Category : – Anglican: Commentary

(TLC Covenant) Ephraim Radner–Pastoral Faithfulness in Opaque Times

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.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Gafcon) Archbp Peter Jensen–Sin and Error in the Church

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).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Stephen Noll–Rediscovering The Tapestry Of Scripture: Understanding Its Plain And Canonical Sense

Believing the Bible to be the Word of God and actually interpreting it are two important but distinct activities. Confessing the primary authority of the Bible puts us, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, on the right road, but we still have a long and dangerous journey ahead and we need an interpreter to help us along. The way of interpretation which historically and theologically corresponds to the doctrine of verbal inspiration of the Bible is the literal sense. “Literalism” is a badge of pride or abuse nowadays, like the word “fundamentalism.” Just as those who would take their stand on the fundamentals are not necessarily fundamentalists, so reading the Bible literally does not necessarily make one a literalist. Since no hermeneutical label is without its difficulties, I prefer to stick to the classic use of literal sense.[2]

“Literal sense” is the linking together of God’s written Word, our hearts and minds made and restored in his image, and the Truth to which the Bible points (Ps 19:1, 7,14; John 15:26). The literal sense depends on a complex but real intentionality: God as the final author inspired the receiving, inscribing, editing, and collecting of his revelation so that it would convey true meaning. Although the greatest thinkers can mine Scripture and never exhaust its ore, the plain truth of God’s salvation is publicly declared (2 Cor 4:1-4; John 18:10) and available to those (and only those) who approach it as little children (Matt 11:25-26). Finally, literal interpretation does not imply worship of the Bible because language, while it is a complex symbol system, refers not to itself but to something or Someone else. Having said that, literal interpretation guards against spiritual bypasses around the text as a vehicle of meaning, for the Spirit inspires and illumines with and under the written Word.

Unfortunately, many conservatives and liberals have an atrophied understanding of the literal sense. They approach the text like Sergeant Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am!” Or “Did it really happen that way?” (Conservatives answer Yes, liberals No). If Scripture is more textured than a flat reading would allow, it is because its component strands are tightly spun into a three-fold cord of literal meaning. To distinguish the strands of each thread, I would ask three kinds of questions of any biblical text…

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Theology: Scripture

(TLC Covenant) David Goodhew–Lambeth 2020 and African Anglicanism

There is much Anglican dynamism outside of Africa. But as we look towards Lambeth 2020, Anglicans (especially in the Global North) need to recognise that African Anglicans make up the majority of the Communion. And African Anglicanism is incredibly dynamic, as a recent paper by the Kenyan Professor Joseph Galgalo showed.

In addition, observers in the Global North need urgently to take account of the dramatic changes that have happened within African Anglicanism. South African Anglicanism has markedly shrunk as a proportion of African Anglicanism whilst other centres have grown, sometimes in highly surprising places.

To say this does not mean that African Anglicans should dictate to the rest of the Communion what Anglicanism is. But it does mean we should be profoundly concerned to ensure that African Anglicans are heard. Will Lambeth 2020 be a rerun of Lambeth 2008, which large numbers of African bishops did not attend, and where indaba rhetoric was a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed appropriation of the least vigorous part of contemporary African Anglicanism?

If Lambeth 2020 is to be different from Lambeth 2008, the Global North needs to guard vigilantly against the Spong reflex, of looking down upon whatever is disliked theologically. Especially in the Global North, we need to remove the plank of our colonial mindset from our eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Africa, Globalization

(AAC) Phil Ashey–Who decides membership in the Anglican Communion? Not the Secretary General of the ACC!

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Posted in - Anglican: Commentary

(ACNS) Archbp Josiah Idowu-Fearon–The ties that bind our Anglican Communion family

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Posted in - Anglican: Commentary

(AAC) Phil Ashey–“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine”

“To banish all strange and erroneous doctrine” is a phrase that comes directly from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and its ordinal service for ordaining deacons and priests and consecrating Bishops. It is part of the charge given one who is consecrated to serve as a bishop in those Churches in the Anglican Communion who subscribe to the 1662 BCP and its ordinal (among other doctrinal statements) as “fundamental declarations.” The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) also uses this language when it consecrates a Bishop. The weighty phrase reminds us of the universal and ancient responsibility of Bishops to guard the faith, worship, order and discipline of Christ’s Church.

