Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Church Society attacks Archbishop

Church Society has published this: An open letter to the Primates and faithful Anglicans of the Global South.

And also this: Overview of the teaching of Rowan Williams on Scripture and sexuality.

This item has been reported in the Guardian see today’s People column by Stephen Bates.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 10:04am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

The Bishop of Lewes is a Vice President of the Church Society. (He is also one of the GAFCON faces). Do we take it that he is one of the Council members by whom this call for separation is issued?

Does he agree that "sincere Christians should not be in fellowship" with the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Do these people have any idea how they appear to the rest of the Church of England, let alone to other Christians and non Christians?

"Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (Matthew 15:6-9)

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 10:03am GMT

The breathtaking arrogance of it!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 10:39am GMT

We have seen all this before. It is interesting to see the whole lot advanced again, at this time.

As Robert Ian Williams constantly reminds us – the Church Society are only “Biblically based” when it suits them – poor loves!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 11:25am GMT

Will Mr David Philips be following through on his own injunction and cut any connections he has with ++Cantuar, either directly or via any bishop in communion with the See of Canterbury? I do hope so. Some lucky Diocesan Bishop might have his life greatly cheered.

Posted by: Commentator on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 12:48pm GMT

Their "overview" of RW's teachings is a quite laughable piece of paranoia, though well crafted. They start out adeptly painting the picture of him having a long established agenda to accept gay people. It hasn't been theology he's been doing, oh no, it was all about rejecting the authority of Scriptuire so the evil gays could destroy the Church. Notice how not being a literalist is cast as rejecting the authority of Scripture without actually saying so in so many words(paragraph 3). Then there is this little jewel:
"Williams still: (a) teaches that the Church may ordain doctrine contrary to Scripture"

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you! I mean, surely the Church has never done this before! I'm sure none of the Church Society benefit from any things taught by the Church but contrary to Scripture. Then there is the guilt by association argument with regard to John C. Henson. I have to say, repulsed though I am, I still admire the skill of its creator. If only he could use his power for good! It is a well crafted piece of propaganda, subtle enough, without being so subtle the rank and file cannot understand.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 1:04pm GMT

OK there is much teaching/endorsement there that one couldn't identify with either directly or by association, but why disfellowship from him at this point rather than when he was first appointed, which would have made perfect sense? This smacks of 'tactics' - get him when he is down and unpopular.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 1:09pm GMT

The problem with Rowan Williams is how he has stood in the road. He could have been on one side of the white lines, consistently, giving him an identity and a respect from that which meant most traffic would have missed him and plenty of traffic police to get the would-be crashers around him. At risk he could have stood on the white lines where, keeping very still, most traffic would have zoomed by. The problem is that he stood on one side of the road, and then on taking the job walked in busy traffic to the other side of the road whilst appearing every so often to walk to the other side again, and then right over to near the kerb of the side he went to on taking the job. With the best will in the world he is going to get hit by the traffic, and, in the end, when no one knows where (or who) he is he loses support.

Presumably the Church Society, always against him, are trying to see if he is more easy to knock over now. It is quite opportunist.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 1:25pm GMT

The Church Society has indeed been against Rowan Williams ever since he was first appointed. It was the society which described him then as a heretic and a false teacher and harangued him when he invited them to lunch.

Posted by: Stephen Bates on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 2:28pm GMT

The English Nation has a reputation above others for exceeding civility in manners and mildness expression combined with attention to truth and understated precision.

This extraordinary statement (and others over the years) shows The Church Society as an exception to the Rule. Indeed, if I recall, they started going after Dr Rowan even before he was appointed some years ago.

It will be interesting to follow...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 2:31pm GMT

Badman asked: The Bishop of Lewes is a Vice President of the Church Society. (He is also one of the GAFCON faces). Do we take it that he is one of the Council members by whom this call for separation is issued?

According to the last annual accounts filed with the Charity Commission, the Bishop of Lewes is not a member of the council of the Church Society.

However, if he is a vice president then you would have thought that as someone who is prepared to be known as a figure-head of an organisation he would have made sure that he approved of their ethos and policies.

Given his Presidency of the Church of England Evangelical Council sitting alongside other such conservative luminaries as Richard Turnbull, Paul Perkin and until recently Chris Sugden it would seem a fair presumption to make that he might accord with the views of this press release, though this is conjecture.

