Saturday, December 06, 2008
D: Remembering the Day of the LORD as being (1) the Day foretold by prophets, sages and psalmists of the birth of the Messiah, the Light for the Gentiles and the Glory for Israel; and (2) the Day of the Judgment of the Nations and Peoples, the Day when the LORD reveals his attributes of holiness and righteousness.
V: The time especially for Venite; that is, the time when we are called to come before the Lord to praise Him for his COMING to us in mercy and grace: Venite adoremus. And Psalm 95, “O Come, let us sing unto the Lord…”
E: The initial period in the Church Year and specifically one of Expectation, that is of (1) liturgical expectation throughout the four Sundays as the people of God in “liturgical time” deepen their desire for the arrival of the Messiah and Lord; and (2) living hope (expectation) for the Second Coming in glory with the holy angels of the same Messiah.
N: The narration from Scripture, through liturgical word and ceremony, and through psalms, hymns and songs, of the creating and redeeming acts of God the Father, through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, of his two Comings.
T: The first season of the Church Year, and the season in which the people of God are introduced to Theotokos, the Birth-Giver of [the Son of] God, even the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter Toon Eve of Advent Sunday 2008
The Revd Dr Peter Toon
Monday, November 03, 2008
In great sadness and pain for the Anglican Family, I write this tractate. You may care to read the news-item at the end first:
If GAFCON truly is walking in the biblical, historic Anglican Way;
If GAFCON truly is committed to Anglican, Reformed Catholicism and not to a generic, popular Evangelicalism in Anglican style;
If GAFCON truly is committed to the full and final authority of the Holy Scriptures, and resting on them is also bound to the content and teaching of the classic FORMULARIES of the Anglican Way—The BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion;
If GAFCON is still really committed to the powerful dedication made in a very public way at Jerusalem in June 2008;
And if GAFCON is still critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisors for their failure to be obedient to the Gospel and its teaching of Morals;
THEN, what the Diocese of Sydney has recently re-affirmed and confirmed as its public doctrine stands in total opposition to the doctrinal and public stance of GAFCON . This innovation in doctrine by Sydney is to teach and allow persons, who are not ordained as presbyters (priests), to celebrate the Eucharist and preside at the Order of Holy Communion.
My earnest suggestion to the leadership of GAFCON is this:
After appropriate warning, the Council of Primates of GAFCON should expel the Bishops and Diocese of Sydney immediately: by this action GAFCON will maintain its committed to the biblical, classic Anglican Way and will show that it does take discipline (a mark of the true church) seriously.
If GAFCON does nothing and allows the Diocese of Sydney, with its innovatory doctrine, and pride in that innovation, to remain as a full member, then GAFCON will become, and will be seen by thousands, as merely and only an international, Evangelical Anglican Group— with no serious claims to a serious catholic ecclesiology and historic Ministry, and no real opportunity or intention to set a godly example to the whole Anglican Communion of Churches.
[See below for news of the Sydney decision, which has been on the books for several years. I have been to Sydney some five or so times and on one visit I debated at St Paul’s College, University of Sydney, this question of the identity of Celebrant at the Eucharist. My talk was printed somewhere but I cannot find it! Peter Toon, October 30, 2008.]
Sydney Diocese Approves Lay Presidency at the Eucharist
Posted on: October 28, 2008
The annual synod of the Diocese of Sydney has overwhelmingly approved a resolution restating its support for diaconal and lay presidency at Holy Communion.
No further action is required for deacons to begin celebrating the Eucharist, according to the Rt. Rev. Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney and sponsor of the resolution. Writing an opinion piece for the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Davis added that even though the resolution also makes it permissible for lay persons to administer communion, they would need to be licensed by Archbishop Peter Jensen to do so in a service of public worship. Archbishop Jensen has previously said he is unwilling to do so.
During debate of the resolution on Oct. 20, a number of amendments designed to weaken its impact were proposed. Each was defeated, according to information published on the diocesan website. The Diocese of Sydney is a member of the Anglican Church of Australia.
The most serious challenge to passage of the resolution came from a priest who had attended the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last summer and said approval could affect the diocese’s relationship with GAFCON bishops. The approved resolution includes a provision to send each GAFCON bishop a copy of a book published by the Anglican Church League explaining the theological rationale for lay presidency.
It appears from the tremendous commercial investment in making the evening of October 31 a “fun evening” and an end in itself, that most of modern America does not know or care that there is only “All Hallows’ Eve” because there is “All Saints’ Day” the next day.
But let us focus here upon “all saints.” There appears to be within the Christian traditions two ways of understanding what is a “saint.”
First, there is the way which Paul the Apostle embraces in his Letters: here, a saint is a baptized, disciple of Jesus Christ, who is being sanctified (made holy) by the presence, work, gifts, fruit and virtues of the Holy Spirit, working in him and in the church. Here all active and consecrated disciples of Jesus, who are members of the church, are “saints.” (See e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2) Obviously backsliding, apostate and nominal church members do not qualify for this description for they do not seek holiness.
The other way of understanding what is a “saint” is provided by Christian Tradition and is reflected in the naming of churches (e.g., St Augustine’s Church), in special days of commemoration (e.g., St Luke’s Day) and in patron saints of countries and cities (e.g., St George of England). Here the biblical description is both narrowed and intensified: the real “saint” is now a rare person who stands out from the rest of church members, and does so by his or her holiness, goodness and love for God and man.
Having distinguished the two types of saints, we now have to determine which of the two is commemorated by the Reformed Catholic Church of England in her Book of Common Prayer (editions from 1549 through to 1662).
In making this determination, we have to bear in mind the fact that The Book of Common Prayer does itself provide in the Church Year commemorative days not only for the Lord Jesus himself (e.g. Christmas), but also for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Evangelists. Further, there is a tradition which calls the latter by the name “Saint,” and so, for example, we speak of “St Mark’s Day.”
On the other hand, the same Prayer Book rejects the primary act of devotion on a “Saint’s Day” in late medieval times – that of asking the saint in question to pray for Christians on earth. By taking away the spiritual power of the “saint” to intercede uniquely for the faithful on earth, the Reformers may be seen as making the “saint” into a godly, fine example of that which all genuine Christians ought to aspire to be as Christians, truly the holy ones, as in the usage of Paul, the Apostle.
So we come to the Epistle, Gospel and Collect for All Saints Day in the Prayer Book. The Epistle is Revelation 7:2-12 and points to the final salvation and place in heaven of all genuine believers – that is, of Paul’s saints. The Gospel is St Matthew 5:1-12 and is the Beatitudes, again a description of the life to which all baptized, committed Christians are called—that is, Paul’s saints. The Collect was composed in 1548/9 by the Reformers and is as follows in the 1662 edition of the Prayer Book:
O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If we carefully analyze this Collect, we see that the first part speaks definitely of all truly baptized Christians, the elect of God the Father, the (Pauline) saints of God, and it is they who together, by the union of the Holy Spirit, are the body of Christ. However, in contrast, the reference in the second part to following “thy blessed Saints” appears to lean towards the traditional meaning: that is, to narrow the meaning of the Pauline “saint” to those who have excelled by grace and dedication in practical holiness, and present them as worthy persons to be followed and imitated .
So, to summarize, it would appear that the Reformed Catholicism of The Book of Common Prayer is primarily committed to the biblical, Pauline, meaning of saint and calls all Christians to be what they are by God’s will in and through Christ, and called to be ,by God the Father– holy ones, sanctified ones, saints. But it is also ready to use the common, traditional meaning in a restricted and reformed way as well.
Therefore the “all saints” of the feast day are the countless, unrecorded, baptized Christians through the centuries and from all peoples, who were truly sanctified, holy, persons, fulfilling their vocations in serving Christ their Lord in the church and world, in a consecrated, dedicated and faithful way. It is probably safe to say that they are a minority of the whole baptized membership of the One Church of God.
In closing, we may note that the distinction between the Saint of tradition and the saint of the Pauline Letters is very strong indeed in both Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and is a major theme of “Catholic religion”; in contrast, the distinction does not exist in pure Protestantism as part of its principles.
Now SING: “For all the saints who from their labors rest”
Appendix: A modern view of Sainthood from The P B of TEC
In her message to the Episcopal Church marking All Saints' Day, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suggests that Episcopalians look for the modern saints who minister all around them every day.
