Category : Ecclesiology

Phil Ashey–GAFCON Gathers Bishops In June 2020 To Guard And Proclaim The Faith

…there is one development I wish to comment on: the announcement of a GAFCON Bishops Conference June 8-14, 2020 in Kigali Rwanda (prior to the July 2020 Lambeth Conference).

Of the Lambeth 2020 Conference of Bishops, the GAFCON Primates wrote:

“We were reminded of the words of Jeremiah 6:14, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored. They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fell within his power and responsibility.

We have not yet received a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. We note that, as it currently stands, the conference is to include provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10 thereby putting the conference itself in violation of its own resolution: failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation.”

Let’s not forget the context. The 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops passed Resolution I.10 upholding faithfulness in marriage between one man and one woman for life, abstinence in all other cases, and rejected as incompatible with the Bible homosexual “practice,” the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions and the ordination to Holy Orders of those in same-gender unions. This Resolution was passed by a vote of the overwhelming majority of bishops of the Anglican Communion (526-70).

Ten years later at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to suspend the practice of Anglican bishops declaring the official teaching of the Church through resolutions. For the first time, the Lambeth Conference engaged in small group Indaba discussions that resolved nothing. The 2002 institution of rites for the blessing of same sex unions in the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada) and the 2003 consecration of a Bishop in a same gender union in New Hampshire USA (TEC), in defiance of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) were allowed to stand unchallenged by the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Over 300 bishops….[declined to compromise the gospel and declined the invitation to attend] in protest of that advance decision by Canterbury, published the Jerusalem Declaration and formed Gafcon instead.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, GAFCON, Instruments of Unity, Lambeth 2008, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) George Sumner–Anglicanism Defined: Three Crises

The place to begin is with ancient Christianity in Great Britain. There is evidence it goes as far back at the second century. It contained Celtic and Roman strains. It was an integral part of Western Christendom. It is of course also a history of conflict and fractiousness — no less a figure than Wycliffe reminds us of this. But it is a continuous history nonetheless. Part of Anglican identity is looking back and remembering this fact, for example among the early Anglo-Catholics of the 19th century. Let us relate this fact, now offered as a claim, to the mark of the Church of oneness in the Creeds.

At this point I want to introduce the epistemological crisis, a concept from the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. It depends on the prior notion of a tradition, a stream of thought and practice that coheres around a shared narrative, pointed toward a shared telos and enacted by shared virtues. The idea is not necessarily religious, but works for a religious community too. Within the boundaries formed by these features a tradition is a continuing argument. Occasionally, however, a tradition runs into a major challenge to its very coherence, indeed to its existence, from without. Its truths are called into question in a basic way, and the tradition summons its collective resources to offer an answer. Christianity was such a challenge for ancient imperial pagan culture, and the latter was not up to the task.

The ancient church in the British Isles encountered three epistemological, spiritual, political, and social crises, and in response to each it had to give a continuous answer. The first was of course the Reformation, and the major artifact of the era for us as Anglicans is the Book of Common Prayer. In fact the most concise and compelling answer to the question What is an Anglican? is a prayer book Christian. Through it, British Christians heard and absorbed Reformation doctrine in a devotional mode.

In other words, using the prayer book in an ancient church is a factual, pragmatic way to say that we work out our identity between Protestant and Catholic. And of course the ensuing centuries, after the bloodletting of Henry, Mary, and Elizabeth in the 16th and Charles and the Puritans in the 17th, would reach back to retrieve or reject, to reconstrue and redefine: the great Anglo-Catholic and evangelical revivals of the 19th century are great examples. But one can still see the inheritance of this conflict amid agreement in Western Christianity in the styles of various parishes, however they recall the implications of their liturgical choices.

High and old may be the more venerable designators for Anglican churches, but the more prominent, and more conflictual, is what they make over the spiritual-epistemological crisis, since the 17th and 18th centuries, that is modernism.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Philosophy

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–What is the Connection Between Easter and the Church (Revelation 7:9-17)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there. Listen carefully for another Henry Allen “Harry” Ironside (1876-1951) story which took place at Christ Church, Indianapolis.