I also couldn't help reflecting - having dug out the latest list of Council members from the Charity Commission website - that it is somewhat ironic that an organisation whose lead issue is one of intolerance is afforded the luxury of charitable status.

Posted by: Gareth Morgan on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 2:40pm GMT

The Church Society first came into being in the mid nineteenth century as the Church Association. Its primary (if not only) aim was to institute legal proceedings against 'ritualist' clergy in order to have them hounded out of office and be replaced by low/evangelical/puritan (delete as you see fit) clergy. The organisation therefore is built on using all sorts of tactics, including the publication of frankly scandalous tracts, now replaced with webpages, in order to strengthen their cause.

I would be very interested indeed to see the reaction of the Bishop of Lewes and of the Bishop of St Albans, in whose diocese David Philips, I believe, holds a licence.

Posted by: Wilf on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 2:48pm GMT

Whatever problems we all have with RW's famed nuance from time to time, it is clear this CS statement is a fine example of spin doctoring from the far right of believer presuppositions. (I would say, far Anglican right, but recently I have begun to suspect that less and less of this far right stuff is defensibly Big Tent Anglican.)

Eric Berne would say: What a fine, fine, fine example of the game called, Let's You And Him Fight.

Scripture is repeatedly mentioned as if there were simply no inquiry or questions about scripture which could possibly matter to any thinking citizen, inside or outside of Anglican church life.

The pre-existing role of human reason is completely left out, and so divines like Richard Hooker are left rolling in their graves. Yet the deliberate omission of human reason is rather accurate in this case, since the whole attack crucially depends upon leaving large and small matters of reason and of reasoned argument from complex sources of authority, out of it all. Can one do a hatchet job without a proper hatchet, though, that is the question?

I am reminded of a cautionary NT saying to us all: If the light that you perceive in you is really darkness, how great that is darkness. Alas. Lord have mercy.

Good thing I have not depended on CS to call me to follow Jesus of Nazareth as Risen Lord of both church life and citizen life. Talk about small god approaches. Should we follow them strictly, to collapse the Big Tent of historic Anglicanism worldwide?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 3:49pm GMT

The website for the CS lists its Vice-President's as:

Revd Dr Roger Beckwith, Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Prof. John Coekin, Mr Vijay Menon, Rt Revd. David Samuel, Revd. David Streater and Revd Canon David Wheaton.

Posted by: John-Francis on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 4:25pm GMT

A very 'faceless' website, ie. no names, no list of Church Society Council members etc, apart from credit for articles. I wonder if they are still linked with David Samuel, bishop in a continuing anglican church, and their former general secretary. Is there something to hide?

Posted by: Fr.David on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 4:26pm GMT

Maybe David Wheaton can tell us, as I suspect he is an occasional contributor to TA.

The Church Society has a proprietory chapel in one of the parishes I serve, where it has recently appointed a Baptist minister as minister in charge. The Bishop quite correctly pointed out that he could not licence him to celebrate Holy Communion, as it is not part of an LEP, and suggested that an Anglican be licensed to do this at the same time. This was refused, and it was subsequently trumpeted around the locality that the Bishop had refused a licence "because he is an Anglo-Catholic". Sheer mendacicity.

Posted by: cryptogram on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 4:57pm GMT

Fr David

The Church Society website does list its council members; they are on the bottom half of this page.


Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 4:57pm GMT

The Church Society newspaper, Cross and Way recently criticised the common cause in the USA for being too Romanist and subverting the Reformed Episcopal church.

So I am surprized they are writing to provinces in the Global south which are Anglo-catholic.

In their objectives ( see Web page), they claim to stop the re-introduction of the Mass in the Church of England.

Furthermore David Samuel is a bishop
(consecrated by an Anglo-Catholic breakaway bishop from the USA) in the miniscule sect the Church of England continuing...membership less than a hundred. He is a converted Welsh Baptist.

Wallace Benn is the last bishop in the Church of England to refuse to wear a mitre.

Why aren't they criticising Rowan Williams for his ritualism and Romanism?

Why aren't they commenting on the ungodly alliance between Venables and the Anglo-Catholics of San Joaquim and Fort Worth?

No , they too are compromising with " false" theology to advance their cause.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 6:06pm GMT

Ford Elms writes:
"I'm sure none of the Church Society benefit from any things taught by the Church but contrary to Scripture."