'In your neighborhood, who is the saint who picks up trash?' she asks. 'Who looks out for school children on their way to and from school? Who looks after an elderly or frail neighbor, running errands or checking to be sure that person has what is needed? In your community, what saints labor on behalf of the voiceless?'
Saints, Jefferts Schori reminded the church, 'come in all shapes, ages, colors, and theological stripes.'
Full story: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_102001_ENG_HTM.htm
Dr Peter Toon, October 28 2008, email@example.com
Reflections from Peter Toon
When you come to the end of participation in public worship, do you feel a sense of satisfaction? Or do you have the sense that what has been said and done though good could have been much more suited to the glory of God Almighty?
Bearing these questions in mind, let us delve into an ancient prayer, which originally appeared in the first fully English Liturgy.
In The Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552. 1604 & 1662) there is a collect, printed at the end of the Service of Holy Communion, and composed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, that was not intended for any particular part of the Church Year or for any special occasion. Rather, it was made available for possible use to clergy and heads of households after the normal content of worship and prayer had been offered to God. Here it is in the very traditional English language of public worship:
“Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking; We beseech thee to have compassion on our infirmities; and those things, which for our unworthiness we dare not ask, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
I do not know about you, but for me this prayer seems to fit my situation more often than I care to admit!
The point is that whether we use a superior or inferior type of liturgy, whether we perform acts of devotion in a crude or creative way, and even whether we prepare ourselves for worship as carefully and fully as possible, we are still going to offer—before the absolute perfection of God—defective and imperfect worship and prayer to the Father. The fact of the matter is that, while we are called to be saints but are not yet saints, there is much in us and about us that is constantly in need of the cleansing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us now analyze the collect, beginning with the opening address to the Almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus.
First of all, we recall in his presence, as we begin to pray, that all true wisdom, the kind that King Solomon asked for, comes solely from God. He is the living Source and Fountain of all wisdom, and as the infinite, eternal, God of wisdom he knows both our “necessities” before we make our requests and “our ignorance” in making them. Being creatures made in the image of God as persons with body and soul, we have daily needs—“necessities”— arising both from our physical and spiritual/moral aspects and natures. Thus we require not only food and clothing, but also forgiveness and moral discipline. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:8 & 32) God the Father knows all the needs of his children. And he also knows the lack of true knowledge that Christians, including saintly persons, actually have of themselves and their real needs of body and soul. All of us are ignorant of the full picture and diagnosis of our condition, and thus even our best efforts in prayer fall far short of what they should truly be in terms of rightly petitioning our Father in heaven.
We are now prepared, and the stage is now set, to examine the actual petitions of this collect.
“We beseech thee to have compassion upon our infirmities.” In a modern culture of “rights,” we do not address God as if we had any rights to stand on; rather we beg and we beseech, as those who have no merits to claim. Our heart’s desire is that God our Father be graciously pleased to show compassion to us who are continually plagued by our own infirmities (physical and spiritual weaknesses). Let him in his mercy, we earnestly hope, bring healing and strength to us in body and soul.
“And those things which, for our unworthiness, we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us for the worthiness of thy Son…”
God, the all-wise and all-knowing LORD, is aware of all our infirmities! We are aware of some, but we are sometimes/often prevented from bringing petition concerning these before our Father, because either (a) in our sense of unworthiness before him we do not dare to ask for his special favor; or (b) we are in part morally and spiritually blind and thus do not have the open, discerning eyes to recognize what we truly are and need as we stand before God.
Let us end on a high note.
Despite our blindness, unworthiness, infirmities and ignorance, because we have received the precious Gospel of the Father concerning his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for his sake and his alone, we humbly pray to the Father:”Vouchsafe (graciously grant) to us each day all that we need for body, soul and spirit in order to be thy loving, faithful and obedient children, for thy honor and glory.”
Trinity XXII 2008
If we pray in the name of Jesus, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.
If we pray in the name of Jesus and according to God’s will, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.
If we pray in faith claiming the promise(s) of God, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.
It is also commonplace to hear such explanatory comments as the following:
God’s response to our petition may be “yes” or “no” or “not yet,” but he will answer.
Let us now imagine a congregation of say 100 persons and get a sense of the number and variety of prayers offered that ask for something. First of all, take the public worship of this local church. In it there will normally be a form of prayer that is primarily of petition and intercession, where the focus is upon asking God to intervene in situations, to bless different persons and people, to heal the sick, to prosper the proclamation of the Gospel, to edify the church(es) and so on.
Further, together with the congregation speaking to the Master as one body and household, each individual member present on the Lord’s Day also offers from within the assembly his own prayers of petition, for this and for that according to need and necessity.
Then, of course, there are the many prayers offered outside the public worship in the family prayers and individual prayers of the members throughout the week.
The Lord’s Prayer itself used many times also includes several wide-ranging petitions—e.g., “thy kingdom come.”
So, all in all, we are imagining here thousands of different prayers in the name of Jesus addressed to God the Father by people in various stages of Christian pilgrimage and maturity. If we could hear and analyze all these petitions and intercessions, perhaps the majority of them would fit into several basic categories—e.g., for healing of the sick, for children to grow up reverencing and loving God, for evangelism and church growth, and so on.
Here, with the hope of taking forward our thinking I want to introduce an ancient collect, rendered from Latin into the traditional English language of prayer.
“O GOD, our Refuge and Strength, who art the author of all devotion; Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” [See further, The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, Trinity XXIII]
From this profound, short prayer I want to focus initially on two phrases: “author of all devotion” and “devout prayers.”
All real stirrings of genuine faith, hope and love in our hearts: all desires and intentions to serve, obey, trust, thank and praise God; and all inward and outward movements towards adoration and worship of God are to be traced to God as their source—that is of the Father working through his Spirit in the hearts of his people. Thus God is the “author of all devotion” (or “godliness”) and, of course, he expects his people to work with him in this matter!
“Devout prayers” are prayers that have their origins in the cleansing and renewing work of the Spirit of the Father and of the Son in the souls of his baptized people. Such prayers are of varying kinds but since they are inspired by God we are to believe that they are actually heard by God.
We are now ready to move on now to reflect on the words: “Grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually.” From this petition we are reminded that there are further, important spiritual additions to what we have already noted (that God the author of true devotion hears the prayers of his devout people) in terms of the answering of prayer. Here the two key words are “Grant” and “faithfully.”
The use of the verb “grant” of God the Father makes clear that none of us deserves, or has a right to anything, that we ask for; rather, it is solely in the goodness and wisdom of God to give it out of pure, eternal mercy. This attitude of deep humility in the devout must be a major part of the ethos of their prayer.
“Faithfully” points to prayer that is not only from Christian believers who trust in God through Jesus Christ, but is also a prayer that is characterized by, and filled with, living, dynamic faith—including often an inner conviction that which is asked for is truly God’s will to give.
In this way and by this form of prayer, the church effectively obtains that for which it asks the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
I conclude by making an observation that addresses the real, daily and weekly pastoral situation, within western churches, that we seem to get more “answers” to prayer that are in the “no” and “not yet” category than the “yes” one.
I suggest that we do not make a sufficiently clear distinction in our teaching and practice concerning petitionary/intercessory prayer between (a) devout prayers being heard by God (the emphasis here is upon God hearing them and being pleased to receive them); and (b) devout prayers that are filled with and characterized by faith/trust being not only heard but also answered effectively by the God of all mercy and grace.
Take prayers for healing of the body offered by a congregation, its pastors or a visiting evangelist/healer. Why is it—and this seems to be true in the West at least—that there are, comparatively speaking, so few examples of genuine healings (whether or not modern medicine is involved) and so many examples of disappointed petitioners? Devout prayers are offered and heard by God, we believe, and these please him, but that is all we can be sure about in any given case, unless there is present (as the gift of the Spirit) the genuine, real prayer of humility and faith.
An example of a prayer that was filled with real faith and expectation of an effective answer is found in Acts 12:6 ff. – the story of Peter in prison and his amazing exit as the local church prayed for his release.
