Category : Ecclesiology

John Stott–we are called to ‘pray and work for the church’s total renewal’

Here, then, is Paul’s vision for the church. God’s new society is to display charity, unity, diversity and growing maturity. These are the characteristics of ‘a life worthy of the calling’ to which God has called us, and which the apostle begs us to lead (verse 1).

The more we share Paul’s perspective, the deeper will be our discontent with the ecclesiastical status quo . Some of us are too conservative, too complacent, too ready to acquiesce in the present situation and to resist change. Others are too radical, wanting to dispense with the institution altogether. Instead we need to grasp more clearly the kind of new society God wants his church to be. Then we shall not be content either with things as they are, or with partial solutions, but rather will pray and work for the church’s total renewal.

Some look mainly for structures of unity, but seem to have no comparable concern that the church should become a truly caring community marked by humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance and love. Paul’s primary concern is not for structures; he begins and ends with love (verses 2, 16).

Others lay great stress on the fact of the church’s unity as a theological concept clearly articulated in their minds, but appear to see nothing anomalous in the visible disunity which contradicts their theology. Others are content with a uniformity of church life and liturgy which is dull, boring, colourless, monotonous and dead; they have never glimpsed the variety God intends or the diversity of ministries which should enrich and enliven their membership of the body of Christ.

Others have a static view of the church, and are well satisfied if the congregation manages to maintain its size and programme, without cutback; they have no vision of church growth either by evangelistic outreach or by the Christian maturing of their members.

All such complacency is unworthy of the church’s calling. In contrast to it the apostle sets before us the picture of a deepening fellowship, an eagerness to maintain visible Christian unity and to recover if it is lost, an active every member ministry and a steady growth into maturity by holding the truth in love. We need to keep this biblical ideal clearly before us. Only then shall we live a life that is worthy of it.

–John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) [Downer’s Grove, Ill. IVP Academic, 1984), p.99-100, quoted in this morning’s adult ed class by yours truly

Posted in Ecclesiology, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Theology: Scripture

Paul Griffin: St Clement

The point is that one Church must not be suffered to become many churches, each teaching a variant Gospel. It is not that congregations do not deserve to be consulted about their particular needs, just that they cannot expect to be given the final decision.

This is such straight common sense that one wonders how anyone can have argued with it. It certainly seemed so to the Church for many centuries, as they fought off threatening heresies and divisions. The majority would accept it still; but of course no sound policy is proof against human fallibility, the abuse of power, or against political influences. Authority can become authoritarianism; a local church can be subject to intense pressure, as it was under Communism, when some of the wisest and best of people believed compromise to be a condition of survival. The shift of power from Rome to Constantinople, the nature and behaviour of medieval Popes and other Church leaders, the Crusades, Fascism, Communism, famine, war and even prosperity have all contributed to the pressure upon apostolic authority in which St Clement so firmly believed.

The endless trouble of the ages has often persuaded people at their wits’ end to look for a less vulnerable authority, an unalterable basis of faith which can solve all problems. Islam and biblical fundamentalism offer just such a basis. More subtle forms of this temptation offer themselves to apparently more enlightened congregations. Our bishops are there to guard us against falling for this. No comment.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Theology

(SA) Sydney’s Archbishop Davies Responds to the New Zealand Bishops

Although I am sorry to hear of the outcome of your deliberations concerning my proposal, I fear that two Anglican Churches will still arise in Aotearoa, but without mutual recognition. While sad, this is now inevitable. Our General Synod Standing Committee passed a resolution at our meeting on Friday last, which will no doubt be communicated to you separately by the General Secretary. In the resolution, apart from noting the recent decisions of ACANZP have impaired our relationships, as they are in contradiction to Resolution I.10 of Lambeth 1998, it also noted that they were not in accordance with the teaching of Christ in Matthew 19:1-12. We also indicated our support for all Anglicans in Aotearoa, not only those who remain in ACANZP but also those who choose to leave.

We live in a broken world, and sometimes brothers and sisters disagree on the way forward. I am very grateful for the consideration of my proposal which I believe you took seriously and conscientiously. While my purpose in the proposal was specific to the context of your Church, it is true that there are ramifications for the wider Anglican Communion. I thought that ACANZP might be able to give a lead in this regard but it may well be that my lack of understanding of your culture has impeded my ability to find an agreeable way forward. Again, if this has caused offence, I offer my sincere apologies.

