Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Bishop of Cork speaks his mind

The Presidential Address to the Cork, Cloyne & Ross Diocesan Synod by Bishop Paul Colton can be read in full here.

A press release also issued by the diocese contains the reasons why this is of more than local interest:Church of Ireland ought not respond to Anglican controversy by erecting walls of exclusion - Bishop of Cork

Some longer quotes from the full text:

Lambeth Conference

Planning is also under way for the next Lambeth Conference of bishops which is to be held in 2008: not long now – two summers away. I hope that the planners of that conference and that the Archbishop of Canterbury (who issues the invitation) will invite all Anglican bishops of the time and of all outlooks to that three week encounter as equal participants; otherwise it would be pointless.

I have never been to a Lambeth Conference, having been elected six months or so after the last one. However, what I want from that meeting is for it to be nothing other than a place of encounter and pilgrimage. To that end it would be impossibly impoverished unless all are invited in parity. Moreover, it would be uselessly compromised if it were to descend to a type of ecclesial and political world cup where resolutions are propounded and fought over; and which supplant discovering that friendship in faith with the trophies of sectional victory: golden cows won and lost and which consolidate or even catalyse division.

Anglicanism

…It is stating the obvious to say that all is not well within our Anglican family. It is hard to escape the sense that, in this controversy, those who shout the loudest; or with the greatest determination; or with the most panache are being accorded the open ear of some of the international structures of Anglicanism. These happen also to be Anglicanism’s instruments of unity: the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting. I deliberately omit two of the instruments of unity: the Lambeth Conference of Bishops because it has not met since the most recent spate of controversy began; and the emerging consciousness of Anglican Canon Law is omitted because, although the Primates Meeting and the ACC have acknowledged the possible role of canon law as an instrument of unity, there is by no means universal agreement among the autonomous churches of the Anglican family on this point yet…

…In other words - and lay people are best placed to tell me - do not most ordinary members of the Church think of themselves as simply being Church of Ireland; albeit with broadly similar, like-minded Christian friends in other parts of the world? (For clergy it is different, our livelihood throws us into the path of such things). And in the case of young Christians I meet, my sense is that they appear to have moved beyond this debate altogether and in the terms they express themselves we recognise post-denominational Christianity.

I also ask myself what it is that I find and have always found attractive, if also frustrating and challenging, about the Church of Ireland. It is exactly those things I mentioned last year in describing the Anglican way: our breadth; our smudgy-edged inclusiveness. What is inspiring is the fact that people who think so hugely differently about the things of God, can nonetheless belong together within the same church; journey side by side; worship, pray, work and announce the good news together; and discover across their differences a friendship in faith that they wouldn’t probably otherwise have. Because of the present row which purports to be about human sexuality, Anglicanism runs the risk of becoming something wholly unattractive and unrecognisable to those who are drawn strongly to its sometimes exasperating breadth, untidiness and inclusiveness.

I remind you of that quotation of William Countryman:

“Anglicanism is notorious for its theological indeterminacy. …[It] exists in a mode unlike that of most Western Christian traditions. It has never been a genuinely confessional church. It is the product of historical accident (and/or divine providence) as much as of theological intent, and its primary focus is not on defining itself but on turning a community towards God in worship.”

In my view, any proposal for a way forward which undermines our inclusiveness or comprehensiveness ought to be subjected to rigorous and autonomous scrutiny. In the Church of Ireland, we must be careful not to jettison either our independence or autonomy on the one hand; or the friendship of faith we have nurtured already across significant differences. We do away such things at our peril. Impetuously erecting walls of exclusion on the fuzzy edges of Anglicanism would, to my mind, be a negation of the essence of Anglicanism and of the Church of Ireland itself.

And because the presenting issue of the controversy within Anglicanism appears to be human sexuality, one result is that gay people have become scapegoats in what is a more deep-seated constitutional crisis. Therefore, gay people in lay and ordained leadership as well as in voluntary work in our churches, or simply in our pews, or those who have been driven away by a sense of rejection, together with gay people in the community outside the church, need to know and to hear our apology. Gay people in the Church have been caught in the middle of a row which is not about them and their sexuality, but which instead is primarily about the way different Anglicans read, approach and understand the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Had it not surfaced on the back of the sexuality debate, this dispute would have emerged sooner or later on an entirely different issue.

Ironically, a person’s strongest point is frequently also their weakest. So it is with institutions. I, and I believe many others like me, are attracted to the disparate untidiness of Anglicanism: its comprehensive inclusiveness. Wide open arms that seem to stretch inconceivably far, drawing many in, and providing shade and shelter for the most unlikely fellow-pilgrims. This has always been my experience of the Church of Ireland. I believe we jeopardise or jettison this at our peril.

At the same time it would be naïve not to acknowledge the challenging and uncomfortable diversity of approach to reading and interpreting and shaping our faith on the scriptures.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 10:15pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion
Comments

The Bishop of Cork has made me very happy. I was worrying that the debate had degenerated into sectarian organisational bickering. (That is also why I have not posted for a few days - the squeaky wheel was on a wagon that was insisting on getting stuck in the mud. There was no point squeaking if the wagon was insistent on its muddy path). Plus there have been a few things around the web where lay and other Christians (and other moderates of other faiths) are taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture rather than focussing on the golden cows of sectarian victories.

Thus I still continue to embrace hope, patience and faith that we can find ways to bring God back into centre of our lives, rather than using him as a cudgel to intimidate others. That vision involves God being at the centre, where all peoples of all faiths can come to worship at his temple, and show hospitality and fraternity to their neighbours, thus glorifying God by acknowledging His overwhelming breadth ond depth of love for humanity and all His creation.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 11:54pm BST

Wow.

