Wednesday, 11 February 2009

General Synod - Uniqueness of Christ in Multi-Faith Britain

The second item of Wednesday afternoon was a private member’s motion on the uniqueness of Christ in multi-faith Britain.

Mr Paul Eddy (Winchester) moved:

That this Synod request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

The Revd Christopher Strain (Salisbury) moved as an amendment:

After “That this Synod” insert:
“warmly welcome Dr Martin Davie’s background paper ‘The witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the historic formularies to the uniqueness of Christ’ attached to GS Misc 905B and”.

This amendment was carried on a show of hands.

This made the substantive motion:

That this Synod warmly welcome Dr Martin Davie’s background paper ‘The witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the historic formularies to the uniqueness of Christ’ attached to GS Misc 905B and request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

The motion was carried by 283 votes to 8 with 10 recorded abstentions.

Background papers
background note from the Secretary General (GS Misc 905B) to which is attached a paper from Dr Martin Davie
A Church of England Approach to the Unique Significance of Jesus Christ A paper prepared by Dr Martin Davie for the Theological Group of the House of Bishops

During the debate the following two amendments were defeated.

The Revd Canon Simon Bessant (Sheffield) moved as an amendment:

Leave out all the words after “That this Synod” and insert:
“remembering its resolution of 6 July 2002, affirm:
(a) the process started by Presence & Engagement (GS 1577); and
(b) that all Christians should seek to witness faithfully to Christ and His Gospel to all, whilst also building strong friendships and partnerships with other faith communities in seeking peace, justice and the common good throughout society;
and ask that Ministry Division and the Mission & Public Affairs Division report on progress on this matter.”.

The 2002 resolution is copied below the fold. This amendment was lost on a show of hands.

The Revd Canon Andrew Dow (Gloucester) moved as an amendment:

Leave out all the words after “That this Synod” and insert:
“, recognising the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only Saviour as a foundational tenet of the Apostolic Christian Faith, request the House of Bishops to commission a report for Synod giving details of current Church of England based evangelistic ministry among those of other faiths, providing guidelines for this particular outreach, and highlighting examples of good practice.”.

This amendment was lost on a show of hands.

Synod resolution of 6 July 2002

That this Synod, whilst valuing and affirming the importance of cultural and religious diversity, is convinced that the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all and must be shared with all including people from other faiths or of no faith and that to do anything else would be to institutionalize discrimination; and that to this end, this Synod should:
(a) recommend parishes to approach the Partners for World Mission agencies to help make links with the World Church, especially with those people and places which might stimulate witness within a multifaith environment;
(b) encourage the Board of Mission and the Ministry Division through the theological colleges and courses to educate the Church concerning these issues; and
(c) urge all Christians to encourage sensitive and positive sharing of faith with people of all faiths and none whilst being willing to learn from and be enriched by people of other faiths.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 5:13pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

I'd have voted against.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 7:35pm GMT

Debates (much less assertions) of "the uniqueness of Christ" are SUCH a *waste of time*.

Like fingerprints and DNA, we're ALL "unique": that's not the issue.

What "UofC" assertions are really shorthand for, is proclaiming the SUPERIORITY of the Christian religion, and/or the salvific inefficacy of other faiths.

If that's what you're about, then SAY SO!

I, for one, want no part of that (and FWIW, neither would Jesus Christ---IMO).

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 7:42pm GMT

This is a tactic that U.S. fundamentalists have favored for some time: demand that GC vote on some proposition that is a matter of settled church doctrine, like the Nicene Creed, in hopes that the motion will be defeated so that they can scream about how the church leadership is no longer "orthodox."

Pure politics.

Posted by: JPM on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 12:11am GMT

They seem to be under the impression that 'the uniqueness of Christ' is a simple, transparent term and a passport to --- what ?

They have neglected their theological reading for decades it would seem, and have lost sight of its opacity.

Also, it isnt very orthodox to raise his 'uniqueness' with out invoking its balencing opposite.

Any one for a dash of Docetism ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 2:10am GMT

I'd have voted against.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 at 7:35pm GMT

Most ministers will be voting with their feet too. Pluralist is in good company.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 2:12am GMT

"pure politics" - yes and no. If Paul Eddy had been after a defeated motion, he'd have worded it much more strongly than this. However I don't see much wrong with the 2002 resolution, so it's not really clear what he was trying to achieve with this one.

Rev L Roberts - they've probably been saying their Apostles Creed week in week out too, and reading John chapter 1. It would have been immensely dispiriting for those ministers in multi-faith communities, who have committed themselves to Christian witness in those places, to get a statement from the national CofE that said Jesus had nothing to offer.

The church has put quite a bit of thought and energy, through 'fresh expressions' etc., into how the gospel relates to a post-Christian society. This seems like a bit of work which could complement that.

This goes back to the nature of the Church of England. If it is truly a national church, with a parish church for every person in the country, then we have to work out what that means, and how to do it well, in parishes which are predominantly Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, as well as those which are predominantly agnostic.

I'd have voted for Simon Bessants amendment.

Posted by: David Keen on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 9:38am GMT

Whether or not Christ is unique - and of course there are many ways to be unique and he seems to be unique in quite a few separate ways - how on earth does the existence of a multi-faith Britain 2000 years later bear on the question? How can the very time-specific, transient, culture-specific norms of just one society at a period of history vastly removed from his own alter his identity? These norms would not alter his identity even if they were infallible - but since it is not the case that they are infallible then they can do so even less (if it were possible to get less than nothing). The inhabitants of said society must have a very inflated view of their society's importance in the grand scheme of things.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 12:43pm GMT

"Paul Eddy tells Synod that his motion has nothing to do with aggresively converting others or trying to evoke notions of western culture equaling christianity. He reports how as he was exploring ordination there were no resources available to support such mission. He discovered that ordinands spend only one day during their training exploring this issue, and there were no guidelines or assistance available to clergy in this area. His motion therefore asks for the House of Bishops to develop best practices to evangelise non-Christians.

Eddy argues that we can’t allow notions of social cohesion to get in the way of proclaiming Christ. We need to articulate a prophetic witness to our nation. We need an explicit statement of Christ’s uniqueness from the House of Bishops. There needs to be a clear signal of where the church stands. “A strategic, highly politicised marginalisation of Christianity it the public arena”, is what Eddy suggets we are facing, and we need to present Jesus as the means of salvation. “If Christ is what Christ is, he must be uttered”.

From Peter Ould's blog

Posted by: Peter K on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 6:25pm GMT

"they've probably been saying their Apostles Creed week in week out too, and reading John chapter 1. It would have been immensely dispiriting for those ministers in multi-faith communities, who have committed themselves to Christian witness in those places, to get a statement from the national CofE that said Jesus had nothing to offer."

Blatant false-dichotomy *straw man*, David Keen.

For those of us who say the Creed every week (or more often) and read the Bible every day, we don't NEED a "Uniqueness of Christ" measure, to continue our Christian witness "in multi-faith communities" [Note: that's the whole wide world now!]. I, for one, think such measures only make our witness MORE difficult.

I feel quite confident that the absence of this motion will prompt precisely NO ONE to then conclude "Jesus had nothing to offer": give me a break!

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 7:35pm GMT

No, Christopher, we just have a bad history of being pompous,narrow-minded and coercive to get over.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 12 February 2009 at 8:31pm GMT

"His motion therefore asks for the House of Bishops to develop best practices to evangelise non-Christians."

They will know we are Christians by our love. What else is necessary?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 13 February 2009 at 11:15am GMT
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