Thursday, 25 August 2005

Lake Malawi: confirmation of election postponed

Updated Monday and Wednesday

A letter from Archbishop Bernard Malango to his provincial bishops about the election of Nicholas Henderson has been published. A copy is below the fold. (The confusing second headline was in the copy as received.)

Updated again The Living Church has published a report on this, Archbishop Malango Postpones Consecration of English Bishop-Elect which contains details of other correspondence between the archbishop and the bishop-elect. This other letter includes the following passage:

The documents such as the Nicene Creed and the Thirty-Nine Articles are not simply theological photographs snapped at a moment in history; they are foundation stones which must be affirmed. Are you willing to state clearly and without equivocation that you fully accept, believe and practice the faith described in the classic Anglican formularies including the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Creeds, and the Ordinal? To be clear, I am not asking if you affirm that they are part of our history. You should know that they represent a standard of ministry and theology which is the practice and the norm of this province. If you were to come here with a different faith, it would be not only difficult; it would be the cause of disastrous conflict in the diocese and the Province. Are you able to affirm and commit to the faith as described in them without exception?

Interestingly, although this other letter also contains detailed questions relating to human sexuality, it does not even mention Lambeth I.10 despite the reference to it in the text below.

Further update In addition to the earlier news reports of this matter I can now link to last week’s Church Times report by Pat Ashworth Malawi’s ‘modern churchman’ bishop. (This week’s Church Times report is available only to subscribers.)

Updated Monday
Ruth Gledhill in The Times had Questions about lodger confront a new bishop. In this, Bishop Pete Broadbent says:

“There is no witch to be hunted here. It is unfair for someone to be vilified in this way. As Nicholas’s bishop I understand he has given assurances on all the issues raised by Archbishop Malango. He has given assurances on the primary authority of Scripture, the Creeds and on the matter of his own life being consonant with the Gospel. It is a matter for Dr Malango as the consecrating Archbishop what he does about that.”

Updated Wednesday
Reuters has a report from Blantyre Malawians oppose bishop in Anglican gay split.
The references here to “Presbyterian” suggest the writer is not quite on top of his subject.

CENTRAL AFRICA: Archbishop Malango Postpones Court of Confirmation


24th August 2005

Dear my Brothers,

Mercy, Love and Peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord be yours in abundance.

I should have written to you long before this about the Election of Bishop of Lake Malawi. The delay has been because of receiving letters of protest from local and oversees people.

The Reverend Nicholas Henderson is said to be or was the Chairman of Modern Church people’s Union. The Liberalism of the MCU is well known and although often vigorously contested in debates fall within the broad limits of theological diversity of the Church of England. The appointment of a leading MCU member as bishop of an English diocese would be controversial and possibly opposed in some parishes.

I have just written to Nicholas that as the Archbishop who will be performing the consecration I will need, as for any candidate assurance on three points:

1. That the Bishop Elect accepts the controlling Authority of Holy Scriptures i.e. that it is the Authority, not just an ‘authority’ among others.

2. That the Bishop Elect accepts and will preach and teach wholesome on doctrine which consonant with the Holy Scriptures, and in particular with regard to marriage and family life, Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

3. That the Bishop Elect fashions his own life and of his household according to the doctrine of Christ. (This is contained in the ordination charge).

Because of the complexity of the matter I am postponing the Court of Confirmation which was scheduled on the 3rd September and the Consecration which was scheduled on 9th October 2005. This will help to avoid further misunderstandings and litigations in the Province.

I think you have already received the correspondence that I have sent to Nicholas Henderson and to his Bishop in London.

Please continue praying for your Archbishop and the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Bernard Amos Malango

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 25 August 2005 at 8:31am BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Interesting bit about Scripture being *the* Authority. And I had thought that Hooker and the Restoration had driven Sola Scriptura out of Anglicanism.

Posted by: ruidh on Thursday, 25 August 2005 at 3:53pm BST

Ruidh, the Archbishop didn't say 'Sola Scriptura', he said 'the controlling Authority of Holy Scriptures i.e. that it is the Authority, not just an ‘authority’ among others'. This is exactly what Hooker taught and it agrees with Article 20 of the 39 Articles. What happened in the Caroline Restoration that changed this in any way?

