Daily Archives: June 28, 2008

Kendall Harmon: Preparing for the GAFCON Communique

This is worth a careful rereading in its entirety:

Let us wait and see what develops and let us pray””really pray””for a genuinely evangelical and catholic outcome that moves the Anglican Communion forward for the gospel at the beginning of the twenty first century””KSH.

Please do read it all. And can we remember: many early reactions will be wrong or will cartoon one element of what is said such as to miss its place in the context of the whole. Let’s let God and history be the judge and understand we see as in a mirror, dimly.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

GAFCON Pilgrims Work to Finalize Communiqué

Reporting on the preliminary draft and comments from GAFCON leaders, the Church of England Newspaper reports that the final communiqué will likely call for formation of a “church within a church,” in which formal ties with the Archbishop of Canterbury would be maintained while ties with the progressive wings of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would be severed. The final communiqué may also introduce new instruments of unity unrelated to four existing ones: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the primates’ meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Andrew Carey: Who is setting the agenda at Lambeth?

Readers of this column have been misled. On May 23 in my column, I stated that while there will be fewer resolutions at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, there would be some. In fact, I was quoting the Archbishop of Canterbury in his January press conference. In answer to a question from Ruth Gledhill of The Times, he said quite categorically that there would be resolutions.

In April, when the Presiding Bishop of the USA had her own Lambeth Conference press launch, she was joined by one of the Lambeth designers, Professor Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School. To exactly the same question, they reassured their audience that there would be no resolutions whatsoever. In fact, the format of the conference, with its Indaba groups expressly ruled out resolutions. No motions, or items of business could come from these 40-strong groups.

I assumed then that the Archbishop of Canterbury was right and that the Presiding Bishop of the USA was wrong. After all, this is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s conference. He invites the bishops, welcomes them to Canterbury, hosts and presides over the Lambeth Conference.

So I decided to phone the communications director of the Anglican Consultative Council to investigate this considerable disparity between ”˜there will be resolutions’ and ”˜there will be none’. He explained that the design of the Lambeth Conference simply didn’t allow for resolutions and that this had been the intention of the design group. He didn’t know anything about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement in January, but suggested that perhaps the Archbishop meant that in circumstances of emergency, a declaration of war, for example, the Conference may issue a ”˜house resolution’.

I still wasn’t convinced that this explained the contradiction and decided that only Lambeth Palace could settle matters. After several days, the press officer did resolve it. In fact, there would be no resolutions at the Lambeth Conference, the Lambeth Design group’s work had now completely ruled this out.

I’m left wondering who is in the driving seat at the Lambeth Conference the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Presiding Bishop of the USA, Lambeth Palace or the Lambeth design group?

It’s no real surprise that some bishops are intending not to go to the Lambeth Conference. The Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, told me last week that among his reasons for not attending was the fact that Lambeth was downgraded from a synod of bishops to a training conference. Other English bishops have intimated that should their dire expectations of the conference be fulfilled they will be getting in their cars and returning home.

The Lambeth Conference will cost millions of pounds, yet there is no real process which will lead to any substantial piece of work done by the conference. In fact, there will be no opportunity for anything really surprising to come out of the assembly of bishops, because nothing can be tabled, and no resolutions can emerge from conversations in the groups. In 1988, Bishops from the global south called for a Decade of Evangelism, which in turn saw extraordinary growth over the next 10 years in many provinces in the communion. Lambeth Conferences in the past have made major contributions to contemporary debates on marriage and family life, on debt and social justice. 2008 seems to preclude the possibility of any such intervention on important issues facing the world.

Listening to many of the lectures and sermons from the Global Anglican Future Conference on Anglicantv (www.Anglicantv.org) prompts me to wonder that if the organization of the Lambeth Conference had been put in the hands of the group who organised this, whether a much larger attendance at Lambeth would now be guaranteed. In five months, the Gafcon organisers have assembled 1,000 people, including some 200 bishops in the Holy Land, with all the difficulties that entails. There is an opportunity for pilgrimage, networking and spiritual refreshment, as well as, the work of the conference, including a final statement.