I trust that relationships between the Anglican Church of Australia and the ACANZP, while impaired by the decision of your Synod, may still find opportunity for fellowship in the name of our risen Saviour in the days ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Latest Developments in the TEC Diocese of Albany (III)–TLC finds a priest in the diocese told the publication he “intends not to abide by” Bishop Love’s directive

One priest in the diocese told TLC he “intends not to abide by” Love’s directive and will celebrate a same-sex marriage if the opportunity arises.

The Rev. Glen Michaels is an assistant attorney general for New York State. He serves as priest in charge of All Souls Memorial Chapel in St. Hubert’s in the Adirondacks, about 100 miles north of Albany. All Souls is open only in the summer, and Michaels said it frequently serves as a wedding venue.

Michaels said that as he reads the canons, Love’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is “not enforceable” because of the action of the General Convention.

“For better or worse I see myself as a good person to challenge this,” he said, because his livelihood does not depend on his work as a priest.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, Theology

Latest Developments in the TEC Diocese of Albany (I)–A. S Haley offers an Analysis: Bishop Love’s Last Stand

In his letter, Bishop Love details seven grounds for his opposition to the directive in that 8th Resolve. For purposes of this post, I summarize them in point-form here, but be sure to read the whole thing:

  • First: B012 contradicts God’s intent for the sacrament of marriage as revealed through Holy Scripture;
  • Second: B012 is contrary to the 2000-year-old understanding of Christian marriage as still reflected in the rubrics of the BCP, and in the Canons of the Diocese of Albany;
  • Third: B012 “is doing a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian Brothers and Sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship, when in fact He has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman”;
  • Fourth: B012 encourages Episcopalians to engage in sexual behavior which is expressly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments;
  • Fifth: By its false teaching and encouragement to sinful behavior, B012 is leading same-sex couples, as well as ECUSA itself, to come under God’s judgment (resulting in the precipitous decline in membership throughout the Church);
  • Sixth: B012 attempts to force Bishop Love to violate his ordination vows, as stated above, and would lead to schism and departures in his Diocese; and
  • Seventh: Succumbing to B012’s directive would render it impossible for Bishop Love to represent his diocese before the wider Anglican Communion and the whole world.

There is much more in the letter, including assurances to same-sex couples that scripture does not forbid close friendships or living together, only sexual intimacy (citing this article; see also the other resources linked on this page). As a consequence of the seven factors he identifies, Bishop Love closes his letter with this Pastoral Directive:

Until further notice, the trial rites authorized by Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed), and Diocesan Canon 16 shall be fully complied with by all diocesan clergy and parishes.

Thus the lines are drawn, and the conflict caused by the actions of General Convention now invades the hitherto peaceful diocese of Albany. For instance, could Presiding Bishop Michael Curry now try to exercise his supposed authority to issue a “Pastoral Directive” to Bishop Love, requiring that he make the trial rites available to any in his diocese that request them? (Note that Resolution B012’s mandate does not take effect Churchwide until December 1.)
As I pointed out in this earlier post, it is extremely doubtful that the enactment of the provision in Title IV that purports to confer upon the Presiding Bishop metropolitan authority over his episcopal colleagues can be squared with the grant of all ecclesiastical authority, by Article II.3 of ECUSA’s Constitution, to a bishop within his own diocese.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology

(Anglican Taonga) The New Zealand Anglican General Synod Standing Committee responds to Archbishop Davies proposal

…the GSSC says that Anglicans in this church have wrestled with the question of the blessing of same-gender relations for more than 40 years.

“In May this year our General Synod chose a way forward which has held a wide range of views together.

“In adopting that way forward, enormous care has been taken to honour and protect the integrity of people who hold irreconcilable views – while at the same time staying faithful to the foundational formularies of our Church, and not making any doctrinal change.”

The GSSC letter goes on to say that the General Synod resolution on the blessing of same-sex civil marriages “cannot be divorced” from the history between Maori and Pakeha Anglicans.

“It was,” the letter says, “a cross-tikanga resolution, decades in the making.

“Indeed, had it not been for the extraordinary generosity and patience extended by Tikanga Maori (and Tikanga Polynesia) on this very matter, this province would be in a far less healthy state than it is today.”

The letter goes on to say that that being bound together in constitutional and Treaty-based relationships is essential to being Anglican in Aotearoa in New Zealand.

“If those disaffiliating want to be committed to that fundamental consequence of being Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand, then they must stay in these constitutional and Treaty-based relationships.