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Thursday, 25 August 2005 at 6:26pm BST

Mark, is your reading of Hooker different from this one:

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 25 August 2005 at 11:15pm BST

"The delay has been because of receiving letters of protest from local and oversees people."

"oversees" people?

Sounds like Archbishop Malango is the "oversees" person up in arms here!

(However, I've no doubt that about 90% of the "letters of protest" ARE from *overseas* people---the same ol'/same ol' on the Network mailing list . . . )

"in particular with regard to marriage and family life, Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference."


The great commandment of the new religion.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 8:23am BST

Simon, I'm no Elizabethan scholar but I was thinking of the discredited 'three-legged stool' idea falsely attributed to Hooker, who actually said the following:
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2).
So it's: 1. Scripture; then (in less certain matters) 2. Reason (generally understood in a Natural Law Thomist way; not Enlightenment autonomous reason - that would be completely anachronistic use of 'ratio'); then 3. 'the voice of the Church' (presumably in her ancient Councils and liturgical practices).

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 12:01pm BST

Mark, so are you and Mike Russell in agreement then? Quoting Mike from the TA article linked above:

"The classic Anglican position, found in Hooker’s “Laws” is that scripture is the primary source of revelation for “all things necessary for salvation” not all things simply. The WR and the Neo-Puritans are attempting to make it necessary for all things simply. Books II and III of the Laws are quite clear on the boundaries set on Scripture’s “prima” authority having already rejected it as having “sola” authority.

So while Scripture is perfect for the purpose for which it was created, it is for Mr. Hooker and those that follow clearly a mixture of documents as well, many of which are bound by time and place. For example, in the Articles of Religion we see the Church setting to the side not only the Apocrypha, but the judicial and ceremonial laws of Hebrew Scripture."

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 12:16pm BST

Simon, I think I would agree with the first sentence ('scripture is the primary source of revelation for “all things necessary for salvation”') and probably go beyond it by saying it's the *only source (finally speaking) that we have for teaching what we need for salvation. I take this to mean what we should believe and how we should live in a way that pleases God. (I don't think there's a 'second source' of revelation as in Tridentine teaching about 'Sacred Tradition'.) Isn't this a classical, central Anglican teaching? I have Catholic friends who think contraception is a sin but I can't find this taught in Scripture and I can't proximately deduce this from the Bible, so I'm not convinced (and I say this as someone pretty sympathetic to natural law reasoning). I've never really thought of Scripture as (much of) a source for other things, such as ancient history and geography, though I think it can be used critically for that in some ways.
I'm not sure what Mike Russell means when he says, 'The WR and the Neo-Puritans are attempting to make it necessary for all things simply.' I can't find this in the WR. As I said, I'm no Elizabethan scholar, so I readily bow to those with greater knowledge, but I understand Hooker saw no problem in the ceremonial laws of the OT not having full or practical force for Christians because they had a provisional purpose until the coming of Christ. This is the sense of large parts of the Letter to the Hebrews. I don't know what Hooker had to say about the judicial laws of the OT; I know that Calvin talked about the 'third use of the Law' as a guide to Christian living. Maybe some Hooker experts out there have an answer to this?

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 1:11pm BST

That the Scriptures have primary authority in "all things necessary for salvation" doesn't relegate them to some small, separated area of human life. Since God is over all and through all and in all, and since His Kingdom is established and growing and, when fulfilled, will be the new heavens and the new earth, our salvation, for which the Scriptures are indispensable, begins to fit us in this age for the age to come.

Arguments about nature and range of the authority of Scripture assume a sacred/secular distinction that is inconsistent with a biblical view of the Kingdom, which asserts that we live in this age, in expectation of the age to come. This is to say that, for the Chrisitan, religion or salvation isn't part of life. Our salvation is our life (in other words, our true life is our life in Christ and this will be revealed at His coming).

Posted by: pj on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 1:56pm BST

The problem with calling Scripture "the controlling authority" is that those who use it always seem to mean controlling authority in everything, not as Mr. Hooker intended with "all things necessary for salvation". Our tradition has been that any Rule of Faith must derive from scripture or be grounded in scripture, but again that is with respect to what a person must believe to be saved.