Posted in * By Kendall, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

The TEC Communion Partners recently released Communiqué

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), TEC Bishops, Theology

(AAC) Phil Ashey–The Anglican Consultative Council: Adding Dysfunction To The Broken Instruments Of Communion

At the January, 2016 meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Primates said The Episcopal Church (TEC) would not be permitted to participate in ecumenical conversations or any decisions on the doctrine or polity of the Anglican Communion. This consequence was declared by the Primates because TEC had made decisions that unilaterally violate the teaching of the Anglican Communion. Therefore, the Primates reasoned, TEC shouldn’t be allowed to represent Anglicans anywhere.

Less than four months later the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-16) met in Zambia on April 8-19, and “received” the report of the Primates. In fact, they ignored it. The Episcopal Church participated in every vote on every resolution that came before ACC-16, including every matter relating to the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. You can read the facts in detail here. A spokesperson on behalf of Episcopal Church Communications reported that the ACC deliberately refused to implement the recommendations of the Primates. Even the delegates from TEC to ACC-16 publicly refuted Archbishop Welby’s claim that ACC-16 had honored the decision of the January 2016 Primates meeting and admitted to doing whatever they pleased during the meeting!

The refusal by the Anglican Consultative Council to implement the recommendations of the January 2016 Primates meeting is prima facie evidence that the Instruments of Communion are at odds with each other – broken systemically, and unable to reach the “conciliar consensus” that has characterized Anglican decision making at every other level of Anglican Churches other than this global, Communion level of governance. In fact, the Anglican Consultative Council is a major part of the problem, and not the solution.

The Anglican way of decision making is conciliar, and finds it roots all the way back to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Yes, in conciliar decision making every voice in the church must be heard – not only Bishops and clergy, but laity, male and female, theologians and more. But the place for this to happen is in a Synod where all voices come together in the decision making, and where Bishops exercise a unique role in guarding the faith and order, doctrine and discipline of the Church.

The Anglican Consultative Council is NOT such a Synod. According to its own Constitution[1], the Anglican Consultative Council has power only to assist Primates and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops “as and when required to do so.” (Art. 5.12) That is not the language of a Synod. It is the language of a subordinate and advisory body that serves the bishops rather than contradicting and usurping their authority. This becomes even clearer in the language of Article 5 where the ACC is referred to multiple times as an “advisory body” only: with power “to advise on inter-Anglican, Provincial and Diocesan relationships” (Art. 5.3 at page 4), power “to advise on matters arising out of national or regional Church union negotiations,” (Art. 5.8, at page 5) and power “to advise on problems of inter-Anglican communication.” (Art. 5.9, at page 5). The powers enumerated to the ACC in the rest of Article 5 are what we would expect for the Board of Trustees of a charitable organization—in language that facilitates the exercise of their fiduciary duties.

But here’s the rub: The Anglican Communion is more than a charitable organization under the UK Charities Act. It is a Church – led by Bishops who have an ancient, conciliar responsibility to guard the doctrine, discipline and order of the Churches they lead, and Primates to guard the faith and Godly order in the relationships among those Churches. This authority is recognized not only in the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference but also in The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion. One hardly knows how to characterize the repudiation of the Primates gathering by the ACC – arrogance, rebellion or legal fiction, it’s all the same.

As I contend in Anglican Conciliarism, this is the heart of the “ecclesial deficit,” the inability of the existing global structures of the Anglican Communion to say “no” to false teaching or any other violation of faith and order. There was some hope that the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant would provide a means for addressing this deficit. But those hopes were dashed at the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Kingston, Jamaica.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Consultative Council, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Canadian Anglican bishops issue statement on partial Lambeth Conference called for 2020

As is publicly known, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has invited all active bishops in the Anglican Communion to attend the Lambeth Conference in the summer of 2020. We are pleased that all active bishops have been invited to participate fully in Lambeth 2020, a reality that was not made possible at Lambeth 2008, when Bishop Gene Robinson was not invited.