For the last two days I have been in Kenya as part of a teaching team for the third GAFCON Bishops Training Institute. One of the first talks I heard here was a brilliant exposition of Galatians 1:1-9 by the new Bishop of Lango Diocese (Church of Uganda), the Right Rev. Dr. Alfred Olwa. I have known +Alfred as a friend and brother in Christ, a gifted preacher and Biblical theologian—and I was not disappointed by his sermon!  In this wonderful passage that many believe Paul penned on his way to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Paul makes an unequivocal defense of the Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  As +Alfred noted:

  1. The good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone needs no addition;
  2. The good news must NOT be distorted (Gal. 1:7);
  3. Only this gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone saves people from eternal separation from God (Hell); and
  4. Any distortion of this Gospel is, in reality, dangerous, leads people away from God and therefore stands under God’s curse (Gal. 1:9)

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church of Kenya, Theology

(AAC) Phil Ashey–On lawsuits and losses: a Meditation from Psalm 37

The decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in the matter of the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina vs. the TEC Diocese of South Carolina (Heard September 23, 2015 and filed August 2, 2017) appears to be such a case. The net effect of this case seems to be the transfer of the property of 29 congregations from the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina to TEC. Ultimately this could mean the displacement of thousands of families from the place where they have worshiped for generations. It could mean the loss of all the ACNA Diocese of South Carolina offices, the bishops residence and more.

The legal effect is to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court decision in All Saints Parish, Waccamaw v Diocese 385 S.C. 428 (2009) that neither the then Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina nor the national church (by the Dennis Canon) can create a trust in favor of themselves in any church in South Carolina unless they already have an express property interest in that church. This 2009 decision was based on long settled common law principles of trusts in South Carolina law. The legal effect of the Court’s August 2 decision is to reinterpret the facts of this case de novo, and by bare majority of 3-2 to reinstate the validity of the Dennis Canon by turning the “neutral principles” approach to church property disputes (see Jones v. Wolf , 443 U.S. 595 (1979)) into a “deference to internal hierarchical church law,” approach—turning “neutral principles on its head.” As Justice Kittredge concluded in his opinion (dissenting in part and concurring in part): “The message is clear for churches in South Carolina that are affiliated in any manner with a national organization and have never lifted a finger to transfer control or ownership of their property—if you think your property ownership is secure, think again….”

I am reminded constantly of the example of The Falls Church Anglican in Virginia. Under years of costly litigation and appeals, they planted three churches in the DC Beltway (Arlington, Alexandria and Vienna) and one on the outskirts of Northern VA, in Winchester. All are thriving. TFC lost their buildings, but their congregation grew even as they gave away hundreds to these church plants! Now they have a location and a building that exceeds what they had before, as they are growing in mission and evangelism where God has planted them.

How tragic it would be if litigation and appeals took our eyes off God and the things that delight him—especially reaching those who do not yet know the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina, Theology: Scripture

(GAFCON) Archbp Peter Jensen: Reflections on Truth, Division and Fellowship

At the heart of the divisions which have beset the Anglican Communion since 2002 is a profound disagreement over sexual ethics, in particular whether same sex unions can be blessed by God in the light of the teaching of the Bible. The teaching of GAFCON is that the Bible is clear on three vital points.

First, that sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage is forbidden by God and not in the best interests of humans.

Second, that persistent behaviour of this sort puts those who engage in it outside the kingdom of God and therefore at risk of losing salvation.

Third, acceptance of this behaviour in the church means that the full gospel cannot be preached, since the full gospel requires repentance from sexual sin.

But there is more to it than that. The Bible tells us that in a society in which the truth about God is supressed, the consequence is godless sexual licence. This is a sign of an unhealthy community in deep trouble.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Gafcon) Chik Kaw Tan–Fundamental shifts in the General Synod

Within the next 3-7 years I anticipate three tumultuous and tragic events:

1-There will be a major split in the Church of England over sexuality issues. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is, apparently, willing and ready to accept that.
2-There will be deep division between the orthodox who choose to remain in the Church of England and those who choose to leave (whilst remaining Anglican within the Anglican Communion or leaving the denomination entirely)
3-There will be a more formalised split in the global Anglican Communion, along with the continuing re-alignment between the orthodox across all Christian denominations.
It is time for deep reflection and prayer and we need to prepare for the evil days ahead. But for the faithful, whatever the tribulations, we can confidently trust in the God who is ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology: Scripture

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform UK, on the C of E General Synod–6 steps away from Biblical Christianity

In the space of four days, the General Synod of the Church of England have, in effect, rejected the doctrines of creation, the fall, the incarnation, and our need for conversion and sanctification Instead we have said that we are ‘perfect’ as we are, or as we see ourselves, and that the Church should affirm us and call on God to validate our choices. No wonder we do not want to proclaim Christ’s unique identity and significance for all people.

