Thinking Anglicans

Nicholas Holtam responds to the Global South

A Response to the Primates of the Global South

Dear Friends in Christ

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus.

In the statement following the meeting of Anglican Primates from the Global South at Kigali you said you’re your vision is for a “global communion where differences are not affirmed at the expense of faith and truth but within the framework of a common confession of faith and mutual accountability”. You have begun to take initial steps towards the formation of a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Church in the USA. You received a draft report called ‘The Road to Lambeth’ commissioned by the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa and commended it to your churches for study and response. You also commended this report “for wider reflection”. This response is part of that process.

“The Road to Lambeth” is based on five assumptions. These assume too much, or too little, or are just plain wrong, and consequently the document cannot support the breadth of traditional Anglicanism. It misquotes and misuses the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral which, ironically, was formulated as the basis for Christian unity and the fulfilment of Christ’s prayer, “that they all may be one”. You assert interpretations of three texts about homosexuality “as a sign of fallenness and a sin separating one from salvation”. In this you are asserting one conclusion to what is now generally recognised as more complex exegesis, thereby ruling out all views but your own. These texts are about homosexuality and abuse associated with idolatry . For at least some Christians they do not settle the matter with regard to what we are now considering, baptised people in loving and faithful same sex relationships. In keeping with your vision for the Communion, faithful exegesis also requires an element of mutual challenge holding us accountable to experiences that differ from our own.

The fifth assumption is simply extraordinary – “the requirement that believers not associate with openly immoral church members (1 Cor 5.1-13; 2 Thes 3.14)”. This universalises specific teaching in a way that could never have been intended by St Paul. One is tempted to ask if it is alright to continue to associate with those who aren’t so open about their immorality; to assert the more significant assumption that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness; and to quote Jesus’ teaching about forgiving the sinner not seven times but seventy times seven.

The Christian Church has a great deal of experience of divisive issues about which faithful Christians disagree strongly. In the first century circumcision and attitudes to Jewish food laws were hotly contested but those issues got resolved within the pages of the New Testament and that settles the matter for us. Many issues did not. For example, the way of peace was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. In the life of the Church this has resulted in two quite distinct and sometimes contradictory strands: Christian pacifism and the Just War tradition. We have learned to live with both and we now recognise the fruitful tensions between these fundamentally different approaches to war and peace. Christians do not see such differences – while significant and having potentially serious implications for ethical decision making – as being detrimental to “a common confession of faith”.

For those Christians who assert “the supreme authority of Scripture” this dispute is about whether the Anglican Church is keeping faith. The difficulty with this approach is that the meaning of Scripture is not always plain and simple and needs interpretation. Further, for Anglicans Christian ethics have never simply been Biblical ethics. We also use as authorities the tradition of Church teaching (a faithful wisdom from the Church down the ages), as well as the authority of our God-given reason and intellect. These three authorities work together to help us discern the work and will of God.

In John’s Gospel Jesus says that the Spirit will lead us into all truth, not that we already have all truth. From Kigali you say in effect that there is no new truth to be discovered in relation to human sexuality. In response many of us, and not just those who are homosexual by nature, and not just those in the rich West or North of the world, will say that we asked for bread and you gave us stones.

The reason homosexuality has become so divisive is because it is the touchstone for other matters. In the current debate these issues that purport to be about the use of scripture have got attached to separate but also fundamental issues about the legacy of colonialism. You assert that “70% of the active membership of the Anglican Communion” is in the Global South. As the Primates of the Global South you observe that your Provinces are under-represented in the senior positions within the Anglican Communion which is still in the control of “the Anglo-American bloc”. History and money are the reasons but you are right and the time to face the new reality is overdue.

However, this sort of structural issue is deeply difficult to resolve. Of course there has to be pressure for change to take place, but there is an evident willingness within the Anglican Communion to listen to and address the experience of the Global South. For example on development issues the Anglo-American bloc of the Anglican Church has led public opinion and many of the political processes that are seeking greater justice.

This is not a simple area of discussion and agreeable debate. There is an aspect of the current dispute which looks as though the Anglo-American bloc has exported its contentious issue of the moment – same sex relationships – to parts of the world where this issue is not particularly pressing and other matters seem more urgent.