Peter Toon Trinity XXII 2008
The Church of England has two provinces, one in the south of the country, centered on Canterbury, and one in the north-east of the country, centered on York. Each of these cities has an archbishop named after the cities. The Archbishop of Canterbury is known historically as the Primate of all England, and the Archbishop of York is known historically as the Primate of England. The slight difference in title points to the fact that Canterbury is first in order and authority of the hierarchy in the Church of England. This explains why he has a residence in London, Lambeth Palace, within easy distance of the Houses of Parliament (where he is a member of the House of Lords) and royal palaces (where the monarch is often in residence).
In terms of the worldwide Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has always had the lead role in the fellowship of international Churches known now as the Global Anglican Communion of Churches. In the last forty years he has increasingly been known as “the first instrument of unity” (where “instrument” means “a person who is made use of” for a specific purpose). Further, the See (meaning “the place in which a cathedral church stands”) of Canterbury has been consistently referred to within Global Communion-talk as though this See is the only See in the mother Church of the Communion, the ecclesia anglicana. But it is not! Perhaps you remember name the place where the man whom we now call “Constantine the Great” began his journey to Rome in the early fourth century. It was York and here is also, as we noted above, is one of the two Sees of the Church of England.
But is there any way that the See and province of York is specifically or distinctly associated with the very definition of the Global Anglican Communion of Churches? That is, other than being a half of the Church of England, which as a whole entity is obviously in that Communion as the Mother Church? Yes there is!
For the answer we turn to The Revised Catechism (1962) a revision of the Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. It is important to note that this Catechism was published before the beginnings of the move to new modern liturgy, to so-called contemporary language for language, and to the expansion of the Anglican Family of Churches in the 1970s and following. It belongs to the pre-modern reality of the ecclesia anglicana. Further, it was composed by a Commission set up by both Archbishops, and it was authorized in January 1962 for seven years use by the Convocations of Canterbury and York (who met together as a governing body before the arrival of the Synod of the Church of England a little later).
Obviously there is nothing in the original Catechism of 1662 about the Anglican Communion for it did not exist; and it is not mentioned in revived Catechisms of Canada and other provinces; however, in that of England and Wales 1962 it it was a topic about which those being confirmed ought to be informed. Thus there is this basic question followed by a revealing answer:
“What is the Anglican Communion?
“The Anglican Communion is a family of Churches within the universal Church of Christ, maintaining apostolic doctrine and order and in full communion with one another and with the Sees of Canterbury and York.”
Not surprisingly a Commission representing the province of York as well as Canterbury would and should include “in full communion with the See of York.” And the Church of England, let us not forget, is one Church with two provinces, and both are provinces in the full ecclesial and theological meaning of the word “province.”
Regrettably after the revolutionary 1960s and early 1970s, in which the Anglican Way changed much, especially in the West, “full communion with York” got apparently forgotten, and the new entrants into the global Anglican Communion, usually from the previous British colonies, were not told about it. They simply learned that the Archbishop of Canterbury is the primary instrument (an odd word for most of them) of unity. And this they accepted seemingly without much question until the new question of the new millennium arose with vengeance—which is a story that has often been told recently and need not be repeated here.
I have one more thing to say about Yorkshire..
As one who was born near the city of York, and who was ordained deacon and priest in the province of York, I protest about the demise of York from the Anglican Communion pedigree! I dream of what could be achieved if from the 1970s York could have been designated the Secondary Instrument of Union of the Anglican Communion, with special responsibility for convening and chairing the Primates’ Meeting on a regular basis!
I lament for YORK; AND I SEE DIMLY A NEW VOCATION FOR IT IN THE REALIGNMENT OF THE GLOBAL ANGLICAN COMMUNION AND THE MOTHER CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 11, 2008.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It is wholly against Jewish tradition and theology and also contrary to the historic way of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The present Pope/Vatican via one of the Vatican Offices has issued a Letter on this topic which is most useful for both Catholics and Protestants. It commends and explains the historic, classic Christian approach and I commend it to my friends.
Here is the link for the CDF directive 'on the '
latest approved translation into English by USA RC bishops and approved by Vatican to be used in all USA R C Churches in a few month’s time
Some of us are glad to see this beginning of a major revision of the bad translation now in use in the R C Church in the English-speaking lands.
What I noticed noticed at once are the following (a) a more reverential language in contrast to the “street” language of the present rite; (b) a better rendering of the Gloria at the beginning of Mass; (c) “And with you spirit” for “also with you”; (d) “I believe” as the translation of Credo in the Creeds not the plural “we” as in the present text and (e) the “passing of the peace” publicly is “if appropriate” and not mandatory.
I shall do a fuller review when I have the strength! The whole Missal is not yet ready for publication in the USA for it is still being revised.
Peter Toon Trinity XIX 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Related Categories: Lambeth LC2008
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent a letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, setting out his personal reflections on the Lambeth Conference.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
As the Lambeth Conference of 2008 comes to an end, I want to offer some further reflections of my own on what the bishops gathered in Canterbury have learned and experienced. Those of you who have been present here will be able to share your own insights with your people, but it may be useful for me to add my own perspectives as to where we have been led.
For the vast majority of bishops, it seems, this has been a time when they have felt God to have been at work. The Conference was not a time for making new laws or for binding decisions; in spite of the way some have expressed their expectations, Lambeth Conferences have never worked straightforwardly in this way. The Conference Design Group believed strongly that the chief need of our Communion at the moment was the rebuilding of relationships - the rebuilding of trust in one another - and of confidence in our Anglican identity. And it was with this in mind that they planned for a very different sort of Conference, determined to allow every bishop's voice to be heard and to seek for a final outcome for which the bishops were genuinely able to recognize an authentic account of their own work.
I believe that the Conference succeeded in doing this to a very remarkable degree - more than most people expected. At the end of our time together, many people, especially some of the newer bishops, said that they had been surprised by the amount of convergence they had seen. And there can be no doubt that practically all who were present sincerely wanted the Communion to stay together.
But they also recognized the challenge in staying together and the continuing possibility of further division. As the proposals for an Anglican Covenant now go forward, it is still possible that some will not be able to agree; there was a clear sense that some sort of covenant will help our identity and cohesion, although the bishops wish to avoid a legalistic or juridical tone. A strong majority of bishops present agreed that moratoria on same-sex blessings and on cross-provincial interventions were necessary, but they were aware of the conscientious difficulties this posed for some, and there needs to be a greater clarity about the exact expectations and what can be realistically implemented. How far the intensified sense of belonging together will help mutual restraint in such matters remains to be seen. But it can be said that few of those who attended left without feeling they had in some respects moved and changed.
We were conscious of the absence of many of our colleagues, and wanted to express our sadness that they felt unable to be with us and our desire to build bridges and restore our fellowship. We were aware also of the recent meeting in Jerusalem and its statements; many of us expressed a clear sense of affinity with much that was said there and were grateful that many had attended both meetings, but we know that there is work to do to bring us closer together and are determined to do that work.
The final document of Conference Reflections is not a 'Report' in the style of earlier Conferences, but an attempt to present an honest account of what was discussed and expressed in the 'indaba' groups which formed the main communal work of the Conference by the Reflections Group. But although this document is not a formal Report, it has a number of pointers as to where the common goals and assumptions are in the Communion. Let me mention some of these.
First, there was an overwhelming unity around the need for the Church to play its full part in the worldwide struggle against poverty ignorance and disease. The Millennium Development Goals were repeatedly stressed, and there was universal agreement that both governmental and non-governmental development agencies needed to create more effective partnerships with the churches and to help the churches increase and improve their own capacity to deliver change for the sake of justice. To further this, it was agreed that we needed a much enhanced capacity in the Communion for co-ordinated work in the field of development. Our Walk of Witness in London and the memorable address of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom formed a powerful focus for these concerns. And the challenge to every bishop to identify clear goals for developing environmentally responsible policies in church life was articulated very forcefully indeed: information was provided to all about how the 'carbon footprint' of the Conference itself might be offset, and new impetus given to careful and critical self-examination of all our practices. We were reminded by first-hand testimony that the literal survival of many of our most disadvantaged communities was at risk as a result of environmental change. This enabled us to see the issue more clearly as one of justice both to God's earth and to God's people
Second, on the controversial issue of the day regarding human sexuality, there was a very widely-held conviction that premature or unilateral local change was risky and divisive, in spite of the diversity of opinion expressed on specific questions. There was no appetite for revising Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998, though there was also a clear commitment to continue theological and pastoral discussion of the questions involved. In addition to a widespread support for moratoria in the areas already mentioned, there was much support for the idea of a 'Pastoral Forum' as a means of addressing present and future tensions, and as a clearing house for proposals concerning the care of groups at odds with dominant views within their Provinces, so as to avoid the confusing situation of violations of provincial boundaries and competing jurisdictions.