To take the "what scripture doth plainly deliver" without placing it in the lengthy refutation of puritan attempts to make scripture plainly deliver whatever they thought God must have wanted is to do violence to Mr. Hooker's work. Take a look at C.S. Lewis' introduction to Mr. Hooker in "Poetry and Prose in Sixteenth Century England."

Hooker is clear that it is an abuse of scripture to extend it beyond its purpose, teaching us those things necessary for salvation, and that doing so brings scripture into disrepute. The clear history of the sola-prima-controlling authority folks is just that. They fracture, fragment and splinter over interpretations of what scripture plainly delivers. The great shame of post reformation history is that those bodies that most "revere" scripture are so divided.

For those who like to quote the 39 Articles it is quite necessary to look Articles VI and VII. There is a nascent hermeneutic there, but do note that in VII the moral law is separated from the ceremonial and judicial laws in the Hebrew Scriptures, the former having continuing authority, the latter two being bound in time and place. Subsequent discussion have limited the moral law to the 10 commandments.

While some may not like the three legged stool, that discussion actuallly begs the question. Mr. Hooker saw four arenas of God's second Eternal Law: Celestial Law, Reason, Nature, and Divine Law. All four are forms of revelation of God's will for us. It is interesting that he makes the Law of Nature so important for understanding God's intentions. But even more so is to realize that Scripture is a sub section of Divine Law, not its entirety and that Mr. Hooker understood that there was Scripture and then there was how people interpreted scripture, often two different things. The source of revelation to which you refer for guidance is dependent upon the sort of question you are asking. Whether you use a three legged stool or not, Scripture is not always the first place to look for ALL answers.

Finally, and little noted from the "Laws" is Mr. Hooker's invocation of the Law of Equity which says that while general laws are good in each particular case it must be assessed whether or not their imposition will cause such harm as to nullify the value of the principle.

Mike Russell

Posted by: MIchael Russell on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 3:06pm BST

Mike, you write: 'Whether you use a three legged stool or not, Scripture is not always the first place to look for ALL answers.'

First, let's put the stool away; it was never part of Hooker's furniture, and a lot of confusing mischief has been done by this ill-attributed metaphor. It is clear, isn't it, that Hooker gave primacy to Scripture, and what Hooker thought it 'plainly delivered' was its teaching about God and essential Christian living. Hooker wouldn't have countenanced contradiction in Scripture, nor contradiction between Scripture and 'Reason' or 'the voice of the Church'. This is implicit in your statement that for Hooker 'Scripture is a sub section of Divine Law, not its entirety'. Those who cite Hooker as authority would agree with him then that Scripture is of divine origin and is not to be revised or set aside - for how could human beings set aside divine law? Hooker, for example, could never have said, 'The Church wrote the Bible and the Church can rewrite it.'

Second, in looking for 'ALL answers' to our questions, most people would recognise that not all questions are of equal import. Protestants, including Anglicans, have as a rule never claimed that the precise form of church polity or worship was a matter of salvation, and it was really on these secondary questions that Hooker conducted his dispute with the Elizabethan Puritans. Significantly, men who had been ordained into the Reformed ministry in Europe were accepted in the 16th century into the Church of England's ministry without episcopal reordination - something that wouldn't happen today. The Articles are clear that the church has the authority to ordain or dispense with certain ceremonies, for example.

Third, it may well be true in some circles that 'Subsequent discussion ha[s] limited the moral law to the 10 commandments', but that radical reductionism has never been true of most Anglican and other Protestant commentators. There are whole swathes of moral issues not directly addressed in the Decalogue (e.g. divorce and remarriage, war, the law of love, usury, the status of unborn life, economic justice etc) and most moral theologians have looked over the whole biblical corpus for guidance on such questions. The Decalogue is an excellent paedagogical summary of the Mosaic Law, but certainly not the whole content, for which we must look in Exodus, Deteronomy and Leviticus. In what sense these laws apply to Christians has of course been a matter of continual discussion from the New Testament to the present.