A bit cryptic, Ford! Could you unpack this a bit. please? I agree with your basic stance here - the CS attack on +Rowan is pretty nasty (as are, I should perhaps add, some attacks from those who find him insufficiently liberal), but I'm not sure what you mean here.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 6:15pm GMT

Nauseating stuff...

If they are so sure that the Bible tells us all to throw out false teachers, can we throw them out? There are plenty of lies, falsehoods and half-truths in their appraisal of ++Rowan's position on human sexuality.

Posted by: David on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 7:01pm GMT

I have a postscript!

There's a woman in the church I currently attend and occasionally at which I preach where, according to the vicar, if I offend her, I must be doing something right. It's always good to see her approach with yet more criticism after the service. It reassures me that I'm on the right track.

I have a new ambition - to be called a heretic by the Church Society.

Posted by: David on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 7:04pm GMT

"there is much teaching/endorsement there that one couldn't identify with either directly or by association"

Christopher, not my usual antagonism this time, I'm genuinely interested: what is there in that piece with which one couldn't identify or endorse?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 7:27pm GMT

One thing I have learned during the controversies of the past several years is how little I understood the CofE and how little many in the CofE knew of the Episcopal Church in the United States. We both seem to have a number of literalist/fundamentalist Baptist or Assemblies of God types in our clergy and pews. The CofE seems to have a larger percentage of them. What ours lack in numbers they seem to make up for in anger, political and legal scheming and spin.

As the priest of a parish on Maui with many visitors from all over North America and the world on any given Sunday, I can attest that these loud angry people are making Church an unpleasant experience. I can also attest that most people are tired of their behavior and want it to end. Many are relieved to see our Church reaching the end of its patience.

If you don't like our house, please do not abuse us, just leave quietly.

Posted by: Kahu Aloha on Tuesday, 19 February 2008 at 9:41pm GMT

I think Rowan's position -- personally sympathetic to a non-fundamentalist vision of sexual ethics, but institutionally obliged to move with the Church and not to impose his own views divisively -- is possibly one that is shared by some Roman Catholic archbishops. The Archbishop of Freiburg, head of the German Episcopal Conference, has said that the State should legislate for same-sex civil unions, as has the Archbishop of Dublin. The debate in the Anglican Communion probably foreshadows one that will happen in the Roman Church before long.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 4:45am GMT

Hot off the Press...Venables in a Canadian newspaper says he can't go to Lambeth with a "false sense of unity". There is nothing more than a false unity than Iker and Schofield greeting Jensen and Venables at GAFCON as biblically orthodox brothers...with their contradictory understandings of the gospel, sacraments and the 39 articles.

Obne can only conclude that these men cannot see this otherwise.. one would have to question their integrity.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 7:00am GMT

"There's a woman in the church I currently attend and occasionally at which I preach where, according to the vicar, if I offend her, I must be doing something right. It's always good to see her approach with yet more criticism after the service. It reassures me that I'm on the right track."

This comment left me bemused and I went away to think about it for a while.

There's a woman in his church that he offends. His vicar (obviously of Catholic tendencies) tells them that if he does a good deed (10 Hail Mary's, perhaps) that he is okay. He knows that he is going to provoke her, and enjoys her coming up with more criticism after the sermon.

That might put him on the right track, but I have to say it is not a very nice track.

In a workplace, this would be called bullying and victimisation. But, for some, if you are doing it a church community, and have done your atoning good deeds to others, then it's okay to be nasty to the select few who deserve your derision.

And some wonder why people are converting faster to Buddhism than they are to Christianity in some countries (I'm sorry, numbers through breeding don't count much in my opinion, that is merely offspring of sheep blindly following their parents' shepherds). Some souls are just plain sick of Christian bullying.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 8:32am GMT

'There's a woman in his church that he offends. His vicar (obviously of Catholic tendencies) tells them that if he does a good deed (10 Hail Mary's, perhaps) that he is okay. He knows that he is going to provoke her, and enjoys her coming up with more criticism after the sermon.

That might put him on the right track, but I have to say it is not a very nice track.

In a workplace, this would be called bullying and victimisation. But, for some, if you are doing it a church community, and have done your atoning good deeds to others, then it's okay to be nasty to the select few who deserve your derision.'

