Category : Ecclesiology

(TLC Covenant) Simon Oliver–Episcopacy, Priesthood, and the Priesthood of the Church, the 2017 Michael Ramsey Lecture

The Gospel and the Catholic Church is a complex exploration of the nature of the Catholic Church as the living embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rowan Williams has summed up the core claim of that book very clearly: the Church is the “form” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[3] Ramsey writes:

The Catholicism, therefore, which sprang from the Gospel of God is a faith wherein the visible and ordered Church fills an important place. But this Church is understood less as an institution founded upon the rules laid down by Christ and the Apostles than as an organism which grew inevitably through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Church, therefore, is defined not in terms of itself, but in terms of Christ, whose Gospel created it and whose life is its indwelling life.[4]

Ramsey is arguing against the view that Church order is secondary to the Gospel. In other words, the Church is not a group of people who come together to share their faith in Jesus Christ and then decide on a structure for the Church that offers the most promising way of spreading the message. Church order in not a matter of expedient strategy, a means of managing resources, the vehicle for the expression of a more original personal experience or — as it had become in the late Middle Ages as its catholicity was compromised — a mechanism for the salvation of souls, the means of establishing good relations with God, or a juridical body that supresses human freedom.[5] The Church is the form of the Gospel, the living mystical body of Christ into which we are incorporated by dying with Christ in our baptism and being reformed as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, to paraphrase the first letter of St. Peter. In other words, our relations as Christians do not rest on a common set of ideas about God and Jesus or an ideology, but something much more essential that is akin to racial solidarity. In St. Paul’s terms, we become a new creation, from top to bottom.[6]

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Posted in Books, Ecclesiology, Seminary / Theological Education

(Cath News NZ) Anglican-Methodist reunion likely

Two matters are of particular concern in relation to reuniting the two churches.

One is whether Methodist presbyters would have to be re-ordained to provide a unified and public catholic witness. The synod report proposes the Anglican Church recognise Methodist ministers’ holy orders.

The other issue is about how churches should be led.

Anglican churches operate under an episcopal model with bishops seen as following on from the apostles, as the Church’s leaders. As bishops consecrate more bishops and ordain new clergy, the “apostolic succession” continues.

Methodists do not accept the idea of “apostolic succession” in the Anglican sense.

If the churches were to reunite, an Anglican bishop would take part in ordaining new Methodist ministers, enabling them to enter the “apostolic succession”.

The Methodist Conference says it is willing to receive the episcopate as long as partner churches acknowledge that the Methodist Church “has been and is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church”, Ruth Gee, former president of the Methodist conference says.

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

Church of England General Synod welcomes move towards communion with Methodist Church

The General Synod has given its welcome to a report containing proposals which could bring the Church of England and the Methodist Church in Great Britain into communion with each other.
Members backed a motion welcoming a joint report published last year, which sets out proposals on how clergy from each church could become eligible to serve in the other.

The report, Mission and Ministry in Covenant, which was co-written by the two churches’ faith and order bodies, also sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate.

The motion acknowledges that there is further work to do to clarify a number of areas, including how the proposals would be worked out in practice.

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

(Christian Today) Diarmaid MacCulloch: ‘Why Anglicans who object to reconciliation with Methodists should read more history’

The point of worry seems to be a break in a succession of hands in ordination from the apostles who were the first followers of Christ. That strikes me as a professional historian of the Church (and also in Anglican orders) to be a very unrealistic view of Christian history.

First, ‘the historic episcopate’ throughout the Christian world is a pragmatic, gradual creation of the second century CE, which links with the first apostles, but does not do so exclusively. There was no single bishop of Rome, for instance, until the 2nd century, and earlier lines of single succession there are benevolent fictions.

Second, the Church of England is a Church of the Reformation which just happened to keep bishops. It is actually a ‘Reformed’ Protestant Church, that is not Lutheran, but part of a family of European Churches, some of which kept bishops in their government, some not. So national Reformed Churches in England, Ireland, Hungary, Romania and Poland have bishops. Up to 1662, clergy from other Reformed Churches served regardless in the CofE when they came here: often they were placed in English cathedrals or universities, not to quarantine them in some way but simply because they didn’t speak much English, and there they could exercise a ministry in the learned language of Latin.

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

(Church Times) Proposals on Methodism compromise the C of E’s faith and identity, says Andrew Davison

I grew up in an Anglican-Methodist family, and went to a Methodist Sunday school. I rejoice at the prospect of a closer relationship with the Methodist Church. The report before the General Synod, Ministry and Mission in Covenant, pursues that noble aim, which makes its failings all the more agonising. With a few adaptations, it could be a triumph; as it stands, it compromises the faith and identity of the Church of England.

