Saturday, 12 March 2005

Ugley Puritans

The Telegraph reports today in Clergymen refuse communion with bishop in row over gays that

…at least eight conservative clerics have told the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, that they will refuse to share Holy Communion with him. They are furious that the bishop and five of his colleagues sent a letter to a national newspaper earlier this week announcing their determined support for liberal Anglicans in North America…

That would be a reference to this letter in The Times in which the bishops merely said:

…We remain in full sacramental fellowship with all the churches of the Anglican Communion, including those of Canada and the US, and we seek to remain in full communion with all of them…

which is of course a simple statement of fact that applies to every single member of the Church of England at the present time, whether they like it or not, including those objectors in Chelmsford. Clearly that favourite term of conservative evangelicals the plain meaning of the words has escaped them. Individual members of Anglican Communion churches do not have the luxury of deciding for themselves who they are in communion with.

The newspaper list among the eight people the clergy of the Henham, Elsenham, & Ugley benefice, John Richardson and Richard Farr. Mr Farr is best known for his refusal to allow the use of his church hall for a yoga class. His own account of this event can be read here.

Update
The extent to which conservatives are upset by the bishops’ letter is quite remarkable:see this Mainstream - Letter to London Times so far not published by the paper, and see also this Statement on Sacramental Fellowship with the Bishop of Chelmsford by Messrs Farr and Richardson.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 March 2005 at 5:22pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

"Mr Farr is best known for his refusal to allow the use of his church hall for a yoga class."

Is he? By his detractors, perhaps, but not by his congregation, I am given to understand!

Perhaps Revd. Farr's explanation ( http://www.heuchurch.f9.co.uk/yoga.htm ) may restore a sense of balance!

Posted by: Robert Leggat on Saturday, 12 March 2005 at 6:30pm GMT

Simon,
If what these six bishops said was really a "merely" thing, they wouldn't have bothered saying it.

These Bishops were making a point and these clergy in Chelmsford are quite a liberty to refute it. (Or does your liberalism deny them that right?)

The Bishops' point was that, despite saying they supported their Archbishop, they didn't really. They lied.

You quote selectively. They also asserted in their letter that they were in "full sacramental communion" with North America. But they deliberately chose to use a different word, "solidarity", about their relationship with the Global South.
The plain meaning of these two descriptions must be different, otherwise why use them?

These six Bishops are being schismatic - they are consciously putting distance between them and their Archbishop and the majority of Anglicans, especially evangelicals and especially the Global South.

These clergy in Chelmsford are simply and in your terms "merely" pointing out what is already apparent: that their Diocesan Bishop has fractured their relationship. You're right the clergy in Chelmsford didn't choose it. But the Bishops did.
A tragedy which the Bishops must have forseen but have nevertheless chosen.

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 12 March 2005 at 6:35pm GMT

I thought Ruth Gledhill's "spin" on this letter was thoughtfully misleading. As said here, the letter does nothing more than affirm the status quo. There are no declarations of broken or impaired communion from ANY of the Anglican Churches here in the UK.
The only people who are refusing to take communion with the Primates of America and Canada are those who refused to attend the eucharists at the Dromantine, I do not have a list.
The letter to the Times seems very unprovocative, it affirms all, it also leaves the door open for those in the global south who have rejected the fellowship of the altar to include in their list those who are still willing to share the sacraments with America and Canada, as many Primates did at the Dromantine.
It offers solidarity, fairly assuming those who have begun to pick and choose have not yet completed their list.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 12 March 2005 at 9:22pm GMT

If it were true that the letter only affirmed the status quo, why was it necessary? And why didn't the whole house of Bishops see fit to put their names to this mere 'affirmation'?

The reality is that these Bishops are trying to deny that the world wide Anglican Communion is fractured/broken. Their pronouncement that they remain in full sacramental communion (despite the Primates' communique) actually changes nothing.

However what the letter does do is it displays for all to see a blatant attempt to undermine the Primates' communique. It's coded in the usual language but it's meaning is quite clear to anyone who will read it honestly. It affirms unity and listening without reference to the basis for that unity and listening - biblical orthodoxy. That is why it is 'necessary' - it attempts to modify the primates conclusions - and that is why it is outrageously provocative.