I read it differently. David preaches at this church, and whatever he preaches opposes what this woman holds to be correct. Therefore,whenever he preaches, she criticises him. He has taken her criticism to be a barometer of his own theological correctness. David doesn't indicate in any way that he tailors his sermons to provoke the woman.

IMO, surely as long as you don't use personal attacks, you don't have to trim your sermon to suit particular individuals.

That's hardly bullying or vicitmisation. He's sticking to his guns and she's sticking to hers. More like 'vive la difference' - which is the Anglican way.

Not quite sure where you got the Catholic/vicar/Hail Mary bit....

Posted by: Sam on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 10:14am GMT

Archbishop of Canterbury denounced by Church Society: LGCM asks Bishop Wallace Benn to resign.

The Church Society has once again denounced Dr Rowan Williams. This time they have dramatically “disfellowshiped” him and called on all the world’s Anglican leaders to abandon communion with the man who represents ‘The Focus of Unity’ within the Anglican Communion.

As the attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury mentions his historical association with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) and those who are our supporters the Chief Executive, the Reverend Richard Kirker made the following remarks today (20th February 2008)
“These attacks on Rowan wounded as he is by the mishandled sharia debate shows the leaders of the Church Society have the instincts of jackals and the values of Machiavelli’s Prince – rather than those of the Prince of Peace.

“They really are the Christian Nasty Party in spades!”

“Having abandoned communion with the Primate of All England Rowan Williams - one wonders where this leaves those who are leaders of the Church Society? Can they even be considered as members of the Church of England? Is their membership of their own Society now null and void?

“What can we expect from Bishop Wallace Ben a Church Society leader? Is this bishop now out of communion with his own Metropolitan, surely he must resign.

“Will the other clerical leaders of the Church Society surrender their licences to Minister when the issuing bishops refuse their call? – Are they at all serious or are they just self important, gutless windbags?

“What is saddest of all is to read the absolute tosh masquerading as “truth” in the documents supporting their claims, half truths, disinformation and deception are the words that best describe it – and this from an organisation claiming the moral high ground, sadly these people are barely Christian.”

The Church Society has a tiny membership and represents only the views of that small group. While membership is supposed to be restricted to Communicant members of the Church of England or a Church in communion with it, leadership roles are held by those who do not pass the membership test. ENDS

20 February 2008

Further Details:
LGCM Press Officer 01633 215841 or National Office 020 7739 1249

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 12:17pm GMT

Hi Ford-

Bucketloads of things:
(1) He emphasises only the unclarity and metaphorical nature of Scripture (just one of whose 66 books, the Song of Songs, is generically metaphorical)out of subjective personal preference for metaphorical things over literal - maybe because one can then twist the text more easily.
(2) having emphasised the endemic unclarity of scripture he then proceeds to speak of the Mind of God as though that, by contrast, were something translucently clear. So the thing that is written down in black and white is unclear, and simultaneously the thing that is not is clear. Doubtful! Is this a theory/counsel of convenience, to bring about maximum plurality of interpretation?
(3) Scriptural texts vary from very clear to very unclear. It would be a great coincidence if all the ones on homosexuality, rather than falling in the bulge on the standard deviation graph (mediumly clear) just so happened to be particularly unclear.
(4) One smells a rat when the scriptures one least likes just so happen to be classified as most unclear. 'Twould be convenient if 'twere so.
(5) He speaks of 'sexual metaphors' in scripture - of which there are plenty in the Song of Songs. One would imagine from what is quoted that the entirety of what scripture has to say about sexual matters is metaphorical. The entirety? Sounds a bit totalitarian and fundamentalist. As well as untrue. But, again, 'twould be convenient if 'twere so.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 1:13pm GMT