Importantly, it was recognized that all these matters involved serious reflection on the Christian doctrine of human nature and a continuing deepening of our understanding of Christian marriage. A joint session with bishops and spouses also reminded us that broader moral issues about power and violence in relations between men and women needed attention if we were to speak credibly to the tensions and sufferings of those we serve.
Third, there was a general desire to find better ways of managing our business as a Communion. Many participants believed that the indaba method, while not designed to achieve final decisions, was such a necessary aspect of understanding what the questions might be that they expressed the desire to see the method used more widely - and to continue among themselves the conversations begun in Canterbury. This is an important steer for the meetings of the Primates and the ACC which will be taking place in the first half of next year, and I shall be seeking to identify the resources we shall need in order to take forward some of the proposals about our structures and methods.
The Conference was richly blessed in its guest speakers, who all testified to their appreciation of the Anglican heritage, while asking us searching questions about how flexible and creative our evangelistic policies were, about the integration of our social passion with our theology and about the nature of the unity we were seeking both within the Anglican Communion and with other Christian families. Our many ecumenical representatives played a full and robust part in all our work together and we owe them a considerable debt.
Finally and most importantly of all, we were held within an atmosphere of steady and deep prayer by our Chaplaincy Team. The commitment of the Conference members to daily worship was impressive; and this has much to do with the quality of that worship, both in moments of profound quiet and in exuberant celebration. It mattered greatly that we were able to begin with a period of retreat in the context of Canterbury Cathedral; the welcome we received there was immensely generous and we all valued the message clearly given, that this was our Cathedral, and that all of us were a full part of the worshipping community that had been here since Augustine came to Canterbury in 597.
I know that all present would wish me to express thanks once again to all who planned and organized the Conference, to those who composed the Bible Studies, those who devised and monitored the work of the indaba groups and all others who served us so devotedly in all sorts of ways - not least the Stewards, whose youthful energy and commitment and unfailingly supportive presence gave all of us great hope for the future. Thanks to all of you - bishops and spouses - who attended, for the great commitment shown and for the encouragement you have given each other.
But together we give thanks to God for his presence with us, his faithfulness to us and his gifts to our Communion. As was said in the closing plenary session, we believe that God has many more gifts to give to and through our Communion; and we ask his grace and assistance in teaching us how to receive what he wills to give. 'He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.' (2 Cor. 9v10)
Your servant in Christ
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Saturday, August 09, 2008
August 9, 2008
The vital importance of working for church unity
Many bishops believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been misrepresented
Sir, As bishops in the Church of England, we wish to protest in the strongest possible terms at what we regard as a gross misrepresentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
First, your front-page story (August 7) and the further material inside were presented as though he had just made a fresh statement, whereas the letters now leaked were written, in a private and personal context, between seven and eight years ago (this only became apparent six paragraphs into the report). One can only wonder at the motives behind releasing, and highlighting, these letters at this precise moment – and at the way in which some churchmen are seeking to make capital of them as though they were ‘news’.
Second, Dr Williams did not say ‘gay sex is good as marriage’ (your front-page headline) or ‘equivalent to marriage’ (your inside headline). In his first letter, he concluded that a same-sex relation ship ‘might . . . reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage’. This proposal (whether or not one agrees with it, as many of us do not) is far more cautious in content, and tentative in tone, than is implied by both the articles and the headlines. In the second letter, Dr Williams stresses that same-sex relation ships are not the same as marriage, ‘because marriage has other dimensions to do with children and society’.
Third, the Archbishop has said repeatedly, as he did in one of the letters, that there is a difference between ‘thinking aloud’ as a theologian and the task of a bishop (let alone an Archbishop) to uphold the church’s teaching. He has regularly insisted, as he did in his closing address at Lambeth, that the church is right to have a basic ‘unwillingness to change what has been received in faith from scripture and tradition.’ He has spoken out frequently against the ‘foot-in-the-door’ tactic of divisive innovation such as the consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire. As he said in that same closing address, ‘the practice and public language of the Church act always as a reminder that the onus of proof is on those who seek a new understanding’. Nor, despite regular accusations, is this prioritising of the bishop’s task mere pragmatism or the pursuit of a ‘quixotic goal’ of Anglican unity. It expresses what Jesus himself taught: the fundamental and deeply biblical teaching on the vital importance of church unity and of working for that unity by humility and mutual submission.
Fourth, Dr Williams has also stressed in many contexts that the church must be prepared to stand out against social trends where they do not reflect or embody the gospel. Mary Ann Sieghart’s extraordinary suggestion that the church ‘must eventually reflect the society within which it works’ is a recipe for a blatant Erastianism, against which the Archbishop has resolutely set his face. It is ironic to hear those who would hate to see the church being the Tory party at prayer insisting that it must now be New Labour at prayer.
Fifth, the Archbishop pointed out, in an interview with a Dutch newspaper two years ago, that ‘inclusion’ – that regular mantra of gay lobbyists – is not ‘a value in itself’. We do not, he said, simply welcome people into the church without asking questions. ‘Conversion’, he said, ‘means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions.’ In that same interview he pointed out that the views he had earlier advocat ed ‘did not generate much support and [raised] a lot of criticism – quite fairly on a number of points.’
In his invitations to the Lambeth Conference, Dr Williams insisted that he saw the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Anglican Covenant as the tracks along which the Communion should move. Neither of those in any way points in the direction your articles indicated. In his final Presidential address to the Conference, he articulated clearly and sharply where we now are as a church: the reaffirmation of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life; the reaffirmation of the previous Lambeth resolution on sexual behaviour; the moratoria on same-sex blessings, on consecration of any more practising homosexuals as bishops, and on the incursions by bishops into one another’s territories; the Anglican Covenant; and some key interim arrangements while that Covenant undergoes further drafting. He presented these, in the context of a powerful and clearly thought out address, as the fresh articulation of the mind of the church, not as an opinion which he was bound to express but from which he privately wanted to dissent. He has our full and unqualified support in his magnificent leadership both of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion as we seek to obey God’s call to take the gospel to the whole world.
The Right Rev Dr Tom Wright
Bishop of Durham
The Right Rev David Urquhart
Bishop of Birmingham
The Right Rev Nicholas Reade
Bishop of Blackburn
The Right Rev David James
Bishop of Bradford
The Right Rev Graham Dow
The Bishop of Carlisle
The Right Rev John Gladwin
Bishop of Chelmsford
The Right Rev Geoffrey Rowell
Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe
The Right Rev Anthony Priddis
Bishop of Hereford
The Right Rev Jonathan Gledhill
Bishop of Lichfield
The Right Rev Graham James
Bishop of Norwich
The Right Rev John Pritchard
Bishop of Oxford
The Right Rev Kenneth Stevenson
Bishop of Portsmouth
The Right Rev John Packer
Bishop of Ripon and Leeds
The Right Rev George Cassidy
Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham
The Right Rev Nigel Stock
Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
The Right Rev Stephen Platten
Bishop of Wakefield
The Right Rev John Stroyan
Bishop of Warwick
The Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt
Bishop of Winchester
The Right Rev John Inge
Bishop of Worcester
Friday, August 08, 2008
On Same-Sex “covenanted and faithful” Partnerships and the Love of God, as seen from the See of Canterbury.
A DISCUSSION STARTER
May I ask my reader to be patient, and come with me on a brief journey of clarification, by setting a broad context, to try to get some perspective on this question before we answer it.
(a) In the world of industry, I may work for Ford making trucks and join with my fellow-workers in saying how great are Ford trucks; but it may be my private conviction that GM trucks are best and thus I buy such for my family. Nothing wrong with this, except I miss the discount in buying Ford!
(b) In the world of sport, I may live in a certain city and join with family and friends in the public and vocal support of the local baseball and football teams, as though these were the only teams for me; but in my heart my favorite teams may be those of the city where I was born, a thousand miles from where I currently live. Nothing wrong here, except if my local friends find out I may pay a price!