It has been a long tradition for bishops’ spouses to be invited to attend Lambeth as well. However, this bidding has not been extended to same-gender spouses, including Bishop Kevin Robertson’s spouse, Mr. Mohan Sharma. This act of exclusion is troubling to us. While we recognize that the issues involved in a decision of this nature are many-faceted, we wish to express our dismay and sadness at the pain that this causes all of us within the College of Bishops, but in particular Bishop Kevin and Mohan as our friends and co-labourers in the gospel. St. Paul expressed it well in 1 Corinthians 12:26, If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…

We also acknowledge that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision not only touches Bishop Kevin and Mohan directly, but also sends ripples of sorrow, both locally and globally, especially within the LGBTQ community. Our diocese is strengthened, inspired and deepened by the faith and witness of our LGBTQ clergy and laity. As St. Paul continues in verse 26, …if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

The Diocese of Toronto is richly diverse in culture and language, seeking to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. In many ways our diocese is the Anglican Communion in microcosm, and we strive, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to make room for a breadth of theological understandings, including on the nature of Christian marriage. And while we sometimes stumble, and do not always agree with each other, we pledge to continue to pray together, to serve the world together, and to seek always to walk together, only by the abundant grace of God.

The National House of Bishops will be gathering for the annual spring meeting this coming week. We anticipate that this matter will occupy some time on our agenda. And while we do not know the mind of the House, we think it is important to share how we as a College have been wrestling with this issue. First, we are united and stand in solidarity as sister and brother bishops in care and love for Bishop Kevin and Mohan. Second, all of the Toronto bishops will be accepting the invitation to be present at Lambeth.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

William Abraham–In Defense of Mexit: Disagreement and Disunity in United Methodism

We might immediately take leave of O’Donovan by noting that what we really have to offer here is a new round of listening and theological debate to be carried out by a new commission to be appointed by the next General Conference. There is no chance of that option being proposed or implemented. We have already been down that road, and we are not about to turn the clock back and try that option one more time.

Ecclesial managers may understandably want to hold out for this option, but the days of ecclesial management are over. “Progressives” and others may publicly be in favor, but serious observers may legitimately see this as equivalent to one more attempt at stalling while more boots for change can be put on the ground. However, this is much too abrupt a way of disposing of what we might learn and conclude from an engagement with O’Donovan.

Let’s agree for the sake of argument on several of his observations and proposals. First, in the emergence of the gay movement, we face an unprecedented moment in history. Second, this recognizable novelty calls for sustained engagement with this new consciousness as understood from within the gay world that is inhabited by gay Christians. Third, Christians who are gay should be free to articulate and work through the description and assessment of their experience theologically and morally. Fourth, it may well be that, in the future, their deliberations will offersignificant improvements in our understanding and practice of mission. Fifth, it is indeedimportant to not only read carefully our biblical texts but to read carefully how we should apply such texts to our current cultural situation. However, once we get beyond these important insights, matters become much more complex and contested. For my part, I find O’Donovan’s critical comments on “liberal” forms of Christianity generally accurate as applied to the issues in hand. “Liberal” versions of Christianity have no monopoly on truth or intellectual virtue. Hence it is vital that Christians who are gay not follow their lead uncritically and embrace solutions that short-circuit debate by simplistic appealto immediate moral certainties or that reach for the first weapon of defense that lays to hand. Thus appeals to analogies with women’s ordination, or with racism, or appeals to generic moral notions like equality, justice, and liberation are not enough; we need deeper moral analysis and reflection. While I would provide a more robust role for intuition in the epistemology of ethics, I would entirely agree that we need to reach beyond intuition and try to understand the potential rationales, if any, which inform and undergird our intuitions. There are in-house, epistemological issues here that need not detain us. Having said all this, I recognize that many will disagree with this assessment of “liberalism….”