“We cannot recognise a Church as Anglican which does not encapsulate this 200 years of relationship and history.”

Read it alland follow the links.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(WSJ) Mene Ukueberuwa–The Vatican prevents American prelates from addressing clergy sexual abuse

Ahead of the conference, the bishops coalesced around two proposals to impose accountability. The first is a simple code of conduct extending to bishops the zero-tolerance policy for sex abuse enacted for priests in 2002. The second is an independent review board to investigate claims against bishops and refer credible cases directly to the Vatican. “Each bishop would have to agree to allow himself to be investigated by the committee,” San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told me last week. He described the bishops’ shedding of immunity as “a covenantal sort of relationship” that would allow them to police each other better.

Yet the Vatican’s surprise announcement means the new covenant will have to wait. The Holy See barred the conference from voting on new sex-abuse protocols until after a summit in Rome this February. Naturally, the bishops were shocked when they received the news Monday morning. Instead of returning to their dioceses with a concrete agreement, they’ll bring nothing but assurances of future reforms. More than 15 years after the sex-abuse crisis first surfaced in the U.S., such promises do little to quell public anger or ease prosecutorial pressure.

The delay shows that the Vatican simply doesn’t place the same value on speed and openness with the public that the U.S. episcopate does. American bishops are closer to the schools and parishes where abuse actually takes place. When one leader fails to respond appropriately to abuse, they all take on the stench of corruption. And unlike the pope, local bishops generally are seen as dispensable by their followers—shepherds to be discarded if they fail to protect the flock.

Despite the imprudent delay, U.S. bishops can continue cleaning their own pastures ahead of the Rome summit.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

Amy Welborn offers some Reflections for All Saints Day 2018

When I consider the Communion of Saints, I see a great deal. I see the Body of Christ, visible and invisible, militant and triumphant. But I also see the breadth and depth of human experience in a way that no other aspect of life affords me and which, in fact, some aspects of life – parochialism, pride, secularism – hide from me. In touch with the saints, I stay in touch with real history in a more complete way, with human experience and with the presence of the Word made Flesh, encountered and embodied in the lives of his saints. Every single day, in the calendar of memorials and feasts, I meet them. I can’t rest easy and pretend that my corner of experience affords me all I need to know.

Here with the saints, we are taught that grace can dwell in every life, from any corner or level that the world erects. We can’t sit easily, proud and blind and dismissive of the other. The peacemaker is invited to beg the soldier’s prayers. The professor turns to the untutored child martyr. The merchant busily engaged with the world encounters the intense bearded figure, alone in the desert.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Ecclesiology, Theology

(AH) Rodney Hacking–St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Renewal of the Anglican Episcopate

Ignatius offers a fascinating insight into the heart of a true man of God given over to His will. It is tempting to want to leap from his example and vision of episcopacy to its practice within our own Church at this time, but such a leap needs great care. A bishop in the first decade of the second century cannot fairly be compared even to one of 250 years later let alone in the Church of today. The three-fold ministry was still in an early stage of its development. Even though Lightfoot has cogently argued that a case can be made for regarding episcopacy as being of Apostolic direction, and therefore possessing Divine sanction, long years of evolution and growth lay before it. At this stage too the Church across the Roman Empire faced the daily possibility of considerable persecution and martyrdom. That demanded a particular kind of shepherding and witness.

On the other hand a bishop at the beginning of the third millennium might profitably and properly ask (or be asked) whether endless committees and synods are really the way in which their lives are to be laid down for their flock? An institution requires administration, but in the New Testament list of charisms, administrators are quite low in the order of priorities, and of its pastors at this time the Church has other, more pressing, needs. Rather than imposing upon an already disheartened clergy systems of appraisal (mostly copied from secular models of management) it would be good for parish priests to experience bishops as those who were around so much that they could afford regularly to ”˜drop in’ and just be with them. It is hard to expect the parish clergy to make visiting a priority if their fathers in God do not set an example.

In some dioceses the more obviously pastoral role has sometimes been exercised by a suffragan but as more and more diocesan bishops, at least within the Church of England, are being selected from the ranks of the suffragans the temptation is for those who are ambitious to prove their worth more as potential managers than those given to the ”˜Word of God and prayer’ (Acts 6.2). If the communities within which the bishops are to exercise their ministry of unity and care are too large for them to do their work has not the time come to press for smaller dioceses and for bishops to strip themselves of the remnants of the grandeur their office once held and be found, above all, with their clergy and amongst the people, drawing them together into the unity for which Christ gave himself?