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 4:20pm BST

Great theological discussion, but the point is that if the bishop elect is living in an actively homosexual relationship outside of Christian marriage, or advocating the acceptability of such, he is not in adherence with historical Christian teaching, the higher standards we call bishops to, nor with plain interpretation of scriptural admonishment against such a lifestyle. I don't see how you can argue otherwise.

Posted by: anglicanhopeful on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 4:49pm BST

I think this is just further evidence that liberals and conservatives simply cannot co-exist successfully any longer.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 5:16pm BST

Mark, something in your comment strikes me as a bit of historical revisionism, namely:

"Protestants, including Anglicans, have as a rule never claimed that the precise form of church polity or worship was a matter of salvation, and it was really on these secondary questions that Hooker conducted his dispute with the Elizabethan Puritans."

That church polity or government and forms of worship are "secondary" and not "matters of salvation" may be true at present (the Current Crisis being over Other Things). That such matters have always been secondary in Protestant churches, however, does not square with what I think I know of Anglican history.

For example, the Biblical prohibitions against idolatry were salvation matters to many 16th century Protestants, and were by them directly connected to permissible forms of worship, to the order of the service, the vestments of the clergy, and the appearance and furniture of church buildings.

Likewise, forms of worship were -- and are -- not thought to be neutral with respect to Eucharistic theology. Does one kneel at reception? Stand? Sit at a table brought down for the purpose, as in Edward VI's church?

Should there be an altar? Should the altar be railed off? Should the Sacrament be reserved? And so on (and on and on and on).

So I'm skeptical and await further discussion.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 5:33pm BST


Here's another comment on the interpretation of Hooker from the Texan lawyer Dale Rye:

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 6:16pm BST

Perhaps back on topic: it does seem to me as though a fairly standard smear campaign is being orchestrated against the Rev. Nicholas Henderson. It's worth getting a look at some of the "reasserter" sites (TitusOneNine, for example) to see how this is done. Archbishop Malango is depriving himself of the services of a priest who has shown himself, over many years, to be committed to the welfare of the people of Malawi.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 7:25pm BST

Charlotte, you raise some fair points, and it's important not to over-generalise. The signing with the cross in baptism is a case in point. However, to this non-historian it seems fair to say:
1. in the 16th C. Anglicans could accept non-episcopal orders into their own ranks, so the precise from of ministry (or ordination) was not seen as a salvation-issue;
2. there was intense suspicion of 'popishness' and 'superstition', so worship practices that seemed to support transubstantiation engendered hostility;
3. I'm not aware that Reservation was ever a part of Anglican practice until the Oxford Movement (do you have details on this?);
4. all were agreed on worship in the vernacular and the extensive use of the Bible in services, while Cranmer's communion service is an emphatic rendering into liturgy of Reformation doctrine;
5. was there really much debate about church furnishings prior to Laud?

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Friday, 26 August 2005 at 8:36pm BST

It is impossible to say to what extent the bishop-elect subscribes to everything the MCU holds as its foundation principles, but some of these are stated on the MCU website, in an article by Paul Badham:

"Anglican Modernism is identified with the ‘Modern Churchmen’s Union’ founded in 1898 to stimulate and defend liberal thought within the Church of England... Anglican Modernism also developed out of the ‘Broad Church Movement’ of the nineteenth century. The starting point for them was their acceptance of Biblical criticism and the theory of evolution and their insistence that Christianity must be adapted to accept these. They emphasised the teaching of the historical Jesus while rejecting nature miracles, the virgin birth or his bodily resurrection. Jesus was divine in the sense that we see God in him in the same way though to a greater ‘degree’ as we see God in the lives of all holy men and women. Jesus’ death on the cross was not to appease the wrath of God the Father but exemplifies the way in which God is present in human suffering. The atonement is understood in exemplarist terms and the resurrection of Jesus is seen as a spiritual reality. The MCU has also campaigned on such issues as the legitimacy of marriage after divorce, women priests, the acceptance of homosexuality, and the legalisation of euthanasia."

