that cannot be obscured by the process of enculturation. Second of all, the process cannot in any way impair the fellowship that there is between Christians. So my enculturation cannot be such that you fail to recognize the authentic gospel in my church, and vice versa. We can talk about enculturation also in terms of rendering the mind of Christ or the mind of the scriptures in terms of a particular culture or people, to make something intelligible to people, inspiring for them, authority for them, so that they may live their lives by it.
And so we come to the question of how fellowship is maintained and how it is advanced and not impaired, and to the question of community and conflict. Unity is a very precious thing indeed. What a good and joyful thing it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity. And we must seek to maintain that unity and that peace which builds unity. And there must be unity in diversity. We are not all the same. We are not all the same. We are not all the same. We are all different. You remember the story about Selvi Kaler, the great Archbishop of Cape Town, who was a single man and very shy, who was asked to address the mothers union. So then he got up to speak – I think there are some people here know the joke already – so he got up to speak. He wanted to put the mothers union at ease and also himself. He said, “Ladies I would like you to know that beneath this cassock you and I are exactly the same.”
But it’s not like that, is it? We are all different and this unity is a unity in diversity. But it has to be – it has to be – and this is something that is a matter of discussion it has to be legitimate diversity not just any kind of diversity. I asked John Stott once, I said to him, you told us many years ago to stay in the Anglican Communion because it is comprehensive. What do you think now? And he said “I’ve always believed in principled comprehensiveness.” And that is another good phrase, principled comprehensiveness. William Reed Huntingdon, the American Episcopalian theologian – and yes there were some and I hope there are some still – distinguished between what he called the Anglican principle and what he called the Anglican system. Well, the Anglican system we’re all aware of, spires and fluttering surplices and choirs singing and archdeacons – there are some archdeacons here ”“ or you might say bishops. If that’s the system what’s the principle? He said it was the responsibility and the privilege of the local church to be and become the catholic church in that place – every local church. But Huntingdon was a good enough humanist in his day in the 19th century to know that the local church would not be the catholic church in its place without being in relationship with all the other local churches. He anticipated the New Delhi Statement by about 100 years. How then is the local church to be the catholic church in relationship with all other local churches so they can also be the catholic church in that place? That is the question. Huntingdon of course attempted to answer this by developing what has come to be called the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral. That is to say there were at least four things that were necessary for us to recognize the church in one another. The supreme authority of scripture, the catholic creeds, the sacraments instituted by Christ himself, and the historic ministry of the church. And that Quadrilateral has been hugely important in Anglican discussion with other Christians. Many of the plans for church union, not least in India, Pakistan, and Ceylon, as it was then could not have been conceived without the Quadrilateral playing a major part in this.
But apart of it being significant ecumenically, it was also good shorthand for Anglican identity. Anglicans have tended to say it when people ask what are you about and that’s quite often a justifiable question. They’ve said this is what we’re about – the Quadrilateral. But again the Quadrilateral has not proved enough in our circumstances. I have spoken already about the instruments of communion, of the necessity of why they arose and of their inadequacy now. So what else do we need to do to make sure we continue to live in communion and do not perpetuate conflict that is unnecessary in the church? I do believe there are some things that do need attention: the first is that we have to be clear we are a confessional church. Some people have the mistaken idea that Anglicans can believe anything. Or sometimes even that Anglicans believe nothing. I don’t know sometimes which is more serious. We have to be clear that we are a confessing church articulating the gospel in terms of our own tradition. Secondly, to be a confessing church effectively we need to be a conciliar church. That is to say we need to have councils at every level, including worldwide, that are authoritative. That can make decisions that stick. In the last few years I’ve been frustrated by decision after decision after decision that has not stuck, and we cannot have this for the future of a healthy church. And then thirdly, we need to be in our councils consistorial. That is to say the councils themselves or though their representatives need to exercise the authority of a teaching office. In particular circumstances, not every day, not promiscuously, but in particular circumstances, the faith has to be articulated clearly for the sake of people’s spiritual health and for the sake of mission. Now there is both, of course, the need for continuity and the need to recognize context rather than s–.
Successive Lambeth Conferences have said that the Anglican Church is willing to disappear in the cause of the greater unity of Christ’s church, to make that sacrifice. And of course we should continue to affirm that. If it is necessary for the Anglican Church to die so the gospel may live then so be it. But before we jump to too many conclusions about this we have also to acknowledge there are things in the Anglican tradition we can offer as a service and as a gift to the worldwide church: the vernacular liturgy and its beauty, the way in which we think theologically, the way in which people are formed, the musical traditions of the church the way in which catholic order has been expressed particularly in an Anglican form. We would not like to lose these things, but to offer them to the wider church as indeed we have done ecumenically for the last 100 years or more.
But there is also the context. And while we value the continuity we also have to be clear that the church and its life needs to be expressed effectively in a plural world, in a globalized world, where private deals cannot carry credibility indefinitely and where we have to be clear with our neighbors what gospel it is that we have. Because a gospel that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ people quickly wonder what we are trying to do, if we’re trying to deceive people with something that is not the gospel of Christ. So continuity and and changing context have to be held together.
And then, finally, there is commission and the coming days. If we are about anything we should be about commission – the Great Commission and its continuing validity for the church. Jonah Litx rang me up the other day and he said, “Bishop do you believe in witnessing to people of other faiths?” I said, “Of course I do”. He said, “Does that include Muslims?” And I said, “Of course it does!” And the headline the next day was “Bishop wants to convert Muslims”. Well, fair enough, that’s not the only thing I want to do with Muslims, but I have an obligation. I have an obligation to witness to all that God has done in Jesus Christ for me, for you, for the world, even for Muslims – praise the Lord – and I am not apologetic about it. But the Great Commission has to be carried out and perhaps the greatest challenge we have is that of a militant secularism which is creating a double jeopardy for western cultures. That the west is losing the Christian discourse at the very time it needs it most. Well, let us pray that we are able to recover the Christian nerve in the west and to make sure that the gospel is not lost. So that all that is of value, of positive value, in western culture which largely depends on its Judeo-Christian heritage will serve as a way that is enhancing, and as a way of prospering them, and a way of renewing them once again.
But in every context mission remains important as we seek to serve people, as we are present with them, as we identify them, as we challenge them, as we have dialogue with them, and as we seek to serve them. But this commission has to take place within movements of renewal. One of the things that we really need to be aware of is over-institutionalizing the church. That is what has lead to the present crisis. People fell in love with the institution and structures of the church rather than with the Lord himself. There have been great moments of Christian history when there have been movements of renewal. In the monastic movement when the church had become lax and corrupt and rich the monks went out into the deserts of Egypt and Syria and Mesopotamia to purify and to renew the church. What a great renewal that was! Pope Benedict said at Regensburg that important things in Christian history had happened in Europe except he said for some important developments in the east. Well one of them was monasticism. Which Athanasius when he came to exile in the west brought it with him – a significant development indeed – the great missionary societies. When the Church Missionary Society, of which I was of the general secretary, was formed 200 years ago, it took the Archbishop of Canterbury two years even to reply to their letter asking for permission to be set up. But that did not prevent God’s work, brothers and sisters. It did not prevent God’s work. And CMS under God’s providence was responsible for so many who are here, and for your churches. Today also we seek such movements of renewal for the sake of mission and if you are anything gathered here together, you are the beginnings – the miraculous beginnings – an ecclesial movement for the sake of the gospel and for the renewal of Christ Church. That is my prayer for you and that should be your prayer for yourself. Thank you very much indeed.