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Theology

(Stuff) In New Zealand some parishes leave Anglican church over same-sex blessings

St Stephen’s Shirley vicar Jay Behan said the congregations voted to leave because they felt the motion could not be tolerated.

The decision was “sad” and not an easy one to make.

“We feel like we have been left behind,” he said.

“Synod has made a decision that we feel moved the church beyond where we can go. We haven’t changed in terms of doctrine and the things the church believes.

“The church’s belief has been that the Bible sets the standard for who we are and how to live and there is a feeling that we have moved away from that….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(SA) Archbp Glenn Davies presents a proposal for a different New Zealand Anglican future

“The dissenting churches from Christchurch and elsewhere cannot in good conscience remain in ACANZP, despite the gracious offer of alternative oversight from Polynesian bishops. The problem is that these brothers and sisters cannot continue to be a part of a Church which in their understanding has changed its Canons to allow the blessing of same-sex couples living in sinful relationships. Yet these brothers and sisters are still Anglican, and recognised as such by most Anglicans around the world.”

Archbishop Davies said it was important that the mistakes in North America be avoided in the South Pacific.

“North America saw the defrocking of priests and the confiscation of property, even diocesan property where a diocesan synod had agreed to disaffiliate with TEC. This merely demonstrates power and greed, not gospel partnership. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is now one of the fastest growing denominations in the USA, whereas TEC is declining in numbers.”

He said if the proposal were to be adopted, “Aotearoa and Polynesia could lead the way in expressing generosity of Spirit to those who find themselves unable to accommodate the new consensus. This would be a model not only for other provinces but for the Anglican Communion as a whole.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(The Courier) Split from the Scottish Episcopal Church over same-sex marriage is ‘very sad’, says incoming Bishop of Brechin

“The decision last summer was to come up with the process so that those who in conscience felt they really wanted equal marriage – as this church here does – were given a space to be able to marry people of the same gender. We created a space where those who, in conscience, felt they couldn’t do that, could also with integrity stay in the church.

“It is just sad (what has happened at St Thomas’) because the conversations over the years were to create a space where we could stay together.

“I know the Church of Scotland are trying to go down a route similar where each church, each congregation, each minister, can find a way to follow their own conscience. And a lot of the other Anglican communion churches are doing that as well.

“It is a secondary issue within the church.

“There is a danger that others in conscience may feel that they can’t carry on.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ENS) At TEC General Convention, the Marriage rites resolution is heading back to House of Deputies after a small amendment by the Bishops

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, TEC Bishops, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Anglican Taonga) Talks in Christchurch have begun to try to reach an amicable separation between members of 4 evangelical congregations who do not want to bless a shape of life outside of bounds for Christians and the Diocese

Negotiations are under way which will see most of the members from four Christchurch congregations cut their links to the Diocese of Christchurch.

These negotiations follow from the decision taken by this year’s General Synod on May 9 which paved the way for the blessing of same-sex partnerships.

Following that decision, four conservative evangelical Christchurch parishes held votes to decide whether their members would disaffiliate[1] from the diocese – and, in each case, large majorities chose to do so.

On Wednesday last week, Archbishop Philip Richardson[2] along with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons met with vicars and wardens of the four parishes in question to discuss how their members could disaffiliate “in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

(ACNS) Britain’s Methodists debate Church of England full communion proposals

The Methodist Church of Great Britain has debated proposals that could see it enter into a full communion agreement, including the interchange of ministries, with the Church of England. The proposals are contained in a report “Mission and Ministry in Covenant”, which was published last year. The C of E’s General Synod debated the report in February, and called for additional work to be undertaken on it. This morning (Monday), the Methodist Church adopted similar motion at its annual conference, which is meeting this week in Nottingham.

The proposals would see future Presidents of Conference being ordained as bishops in the apostolic succession and have the title President Bishop. As Methodist Presbyters in Britain are ordained by the Conference, this would mean that, should the proposals be accepted, future Presbyters would be ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession. The C of E is being asked to recognise existing Methodist Presbyters, who haven’t been ordained in the apostolic succession, as a “bearable anomaly” until, over time, all future Methodist presbyters are ordained under the new system replace those ordained under the existing system.

There is division in the Church of England’s House of Bishops about the proposals, which were formulated by the Faith and Order bodies of both churches. The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, addressed the Conference this morning and acknowledged the lack of unanimity in the C of E.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, Ecumenical Relations, Methodist, Theology