There have been hiccups. I have been critical of both the timing and the place for the conference. The selection of Jerusalem ruled out bishops and delegates from countries such as Pakistan. Furthermore, the refusal of Jordanian authorities to allow the Archbishop of Nigeria to cross the border meant that the entire conference decamped from their Jordan base to Jerusalem early.

The reassuring message from Gafcon however, is overwhelmingly one of staying in the communion, and reforming from within, when at times it looked as though a separatist tendency might rule the day.

–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2008 issue, on page 23

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Lambeth 2008

Rowan Williams says Anglican Structures are Incoherent

Addressing the theme of primacy within the church, Dr. Williams offered his views on the “many-layered issue” of the relationship between the local and denominational church and the charism of the episcopacy. While not directly addressing the divisions within the Anglican Communion, his remarks illustrate the reasons for his actions in relation to the Bishop of New Hampshire and the American bishops under African jurisdiction.

In its essence, “the life of the local congregation is founded on something received, not discovered or invented” he said, for local churches come into being as “part of a continuous stream of life being shared” in Christ.

The local church can therefore not lay claim of being “complete and self-sufficient,” in itself, but must be in relation with a wider body. “A local church is indeed at one level a community to which is given all the gifts necessary for being Christ’s Body in this particular place; but among those gifts is the gift of having received the Gospel from others and being still called to receive it,” he said.

Following upon Tertullian’s dictum that ”˜one Christian is no Christian,’ Dr. Williams argued that we should say that “one bishop is no bishop” and “one local church alone is no church.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Theology

The Bishop of Northern Indiana: A More Honorable Way

In the past two years, more than 200 Episcopal bishops, priests, and deacons have left the ministry “for reasons not affecting moral character” (language that indicates a departure from the church for reasons of conscience). The notices arrive almost daily in my diocesan mailbox ”“ depositions, removals, renunciations, many of them bearing the names of beloved friends.

Three bishops left The Episcopal Church for the Roman Catholic Church in the past year, and several others have departed for alternative Anglican jurisdictions. (Whatever one thinks about these jurisdictions ”“ and I believe that they represent a seriously disordered way to deal with ecclesiastical conflict ”“ they are clearly a “fact on the ground” with which we must deal.) The church is bleeding, and we face a crisis of unprecedented proportions. I can think of no other time in this church’s history when leaders have left in such massive numbers. Clergy are leaving, as well as parishes, and an entire diocese.

In the face of this painful reality, I am convinced that the church has made a significant error…
We have turned to the canons as the primary way to navigate the treacherous waters of our Anglican conflict. A case in point: the recent depositions of the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Bishop of San Joaquin, and the Rt. Rev. William Cox, retired Bishop Suffragan of Maryland and Assistant Bishop of Oklahoma, for abandoning the communion of the church. Clearly, they were guilty of canonical violations. Bishop Schofield had led (or sought to lead) his diocese out of The Episcopal Church. Bishop Cox had performed episcopal acts without appropriate permission. The question does not, however, simply have to do with their “guilt.” Given the reality of our conflict, should we be invoking the canons as our way to deal with the tragedy we face?

Important questions have been raised concerning the canonical process surrounding the depositions, and I share those concerns. Did we honor the letter as well as the spirit of Canon IV.9? On several grounds (lack of what appears to be the canonically mandated quorum and, in Bishop Cox’s case, a failure to observe the canon’s timeline and the requirement for prior inhibition) the answer may well be “No.” At a minimum, many persons have respectfully questioned the canon’s application in these cases.

While I voted against the depositions, I did not cast my vote on the grounds of possible canonical inconsistencies. Rather, I was motivated by another consideration. Should we be using the canons at all? That is the more pertinent question. The canons, after all, represent a “technical” solution to the conflict that has engulfed The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. They are the rules and regulations, the organizational skeleton. Turning to the rule book fails to respond to the complexities over which we struggle. Our issues are at heart theological, spiritual, pastoral and relational. People of good will, acting in accord with their conscience, feel compelled to take action. Some of them leave. I cannot join them. My own convictions require that I remain in the church and remain engaged in its often chaotic life. That is an obligation as solemn as any that I have undertaken.