I wonder if you realise that the tone and style of your statement is as offensive as the worst aspects of colonialism and neo-colonialism that you oppose? It is bullying to assert the will of the majority of the Communion in ways that permit no disagreement. The majority is not always right. It is also theologically deeply flawed. Jesus taught the significance of the Kingdom of heaven being known in the outcast and in the child. The Global South knows this from its own experience. Might it also be the experience of Christians in the Anglo-American bloc in relation to gender, race and sexual orientation? Perhaps this is why the recent processes of the Anglican Communion have emphasised the need to listen carefully to our differing experiences?

Each Primate represents an autonomous Province within the Communion. In the actions you are proposing the Primates of the Global South have given in to the pressure to interfere in the legitimate business of autonomous Anglican Provinces, thereby offending fundamental principles of Church order. It is a gross breach of Christian discipline for any Primate to organise parallel structures within another Province in the pretence that this furthers “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.

“The Road to Lambeth” begins by saying we are at a crossroads, a parting of two ways. It looks different from Trafalgar Square in London. At St Martin-in-the-Fields we have been able to hold together a very diverse church community including British people with roots in many of your Provinces. We also welcome visitors from around the Communion, including from your Provinces. We have welcomed some of you. Our unity is in Christ and our being in Communion depends not on whether we agree about matters of morality but because Christ calls us, “to do this in memory of him”.

St Martin-in-the-Fields’ experience is unique but every parish church knows what it is to be the world’s local church. That the Provinces are straining apart is contradicted by the daily realities of local church life and ought to give you pause for thought. What we daily see with our eyes and touch with our hands is, even in the imperfect Anglican Communion, an experience of what it is to know Christ and to grow together in greater depth and maturity.

In the past we have based the organisational unity of our Communion on a broad and generous expression of Christianity, such as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. This has created a variety of complementary and overlapping Anglican identities. Just because you choose to define “The Road to Lambeth” from Kigali by the image of our being at a crossroads and the way ahead as a narrow road, does not mean this is the way of Christ. I urge you to recognise that at least some of those with whom you disagree are also seeking to walk faithfully in the light of Christ. Please think and pray very hard as you consult your own Provinces because the arguments you have used are fatally flawed and from where I stand the direction you propose looks deeply misguided.

Revd Nicholas Holtam
Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
St Francis’ Day 4th October 2006

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral
The following Articles supply [a basis for Christian unity]:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
2. The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
3. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.
As adopted by the Lambeth Conference of 1888, Resolution 11

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Richard III
Richard III
14 years ago

Thank you for this Fr. Holtam, please send a copy of it to his Eminence, Rowan Williams. He has some wise clergy under his See.

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Bravo.

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
14 years ago

Who agrees that the appeal to 1 Cor 5 wrongly universalises a specific teaching? How likely is it that Paul would have requested something quite different (even, contrary) to this in another church at another time?

Kurt
Kurt
14 years ago

Right on!

Prior Aelred
14 years ago

An extraordinarily fine piece!

As to issues about universalizing counsel applied to specific issues, that is always a matter for discernment — certainly an understanding that “the requirement that believers not associate with openly immoral church members” means that immoral behavior should be covered up “for the avoidance of scandal and the good of the church” (as is part of the oath made by freshly minted cardinals) is no longer going to be found acceptable.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

Christopher, I’m not sure what you mean, but if you are asking if I think this passage still has meaning for us, of course it does. I would direct you attention to: 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. Paul doesn’t only call us away from the sexually sinful. Why then, do people not seem to mind so much associating with slanderers, of whom there… Read more »

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

Pleeeease remember S. Paul’s Epistles are in fact—— Paul’s letters ! Very interesting, at times inspiring–all ad hoc–and none of them intended to be put in a volume for all time and give the capital E treatment. Sometimes, i wish they’d never been saved. There are other letters you know, and other people and ideas — he wrote ‘ye, are our epistle read and known of all…’ Please to remember that we have but a glimpse of the Aramaic world and culture of Jesus’ life and message, reflected in the Greek Testament–and most of us are reading t h a… Read more »

