Category : Ecclesiology
(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 from the diocese – and, in each case, large majorities chose to do so.
On Wednesday last week, Archbishop Philip Richardson 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.”
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.
Trocmé fascinates me because I see aspects of our time and church in his witness. Debate and anxiety is now bubbling up, especially among more traditional Episcopalians, in the face of this summer’s General Convention, as it proposes to alter the definition of marriage and perhaps even change of the Book of Common Prayer to reflect this new understanding. Older priests — and I am still a priest of the Episcopal Church — wonder where this will leave us. Younger priests wonder what will become of the church they have committed themselves by oath to serve. And those who have felt the call to ordination now wonder if there is a viable future for them in a church that may not only reject their understanding of deep Christian truth, but will in any case lurch further onto a path of conflict and promised decline.
For me, the issue of marriage is not adiaphora; it is bound to the central claims of the Christian gospel. This is not the place to rehearse the arguments. But the simple axis of Genesis 1-2, Mark 10, and Ephesians 5, which speak to the creation of man and woman, their union, and the nature of the body of Christ, seems to form a scriptural scaffolding of divine purpose and destiny that any redefinition of marriage must intrinsically deny. Trocmé liked to speak of “absolutes” — and in the case of nonviolence, he considered this to be an “absolute.” I do not like the term, for various reasons. But if I were to use it, I would certainly apply it to the reality of marriage between a man and a woman: this is an “ontological absolute.”
The question for me, then, is how we shall properly witness to this absolute in the face of our church’s rejection of its meaning. This is where Trocmé’s example is such a challenge to me. When one of his deepest theological convictions was not only challenged but rejected by his church, and as he watched his friends led away to prison with questionable support from their ecclesial authorities, he chose to carry on his pastoral work where he was.
At its first meeting since the decision, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney passed a motion which “notes with deep regret that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has amended its Canons to allow bishops to authorise clergy to bless same-sex unions”.
The Committee also conveyed to the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia that it ‘notes with regret that this step is contrary to the teaching of Christ (Matt 19:1-12) and is contrary to Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.”
Further, the Diocese expressed “support for those Anglicans who have left or will need to leave the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia because of its abandonment of biblical teaching, and those who struggle and remain; and prays that the ACANZP will return to the doctrine of Christ in this matter and that impaired relationships will be restored.”
I heard a strange argument recently. When the question of sexual ethics and the teaching of the Bible was raised with a senior leader, the reply was – well look how bad your church is. There followed a long list of sins and offences, some of them very serious: corruption, adultery, strife, false teaching. This is all very tragic. But it is not equivalent to changing the doctrine of the church and actually blessing what God condemns.
I am sorry to say, having been Bishop now for many years that nothing would surprise me. Indeed, knowing my own heart, nothing would surprise me. Indeed knowing the Bible, nothing would surprise me. Our own doctrine tells us how bad we are, even though the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts. Our own Prayer Book majors on the confession of sins and with very weighty words indeed. And I hope our practice assumes the possibility of sin and even crime in our midst – it is always wise for two people to count the offertory for example.
Of course this is not the whole story. Christian people, blessed by the Holy Spirit of God are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. The Christian church so often shines in the darkness and Christians live for God sacrificially and lovingly. But this side of eternity we are far from perfect.
But that is what puzzled and worried me about this argument. It was as though the person did not know how bad the church can be and is in his own culture. You can find tribalism, sexual immorality and false teaching in all the churches. You may even find the leadership turning a blind eye to it. But–it is one thing to point to the sins of the church. It is another thing altogether to justify an official change in doctrine and practice to incorporate them! After all, no-one is pretending that greed is good or that corruption is Christian. But many are actually officially changing the teaching and practice of the church in a way which denies scripture. That is the problem.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
The problem, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. We think we’re his PR agents: If I look good, then Jesus looks good.
So we hate the thought of not looking good. It’s Christian failure.
If this mindset permeates a whole church family, however, our life together becomes a matter of performance. We put on our best Christian mask, take a deep breath, and head to church. If Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behavior from us.
This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The fact is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show. Our children see it right away. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want to go is church. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the sanctuary.