Our Church upholds ancient Catholic order: bishops in the his­­toric episcopate are the ministers of ordination; the eucharist is celeb­rated by them, and by the priests they ordain. This is central to what makes the Church of England Cath­o­­lic as well as reformed: not vest­­ments, nor genuflection, but order.

The intolerable departure from that order, proposed in this report, would be to invite ministers who have not been ordained by bishops to serve in the place of Anglican priests. This would last beyond the lifetimes of those reading this article. Imple­mented as the report stands, Meth­od­ist presbyters who have not re­­ceived episcopal ordination will preside at the eucharist in parish churches, chaplaincies, and fresh ex­­­pres­­sions for decades to come. That would not be as ecumenical guests, but as the celebrants of C of E ser­vices.

For the C of E to accept that would be to say at least one of the following: (1) that nothing sig­­nificant distin­guishes ordination by a bishop from ordination with­out; (2) that nothing about the eucharist (or anointing or absolu­tion) is significant for the jour­ney of salva­­tion; (3) that orders are ir­­relevant in these cases, since means of grace depend only on the inner dis­position of each individual. Each of those arguments sells short the faith and practice of the C of E.

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

Forward in Faith’s statement on the proposed Methodist-Anglican reunion

Found there:

Anglo-Catholics are among those who are most committed to the full visible unity of Christ’s Church. We are therefore grateful to those who have worked to produce the present proposals for a development in Anglican-Methodist relations, which the Forward in Faith Executive Committee considered at its meeting on 31 January. It is a matter of regret that we must oppose them in their current form.

As the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant (GS 2086) makes clear, significant questions and concerns have been raised, not least in the House of Bishops. Will these proposals bring us closer to unity, or might they, by creating two related but distinct episcopates within England, merely serve to entrench separation? Given the Methodist Church’s model of corporate oversight, can the office of ‘President-bishop’, to be held for one year only, be recognized as a ‘local adaptation’ of the historic episcopate upheld in the Catholic Church in East and West through the ages? We note that further work is to be done on these questions, but are concerned at the suggestion that work on such substantial issues could be completed by July.

Of even greater concern are the consequences of these proposals for catholic order in the Church of England. To permit those who have not been ordained by a bishop to minister as Church of England priests, even for a ‘temporary’ period (which might last for sixty or seventy years) is for us not a ‘bearable anomaly’ but a fundamental breach of catholic order. We deeply regret that the report rules out further consideration of this issue. As loyal Anglicans, we uphold the doctrine and discipline regarding Holy Orders that is enshrined in the historic formularies of the Church of England, and in the 1662 Ordinal in particular. We shall oppose any proposals that would effectively set that doctrine and discipline aside. We note that it is to the inheritance of faith embodied in these formularies that all who minister in the Church of England must affirm their loyalty by making the Declaration of Assent.

We remain fully committed to the search for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church, but we do not believe that it can be advanced by sacrificing catholic order and Anglican integrity

.

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

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–On the C of E and welcoming transgender people

What, then, should the House of Bishops have done? I think the statement they issued says some helpful and positive things, and I particularly appreciate the focus on the primacy of identity in Christ that is effected by the baptism of believers.

The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone but on their faith in Jesus Christ. The Affirmation [of Baptism] therefore gives priority to the original and authentic baptism of the individual, and the sacramental change it has effected, allowing someone who has undergone a serious and lasting change to re-dedicate their life and identity to Christ. The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28)

 

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(CT) God, Guns, and Oil A Los Angeles church seeks the good of its neighborhood by confronting crime and environmental distress

For [Richard] Parks, shutting down the oil well is part of a bigger story of how the gospel is transforming the Exposition Park neighborhood. Members of Church of the Redeemer have tied their fate to the fate of the community. They want to see their neighbors flourish.

Shutting down oil wells or nuisance liquor stores, planting trees, tutoring kids, holding neighborhood Bible studies, and making friends with neighbors during a community service project are all part of how a neighborhood is reached with the gospel, Parks says.