BabyBlue
14 years ago

The comments to this posting illustrate the great divide that separates us in the Episcopal Church. The Good Book is only good so far as we decide that it’s good. The bad bits we just discard as untimely, unseemly, or unworthy of our attention for these most-progressive days! This arrogance, this view that we get to decide which bits are irrelevant to today is the main reason we’re in this mess. There is mystery in scriptures – make no mistake about it – but just because we don’t get the mystery or we don’t like the hard words of admonition,… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Christopher, I went away and read 1 Corinthians 5. It is an admirable standard to work towards, but it is a standard that the church has fallen far short of. (In fact I would argue all the churches of all the faiths, and secular or other philosophical streams too). Ford rightly points out that there is an inconsistent application of the bible. We all know of priests who have committed adultery (let alone lay leaders) and the church has forgiven them. We all know of divorcees within our midst, including priests. Worse, we have evidence through the secular state of… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

BabyBlue, I agree entirely. It’s just that it seems the “conservatives”, for want of a better term, don’t seem to see that they are as guilty of it as the “liberals” they so wish to demonize. They don’t seem to see that this attitude of ignoring the bits of Scripture that challenge our assumptions about how the world is supposed to be is a process that began 1700 years ago. Not all Americans think they know better than Scripture and are proud of it. Some think Scripture is a divinely dictated book of rules that we must slavishly follow or… Read more »

William R. Coats
William R. Coats
14 years ago

Babyblue accuses us in the Episcopal church of arrogance and of scriptural cherry picking. All right then. What, pray tell, is the Pauline view of women? In the King James version, 1 Thessalonians 4: 4 they are the property of men, which is one reason they can be told to cover their heads. And what is Paul’s take on political matters? Well in Romans 13: 1 it appears we are to be subject ot Kings and Emperors without a whimper. And what of economic matters? According to Psalm 15, Deuteronomy 23: 19 and Ezekiel 18: 8ff the charging of interest… Read more »

ruidh
14 years ago

Babyblue, it’s not arrogance, it’s responsibility. It’s *our* responsibility and one which we can not avoid. It’s absolutely clear that if we do not reflect what we read in Scripture against the world we invite grave error. Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for those who kept to the letter of the Law but forgot it’s purpose and meaning. They put the Book before people. The Parable of the Good Samaritan shows this more clearly than anything else. The man who was beaten was passed by by priests who did not want to be come ritually defiled by touching this man’s… Read more »

Nick Finke
Nick Finke
14 years ago

Who decides what is clear or not? From the actions and words of many (on all sides) in our Communion, the direct commands of Our Lord such as we find in Luke 6 “love your enemies, . . . Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” must be very unclear indeed.

Bobin Washpa
Bobin Washpa
14 years ago

Very nice and sincere reflection. Baby Blue, I ‘d love to be able to be just like everyone else, an automaton, someone without thought or reason. For you the world is black and white. Unfortunately it isn’t that way. I work in special education and I have so many children who aren’t like the ones you see in church on Sunday. I have feeding tubes, kid’s who are none verbal, children who masturbate in public, children who bite and kick when afraid or experience anxiety, children who are down syndrome and express homosexual feelings honestly not knowing someone like you… Read more »

John Henry
John Henry
14 years ago

Bobin Washpa’s witness to the love of Christ shown to and received from the marginalized, i.e., children with disabilities, is beautiful, in tune with the Gospel, the Good News missed by those who view the Bible as a Law Book, and presume to judge their brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t meet their ‘purity’ standards.