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

(PBS Newshour) Pope sends ‘signal’ by defrocking ex-cardinal for sexual abuse

Rev. James Martin:

But you know my faith in God hasn’t changed. It’s it’s my sort of disappointment and anger. You know certain people in the church at abusers certainly some of whom I know people who covered this up. But I think it’s also important to say that this happens in all sorts of institutions you know families schools places like that. But in the church what we need to do is really address that and be sort of forthright about it and be as transparent as possible so frankly I am really in favor of the release of these lists that have been happening that’s pretty controversial because it’s it’s necessary for transparency it’s necessary for us to understand how these things happen and enable us to move ahead and reconcile.

Hari Sreenivasan:

Well what are you looking for this week? What helps the church survive this?

Rev. James Martin:

This desire to confront it without any sort of fear. You know that you know we have of the truth the truth sets us free. I mean that that really should be kind of what we’re focused on.

Hari Sreenivasan:

You think the Pope’s doing enough?

Rev. James Martin:

I think the pope could always do more. I think that this meeting in the end of this week is really helpful it’s the heads of all the bishops conferences. There are still countries where bishops have said well it doesn’t happen in our country it doesn’t happen and are part of the world. And I think one of the reasons for this meeting is to teach in a sense those bishops the facts about sex abuse. So I think that’s a really good step forward.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

Saturday Food for Thought from Gerhard Ebeling

Found there:

“To pursue the problem of church discipline to the depth of its rootedness and the breadth of its branchings out is to be referred to the [very] center of theological thinking. Indeed, of all of the questions that beset the church today and demand resolution, I know of none upon which the themes of theology converge so decisively, none whose resolution is so urgent and would be of such fundamental and far-reaching significance, as that of church discipline.”

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) Ephraim Radner–Cleaning Up The Playing Field: Six Resolutions For Lambeth

1. This Conference reaffirms the 1998 Resolution I.10.

There is no need at this conference to revisit the rationales and counter-arguments about this resolution. It has been reaffirmed several times in other Communion contexts, and in the past 20 years there have been no significant new pieces of information — scriptural, dogmatic, sociological, or medical — that have altered the shape of the theological and pastoral realities surrounding this debate. And the debate has raged unabated, so that it requires no renewed engagement. Let the conference decide.

2. Those bishops and churches who contradict or contravene this affirmation (I.10), or who punish others on the basis of this affirmation, stand outside the boundaries of Anglican teaching and witness as this Conference understands it.

This resolution is aimed solely at definition, for the sake of Anglicans and for the sake of others — Christians and non-Christians — who seek clarity about what the conference means with regard to its identity by making its affirmation regarding I.10. No penalties are proposed; no systems of adjudication are offered.

3. We request that other Communion Instruments of Unity pursue their work on the basis of this teaching and witness.

This resolution marks a simple request for Communion coherence on the matters taken up in I.10. The conference cannot impose its corporate views on other functioning councils or leaders of the Communion (though many will have participated in the conference). But by making it clear that the “understanding of this conference” is one ordered to the unity of Anglican teaching and witness, it lays out some of the parameters according to which any future rethinking of the Communion’s deliberative structures can be measured.

4. We recognize the missionary and pastoral integrity of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and its related member churches; and we urge serious deliberation, locally and at the international level, over how these churches can be integrated fully into the life of the Communion.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Ecclesiology, GAFCON, Instruments of Unity, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (II): Stephen Noll

While I am sympathetic with Dr. Goddard’s concern, I think he misses the point. The “prolonged failure” is in fact a system failure, and God has gone ahead in reforming His church through the Gafcon and Global South movements, which have picked up the historic mantle which the Lambeth establishment laid down after 1998.

A Challenge to Orthodox Anglican Bishops

My brothers, are you planning to attend the Lambeth Conference next year? If so, what kind of council do you perceive it to be? If the Conference is claiming to be an “Instrument of the Anglican Communion,” what do you understand the word “communion” to mean? Do you agree with its claim that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Communion Office have the exclusive “branding rights” to declare who is Anglican and who is not, as was announced by the Primates in October 2017? Do you agree that Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Kevin Robertson and those who facilitated them are authentic Anglicans, whereas Archbishop Foley Beach and Archbishop Miguel Uchoa are heading up some other Christian denomination?