(c) In the world of weekly church attendance, I may go with my family and friends to a certain evangelical church where I feel comfortable and accepted, where the preaching and singing/music are robust, and where there is a strong sense of service to the community. To my friends I appear reasonably or even fully contented; yet in my heart I long for a different kind of religious experience, weekly attendance at the fullness of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church (of which I have read in Russian novels and seen on DVD). Nothing wrong here’ except if my friends knew this they would probably think me very odd indeed and needing counseling!
Now we need to look at some examples involving moral and spiritual principles, which apply both privately to a person and in and for the group in which he is involved.
(1) Take the pastor, who regularly organizes his people to go on “pro-life” marches and demonstrations, insisting in his exhortation that human life begins at conception and the baby (foetus) in the womb must be treated as a human being with rights and be protected. However, there is another side to this pastor’s moral principles. When he found that his wife was pregnant and that it was clear that the baby would be born with major defects and problems, he insisted that she have an abortion quietly and in a center far away, for they could not on their busy schedules care for a severely handicapped child.
Such events have a way of leaking out and people getting to know. And in this case when it does then the moral leadership of the pastor disappears.
(2) Take the rector who regularly meets heterosexual couples who are living together, and who come to him to discuss the possibility of baptism for a child, church-membership or marriage. If he takes the strict view of the meaning of fornication found in the New Testament and Moral Theology, it is possible that he will urge them to separate, to change moral direction, and later to marry (if that seems right) and be church members. However, it is also possible that such are the societal pressures on him that he will forget his high principles, will welcome them, make no critical reference to “their living in sin” and proceed to do for them whatever they ask of him.
When this rector has compromised a few times and a growing number of people know, he will not any longer be able to preach with power and conviction the moral laws and commandments of the Lord our God. Why? Because he will know that many of his people know that he does not really believe these commandments of God, except perhaps as ideals for a different age!
(3) Take the Anglican Bishop who, as a member of the College/House of Bishops, is thereby committed to their agreed policy of not allowing a divorced person, whose spouse is alive, to be married in church. His own view would make various exceptions and is more liberal; but he refuses to implement it in his diocese because he believes it is duty to implement the joint-rule of the whole House.
In this case the difference between the doctrine/policy of the House and his own position is a difference within a given spectrum, not a wholly different doctrine. And the Bishop presumably can stand before Jesus the Lord with a clear conscience in this area. This is because he holds the full doctrine of Christian marriage as right, good and true, and teaches the same: however, how to care pastorally for those who have failed and after penitence wish to make a new start is not of easy answer, and various possibilities are open, and it is here where he differs from others.
(4) Take the Lutheran pastor, who has come to the remarkable conclusion through his own individual study, that salvation is wholly by works (good deeds) and faith is a good work. However, he knows that to preach or teach this will cause many problems in his circle and so he decides (a) to keep it to himself and a small group of friends and (b) to preach and teach the official Lutheran Confessional Doctrine that Justification is by Faith alone on all public occasions.
Here we have a case where what the Lutheran minister really and truly believes is that “salvation of wholly by works;” but that he is willing to keep this to himself and offer to his congregation and denomination the traditional Lutheran line of “faith alone.” Here what is true for himself is not what is true for others!
Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it known himself, and others have confirmed it, that he has actually long believed that a same-sex couple in a faithful, covenanted partnership can be a genuine manifestation of the love of God; and thus this union is not contrary to the moral law of God or a threat to Christian marriage.
This he describes as his personal, private opinion, which he generally keeps to himself and does not publicly propagate, except in remarks and comments in restricted circles.
In contrast, he also holds in his capacity as the Primate of all England and the “titular head” of the Anglican Communion of Churches a responsibility to teach and propagate the doctrine of sexuality approved by a large majority at the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and further approved by individual Provinces, and taken as a base-line and developed by The Windsor Report. Here it is important to be very clear that this public, official Anglican doctrine has no place whatsoever in it for same-sex relations/partnerships within the Church—indeed they are always wrong whatever their quality.
Thus in his public capacity Dr Williams teaches and propagates a traditional doctrine which includes within it the condemnation of the doctrine that he holds as a private person. One can only speculate as to the conflict that this causes in his soul.
The question arises: Which of the two doctrines does Rowan really believe? Which one is for him the bringing into a meaningful form both the truth of God from Scripture and what reason tells us about the human condition as sexual? Which of the two teachings is truly in his heart as well as his mind?
One may never know the answer to this question!
However, one can see in recent decisions made by Rowan and through commitments of his, what seem to be evidence for the changing priority of each of his views. For example, the fact that he invited (a) all the American consecrators of Gene Robinson and (b) all the USA bishops who have been allowing the blessing of same-sex couples in their dioceses, to Lambeth 08 seems to proclaim one thing. But the strong and passionate call he made at Lambeth 08 for a moratorium on both same-sex blessings and the electing and consecrating bishops in same-sex relations points in another. Of course, one can read these decisions politically and leave the matter there.
My own reading of the human heart is that a doctrine held with conviction cannot be hidden all the time. It will make itself known in all kinds of little ways, and sometimes in big ways. Thus if Rowan does hold with inner conviction the doctrine that same-sex couples can and do exhibit the love of God then this indicates who he is and where he is. And, therefore, however hard he pushes the public doctrine and the policies of Lambeth 08 on moratoria, it will always be the case that he is internally fighting against himself. And he will never be able with full heart, mind and will to press the official Anglican doctrine.
Dr Peter Toon August 8, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
August 6, 2008
Rowan Williams: gay relationships 'comparable to marriage'
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Rowan Williams believes that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, The Times has learnt.
Gay partnerships pose the same ethical questions as those between a man and woman and the key issue for Christians is that they are faithful and lifelong, he believes.
Dr Williams is known to be personally liberal on the issue but the strength of his views, revealed in private correspondence shown to The Times, will astonish his critics.
The disclosure threatens to reopen bitter divisions over ordaining gay priests which pushed the Anglican Communion towards a split, as conservatives seek uphold the Biblical opposition to homosexuality.
As Archbishop of Canterbury, he recommitted the Anglican Communion to its orthodox position that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture at the Lambeth Conference which closed on Sunday.
In an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, Dr Williams describes his belief that Biblical passages criticising homosexual sex are not aimed at people who are gay by nature.
Instead, he argues that scriptural prohibitions are addressed “to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience”.
He says: “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.”
Although written before he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, Dr Williams describes his view in the letters as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer. He refers to it as his “conviction”.
He draws a distinction between his own beliefs as a theologian, which are liberal, and his position as a church leader for which he must take account of the traditionalist view of the majority of Anglicans. He has stuck to this position ever since.
“If I’m asked for my views, as a theologian rather than a church leader, I have to be honest and admit that they are as I’ve said,” he writes.
The letters, written in the autumn of 2000 and 2001, were exchanged with Dr Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian, who lives within his former archdiocese in south Wales and wrote challenging him on the issue.
In reply, Dr Williams describes how his view changed from that of opposing to gay relationships when, in 1980, his mind became “unsettled” by contact as university teacher with Christian students who believed the Bible forbade promiscuity not gay sex.
Dr Williams, who was ordained priest in 1978, became a lecturer at Cambridge two years later and was appointed Dean of Clare College in 1984.
He writes that by the end of the 1980s he had “definitely come to the conclusion” that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay.
He cites two academics as also pivotal in influencing his view, one of whom ironically is Dr Jeffrey John, the celibate homosexual whom he later forced to withdraw as Bishop of Reading after an outcry from conservative evangelicals.
Until now the clearest statement of Dr Williams’ liberal views was an essay, The Body's Grace, published in 1989 in which he argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant it acknowledge the validity of non-procreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.
But he provoked criticism from liberals in the Church of England, and the United States in particular, for seeming to backtrack once he became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Liberals have been bitterly disappointed that a man they regarded as chosen to advance their agenda instead abiding by the traditionalist consensus of the majority.
Liberals from the US Episcopal Church, who see the issue as one of justice for an oppressed minority, were particularly distressed at the Lambeth Conference when the Archbishop appeared to blame them for the growing rift in the Church.
His leadership at Lambeth was a success because, while he failed to resolve the differences in the Church, he avoided outright schism. In spite of everything he has done to maintain unity, however, conservatives are still reluctant to trust Dr Williams because of his theological stance.