We have chosen to understand the world through secular reports, unconscious bias training, the teaching of other religions and the results of polls and media headlines, rather than the unchanging word of God.

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Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Church of England (CoE)

Anglican Unscripted #303 – Six Anglican Bishops named in cover ups

Take the time to watch and listen to it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Commentary, Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence

Phil Ashey–Lessons from Dunkirk for Anglicans

Last July my wife and I went to the UK for my graduation from Cardiff. While we were there I couldn’t resist visiting the Imperial War Museum (Julie graciously came along and humored me!) I have always been fascinated by the history of World War II, the great moral and political issues that were at stake, and the incredible valor of “the great generation” in saving democracy in the west from totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan. The Imperial War Museum did not disappoint me. But there was one exhibit in particular that caught my eye—the smallest boat that evacuated beleaguered troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, the Tamzine.

The boat is not much for the eye. It’s hard to imagine how it survived the constant strafing of British troops from the Luftwaffe as they faced almost certain annihilation on the beaches of Dunkirk. Bravely it forged through the surf, this little boat, carrying not many troops back to the bigger warships that lay offshore. But with every life it saved it gathered another soldier to fight on. Again and again it returned to those beaches and, miraculously, it survived. I can only imagine that its pilot drew courage from the flotilla of other ships, small and large, that braved those same beaches.

Dunkirk has been an enduring metaphor for our own formation as the Anglican Church in North America…

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, - Anglican: Commentary

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Adrian Hilton on the Jesmond Mess–‘If a schism be schismatic against itself, that schism cannot stand’

On 31st October 1517, an obscure Catholic monk called Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’, the Castle Church in Wittenberg, protesting at the sale of indulgences and other abuses – an event taken as marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On 2nd May 2017, an obscure Anglican curate called Jonathan Pryke was consecrated bishop under the aegis of Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle, by the extra-juridicial authority of the Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (formerly known as the Church of England in South Africa), protesting at the wishy-washy approach to issues of sex, gender, sexuality and marriage – an event taken as marking the beginning of the Great Anglican Schism in England.

Whether this is indeed the beginning of “a new timely reformation” or just an embarrassing ecclesial damp squib remains to be seen. It is worth surveying some useful background analysis (see Ian Paul here and Peter Carrell here), but it seems to this Anglican mind that a rebellious schismatic consecration in the Church of England which isn’t even contiguous with the rebellious schismatic movement in the Church of England is doomed to failure. It isn’t so much that Jonathan Pryke didn’t have the courtesy to inform the Bishop of Newcastle or the Archbishop of York of his intentions; he didn’t even inform GAFCON UK or the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE – on whose executive he sits). If a schism be schismatic against itself, that schism cannot stand.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary

Ian Paul and Peter Carrell–Should evangelicals be embarrassed by Newcastle?

Peter Carrell’s comments [which are excerpted and which are posted at the start of Ian Paul’s blog post]…say almost everything that I would want to about the event itself. But there are some wider issues that it is also worth reflecting on.

First, I get the impression that those supportive of a GAFCON move to consecrate a bishop in England from within the Anglican Communion look on the events with a mixture of disdain, frustration and probably some anger. Whereas they had a considered plan which operated within the Communion as a whole, this move has jumped the gun without proper consideration or consultation. And I suspect that GAFCON supporters hope that everyone can see the difference between the two initiatives. But they won’t. Most of those within the Church of England will not be able to tell the difference, and the same will be true of all of those outside the Church. Both initiatives will appear to all but the best informed (and most highly motivated) to be petty, fracturing and unhelpful interference from people outside the Church of England. (I am not claiming that this view is correct—just that this will be the widespread perception.)

Secondly, it is becoming abundantly clear that this sort of approach to dealing with the perceived drift in the doctrine and teaching in the Church is singularly unhelpful.

Read it all and note carefully the links provided in the piece.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, South Africa