Jim Kirkpatrick
Jim Kirkpatrick
14 years ago

Laurence Roberts writes in regard to the Epistles of St. Paul: “Sometimes, i [sic] wish they’d never been saved.” Yes, I suppose it would be more congenial to just doing whatever the blazes we want if none of the Scriptures had been saved. There are several of the Ten Commandments that I personally would be glad to find had never been written down as compliance with them severely inhibits my behavior. I would especially find life easier if our Lord had not enjoined me to love my enemies and turn the other cheek. But, of course, He did so enjoin… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
J. C. Fisher
14 years ago

bb, I *resent* that, just because I INTERPRET certain Biblical passages differently than you do (apparently), that you say that I (and others in the democratic-majority of TEC) are “discarding” Scripture. No one—I repeat, NO ONE—in TEC is doing that. We progressives read the same Bibles as you do—prayerfully, always asking the Holy Spirit to grant us “More Light”. Just because we don’t always understand Scripture “clearly” (or, understand it to say something clearly DIFFERENT from what *you* believe it to say), doesn’t mean we are any less faithful to God’s Word (which will always be, first and foremost, the… Read more »

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

Bobin W this is so moving–thank you. You have a real ministry. Jim K i am steeped in scripture. But it’s misuse to oppress women, those who love their own gender, transgender people, racial groups, ‘aboriginal’ peoples, Christs’ own poor, the Jews, (though Jesus was a Jew) and those of the world religions or of no set religion, and humanists, secularists grieves me. Paul never intended his letters to be saved and pawed over. I know he was narcisstic–but even so ! His letters are clearly of his time and indeed, of his personality, and this is reflected in the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“There are several of the Ten Commandments that I personally would be glad to find had never been written down as compliance with them severely inhibits my behavior.” Which ones? Thou shalt not kill? Thou shalt not steal? How about “thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image”? That one’s interesting. First, the church, in the interest of accomodating to the Greek society of the day, declared that icons are not only not graven images, but are necessary. Look, accomodating to the world centuries ago. It isn’t a new thing! Then, those who get all fussed up over an… Read more »

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

Ford I agree very much.

When Christendom developed and gave up on the pacifism of Christ and of the early Church this was the great betrayal of the message of Jesus.

What of the Peace Testimony and peace churches today ? Can they offer something to christendom ?………..

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Bobin

I read this review of the Jesus Camp documentary the other day. It referred to how excessive puritanism in raising our children can be frightening. I was going to link it in the thread after this, but there were other things needed more there and it directly relates to your posting, anyway 🙂
http://www.suntimes.com/news/falsani/86202,CST-NWS-fals06.article

MikeB
MikeB
14 years ago

All, Scripture, Tradition, Reason all point to one single conclusion: That God is not all that interested in how happy, or satisfied, or fulfilled you all are. Salvation is the only goal, Faith the only vehicle. Get your personal rights and perceived wrongs out of your head, you are all called, as am I, to be faithful. No matter what the cost, no matter what the inconvenience, no matter how much of my own desires and possessions I must relinquish, including sex, human love, money, success in work, or most of all, my own way, the standard has been set.… Read more »

Jim Kirkpatrick
Jim Kirkpatrick
14 years ago

A wise man once said: “Subtlety is wasted on 99% of the human race.” It would appear there are few in the first percentile in this blog. My point in suggesting that there are major pieces of Scripture the absence of which I would find most convenient is to point out the obvious: that I can’t ignore what is written in the Scriptures nor, Laurence Roberts, can I adduce that either the Pauline Epistles were kept and included in the Bible by mistake or that there just have to have been some other works that, had they been similarly kept… Read more »

drdanfee
drdanfee
14 years ago

I still recommend hewing more or less – as well as provisional, open-ended best practices allow and equip us to do in our discernment – to that classic Anglican combination of reason, scripture, and tradition. Reason must these days always include two things from empirical science: open-endedness, because we can always foundationally commit to learning that we have been mistaken in some regard and then investigate how to correct ourselves; plus letting our provisional discernment measure up to the best available empirical data we have at any given moment without shutting down. Scripture thus involves a heavy burden of careful,… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Jim

I agree with you about the bible being edited and incomplete content. If we neglected responding to your input, please forgive us. It doesn’t hurt to go over this ground again. If you are interested in missing bible books, here is a link to some online resources:
http://www.comparative-religion.com/christianity/apocrypha/

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
14 years ago

Jim said: I am required, then, to attempt to live by what is included in Scripture and what is not and avoid inventing or finding anything else that I would rather live by. I suppose the problem is that, given Christianity’s poor record in coping with empirical science, its ability to cope with the challenges of social science are going to be even greater. If a majority of US Christians still believe the world to be 6K years old, despite the two centuries which separate us from Adam Sedgwick,it’s going to be a very long time before the insights of… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

That is true, of course, only if one believes that Scripture “contains all things necessary for salvation.” If one does not believe this, then everything is fair game: the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Encheiridion, the “gospel according to Peanuts” or even the latest “V for Vendetta” cartoon. Well, the concept of “all things necessary to Salvation” is an alien one to Orthodox Christians, and they would likely say, in so far as they could comprehend such a “checklist” mentality, that Holy Tradition contains all things necessary to salvation, not merely the Bible. All the same, I doubt you’ll hear… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
14 years ago

Ford I just love it when they say that the bible contains everything humans need to know. My favourite refute is Noah building the ark (Genesis 7). The bible tells us how big it is and what it is made out of. God relied on Noah’s capacity – his ability to source the materials, and tools to put it together, plus the knowledge and skills on how to do it. I refer to the bible as a handbook for humanity’s consciousness. We still have the same drives and disorders that we had six, three or two thousand years ago. One… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
J. C. Fisher
14 years ago

“What is sin? Scripture is most clear.”

Oh, c’mon, MikeB. That’s not faith. That’s fascism.

Count yourself blessed, if it’s “most clear” to you what your *own* sin is. If it’s anyone else’s, it’s sure to have a certain resemblance to an eyesight-blocking *log*.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

MikeB
Mother Julian of Norwich said that we should pay attention to our own sins and not those of others. To pay attention to other people’s sins puts a veil before your face that blocks your view of God, she says. I think she’s right. In remind myself of that when my innate judgementalism gets too much.

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

‘Who can tell how oft he /she offendeth ? O! guard Thou me from my secret faults.’

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

Jim K don’t we find God lurking -if you like, hidden everywhere–but only too glad to be seen and encountered ? He is to be found in peanuts and Peanuts, surely ? And most of all in our joys and highs; and our sin and brokennesses.(surely, “Come unti me all ye …”) ‘O felix culpa ! O happy sin of Adam’ (Liturgy of Holy Saturday –not bad for a Quaker-eh ?! : – ) ) ‘Cleave the stone and I am there…’ or if you prefer ” He lives He lives ! Christ Jesus lives today He wialks with me… Read more »

laurence roberts
laurence roberts
14 years ago

My sense is that G-d has got the hang of this salvtion thing, a lot better than some of us realise or dare to believe !

Otherwise, we may not be focussing on G-d but some split off and projected bit of our feelings of wrath and revenge and exclusiveness.

Perhaps we need to read more Harry Williams, sit in silence together more –and have more parties ! What d ‘you reckon ?

Jim Kirkpatrick
Jim Kirkpatrick
14 years ago

Cheryl, How ridiculous can you get? No one says (or, as in the case of PECUSA Bishops, swears) that Scripture contains all things necessary to build a boat. What our Bishops swear to is their belief that Scripture contains all things necesssary for Salvation. You would agree, I trust, that there is a difference between naval architecture and life everlasting. The issue, to take this back to the original posting, is the naturally understandable impulse to wish certain parts of Scripture weren’t there and wish that certain other words were in Scripture leads inevitably to error. In this case, to… Read more »

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
14 years ago

What our Bishops swear to is their belief that Scripture contains all things necesssary for Salvation.

An evil genius like me 🙂 would point out that ‘all things necessary for salvation’ might not necessarily be a very long list…. In fact, one might observe that the only things necessary for salvation are (a) someone to save and (b) someone prepared to do the saving. QED.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
14 years ago

“The issue, to take this back to the original posting, is the naturally understandable impulse to wish certain parts of Scripture weren’t there and wish that certain other words were in Scripture leads inevitably to error.” No, the issue is that some people want to give Scripture an absolute authority it was never intended to have and then call this “orthodoxy” despite the fact that the true Orthodox position is that Scripture is but one part of Holy Tradition, perhaps the most important, and can only be understood in the context of that Tradition. What’s more, those who would do… Read more »

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