In the correspondence, he writes of his regret that the issue has become 'very much politicised' and is treated by many as 'the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy.'
Asked for a response, Lambeth Palace yesterday quoted a recent interview the Archbishop told the Church of England Newspaper: “When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why.”
'Marriage is a gateway into family life, and family life, in turn, is often a gateway into church attendance.'
A dramatic decline in marriage, particularly among young adults, has led to a decline in church attendance over the last three decades, according to a study by Robert Wuthnow, a sociology professor at Princeton University.
Men are 57 percent less likely to regularly attend church if they are not married. Single women are 41 percent less likely to attend church than their married counterparts.
"It exaggerates only a little to say that Americans in their 20s and early 30s divide into two groups of about equal size: those who are married, the majority of whom participate in religion; and those who are not married, the majority of whom do not participate," Wuthnow said at a conference at The Heritage Foundation.
Brad Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, said the biggest factor driving the decline in church attendance is delayed marriage.
"Marriage is a gateway into family life, and family life, in turn, is often a gateway into church attendance," he said. "The longer people postpone marriage, the less likely they are to attend church at a given age, and also the less likely they are to attend church down the road."
Wuthnow estimates in his book, After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion, that American churches would have 6.3 million more young adults today if young people started families at the same rate they did 30 years ago.
Wilcox said the Church needs to be more intentional about promoting marriage at an earlier age.
"One thing churches need to do is to really encourage their teenagers and their young adults not to buy into this culture of 'hooking up' and even the culture of dating or just hanging out," he said. "(Churches need) to create a culture of courtship that puts them on a path to marriage, for those who are called to marriage.
"I think connecting young adults to families who have different priorities and different challenges and different joys would help them see the world a little bit differently, and hopefully grow in their faith at the same time."
Monday, August 04, 2008
Lambeth Conference Q&A: What has it achieved?
By Martin Beckford The Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:27PM BST 03 Aug 2008
Why was this meeting so important?
The Lambeth Conference, a gathering of all Anglican bishops, only takes place once every 10 years. At the last one, a resolution was agreed stating that homosexuality goes against the Bible's teaching. But since then, the American church elected an openly gay bishop while the church in Canada ruled that same-sex unions could be blessed publicly.
So what new resolutions were made in Canterbury over the past three weeks?
None. The organisers felt it would be more constructive to allow the bishops to talk about their differences rather than cast votes or draft documents. They spent most of their days in small 'Indaba' groups of 40 talking about a range of topics, rather than in large sessions making statements.
Does that mean that nothing happened?
No. Most of the bishops feel they have benefited from the opportunity to discuss their differences, and some progress has been made on projects that the Archbishop of Canterbury believes will keep the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion together.
Although the conference was damaged by the decision of about 200 (one in four) bishops to stay away in protest at the presence of the liberal Americans, there were no walkouts or major new crises during the meeting. Meanwhile, a repeated call has been made for a halt to all ordinations of gay clergy, same-sex blessings and 'poaching' of bishops from other provinces.
What are these rescue projects?
Firstly a set of guiding principles of Anglicanism, to which all the 38 provinces are expected to agree, known as a Covenant. Those which do not agree to it may lose their place at important gatherings such as Lambeth.
A group called the 'pastoral forum' will also be developed to deal with crises over authority as they emerge, while a 'holding bay' will be set up for parishes that have defected from their national church, in the hope that they can return home eventually. The forum will be set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and headed by a bishop whom he will appoint.
All eyes will be on this pastoral forum to see if it really can act as a 'rapid response unit' to resolve future disputes.
What happens next?
Each of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces - even the ones that boycotted the Lambeth Conference - have been given until the end of March to comment on the Covenant. The final report will be discussed at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, a body consisting of lay people as well as clergy, next May.
But the provinces will then each have to decide if they want to accept the Covenant. The approval of the Episcopal Church of the USA is crucial, but this may not take place until 2015 because of the timing of its general conventions.
What will happen in the meantime?
The orthodox Anglicans who formed the Gafcon movement at a summit in Jerusalem are likely to press ahead with the formation of their own council of Primates and a new North American province for traditionalists.
They insist they have not effected a schism but their absence from Lambeth, their dismissal of the current 'colonial' structure of Anglicanism and their establishment of new structures mean they are effectively operating a rival Communion.
August 3rd, 2008
A final reflection on the Lambeth Conference 2008 by Fr Warren Tanghe
Bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered on the campus of the University of Kent at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury on July 16th for the once-every-ten-years Lambeth Conference.
During their first half-week together, they worshipped, ate, and studied Scripture together, and met in the Cathedral Church of Christ in Canterbury to hear the Archbishop’s retreat addresses. The pace was relaxed: old friends reconnected and new acquaintances were begun, as the bishops were invited to look beyond themselves and what they were about, to the presence and power of the living God.
The Conference proper began with the official opening service in the Cathedral on Sunday, the 20th. The bishops started meeting in indaba groups, in a process meant to foster open and honest speaking and respectful and attentive listening on a daily topic, in which every bishop’s voice would be heard. These groups were complemented by Self-Select Sessions, which offered presentations and opportunities for discussion on specific aspects of these topics. Noted speakers presented plenary addresses on evangelisation, mission, the ecological crisis, and covenant.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
What is the MORAL STATUS of Not Crossing Provincial Boundaries? Is it the same as not performing Blessings of same-sex couples?
From the position of the Sacred Scriptures, their reading and interpretation in the Church over long centuries, and from the tradition of moral theology based on the Bible (and on natural law in some cases) what is being called for in two of the three “moratoria” is nothing less than the setting aside, the rejection, and the repudiation of immorality. For sexual relations between persons of the same sex are condemned outright in the Bible: in the New Testament it is stated that anyone involved in them will not enter the kingdom of God/heaven.
If the same-sex relations themselves constitute a sin before God for which the remedy is true repentance, what kind of an “act” is that of the local “Episcopal” church, which claims, in the Name of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, to bless these persons in same-sex “covenanted” partnerships? The answer used to be understood to be simple, but not easy for us to face: it is a blasphemous act: it is taking the Name of God in vain; it is making the God of righteousness into the God who blesses immorality and wickedness; it is a religious act of such a serious nature that those performing it deserve immediate divine condemnation.
And, in similar vein, the Bishops of a Province or National Church (by whatever means, legal or illegal) who elect or approve a person in a same-sex relation to be a Bishop, and then proceed to “consecrate” that person, likewise commit a blasphemous act, taking the Name of God in vain, making the God of righteousness into the God who tolerates sin and wickedness, and making of a mockery of the Church’s Ordinal!
Now, if it be the case--as some modern very liberal scholars claim---there is a way to read the Bible, to study Christian Tradition, and to interpret Moral theology, that makes their united and persisting voice against this supposed “sexual immorality” questionable, or even null and void, then, of course, the situation has changed! You can now proclaim both the rightness of same-sex relations and of the church to approve and bless them in various ways! In general this is what many in The Episcopal Church now seem to do. They proclaim that there are different ways of reading the Bible and that their way yields the results which they follow!
[To understand this, See the book, To Set Our Hope on Christ, that was produced for the Anglican Consultative Council by a high level Episcopal theological team, led by the last Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. This attempted by novel interpretation to neutralize the Bible’s (supposed) clear witness and justify the innovations of TEC: I replied to it in Same-Sex Affection…, available at www.anglicanmarketplace.com or from 1-800-727-1928].
From a traditional perspective—and here classic Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist agree—sexual relations between two persons of the same sex is sinful and any approval or blessing by the Church of such a partnership is also itself sinful—more sinful than the sin of the persons in the partnership! Thus we see that position of the liberal progressives in TEC and other mainline Churches is wholly innovatory and religiously is a most serious matter before God the Judge of all.
But what of CROSSING PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN BOUNDARIES?
At first glance, most would judge that the question of the rightness or wrongness of crossing boundaries, without formal permission, is not in the first place (and probably not in the second!) a moral question at all. And the reason for stating this is usually this: there is no Biblical commandment that specifically relates to such a matter, and that is true. We all know that it is only—centuries after the time of Jesus— that there is in place an elaborate structure of church polity and organization; only then are there provinces with dioceses existing alongside other such entities, and having rules to govern the relations of dioceses to dioceses within a Province and then between autonomous Provinces.