“In the context of friendship—there are normal, natural opportunities to talk about our love for Jesus,” he said. “Our church is made up of people that our kids go to school with, our kids play soccer with, neighbors that we clean up trees with. That is how the gospel is going out in our community.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Urban/City Life and Issues

(TLC Covenant) David Goodhew–A theology for Anglican church growth

Church growth is doctrinally necessary

A theological basis for seeking numerical church growth is readily to hand in Scripture. But it is not quite so obvious when we turn to doctrine. Here the work of writers such as professors Alister McGrath and Ivor Davidson and of Bishop Graham Tomlin is immensely helpful.[1] They point us to how the fundamental doctrines of Incarnation, Atonement, and Trinity call us to an extrovert faith, which seeks the growth and proliferation of communities that incarnate the gospel in every community.

Graham Tomlin argues that when we look at the Spirit, we see a God whose essence is sending:

Theologically speaking, mission and the consequent growth of the church begin with the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Spirit from the Father. It starts with the Trinitarian life of God before it ever involves the creation, let alone the human part of that creation.[2]

In saying this, Tomlin commends the importance of a full-blooded pneumatology. But he is also alert to the way we can sometimes fall into an idolatrous assumption that the Spirit can be controlled by humans. Tomlin sees the tension in seeing the Holy Spirit as free from human control yet given freely by God as akin to the tension between seeing church growth as in the hands of God yet requiring committed human effort if it is to come to pass. For Tomlin, the practice invoking the Holy Spirit is the way of managing this tension. By asking continually for the Holy Spirit we have access to him, but our need to ask means we cannot ever control him.

Tomlin also stresses that suffering is intrinsic to such a ministry….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Ecclesiology, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

Stephen Noll–Fisking Bishop Fearon: The Lambeth Establishment Takes on the Global South

Bishop Fearon continues: The See of Canterbury is one of the unique features which binds us together. At the Primates’ Meeting in October it was clear just how much Canterbury meant to those who came. For Anglicans, communion with the See of Canterbury – and with its Archbishop – is the visible expression of our communion with one another.

A deep respect for the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury has existed among global Anglicans, who have been grateful for rather than resentful of the colonial heritage. This deference is in no small part because they received the gospel of salvation thereby; but in recent decades, this deference has been wearing thin. Fearon’s roseate picture of the recent Primates’ meeting is delusional, especially considering that three Primates from the largest African Provinces had refused to attend and seven others have now signed the Global South Network letter, which contradicts the (unsigned) Canterbury Primates’ Communiqué.

Bishop Fearon now comes to the point concerning Anglican identity. Contrary to Archbishop Okoh, he asserts: the relationship with the See of Canterbury is essential for Anglicans. You cannot be in the Anglican Communion without it.

This assertion represents an extreme interpretation of “primacy,” edging toward papalism. In fact, it suggests that Canterbury is not just a unique feature of Anglicanism but the unique feature. Note the use here of the word essential. Being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury is not only required for formal recognition as a Province of the Anglican Communion, but it is required to call oneself an Anglican, a point I shall return to later.

Bishop Fearon supports his claim by reference to the Lambeth Conference: The fundamental character of this relationship was spelled out by the 1930 Lambeth Conference which refers to the Anglican Communion as “a fellowship, within the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury…

Resolution 49 from the Lambeth Conference in 1930 is indeed an important statement concerning member churches of the Anglican Communion. The Resolution goes on to say of those churches:

  • they uphold and propagate the Catholic and Apostolic faith and order as they are generally set forth in the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in their several Churches;
  • they are particular or national Churches, and, as such, promote within each of their territories a national expression of Christian faith, life and worship; and
  • they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the Bishops in conference.

The standard definition of the Anglican Communion certainly calls for respect and received it uniformly until 1998. Following the 1998 Lambeth Conference, however, the adequacy of this arrangement was tested when one member church chose to violate what others consider a breach of “Catholic and Apostolic faith and order” by ordaining a practicing homosexual as bishop.

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Identity, Church History, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Bob Mayo (the Vicar of St Stephens Shepherds Bush)–Reflections on a recent visit to America and the danger of cheap grace

I had occasion to spend 10 days in the USA before Advent. I learnt that in Oregon you can buy rifles in a supermarket and in Texas church ushers and sometimes the preacher may be wearing a pistol. I learnt that the Episcopal Church is not obsessed with finding a solution to the debate about same sex marriages. ‘Never mind sex’ I was told, ‘what about people in poverty? Economic issues are far more important’. America is not the land of mega churches: 75% of Americans worship in churches of less than 100. These churches are not full of Donald Trump supporters. People that I met were both embarrassed and hostile towards their President.

I was in Oregon for the launch of Professor Roger Newell [2017] new book Keine Gewalt! No Violence! The book outlines how the role played by the German Church in the 1940’s laid down the foundations for her part in the ending of the Cold War in the 1980’s. In the first half of the century the German church withdrew into pietism and individual spirituality leaving the political area to the Nazis. In the second half of the century the German church actively engaged in the civil society leading to the peaceful overthrow of Communism.