When you speak of those who have begun to pick and choose and have not yet completed their list, thereby apportioning blame, let us not forget whose innovations have caused this whole continuing crisis.

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 12 March 2005 at 11:43pm GMT

I certainly hope that the whole English House of Bishops signs up to it, those I have asked who drafted the Primates Communique see nothing in it counter to their intentions and no reason why they should not.
It is no secret that many Provinces including England and my Province of Wales remain unconvinced that the actions of ECUSA and Canada were communion breaking - they are doing their best to hold the Communion together and satisfy the Provinces who do, but they have not changed their mind or moved to break communion themselves. Many responses from Provinces to the Windsor Report made that point clearly.
I think this letter does make that difference obvious and I guess the bishops wanted that declared, and this truth of difference in conviction seems to be troubling to some who know it to be the case but would rather it was unsaid. By far the majority of British Bishops would prefer to remain in full communion with Canada and ECUSA though out of "solidarity" to the global south they are willing to go a long way for unity - the question has always been - How far?
Those who argue this is a matter of Biblical arthodoxy have not convinced Rowan Williams or others of their case, again the responses to the Windsor Report make that clear. But, again there is a real spirit to see the matter resolved without seeing the Communion destroyed and it can hardly be "outrageously provacative" to show solidarity with people whose views you do not share.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 13 March 2005 at 7:52pm GMT

Simon, your report may be misleading.

"Mr Farr is best known for his refusal to allow the use of his church hall for a yoga class."

You cannot have spoken to any of his parishioners or you would be unable to write that.

"the bishops merely said:
…We remain in full sacramental fellowship with all the churches of the Anglican Communion, including those of Canada and the US."

So why write to The Times, unless they were saying rather more than that?

In fact they managed to quote the Dromantine communiqué without mentioning the substantive issue; and they turned a negative point - our underlying communion is obscured while the N American churches behave in this way - into a positive one. Spin.

There was nothing "mere" about their letter. Otherwise there would have been 44 signatures not six.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 13 March 2005 at 8:49pm GMT

Chin up, Simon: you're in The Best company! John 15:18

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Monday, 14 March 2005 at 7:08am GMT

As someone with an appreciation of the Puritans spiritual legacy I find the term "Ugley Puritans" ignorant and offensive. Very few people have any idea of the reality of Puritan life and spirituality due to the hatchet job repeatedly done to them by liberals.

Posted by: Shawn on Monday, 14 March 2005 at 9:43am GMT

I think Charles Stuart (King and Martyr) had an appreciation of the cutting edge of Puritan spirituality. Those who venerate his memory - not counted amongst the more liberal Anglicans - might be rather offended, if not deeply hurt at the words "hatchet job" in this context.
Still, I am told by modern scholars that Puritans were not miserable and humourless souls and (rather pleasant)Ugley had its fair share of Puritan ancestors who in their turn must have shared in the title of "Ugley Puritans" - perhaps with a smile!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 14 March 2005 at 1:55pm GMT

I do rather think that some folk are trying to move into denial, or worse - studied ignorance.

Why were the bishops restating the (old) status quo if not because they don't want to see it change ? If nothing changed at Dromandine why were liberals so upset ? In fact the bishops were making a statement about their position vv ECUSA and the Africans.

Does "noone" in the CofE heirachy object to what ECUSA did ? Or is everyone in the CofE who objects to rejecting biblical moral teaching a "noone" ?

Will the western Primates only do anything against ECUSA if it is needed to keep the Africans in ? Are the western Primates lacking in conviction and only worried about other Primates feelings ?

Lets face it, ECUSA plainly rejected a teaching of the bible and christian tradition on sexual morality, without a solid theological basis and despite the objections of the other churches, and even their own Primate (well his signature).

This matters !


Posted by: Dave on Monday, 14 March 2005 at 9:42pm GMT

While I may be the only North American contributing to this thread of conversation, I assure you that many of us are following the general wave of comment from the rest of the Communion. Exclude us, refuse to take the Body and Blood with us, and prefer the dusty Law to the Grace brought to us by Our Lord. I doubt any healing will come with those structural precepts. Do some of you even desire reconciliation, or do you prefer invoking some dramatic spiritual "crisis" to the real work of living in community with a province that sees fit to celebrate new wine?