However, when the body of rules (CANON LAW) of a Province are in place, they are obviously and necessarily of varying kinds and importance. Some of them are treated as if they were moral law: this is because such rules are based upon and spell out the content of actual moral law for life in the church. Yet others may relate to, say, the dress of the clergy and, though important for good order, are not of the same importance as those touching on the moral behavior of the clergy.
So does the Provincial rule/canon law that says to the clergy of one province: “To minister in another Province, you must be properly invited and approved” have moral force? Yes, it does and in this specific sense. The peace and good order of the Church is part of its genuine life and witness s required by the Lord, and any act from outside, that has the effect of disturbing this good order, is contrary to the commandment to love the brethren, and against the the koinonia (communion)of the Gospel and Church.
However, the whole scene changes when the entry is into a Province where it is clearly the case that heresy and immortality are being taught and practiced, and where a godly laity with its pastors are being persecuted and are calling for help. Here there arises immediately both a spiritual and a moral duty for the “orthodox” Province to seek to do whatever is within its power to assist the forces of biblical orthodoxy and holiness in that neighboring Province. Yet, so that this is done decently and in order, such an intervention by one Province ought to be after prayerful consultation with other godly Provinces that have similar concerns about the erring Province.
In terms of the three so-called “moratoria,” we may conclude that the two of them, relating to sexual relations, most clearly belong to the moral realm of the revealed Law of God and his Righteousness, and so the total avoidance and complete rejection of them by baptized Christians is wholly required and pleasing to God.
However, in terms of the third “moratorium,” the non-entry into another Province expect by invitation, this may be seen as belonging to the moral realm if, and only if, we have in mind two biblically-orthodox Provinces alongside each other. And love of the brethren is the moral basis by each of the two Provinces for not disturbing fellow believers in the other Province.
In contrast, entry is required as a moral duty by one Province (or several as the case may be), if and only if, another Province is teaching and practicing heresy and immorality, and there is a cry of “Come over and help us!”
One notes that in the official talk at Lambeth 08 about the “moratoria” talk of the moral duty of driving out heresy and immorality from the life and witness of a Province was generally taboo! And that is why there had to be a GAFCON in June, and why the GAFCON mindset and spirit will continue in one form or another alongside the official Lambeth 08 position, as the Anglican Way struggles to remain a consistent and meaningful part/branch of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God the Father.
St Bartholomew the Apostle & Trinity XIV, 2008 Dr Peter Toon email@example.com
August 2, 2008
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Archbishop of Canterbury has the overwhelming support of bishops at the Lambeth Conference, according to a survey for The Times.
However, one quarter of Anglican bishops at the meeting in Canterbury, Kent, are unsure that he is providing the leadership needed to save the Church from schism.
Few bishops support the idea of solving the church's differences by changing the Anglican Communion to a looser federation.
Three-quarters of those at the conference are happy with Dr Rowan Williams' leadership.
The survey is published today as Dr Rowan Williams defended himself against the charge of being a relic of colonialism made by Uganda Primate, Archbishop Henry Orombi, in The Times.
Dr Williams said in an interview that most Africans had more important things on their mind than gay sex.
'The overwhelming concern of most Africans is clean water, food, employment, transparent governance.'
Dr Williams will tomorrow give more details of the proposed new Pastoral Forum, a body that act as a clearing house for future disputes in the Anglican Communion.
Religious Intelligence surveyed 100 of the 670 bishops at the conference for The Times. More than nine in 10 bishops at the conference feel there is still value in being in the Communion, despite its current difficulties.
Nearly one in four believes there would be value in being in a looser federation of churches instead, but the vast majority wants to remain in the more structured communion.
The survey does not reflect the views of the 230 bishops and archbishops, mainly from Africa, who have boycotted the conference, which ends tomorrow.
But of those present, it shows that three-quarters believe that Dr Williams is providing the leadership that is needed and nine out of 10 believe there is much to be learned from dialogue with different faiths.
Just one-third cannot remember a worse time for the church in their lifetime, athough four in 10 believe the church has been through a worse time in living memory.
One quarter support the recent declaration from the rival conservative Global Anglican Conference in Jerusalem. A similar number also believe there is no hope of a 'via media' solution for Anglicans, two findings which give possible indications of troubled times for Dr Williams in the months ahead.
The survey showed confusion among delegates about whether people are born gay or not. More than four in 10 said they were, a third said they were not and a quarter did not know.
More than half those surveyed were also critical of the Church's efforts in Zimbabwe, with 58 per cent saying the Church had not done enough to help the people there.
The bishops were equally divided over the founding doctrines of Anglicanism, summarised in the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Four in 10 said they did provide a test of Anglican orthodoxy, but a similar number said they did not.
In an interview with Ecumenical News International, Dr Williams rejected Archbishop Orombi's claims that his position in the worldwide Anglican Communion is a left-over from British colonialism.
Archbishop Orombi wrote in The Times yesterday that the 'spiritual leadership of a global communion should not be reduced to one man appointed by a secular government'.
Dr Williams said: 'Archbishop Orombi isn't the first person who has used this language of colonial relics about the Canterbury relationship. I think it's a misunderstanding really. It would be fair only if Canterbury governed. Now, I don't govern the communion.'
He said that to accuse him of colonialism was a 'red herring'.
He criticised the obsession with sex and said it was being confused with morality. 'In the Bible, morality means justice, compassion, the defence of the needy. It means humility, realism, self-questioning, repentance and generosity. That's quite a lot to be going on with.'
He said the consecration of the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 meant little to Africans living in far-flung parts of the continent.
'Day by day, it means very little, even if they've heard about it. The only point in which it does impact on Mr and Mrs Average in Africa is when they have unsympathetic neighbours, Christians or non-Christians, who'd say - ' Oh, you're from the gay church, aren't you?''
He conceded that Mugabe in Zimbabwe was hostile to gays.
'I think you'd find other cases of gay people being attacked - not only in Africa - but throughout the world. It's not just a local problem. But the overwhelming concern of most Africans is clean water, food, employment, transparent governance.'
He said that he and other Anglican leaders were aware of growing frustration among young Africans about unfulfilled Western promises to help them climb out of poverty.
One of the most intrusive aspects of this Lambeth Conference has been the presence of gay activists. Integrity, USA is the umbrella organization, but six gay/lesbian organizations have come here, run a daily newspaper called the Lambeth Witness of Gay and Lesbian Christians, rented about 1/3 of the spaces in the Marketplace and provided speakers for many self-select groups for bishops and their wives. Additionally, these folks have sponsored about half of the evening fringe events.
They use all the advertising and promotional techniques that money can buy. They are better funded than any other organization here. Gene Robinson is also here, has been for almost a month now. He is seen daily walking on the campus and interacting with bishops that will talk with him. Of course, the TEC bishops are only too happy to do so and there are a few from a couple of other places that are also always happy to see him, like Michael Ingham from Vancouver, Canada. Remarkably, as the conference continued, there is less and less press about Gene. The gay newspaper keeps him on their front page; none other.
What does it do to morale in general? It is detrimental.
With 1/3 to ½ of the press identified with gay organizations, they are unhappy when they are not called on at press conferences. Of course, back in the states, they are usually among the first to be called on and given repeated questions. It has not been so here and there have been angry outbursts.
My second trip to the Marketplace was disrupted. The first booth on the corner by the door is the Integrity booth. They are handing out rainbow ribbons and increasingly these are showing up on TEC bishops, some wives and the gay press. When you walk into the marketplace, a watcher at that booth, akin to a Carnival barker, starts shouting about your rainbow ribbon. If you don’t have one, you are admonished to come and get one. If you are leaving the marketplace and still don’t have a rainbow ribbon, you are again told to get one. Dangerous? No. It is simply annoying.
At lunch break for the bishops on Thursday, there was a gay demonstration on the lawns outside the big blue tent and their closest lunch cafeteria. Gene was there at the beginning, but when they started kissing and acting out, he left. So did the bishops, hurrying their wives away.
They let you know they are from America and share almost unparalleled freedom to be gay. New protections in England mean their activities cannot be restrained. They let you know that by most standards, they are wealthy. They are staying in hotels and rented houses, not dorms. It is also clear that countries that repress homosexual activity, especially Moslem countries, are uneducated, unsophisticated and barbaric. They assure you that homosexuality is coming to all of these countries within the next decade.