All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Savior. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient. I don’t increase so he can increase; I decrease so he can increase (John 3:30). That means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them.
Church of Ireland House of Bishops Issue Statement to General Synod on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief
The archbishops and bishops said that it had been noted that following the production of the Guide to Human Sexuality, there was little appetite to discuss further these issues in parishes.
“It would seem that there is no consensus in General Synod, the House of Bishops, or in the church island–wide to change the Canons of the Church of Ireland on the matter of marriage. Thus the Church of Ireland marriage service remains unchanged and marriage may be solemnised only between a man and a woman. No liturgy or authorised service is provided therefore for any other situation. As the archbishops and bishops have already made clear to the clergy of the Church of Ireland, it is not possible to proscribe the saying of prayers in personal and pastoral situations, but if clergy are invited to offer prayer after a same sex marriage, any such prayer must remain consonant with the spirit and teaching of the Church of Ireland,” the statement reads.
The statement concludes: “It is widely recognised that there is no simple solution for these and other issues of human sexuality; but with compassion, humility and concern, we offer our continued commitment to attentive listening and to respectful discussion. We ask that all members of Synod who continue to hold strong opinions do so with integrity and compassion, and to also hold in prayer before God the challenging diversity that exists within the Church of Ireland”.
(David Ould) Australian Anglican Bishops agree it is ‘not appropriate’ to allow Same-Sex ‘Marriages’
The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth….
In light of this Church’s doctrine of marriage, it is not appropriate for church buildings and halls, and chapels owned by Anglican schools and other Anglican organisations to be used as venues for same-sex marriages.
Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand response to the General Synod Decision to Bless Same Sex Relationships
It is with deep sadness that the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand (FCANZ) receives the news that General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui has passed the Motion 29 Report allowing the blessing of same-sex relationships. While we are thankful for the gracious spirit in which the debate was held, we disagree with the final outcome. We believe the General Synod has acted in a way which leaves behind biblical authority, the apostolic tradition, and the doctrine and practice our church has always held. Upon the passing of the motion General Synod members Rev. Jay Behan (Chair of FCANZ) and Rev. Al Drye immediately resigned.
FCANZ believes that God loves all people, from all walks of life, calling each of us to repent and have faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes speaking of this love involves saying difficult things that run counter to the culture of today. However we remain convinced that it is good for all humanity and the only place for the church to stand.
In light of the decision of the General Synod we are ready to support people and parishes that cannot remain within this changed Anglican structure. We will work together nationally and internationally to provide fellowship and support as we look towards new ways and structures of ministering the unchanging good news of Jesus.
Ascension theology turns at this point to the Eucharist, for in celebrating the eucharist the church professes to know how the divine presents itself in our time, and how the question of faithfulness is posed. Eucharistically, the church acknowledges that Jesus has heard and has answered the upward call; that, like Moses, he has ascended into that impenetrable cloud overhanging the mountain. Down below, rumours of glory emanate from the elders, but the master himself is nowhere to be seen. He is no longer with his people in the same way he used to be. Yet he is with them, in the Spirit.
–Douglas Farrow, Ascension Theology (New York: T and T Clark, 2011), p. 64
(UMNS) Methodist Bishops propose plan for Way Forward amidst debate over the New Sexual Ethic for Christians
To find a way forward on the denomination’s homosexuality debate, bishops are recommending the church allow more freedom at the conference and local church levels.
Under what the Council of Bishops calls the One Church Plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.
The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.
The plan “encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions,” said the bishops’ press release.
While the majority of bishops recommend the One Church Plan, the bishops also will submit two additional plans to the special General Conference on Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis. All three possibilities had support among some of the bishops.
The other two plans on the table are:
- The Traditionalist Plan would affirm the current language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, and seek to strengthen enforcement.
- The Connectional-Conference plan would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.
My dear people of God,
Next month we are expecting almost 2,000 delegates to gather in Jerusalem for our third Global Anglican Future Conference. I know that those working so hard to organise this great undertaking are very much aware that ‘the time is short’, but as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, this should always be our perspective. Jerusalem is the place where Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, events which make the promise of his return sure and certain, and we shall gather as those who always live in the expectation of our Lord’s second appearing as King, Judge and Saviour.