Posted by: John D on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 1:55am GMT

I thought "Ugley" was a mispelling of "ugly"... so I thought this was about "ugly puritans." That's an American for you.

Posted by: Mark Diebel on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 2:34am GMT

Dave, if you think phrases like "denial" "studied ignorance" or "Lets face it, ECUSA plainly rejected a teaching of the bible and christian tradition" are going to intimidate us out of following the Holy Spirit (as we understand the Spirit from prayerfully following Scripture, Tradition and Reason), you are sadly mistaken.

I'm sorry that you feel so threatened---the Kingdom of God is certainly as welcoming to you as it is to queer little me---but if the choice is between the Christ of the Gospels OR a homophobic hegemony grasping at the *name* "Anglican" (while violating the traditional charisms of Anglicanism), I'm gonna go w/ Christ every time.

The real crimes of ECUSA and the AngChCanada are being integrally part of societies which, while still far from the KofG, have nevertheless begun to overcome the demonic legacy of *violence* against LGBT people (violence so prevalent in much of the AC majority's provinces). As that demonic violence is overcome everywhere---and, by God's grace, it will---we will see LGBT Anglicans, being made (*gay*) in God's Image, rise up to claim their God-given rights.

You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire: not when that fire comes down from Heaven!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 5:33am GMT

JC Fisher writes:

"I'm sorry that you feel so threatened---the Kingdom of God is certainly as welcoming to you as it is to queer little me---but if the choice is between the Christ of the Gospels OR a homophobic hegemony grasping at the *name* "Anglican" (while violating the traditional charisms of Anglicanism), I'm gonna go w/ Christ every time."

Sorry, JC, but this is what makes my hackles rise. FWIW, I'm an old-fashioned "don't ask, don't tell" Catholic in churchmanship, and a leftie in secular politics (with a track record in advancing gay employment rights as a trade union rep). But what rattles my cage here is the amateur psychoanalysis of previous contributors, the seeking to sweep away awkward realities like the entirely negative nature of all biblical references to homosexual activity, and the magicking out of nowhere of an "Anglican tradition" which seems rooted in the present practice of ECUSA rather than Hooker or Cosin.

Your posting frankly seems as full of "I'm right and you're wrong" certitude as anything by Akinola, Jensen or Farr - and in the last case the link provided by Simon lets us see something of the bloke - and he actually emerges in quite a sympathetic light, with his Christian faith tried by the appalling early death of his wife.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 4:12pm GMT

"you can't blow out a fire: not when that fire comes down from Heaven!"

Are you sure it is coming from there...? ;-)

To be serious, though, I feel that your categorisation of the two "sides" is quite unfair and somewhat hateful. It's so easy and cheap to bring out the usual charge of homophobia; I suspect that if you were to meet the people you so dismissively damn, you would find them to be very different indeed.

Posted by: Robert Leggat on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 5:48pm GMT

"Individual members of Anglican Communion churches do not have the luxury of deciding for themselves who they are in communion with."

I fully agree with that, Simon. Otherwise, we are congregationalists.

I would question if the Episcopal Church even has the authority to claim to be "out of communion" with another body, not that she has ever done that, or that I could imagine a time when she would. But, we have declared ourselves "in full communion" with the ELCA, a declaration that is not binding on the rest of Anglicanism, which suggests that we could also declare ourselves "out of communion."

When individuals refuse to share in communion, I assume it is an expression of personal piety. Viewed as a protest it would be at the least terribly rude. If such behavior continued over an extended period of time, one might possibly consider it a sign of a personal spiritual crisis and a need for special pastoral care.

Posted by: Jake on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 7:24pm GMT

Alan, you write,'I'm an old fashioned "don'task, don't tell" Catholic in churchmanship, and a leftie in secular politics (with a track record of advancing gay employment rights as a trade union re.)'

And now you've been honest in declaring your hand on the question of the place of openly gay people in Catholic churches. So long as they shut up, you're content. All those priests and servers you've known were gay and were, no doubt, your friends and pastors, have no place if they are honest.

Sorry, Alan, the time for shutting up to appease those who think that way has passed. Be brave. Leave the security of first century society behind and strike out into the freedom of the children of God. It's perfectly safe - we won't eat you. And God won't strike you down.

Posted by: Rodney McInnes on Tuesday, 15 March 2005 at 11:29pm GMT
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