But how do we respond to those who believe they must depart? How do we say goodbye in a manner that honors the Gospel, indeed honors our Lord himself? John Henry Newman, as he prepared to leave the Church of England for Rome, preached a sermon at St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, titled “The Parting of Friends.” Can we part as friends, without the canonical “death penalty”? Can we say goodbye in a way that enhances the life of the church and leaves open the possibility of the reconciliation?

The canonical actions upon which we’ve embarked inevitably will sow a harvest of bitterness. Dioceses do not depose a priest or a deacon without heartbreaking thought and prayer. Nor did the House of Bishops act against Bishops Schofield and Cox lightly. The moment was profoundly somber. I don’t question the motives of those who have used canonical sanctions, or of my colleagues who voted in favor of the recent depositions. They desire the best for Christ’s church, and believe these canonical actions to be an appropriate response to this wave of departures.

I foresee a plunge into relational disarray. Each time we depose a cleric, the action will become a little easier, a bit less agonized. The gulf between those who remain and those who’ve left will grow so immense that healing will be possible only in the New Jerusalem. The canons, as a response of first resort, cannot help us through this terrible season in the church’s life. They are profoundly inadequate for the crisis. And so I urge three courses of action:

First, we need to fast from canonical action; make a decision that for the moment we will simply do nothing when a bishop or a priest or a deacon departs. This would be the ecclesiastical equivalent of taking a deep breath. As a matter of pastoral strategy, allowing time to pass without canonical action can provide the room for conversation and, perhaps, reconciliation.

Second, we need to look for imaginative ways of surviving this “in the meantime” time. There may be interim agreements between dioceses and parishes and clergy ”“ outside of but not contrary to the canons ”“ that can buy us breathing space. In other words, we should begin by looking for creative, adaptive solutions, ways of dealing with one another non-juridically as the Spirit helps us to sort things out. The Anglican Communion itself is struggling with these matters, not least as we draft an Anglican Covenant. Finding an interim protocol while we work with our Anglican partners can create the setting that enables us, around the Communion, to think and pray together.

Third, we need to revise our canons in the light of the current and tragic reality. Once invoked, all that the current canons allow is the “death penalty.” The canons have no equivalent of a civil proceeding. They are purely criminal. One possible change: Many years ago, the canons permitted missing clergy (who had somehow become inaccessible to their bishops) to be placed on a roster called the Special List of the House of Bishops. It was neither disciplinary nor punitive, but simply descriptive. Perhaps we can find some kind of equivalent in our own day, a way of placing departing clergy on a list that says that they’ve stepped away but will be welcomed home easily and joyfully.

Paul, Barnabas, and Mark provide a model. “After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, ”˜Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out . . . [for] Syria and Cilicia” (Acts 15:36-41). We will never know the details of what transpired, but toward the end of Paul’s life he wrote the Christians in Colossae: “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions ”“ if he comes to you, welcome him” (Col. 3:10). The separation between Paul, Barnabas, and Mark was, if I may put it in contemporary terms, non-canonical. They moved apart, but made no permanent decision. That very flexibility allowed for the reconciliation which is at the heart of the Gospel.

–This article appeared in the June 29, 2008, issue of The Living Church, and is found here but posted in full since the main item on the diocesan website keeps changing and eventually moves off the page

Posted in Uncategorized

RNS: Virginia judge sides with breakaway Episcopal churches

A Civil War-era law that lets Virginia churches keep their property when leaving a denomination where a “division” has occurred is constitutional, a county judge ruled Friday, June 27, siding with 11 former Episcopal parishes.

Fairfax County Judge Randy I. Bellows’ ruling on the 1867 law stops short of awarding the property to the parishes, but it hands them a major legal win.

“It’s a resounding victory and very broad,” said Steffen Johnson, lead counsel for several of the congregations. “There are just a few loose ends to tie up.”

The ruling could encourage the dozens of Episcopal parishes in similar court battles across the U.S., and shake the confidence of mainline Protestant denominations that fear losing churches and people to breakaway groups.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, CANA, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Virginia

Cranmer Blog: GAFCON, Lambeth, and the Bishop of Rochester

If Windsor stands as the last agreed position within the Communion, then the attendance of those to whom these calming appeals were directed would seem to represent a deliberate and provocative rejection of that wisdom. Their invitation, participation and warm welcome are indeed significant.