To know that ‘the time is short’ helps to keep us from being distracted and to concentrate on what really matters.
Firstly, it means that the gospel is at the heart of all that we do. Our conference theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and we shall celebrate the gospel in all its richness as the demonstration of the love and saving power of God in Jesus Christ. We shall be reminding one another that the gospel is not a message of merely human wisdom but the ‘gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1) which we have received. It is the work of God’s grace from beginning to end, but he has entrusted that task to us and we must press on to fulfil the apostolic mandate of the risen Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Secondly, knowing that the time is short keeps us focused on the purpose of the Church. Ecclesiastical institutions must serve the gospel. The gospel is not a brand to be adapted to serve institutions. We will therefore continue to endorse new missionary initiatives and jurisdictions where necessary to take forward the work of the gospel.
"It is the work of God’s grace from beginning to end, but he has entrusted that task to us and we must press on to fulfil the apostolic mandate of the risen Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19)."https://t.co/QoYzklmGIh pic.twitter.com/ETVNzAmbA2
— GAFCON (@gafconference) May 4, 2018
Now for the not-so-subtle nuance. The Archbishop was not intending to flatter the upcoming Conference but to belittle it. How do I know that? Because his characterization of Gafcon as a “ginger group” cannot be further from the actual character of the movement, and he knows that.
Gafcon is not a global “friendly society,” nor is it seeking to pressure Canterbury, because Canterbury has made clear over twenty years that it pays us no regard. This was apparent ten years ago when Archbishop Rowan Williams bypassed the Global South Primates and invited to the Lambeth Conference the bishops of the Episcopal Church who had consecrated Gene Robinson. (Rest assured: they will be invited back in 2020.) As a result, the Global Anglican Future Conference was convened in Jerusalem in 2008.
Gafcon was not called as “ginger group” but as a reordering of the Anglican Communion. In its Jerusalem Statement, the Conference claimed:
- that it was founding something enduring, “not just a moment in time, but a movement in the Spirit”;
- that three facts justified this reordering: (a) the acceptance and promotion of a false gospel (heresy) in churches of the Communion; (b) the resulting breach of communion among Anglican churches; and (c) the manifest failure of the official “Instruments” to discipline the heretics;
- that the Gafcon movement is not leaving the Anglican Communion but reforming it on the basis of its classic faith and articles, amplified in a new “Jerusalem Declaration”; and
- that it was establishing a Primates’ Council that would, when necessary, authenticate new faithful Anglican jurisdictions.
I addressed the question of church discipline in my seminar at Gafcon 2008, titled “Communing in Christ” (Chapter 3 in my book), and in particular I referenced “Communion discipline” (pages 121-123). I defended the charge that Gafcon was schismatic in these terms:
We are here this week because, after ten years of patient but futile calls for repentance from the Episcopal Church on the part of the majority of the world’s Anglicans, the Communion, under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has flinched. Hence while it may seem that we are the ones who have excluded ourselves, the truth is, as Richard Hooker put it, that this is our reasonable service to God.
Twenty years have now passed and the situation in North America has become more extreme. For anyone who doubts the current doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church USA, please read carefully its “CANON III.1: Of the Ministry of All Baptized Persons”:
Sec. 2. No person shall be denied access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression*, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons.
*Please note: “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) is a specific legal category that will be used to undermine the religious rights of Christians.
Can anyone deny my exegesis of this passage?
In this canon, “marital status” means that divorced persons have an absolute right to ordination; further, “sexual orientation” clearly includes homosexual practice; and “gender identity and expression” explicitly includes transgendered persons. Acceptance of these practices is not only permitted, but it is required. Any priest or bishop who denies one of these individuals access to ordination on one of these grounds, may be brought up for trial and deposed. (Global Anglican Communion, pages 257-258)
It is clear, as was the case ten years ago, that the Archbishop of Canterbury is determined to maintain koinonia with those who teach that these practices are good and godly. He asks, Pilate-like, “What is truth?” These false teachers will be welcomed fully to the Lambeth Conference in 2020, whose theme is “Walking, Listening and Witnessing Together.”
What does the Scripture say about having fellowship with false teachers? The answer seems clear: have nothing to do with them.