Given the distinctive character of the organisation which he chaired until recently, it is surely unlikely that any conservative province would want to proceed without reassuring itself about Rev Henderson's own views, particularly on the atonement.

Posted by: Vincent Coles on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 1:28am BST

Mark Beaton, you're quite right on point 3. I was thinking of a later group of debates when I wrote that paragraph, but did not make that clear.

On point 5: Yes, there was a good bit of debate about church furnishings, if one counts the iconoclastic riots, the smashing of rood screens, statuary, funeral brasses and monuments, the defacing of paintings and desecration of relics (etc etc) as "debates." These acts were not always legal and were sometimes carried out under cover of night; at other times, they were led by the more zealous Reforming clergy, perhaps supported by some of their parishoners, and perhaps resisted, actively or passively, by others. The government of the day might or might not approve. Margaret Aston has documented this aspect of the English Reformation in a number of books; the one I'm most familiar with is _England's Iconoclasts_.

On point 4: Which of the many possible Reformation doctrines Cranmer rendered into the liturgy has long been a topic of debate. The precise nature of the Eucharist was hotly debated among the Reformers themselves. Despite repeated attempts, they were never able to reach a consensus, and by the end of Cranmer's life there were many different positions among them. Cranmer held several, and may have been moving towards a position close to Zwingli's on the Eucharist toward the end of his life -- MacCulloch thinks he was -- but did not have the chance fully to incorporate it into the communion service.

On point 2: The "intense suspicion of 'popishness' and 'superstition'" did indeed exist in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. My sense is that in the first half of the sixteenth century it was confined to the more zealous Reformers. Among the clergy, Bale and Latimer come to mind here, and Bale's experiences as an Irish bishop under Edward are instructive -- it has to be said that he was a spectacular failure.

In England, Cranmer's reforms had to be introduced carefully, and were resisted by a fair number of the English clergy and laity under Edward as well as Henry, though under Edward Cranmer had a much freer hand politically.

"Through-stitch" reformers were not to Elizabeth's taste, though they did receive patronage and protection through her favorite the Earl of Leicester. The "militant protestant" party at her court, headed by Leicester, was perhaps more concerned with international politics than with the Church of England. Overall, I believe that opposition to "popery" had as much to do with the Armada and Gunpowder Plot (and, later, with the ambitions of Louis XIV and the Pretenders) as it did with ceremonies or transubstantiation.

This is an interesting discussion. I would like to hear more about your point 1 -- are you thinking of Peter Martyr, for example?

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 2:41am BST

Charlotte, thanks for your comments, which have taken me beyond the limited shores of my knowledge. Besides Peter Martyr Vermigli, I had in mind Martin Bucer, who served as Regius professor of divinity; Lutheran and Reformed ministers from the continent who were translated to the ministry of the CofE; and Scottish Presbyterians who came to England after 1613 and wer appointed to vacant parishes. Of course, things were different after the ejections of 1662, the enforcement of uniformity, the Five Mile Act etc; but prior to this, it seems a fairly fluid attitude prevailed. The political and social fallout from the Civil War and Restoration changed it all, of course. The Lutheran example was cited in recent ELCA-Episcopal discussions, while the Church of South India scheme accepted different views on ministry in the interim.

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 3:48pm BST

Fascinating discussion about Hooker's views on the Authority of the Bible! Personally, since my more liberal phase, I've always taken the Bible to have authority for Salvation and for Christian living too (morality and spirituality).

I don't really see how we could say it had authority for salvation only... Salvation, as I understand it, is only necessary because of our immorality...

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 28 August 2005 at 9:09pm BST

anglicanhopeful wrote: "Great theological discussion, but..."

Apologies if I've misinterpreted, but this sounds rather dismissive. After all, theology is the whole POINT here :) It is, after all, the study of the nature of God and religious truth.

"...he is not in adherence with...with plain interpretation of scriptural admonishment against such a lifestyle."

This is also up for, well..."theological" debate. There are faithful Christians to have a much different interpretation of those (*very* few) parts of Scripture which even seem to address the issues you mention. You may disagree, but not all of us see this in the "plain" sense you do.

Posted by: Simeon on Sunday, 28 August 2005 at 9:50pm BST
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