Amen! :-D

(Good on ya, +Cork!)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 3:20am BST

The Bishop of Cork wrote "Gay people in the Church have been caught in the middle of a row which is not about them and their sexuality, but which instead is primarily about the way different Anglicans read, approach and understand the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Had it not surfaced on the back of the sexuality debate, this dispute would have emerged sooner or later on an entirely different issue."
Perhaps we can edge closer to a solution by focusing more intensely on the real issue.

Posted by: Erasmus on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 4:24pm BST

Three cheers for the Bishop of Cork. In my humble opinion, he stands head and shoulders above the gutless Cantuar, who, unlikle his predecessors, doesn't even attend The Episcopal Church's 2006 General Convention. Scheduling conflicts? The 2006 was scheduled three years ago. The real reason for Cantuar's absence is appeasement. The elephant in the room is Abuja, who is dying to lead a 'purist' Anglican Communion purged of all gays and lesbians and transgendered persons. Let Abuja and his Neo-Puritans depart in peace, but not hold the rest of the Communion hostage.

Posted by: John Henry on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 6:53pm BST

+Colton said: "Gay people in the Church have been caught in the middle of a row which is not about them and their sexuality, but which instead is primarily about the way different Anglicans read, approach and understand the Holy Scriptures, the Bible."

I'm glad that +Colton can see that. Too many liberal folk are convinced that it is just about "homophobia". However, his phrase "the way different Anglicans read, approach and understand the Holy Scriptures" ignores the fact that different "ways of reading" are not equally valid... One has 2000 years of church teaching behind it, the other is a change that throws all sorts of other issues into the air.

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 10:47pm BST

But since when did 2000 years of anything confer ,validity'? That sort of thinking is tantamount to saying that nothing can ever change - its the equivalent of placing all beliefs and understandings in aspic. It has neither credibility or validity unless you first buy the arguments of conservative religion - and as a convinced revisionist, I certainly don't, any more than I believe the earth is flat or the many other beliefs held by the ancients which we now know to be false.

The thought that religion should be free of this process of learning and development is neither logical nor sensible.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 15 June 2006 at 12:22am BST

I've hear this "it's not the GLBT people who are the crux of this problem," from +Bob Duncan to +Colton to +Wright etc... I wonder if they truly believe it. As far as scripture is concerned, are we requiring that you must believe all scripture (Adam and Eve included) or that all things nessecary for salvation are found in scripture? Living in the Diocese of +Duncan I can tell you most of these people think that scripture is the inerrant word of God. There were no cavemen or dinosaurs. Luckily I found a church that tolerates my belief in cavemen and dinosaurs.

All said my hat off to +Colton.

Peace, Bob

Posted by: Robert Christian on Thursday, 15 June 2006 at 1:33am BST

As a Corkman I am proud of this bishop -- and his address has helped me to understand the fellow-Christians of the C of I whom I met, alas, so rarely during my youth (though living only a stone's throw from where the bishop grew up). (Our school did visit the C of I school in Douglas one day, an event of which my memory is of the dimmest, Who knows? The future bishop might have been among the pupils I met then. -- Nope, checking I see he is ten years younger.)

This paragraph is excellent: "And because the presenting issue of the controversy within Anglicanism appears to be human sexuality, one result is that gay people have become scapegoats in what is a more deep-seated constitutional crisis. Therefore, gay people in lay and ordained leadership as well as in voluntary work in our churches, or simply in our pews, or those who have been driven away by a sense of rejection, together with gay people in the community outside the church, need to know and to hear our apology. Gay people in the Church have been caught in the middle of a row which is not about them and their sexuality, but which instead is primarily about the way different Anglicans read, approach and understand the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Had it not surfaced on the back of the sexuality debate, this dispute would have emerged sooner or later on an entirely different issue."

Bishop Colton said in St Finbarre's on Christmas 2003: "The controversy within Anglicanism over homosexuality has called the church's bluff about its claim to be with those on the edge and among the marginalized of society. We have claimed to be on the side of thoe who were oppressed by society and consigned to its margins. But how are we faring? This edge place is where most homosexuals were forced to live prior to decriminalization [in 1993] and the arrival of equality lesgislation, but where, in spite of immense changes in society, many still find themselves--especially those within the church."

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 15 June 2006 at 10:01am BST

Sorry to see that Archbishop George Carey is so much less Christian than either Rowan Williams or Paul Colton: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=DZHQ0I1CZI1AVQFIQMGCFF4AVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2006/06/11/nchurch11.xml

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 15 June 2006 at 1:01pm BST

Dear Dave,

when the "issue" is pretext, the Good Book reduced to fragments, and the reading nuts, and the claim to an un-changed Tradition of 2000 years (no single tradition is 2000 years) false, and the translations have been changed several times over to accomodate the Social policies of wordly powers, and you still won't give up on rejecting christian sisters and brothers - what explanation is left?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 17 June 2006 at 9:39am BST

Goran, did you get the point we made about changing translations not mattering a fig (even if your allegations are/were correct) when one can always bypass translations and consult the original text?

Posted by: Christophe on Saturday, 17 June 2006 at 12:33pm BST

Texts? Translations?

I don't know what this is apropos of. But is it not time for to get beyond fetishistic  scruples about texts.

THE LETTER KILLS -- IT IS THE SPIRIT THAT GIVES LIFE.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 17 June 2006 at 6:15pm BST


The Bishop of Cork is obviously an advanced and intelligent human being. I'm impressed by his sensitivity and his vision.

I'm neither gay nor anglican, but as a catholic, I appreciate the accuracy with which he can point to the most Christ-ian perspective, and I agree with his sentiments, in fact, I feel a certain pride.

Go Cork!

Posted by: em on Tuesday, 25 July 2006 at 4:14pm BST
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