I'm not sure of my original post to this went through, so this is less verbose. You seem to consider Scripture to be of variably reliable historicity, yet want to claim authority for it despite that. It is certainly not accurate that only one book of the OT is metaphorical, Genesis qualifies, as, it seems, does most of Exodus, there being no evidence of a massive influx into the the Fertile Crescent at the time it is supposed to have happened. There are two David stories, one more "folky" (and thus for me more true) and the other obviously more political, intended, as are most of the histories, to legitimize the Temple cult. It is also not true that the words of Scripture are clear, which you already acknowledge, and that simple reading of those words is the only way to approach Scripture. Going beyond the word printed to seek to discern the mind of Scripture is the traditional method. You can be a literalist if you like, you may even be right, but it is wrong to claim that literalism as the only, or even the more venerable, means of approaching Scripture, or that the majority of Christians would agree with you, unless you don't count RCs, Orthodox, the majority of Anglicans(?) and numerous others as Christians. I am not talking about one's conclusions, here, rather the method by which one comes to these conclusions. How do you decide the clarity of a particular text? "Thou shalt not kill" seems pretty clear to me, but the Church obviously hasn't thought so for a very long time. So how do you choose what to be literal about? Even the accounts of the Resurrection differ. Further, I smell a rat when things like the taking of another human life become acceptable at precisely the point we become the "State religion", thus have to make sure our God is on the State's side. Why else would we need a theology of a "just war"?Likewise when we stand to benefit from usury, or when some of us stand to benefit from divorce, like a king, for instance, let alone any number of "orthodox" bishops. Why do you not balk at the obvious, to me at least, "convenience" of these things?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 5:38pm GMT

The Church Times today reports the Bishop of Lewes as "distancing himself" from Mr Phillips' tirade, on the grounds that it is "unhelpful…at this time".

Is that the scurry of departing rodents I can hear?

Posted by: cryptogram on Friday, 22 February 2008 at 10:00am GMT

Hi Ford-

You know, that is an old chestnut about the resurrection accounts, and it is part true and part untrue. Suppose you were the first gospel writer to write, ie the one closest to the events. How many other gospel writers would you be contradicting? Answer: none, because there weren't any other gospel writers at that point in time. Even Mark (the first gospel) is preceded by the fullest list of appearances in 1 Cor 15.

Your mistake in the above post is to suppose that 'literal and true' and 'metaphorical' are the only two possibilities. Clearly there are others, e.g. 'literal and untrue', and 'legendary', in which the writer is just passing down stories they have received without tinking too much about their historical truth or otherwise. It is incorrect English to use 'metaphorical' (which has a very specific meaning: ie the writer deliberately speaks of one specific thing when actually referring to another equally specific thing) to mean 'this cannot be literally true so if it is true at all it can only be non-literally true'. It is clearly incorrect to simply assume that the said thing *must* in some sense be true. What if it is untrue?

Isn't chronology the main criterion in determining the literal truth or otherwise of the David stories? It looks like Samuel precedes Chronicles. (For 'Exodus' you mean 'Joshua/Judges'? Or the entire sweep of Exodus to Joshua/Judges?)

'TO claim literalism as the only way of approaching scripture' - this is not at all what I mean. Those elements which are historicalloy intended must be taken literally. How does that rule out, for example, simultaneous deliberate typological meanings? It has *never* been the case that literal, typological, allegorical have been mutually exclusive, and that one has to choose *one* of them and stick with it throughout the entirety of (generically diverse) scripture. One goes by the original genre and authorial intentions to determine meaning in context.

Did you honestly think that the world is divided into those who take the whole of scripture literally, none of it allegorically, and those who take it all allegorically, none of it literally? Surely there are different dimensions to any writing, which are not mutually exclusive. When one has dealt with possible allegorical intent, one has not yet even addressed the quite separate question of historical veracity. Is this a multiple choice thing? - those who assess allegorical intent are obliged to bypass or dismiss the issue of historical veracity - and vice-versa? No - clearly these are two separate questions, *both* of which need to be addressed, and always piecemeal and case-by-case, *not* according to some terribly general ideology.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 22 February 2008 at 12:41pm GMT

To summarise: It was held in the early church that one and the same scripture passage could be interpreted from four different angles. Quite true: in fact, four is an underestimate.

The modern perversion of this is that one has (1) to choose only one of the four, and (2) to apply that one (which is generally the one that one psychologically or temperamentally prefers) to the entire library of 'scripture', which consists of books in all kinds of different genres.

Show me a person who says 'I take the Bible literally' or ' I don't take the Bible literally', or 'I take the Bible metaphorically', and I will show you someone who has not learnt to think. If they had learnt to think, they would treat different books and passages of scripture differently, case by case. Nine times out of ten their so-called 'theory' is nothing but their wants (and if they were honest they would admit this). What they really mean is: I *want* the bible to be all literally true / I *want* it to be all metaphorical and not literally true. Hands up if you think that wanting something makes it true. One is tempted to say: Go back and read Peter Pan.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 23 February 2008 at 9:18am GMT
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