The underlying question in Roger’s book is how the Church relates to society. This question is especially relevant in the UK and USA with the Trump phenomenon on one side of the Atlantic and Brexit on the other. Being anti American is seen as the last acceptable form of racism but it is the American policies with which we disagree and not the people. The people are warm-hearted and, when I was there, asked me no end of times about whether I was having a ‘nice day’.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), Ecclesiology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Bp Iker of Fort Worth’s Address to the 35th Convention of the Diocese of Fort Worth

The second event on the Provincial level is the completion of the five-year study of the Task Force on Holy Orders, concerning the ordination of women, and the meeting of the College of Bishops to discuss the report for the first time at a conclave in Victoria, British Columbia, in early September. At the end of the meeting, a Statement was released stating where we are in this continuing controversy that divides us. It was the first time that all the Bishops went on record by stating their position on this issue. It was evident that no Bishop had changed his mind as a result of the study and that a majority of the Bishops are opposed to the ordination of women priests on biblical and theological grounds.

It is interesting to note that when Archbishop Robert Duncan appointed the Task Force, he charged them with doing a study of the issue of women in holy orders, but instructed them not to come to a conclusion or to make any recommendation as to how to resolve the debate. The report simply summarizes the arguments for and against. This is in stark contrast to a similar study done by the Anglican Mission in America several years ago, known as the Rodgers Report, which concluded that women cannot be ordained bishops or priests, while leaving open the door to the possibility of women deacons. Those of us who agreed to the formation of the ACNA in 2009 did so with the clear understanding that a serious theological study would be done and that a decision would be made at that time.

So where are we? Most ACNA bishops and dioceses are opposed to women priests, but as it presently stands, the ACNA Constitution says each diocese can decide if it will ordain women priests or not. We now need to work with other dioceses to amend the Constitution to remove this provision. As you know, women bishops are not permitted in any diocese, and no bishop wants to change that prohibition.

I would underscore that the recent Bishops’ statement declares that the ordination of women “is a recent innovation to Apostolic Tradition and Catholic Order” and that “there is insufficient warrant to accept women’s ordination to the priesthood as standard practice.” Needless to say, the women priests and their supporters are very unhappy about that.

We are in a state of impaired communion because of this issue. The Task Force concluded that “both sides cannot be right.” At the conclave, I informed the College of Bishops that I will no longer give consent to the election of any bishop who intends to ordain female priests, nor will I attend the consecration of any such bishop-elect in the future.

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Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology, Women

“If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us!”

8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Therefore, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

the Barmen Declaration, cited by yours truly in the morning sermon

Posted in Christology, Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), Theology: Scripture

[Fulcrum] Andrew Goddard on the recent Partial Primates Meeting (II)–Walking Together at Lambeth 2020?

Summary: Building on the analysis of walking together in the first part (which can be found here), this article explores the problems faced by the Lambeth Conference in 2008 and how they continue to be present as we approach Lambeth 2020. In order to enable as close and truthful a walking together as possible it suggests the Conference may combine the two forms of conference we have known and build on the decisions of the Primates in 2016 and 2017 about consequences for unilaterally departing from Communion teaching. This could take the form of a non-resolution gathering (as in 2008) in which all provinces and ecumenical partners walked together despite the significant distance between them followed by a more deliberative assembly passing resolutions (as before 2008) involving those living in a higher degree of communion and committed to intensifying that communion.

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Ecclesiology, Partial Primates meeting Canterbury 2017

[Fulcrum] Andrew Goddard on the recent Partial Primates Meeting (I)–Walking Together?: Past and Present

Summary: The language of walking together to describe the current state and structures of the Anglican Communion needs more nuance and more detailed and theological analysis. This article attempts to begin developing the theme by setting walking together in a wider context than its recent use by the primates, including The Windsor Report’s language of walking apart, and by recognizing that the primates have also acknowledged impairment and significant distance even as they speak of walking together.

It then argues that the language is best approached from a wider, ecumenical perspective as a goal to be sought not just among Communion provinces. As such, within the reality of a fractured Church, we have to acknowledge degrees of communion and different ways of seeking to walk together that also recognize the reality of walking at a distance. By paying attention to this distance within Anglicanism we may be better able to find ways to maintain and even deepen the levels of communion we currently have.

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Ecclesiology, Partial Primates meeting Canterbury 2017