So, what is the result? I believe the homosexual activists here have had a profound effect on the conference. Bishops and their wives who are not normally exposed to gay behavior have been offended by these antics. They uniformly complain about being shouted at when they wear purple shirts by gays who want to chat. If they do stop, the insistence is that homosexuality is an inborn trait, genetically controlled. Although that may be the present view in the US, it is far from an agreed upon norm in most other countries. Bishops have expressed disdain for the gay daily newspaper, which is at the door of every building on campus. There is avoidance of the gay fringe events and self-select groups (actually, there is avoidance of most fringe events as that is the only free time of the day.)
Every bishop I have spoken with, who is not from the USA, says that departure from the norm, or new development of the faith is not the issue here. The issue is the Scriptural teaching that Christians do no indulge in the culture, but live apart from it. Homosexual orientation or proclivity does not require indulgence. We are called to chastity, higher standards in moral and ethical teachings and encouraged to live holy lives. This applies equally to men and women of any persuasion. The Biblical and Christian norm is for sex to be confined within the boundary of the marriage of a man and a woman – there perfect freedom is found.
The effort to convert the Anglican world at this Lambeth has been the usual American extravaganza. And I believe it has failed.
Cherie Wetzel reporting from Canterbury, England
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Here is one thing that he said, probably to the astonishment of some loyal, modern Episcopalians who were present to support the USA cause:
“It’s not just that we’re not on the same page; We are not in the same book; We are in different libraries. I am dealing with inter-faith relations within The Episcopal Church."
Recall that this is a diocesan bishop of TEC speaking about the Bishops of the TEC (the 'we' includes them all and he is one of them--and in the room are others waiting to take part in the press briefing).. Using the picture of reading from a book, Beckwith not only uses this illustration in a clear and common form ( to make the point that 'we are not reading from the same page'); but he much strengthens the point or distinction between reading from different texts by saying that 'we are actually reading from different pages in different books.' And he crowns it all by saying that the reading of very different texts is occurring in two different locations/libraries.
In other words, there are two basic sources of authority in The Episcopal Church -- (a) the received Holy Scriptures received and interpreted as the Word of God given to the Church for the salvation of the world; and (b) the Book of Experience, the receiving of the message that God is giving to the Church from the variety of Experience known in all forms of human endeavor, personal, scientific, economic, political, social, psychological etc.. Beckwith tells them that he looks to the first and finds himself very much in a minority in TEC, for the majority look to Experience as the source of revelation, and even see the Bible as itself the record of primitive Experience from centuries ago. and thus not as authoritative as what God is revealing Now!
So it is not surprising that Beckwith sees his position in TEC and in the College of Bishops of TEC as being involved not in Christian fellowship but rather in inter-religious dialogue or inter-religious/inter-faith activities. Between the historic, received Religion of TEC (that is received from the PECUSA and the Anglican Family) and the innovatory, present Religion of TEC (based on the Baptismal Covenant as a commitment to the God known via Experience of the world around us) there is a great divide! Different answers arise when such basic questions are asked as: Who is God? Who is Jesus? and What is salvation? Different forms of morality arise when such basic questions as: What is the right relation of a man and woman in creation? and Who may be married in church?
BUT WHY IS IT that so many bishops, clergy and laity outside the USA - e.g. many at Lambeth 08-- do not see that what is fuelling the new sexual ethics and agenda of TEC is a new Religion, a wholly revised form of Christian Worship, Doctrine, Polity, Discipline and Ethics?.
Why is it that those who espouse and propagate this new Religion are welcomed at Lambeth as if they were Bishops holding to the 'faith once delivered to the saints'?
Though this new 'Faith' may use traditional terms, symbols and ceremonial, it has in reality only the most minimal connection with the classical Anglican Faith known in the USA from the seventeenth century onwards, the Reformed Catholic Religion found in the Formularies and best writings of the divines of The Protestant Episcopal Church USA from the 1780s through to the 1960s.
July 31 2008 Trinity X The Revd Dr Peter Toon
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Very obviously Anglicans do not have a Pope with authority worldwide; locally the archbishop or presiding bishop usually has very limited authority; and the so-called Instruments of Unity tend to arrive when a problem is much developed and they have no power to do anything but comment and often make worse!
So individual provinces, dioceses and bishops, do their own thing - that is, what they believe the Holy Spirit (or the Spirit of the age) tells them to do --be it to innovate in sexual relations; call this-worldly relief work 'salvation', make Jesus into a universal, inclusive symbol -- or cross oceans and diocesan boundaries to work in those provinces where modern innovation is in progress in order to restore the evangelical message of personal salvation with the holy gracious God and a morality related to it.
Will the proposed PASTORAL FORUM help? First note its odd name --- does not speak of a dynamic, authoritative small body, but a place for discussion in a non-judgmental way (note how 'pastoral' is used in the West today). The name of a critical entity surely counts and this name does not help, except to suggest that discussion and reasoning and patience etc will possibly solve problems (which is not generally true).
But take the USA as it is now in July 08! Is there any likelihood at all that the inner core of the Episcopal Church, committed zealously to a wholly revised doctrine of the nature of God, of Christ, and of salvation is going to be genuinely moved by a A PASTORAL FORUM talking about two moratoria of sexuality (which are part of the fruit of the new Episcopal Religion, not its doctrinal center and core!)? Likewise, now that five or six overseas Provinces are deeply involved in USA and Canadian anglican life, and see their role as co-workers with God to save the Anglican Way there from total apostasy and oblivion, what would a visiting discussion group, the Forum, have to offer that meets the people where they are (or where they have been driven!)?.
In North America there seems no other real practical possibility than - for the next decade-- the existence of two forms of Anglican expression in parallel : the present TEC and Anglican Church of Canada as INCLUSIVE in worship, doctrine and morals and a NEW PROVINCE which is deliberately orthodox in a traditional sense but is COMPREHENSIVE in churchmanship and in the interpretation of the basic Anglican Standards (Formularies)
Below the text as being studied at Lambeth o8 on Pastoral Forum
New Ways of Responding
We make the following suggestions for situations which might arise in different parts of the Communion:
-- the swift formation of a 'Pastoral Forum' at Communion level to engage theologically and practically with situations of controversy as they arise or divisive actions that may be taken around the Communion. Such a Forum draws upon proposals for a Council of Advice (Windsor), a Panel of Reference (Dromantine), a Pastoral Council (Dar es Salaam) and the TEC House of Bishops' Statement (Sept 2007) acknowledging a 'useful role for communion wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight'.
-- The existence of such a Forum might be included in the Covenant as a key mechanism to achieve reconciliation
-- Part of the role of a Forum might be for some of its members, having considered the theological and ecclesiological issues of any controversy or divisive action, to travel, meet and offer pastoral advice and guidelines in conflicted, confused and fragile situations. There is a precedent in the method of the Eames' Commission in the 1980s.
-- The President of such a Forum would be the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would also appoint its episcopal chair, and its members. The membership of the Forum must include members from the Instruments of Communion and be representative of the breadth of the life of the Communion as a whole. Movement forward on this proposal must bear fruit quickly.
-- We believe that the Pastoral Forum should be empowered to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life, especially through the ministry of its Chair, who should work alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury in the exercise of his ministry.
-- The Forum would be responsible for addressing those anomalies of pastoral care arising in the Communion against the recommendations of the Windsor Report. It could also offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken.
-- We are encouraged by the planned setting up of the Communion Partners initiative in the Episcopal Church as a means of sustaining those who feel at odds with developments taking place in their own Province but who wish to be loyal to, and to maintain, their fellowship within TEC and within the Anglican Communion.
-- The proliferation of ad hoc episcopal and archiepiscopal ministries cannot be maintained within a global Communion. We recommend that the Pastoral Forum develop a scheme in which existing ad hoc jurisdictions could be held 'in trust' in preparation for their reconciliation within their proper Provinces. Such a scheme might draw on models derived from religious life (the relationship of religious orders to the wider Church), family life (the way in which the extended family can care for children in dysfunctional nuclear families) or from law (where escrow accounts can be created to hold monies in trust for their rightful owner on completion of certain undertakings. Ways of halting litigation must be explored, and perhaps the escrow concept could even be extended to have some applicability here.