Let me ask you a personal question – because true fellowship is personal and a church council, while it has a formal role, is a body of brothers (and sisters) united in “making the good confession” of our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you who are members of the Gafcon and Global South movements, how can you sit in council in Jerusalem or Cairo and enjoy sweet fellowship with brothers who have been expelled from their churches, sued out of their properties, defrocked from their ministries, and then turn around and sit at table in Canterbury with bishops of the Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada, and others who have disowned these brothers?

St. John sums up the Gospel fellowship in this way:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship (koinonia) with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6).

My brothers, will you walk together in the light of God with your fellow believers and take sweet counsel in the Spirit of Truth? Or will you let them down and say one thing and do another, “double-minded men, unstable in all your ways” (James 1:8)? The future of the Anglican tradition and mission hangs in the balance.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Concerns about the planned partial Lambeth Conference in 2020 (I): Andrew Goddard

At the moment in relation to Lambeth 2020 we have important preparatory work being done but we also appear to have the reversal of previous policy, the rejection of previous theological rationales in relation to invitations, no justification of these changes, and no public response to the requests from GAFCON or engagement with their theological rationale.

These are all worrying signs that preparations for the Conference are refusing to consider any creative proposals for its restructuring in response to the realities of impaired communion, even though the consequences of these realities have already been recognised by the Instruments. It is as if, in planning the Conference, we are in denial of the truth articulated by Rowan Williams back in 2006: “There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment”.

It seems as if there is a determination simply to call the bluff of those who have warned they may not attend and even to aggravate them further by altering the invitation policy from 2008. Why not rather engage them in dialogue and offer them grounds on which they may conclude it is right and profitable to attend, despite their current concerns? The other side of this stance is an apparent willingness to accept that many bishops (particularly from provinces marked by significant Anglican growth) will indeed stay away but to say that this doesn’t really matter and is a price worth paying in order to uphold the current but novel and unexplained invitation policy. It is almost as if, rather than address these issues, the view is that the Conference will happen as currently planned however many cannot in conscience attend it. Even if, as I’ve heard it put, the Conference ends up being small enough to meet in a telephone box.

There is of course no chance the Conference will be that small because whatever happens there will undoubtedly be a significant turnout on current plans. It would, however, be a serious error to (a) ignore the significant shift in the nature of the Conference which has been created by the moving of the goalposts embodied in the current invitation policy or (b) minimise how widespread and deep the concerns (and possible absences) are likely to be with that new policy. These concerns are not limited to the more hard-line GAFCON provinces or even just to GAFCON as a whole. The 6thGlobal South Conference in October 2016 was clear about the Communion’s problems in its communiqué:

  1. The prolonged failure to resolve disputes over faith and order in our Communion exposes the Communion’s ecclesial deficit, which was highlighted in the Windsor Continuation Group Report (2008).
  2. This deficit is evident in the inability of existing Communion instruments to discern truth and error and take binding ecclesiastical action. The instruments have been found wanting in their ability to discipline those leaders who have abandoned the biblical and historic faith. To make matters worse, the instruments have failed to check the marginalisation of Anglicans in heterodox Provinces who are faithful, and in some cases have even sanctioned or deposed them. The instruments have also sent conflicting signals on issues of discipline which confuse the whole Body and weaken our confidence in them.

“… for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

  1. The instruments are therefore unable to sustain the common life and unity of the Anglican Churches worldwide, especially in an increasingly connected and globalising world, where different ideas and lifestyles are quickly disseminated through social media. This undermines the mission of the Church in today’s world.

[….]

  1. The present and potentially escalating crisis poses challenges to the Global South in the shepherding of her people. We recognise the need for our enhanced ecclesial responsibility. We need to strengthen our doctrinal teaching, our ecclesiastical ordering of our collective life as a global fellowship and the flourishing of our gifts in the one another-ness of our mission.
  2. The Global South Primates will therefore form a task force to recommend how these needs can be effectively addressed.