The setting aside of the Windsor approach which is implicit in the silence of the Archbishop of Canterbury is equally telling. Doing nothing about the attendance of those who have placed, and continue to place, the Communion in this difficult position is not a neutral stance. The Communion needed time and space and Windsor offered that opportunity. The American and Canadian churches could have adopted a self-denying Ordinance. But their rejection of the temperate is an embrace of the contentious, and they damage the Church in the process.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali may be forgiven if he worries about the ability of the Communion to hold fast to its historic texts when it cannot sustain adherence to one of its own documents for a few short years.

His isolation is shameful, and his voice must not be lost to the Communion.

Read it all (but please note that it is possible (probable?) that other Church of England Bishops besides the bishop of Rochester will not be present at Lambeth 2008.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

The full Transcript of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's GAFCON Talk

(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.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

More from Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney at GAFCON

Go to the audio clip and listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

The Reform Ireland Blog: Moving forward at GAFCON

Today was a short day at GAFCON, but a highly significant day. Details will be released later by the GAFCON leadership, but what can be said is that decisions are being taken by those at GAFCON in a very tangible atmosphere of prayer, joy and worship. Not only is there a deep sense of fellowship in Christ, but also there is a huge desire to move forward under the Lordship of Christ to accomplish his mission in the world.

Yesterday, a wonderful aspect of the corporate worship of GAFCON was the marvellous singing led by the members of the Mothers’ Union Choir of Nigeria. But even that was trumped by a choir of four south American bishops, one toting a guitar, leading in a time of joyful praise – in spanish! Joyful as the fellowship is at GAFCON, it is most certainly not a spiritual ”˜jamboree’. There is a serious determination to be about the heavenly Father’s business and this is expressed in the workshops, the plenary sessions, and in casual conversations.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Ireland, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Karin Sowada: Singing Bishops and Firm Words

Today, two momentous events occurred – one of significance to Sydney, and the other of great importance to global Anglicanism.

The first was Archbishop Peter Jensen suddenly bursting into song in front of 1148 GAFCONers…

The second was the release of the draft GAFCON communique late this morning to conference participants. While its content must remain confidential, it was received by all with great acclaim and rejoicing….

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney on the BBC Today Programme this morning

From the BBC blurb:

The meeting of traditionalist bishops in Jerusalem over the past few days has underscored the depth of the divisions in the Anglican Communion. Not only are they split over the issue of homosexuality, but as Robert Pigott reports, they are also divided on the church’s relationship with other faiths. Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, explains what the meeting has achieved.

Go here and listen to it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Provinces

Bishop Robert O'Neill: Do we need a global Anglican communion?

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.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Episcopal Church (TEC), GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates, TEC Bishops

Info to the media on final GAFCON statement

Via Email:

The first draft of the GAFCON Conference Statement was presented to the pilgrims on Friday, and was very well received. The respective provinces were then asked to discuss and study the draft document, and recommend additional comments and changes.

The Statement Committee will work on the proposals on Saturday, and present a final draft to the Leadership Team Saturday evening. The Media Team hopes to release the final statement, together with a press release, to accredited media around 10pm Saturday evening.

A printed version of the statement will also be presented and read to the pilgrims in the plenary on Sunday June 29, at 9.45am, for a brief final review and adoption.

There will be a press briefing at 2.00pm in the Delila Room of the Renaissance Hotel.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, GAFCON I 2008, Global South Churches & Primates

Washington Post: Ruling Favors Breakaway Congregations in Va. Suit

A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge struck a blow today to the Episcopal Church’s battle with a group of breakaway conservatives. The ruling, which likely will be appealed, heartens those who feel the mainline Protestant denomination has become too liberal, particularly on the issue of human sexuality.

Eleven Virginia congregations whose members voted to leave the Episcopal Church in late 2006 and early 2007 have remained in the church buildings since, arguing that a Civil War-era state law allows them to keep the property worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia argued that the state law is unconstitutional, that the government should not be involved in deciding when a religious organization has legally “divided” and that internal church laws and practices should govern such a spat.

But Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled today in favor of the breakaway congregations, saying the diocese could have used routine civil documents to protect its property, but didn’t. The law has been around for 141 years and “did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky,” Bellows wrote.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues