Thinking Anglicans

two responses to the Central Florida letter

Two new articles arising from the recent Williams/Howe correspondence:

PARISH IS THE BASIC UNIT OF THE CHURCH IN AMERICAN ANGLICANISM by Rev. Dr. Tim Smith and Rev. George Conger.

The Parish is the basic unit of the church in American Anglicanism. Local property rights prevailed throughout early American Anglicanism. Centralization of control using the corporate model which began to be used in the early 1900s – has failed the purposes of the Church. Any new order should return to the foundational roots of American Anglicanism…

The Archbishop’s Letter to Central Florida: Scarcely Innocuous by T.W. Bartel

On 14 October 2007 the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida full text here… The Archbishop appeared to remove the national church and province from any significant role in his understanding of Anglican polity. He also seemed to suggest that a ‘Windsor-compliant’ diocese would be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, separate from the relationship of the diocese to its province.

In a letter to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, by contrast, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori makes very clear that the national church and its constitutional structures are a very sharp reality.

Timothy Bartel takes issue with the Archbishop:

What are we to think of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent letter to the Bishop of Central Florida, which asserts that ‘any diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the [Anglican] Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church’? According to Lambeth Palace, that letter was ‘neither a new policy statement nor a roadmap for the future’ of the Communion. It was written simply to discourage conservative clergy and parishes in Central Florida and elsewhere from forsaking a ‘Windsor-compliant’ diocesan bishop and seeking refuge in foreign jurisdictions—and it simply repeats ‘a basic presupposition of what the archbishop believes to be the theology of the Church’, namely, that ‘theologically and sacramentally speaking, a priest is related in the first place to his or her bishop directly, not through the structure of the national church’…

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Dirk C Reinken
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Dirk C Reinken

Smith and Conger present an interesting argument, one that my otherwise Anglo-catholic (now Roman Catholic) former rector used the more disenchanted he grew with the Episcopal Church. However, I think an equally strong argument for the diocese as the fundamental unit of the church could be made by the inclusion of the preface to the ordinal and the ordination vows of deacons and presbyters. Likewise, the 1789 preface to the BCP reminds us that we did not seek to depart from England in terms of doctrine. I guess the question is whether the diocese or parish as locus of ministry… Read more »

Pluralist
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The TitusOnline article is having to talk history too much; the MCU article by Timothy Bartel simply tackles the contradictions taking place now and does link (as I have) the recent comments of the Archbishop to the Bishop of Florida and the letter of Jefferts Schori to the Bishop of Pittburgh – the latter having teeth, the former (Archbishop’s comment) just being his own theology which would come about via the Covenant.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/11/reality-and-abstraction.html

Pluralist
Guest

The other connection being comments to Fred Hiltz and that the Covenant Communion is a process not a doctrine.

George Conger
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George Conger

This piece isn’t new, per se. I wrote it about 5 years ago.

John Henry
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John Henry

Bartel is spot on: In the midst of these circumstances, the trustworthiness of the ‘Instruments of Unity’ is scarcely enhanced when the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a personal letter to another bishop, takes it as read that the Instruments, in addition to having the power to deprive a member church of full status in the Communion, have the authority to recognise dissident dioceses of that church as retaining that status—so long as their bishop conforms to the strictures of documents and processes with no legitimate binding force on the Communion. And, pace Lambeth Palace, that is both a new policy… Read more »

Ashpenaz
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Ashpenaz

Does this mean that a parish can choose to align with any bishop, anywhere, for whatever reason? A parish in Wyoming could choose a bishop from South India just, well, just because?

I can imagine the vestry meetings–“Well, which bishop should we go with? I know Frank likes the guy from New Zealand, but Marge wants the woman in Wales who knew her cousin in high school. Is there any more coffee?”

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Smith and Conger’s attempt to impose a congregationalist model sounds a bit desparate to me. The fact that it appears on Venomonline just adds to that impression, and certainly does nothing for its credibility.

MJ
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MJ

Much depends on one’s theology of episcopacy and priesthood. Is the presbyter the fundamental minister, and a bishop merely one among them who has been given the responsibilities of oversight? Or is the bishop the fundamental minister, with the presbyters merely ministering on his/her behalf?

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Or is the bishop the fundamental minister, with the presbyters merely ministering on his/her behalf?” This. I’ve been taught that the bishop is the “successor of the Apostles”, the priest is his delegate. That is certainly the way things operate here. I have no disrespect for other views, but they aren’t anything like the Anglicanism I was raised in. To say otherwise seems like revisionism to me, and thus not something that ought to be asserted by people who claim to be “reasserters” of ancient principles. That is, unless the reassertions are only of those things they find it convenient… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

The rules on implied trust and alienation of church property in relation to a diocese go back to an English statute of 1570. That was / is an established church, and the state has an interest in the proper use of church property. In the colonial period I imagine colonial churchmen observed all such statutes on alienation of church property scrupulously, responsible to London. After the Revolution, the Episcopal Church became “necessarily” independent of English jurisdiction, “civil” and “ecclesiastical.” (Preface to the BCP 1789; enacting clause of the first Constitution of TEC). However, as TEC was considered a self-governing extension… Read more »

Cheryl Va. Clough
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John Henry has identified the core flaw in the paradigm, namely that “as Cantuar, he is not the Pope, nor are the Primates, however pompous, his Curia. The Conger argument is based on the premise that church institutions neither change nor evolve. If that were true, General Synod–a recently conceived legislative body–would have no standing in the CofE either.” Ashpenaz tongue in cheek comment “I can imagine the vestry meetings–“Well, which bishop should we go with? I know Frank likes the guy from New Zealand, but Marge wants the woman in Wales who knew her cousin in high school. Is… Read more »

Dallas Bob
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Dallas Bob

Re: The parish being the basic unit and the National Church an “abstract reality” I do not downplay the importance of the parish – from the clergy to the staff to the people there and programs offered. But if you think about it, we are awash with things from the National Church from beginning to end. When we drive our cars into the parking lot, we see the Episcopal Shield and the words “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”. We enter the church and see certain colors on the altar reflecting the church seasons. We see familiar vestments again with certain… Read more »

pam
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pam

I converted (from Roman Catholicism) to the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion was nice but I converted because of the Episcopal Church. It is not the diocese, nor parish, nor AC but the national church with which I identify. It is our book of Common Prayer and TEC’s real belief in the Anglican idea of the three pillars – Scriptures, Tradition and Reason- that helped me make the decision to convert. The acceptance of Reason was very important to me standing as it did in such stark contrast to my upbringing as an RC. It so well fits the history… Read more »

Fr Joseph O'Leary
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Why is ecclesiology such a quagmire? How many millions of pages have been blackened, within Roman Catholic theology along, by disputations on the respective powers of bishops and councils and popes! And as churches multiply so do ecclesiologies; and even the most rigid codes of canon law seem unable to end a confusion sustained by the constant battle for power/authority by all parties. This huge expense of energy might be better applied, surely?

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“We enter the church and see certain colors on the altar reflecting the church seasons. We see familiar vestments again with certain specific colors. We sing from the Hymnal and our liturgy comes from the Book of Common Prayer.” I’m not sure we all do, actually. Common Prayer is not Common, after all. Time was, we all said the same words, inadequate though they might have been, but now every national Church has it’s own Prayer Book, and they are all different, so the commonality now seems to be one of structure in worship, rather than commonality of prayer. I… Read more »

NP
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NP

Ford – I agree with your aunt!

I come back to the Lord and his apostles….they would have no idea what different dresses and colours mean and would care less….. this is yet another thing they did not bother with let alone teach as their focus was the gospel of Christ and salvation in his name…..maybe we should follow their example?

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

NP, There was an old lady at our church. On occasion, she would have me over for lunch after Mass. Every Sunday there was a TV program called Meeting Place, that broadcast a service from some religious tradition or another. One Sunday the Pentecostals were on, and we watched in silence, sipping our sherry as we waited for our grapefruits to grill (I kid you not!). She inclined her head to the television, and said “You know, Ford, I suppose Our Lord doesn’t mind that kind of thing.” Just so’s you know, it’s not only Evos who think they are… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

NP: And then what would set us apart as Anglicans, as opposed to Methodists or Presbyterians or whatever? Does liturgy have no meaning to you? Does an order of worship mean nothing? Why don’t we just go the Quaker route then, and all just come in to the meeting house, and sit quietly until the Spirit moves us to speak? I have no argument with the Friends, BTW–I love them…but it’s not the kind of worship I’m comfortable with…and definitely not a tradition I could follow. One other question–does the Gospel of Christ anywhere call for us to reject a… Read more »

NP
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NP

Pat – I have no problem with our Anglican liturgy….not the made up stuff of recent decades out of the US….I mean Anglican liturgy. Ford says “It’s not good enough for me to worship, I have to do it the same way you do” Not at all, Ford….if you read what I said, I was encouraging you to follow Christ and his apostles…..worship like them….in spirit and in truth. THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)and living it out (loving one’s neighbour as oneself, sharing with the poor etc. Don’t… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)and living it out (loving one’s neighbour as oneself, sharing with the poor etc.”

Not the Eucharist? “Do this in remembrance of me?”

As for the liturgy of the TEC BCP–what offends you, NP? That we speak in modern English? The Anglican tradition has always been that our worship is to be in the language understood by the people. I don’t know about you, but in America we stopped using “thee, thou, thy” and similarly Elizabethan constructions even before our Revolution.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

NP, “worship like them….in spirit and in truth.” “It being so obvious to you that I do not! THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)” Which, of course, isn’t worship at all. “trying to add things to the gospel” I’m not sure how liturgical symbolism, that comes down to us from the time of the Apostles and is yet another way we express our continuity with them, constitutes “adding things to the Gospel”. “to place most authority in what his Apostles, inspired by the SPirit, taught…..” If you don’t think… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Not the Eucharist?” Pat, one of my stereotypes of Evangelicals is that they have some kind of embarrassed horror of the Eucharist. Rome is centred on the Eucharist, thus, True Christians are not. The Eucharist is merely a pious exercise in memory, certainly not anything mystical or supernatural, and certainly not central to our worship. This despite the practice of the past 2000 years, despite the fact that thousands risked and lost their lives in the Roman Empire to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday because “It is what we do”, as one group of martyrs told the magistrate who sentenced… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford – you know as well as I do that the Lord and the Apostles did nothing that resembles the grand masses you may love and they were not clad in fine clothes not did they carry about the bread they were given to eat by the Lord……..sorry, man-made traditions are not “gospel” and often are off-putting to seekers.

Maybe one reason the evangelical churches see so much more growth is that seekers are not confused by the strange clothes and ceremonies being performed in “high” churches?

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“you know as well as I do that the Lord and the Apostles did nothing that resembles the grand masses you may love” Actually, NP, I much prefer when things are off, when the choir is not on key, where something is dropped or forgotten. It feels a lot more homey. And I really don’t know any more than you do how the Apostles worshipped. John in Revelation describes something very much different from what you find in Evo churches. No hand waving, no hysterical weeping, no babbling of nonsense monosyllables, no falling to the floor in hysterical swoons, none… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Maybe one reason the evangelical churches see so much more growth is that seekers are not confused by the strange clothes and ceremonies being performed in “high” churches?”

Oh, yeah, heaven forfend that you should actually have to WORK at your religion, that you need to comprehend the nature of your worship. Better that your “liturgy” on Sunday morning be little different from the country-music concert you attended Saturday night.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Pat, while your sentiment echos my own, we also can’t ignore the “leather and lace” Anglicans who Sunday mornings get rid of the gear they wore to the gay bar Saturday night in favour of a fetching little lace cotta Sunday AM! I rather suspect they are to be found among this (I know, it’s a satire) little group.

http://www.fuc.org.uk/