If the challenges identified in this article are ignored and if no attempt is made to find a consensus among the Communion’s bishops about the nature of the Conference and the status of participants, the real danger is that these Global South conclusions will simply be applied to Lambeth 2020, perhaps at their next Global South Conference later this year. It may even be that some bishops in the Global North draw the same conclusions and seriously consider the implications of this for their attendance.

If this happens, it will represent a tragic failure of leadership as the Conference will demonstrate how far apart from each other we are now walking.

Read it all. (For the key news about Kevin Robertson see there [posted after the annual Christmas break from Anglican news]).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Windsor Report / Process

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews The Oxford Handbook of Ecclesiology edited by Paul Avis

Over against the argument of such people as Michael Ramsey that Anglicans have no special beliefs of their own but simply adhere to the faith of the universal church without some of the additions made by Roman Catholics, [Paul] Avis sides with Stephen Sykes in arguing that there is such a thing as Anglicanism and he makes a good case for this in his contribution to this volume.

Another Anglican ecclesiologist who figures in this book is Rowan Williams. Williams is a unique figure, one of the greatest theologians of his generation who has also held the highest office in the Church of England. Mike Higton, who has written an excellent study of Williams’ theology, gives an insightful overview of Williams’ ecclesiology. He discusses the criticism that Williams put unity before truth in his time as Archbishop and quotes him arguing that ‘unity is what enables us to discover truth within the body of Christ, not simply truth according to my own preferences, my own intelligence, my own resources, but in the richness of understanding that is shared in the body’.

A wide range of topics is covered and it is impossible to do justice to every contribution. Asian and African ecclesiologies are discussed as well as liberation ecclesiologies in Latin America and feminist critiques. The views of a range of theologians are considered. One of the most important is Yves Congar, a major influence on Vatican II. Gabriel Flynn contributes excellent chapters on him and on Henri du Lubac.

Congar is one of those theologians whose reputation has continued to grow since his death. He is probably more appreciated in the Catholic Church of Pope Francis than he was under the two previous Popes. In particular his principles for true reform in the church are receiving renewed attention. An English translation finally appeared in 2011.

Read it all (may need subscription).

Posted in Books, Ecclesiology

(Karl Vaters’ The Pivot) 5 Myth-Shattering Reasons We Have To Change Our Thinking About Church Size

Bigger churches aren’t necessarily better. Smaller churches aren’t necessarily broken, stuck or ineffective.

Effective churches exist in all shapes and sizes. Including churches that haven’t grown numerically in a while.

But the myths persist. Especially the myth that if a church is healthy it will get bigger. And the corresponding myth that if a church isn’t getting bigger it’s either a problem to be fixed (at best) or it’s beyond fixing and needs to be closed.

It doesn’t matter if there’s other evidence of health outside the numbers. For too many of us, church size is the primary (or only) factor in determining the health and value of a local congregation.

This thinking is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous. History has regularly shown us that any time we equate bigger with better in the kingdom of God, it leads to problems. Big problems.

Today, there are a handful of unintended consequences that result from the almost universal and seldom questioned assumption that church growth always means bigger churches.

Here are just a few….

Read it all.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

Bishop Kevin Robertson marries his same-sex partner at St James Cathedral in Toronto

From there:

The Diocese of Toronto congratulates Bishop Kevin Robertson and Mr. Mohan Sharma, who were married today at St. James Cathedral in the presence of their two children, their families and many friends, including Archbishop Colin Johnson and Bishop Andrew Asbil.

(Bishop Kevin and Mohan, who have been a couple since 2009, had their relationship blessed in 2016 according to the Pastoral Guidelines of the Diocese of Toronto and are now married under the marriage provision of the same guidelines.)

We wish them much joy in their marriage.

Update:Terry Mattingly has some further comments on this there.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Canada, Anthropology, Canada, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

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