Thursday, 27 May 2010

Tom Wright's opinions

The Bishop of Durham has addressed his last diocesan synod. He had a lot to say about women bishops and about Anglican Communion matters. Read the full text at Diocese of Durham: Diocesan Synod, May 21 2010. Two extracts follow:

On women bishops:

…It therefore doesn’t surprise me that the discussion over women bishops has run into such difficulty. As you know, I have argued strongly and scripturally for the propriety of ordaining women to each order of ministry; my colours have been nailed to that mast for a long time. And I have argued, again and again, in line with successive Lambeth resolutions, that this is something the whole church has said it can live with but need not impose on everyone – though I am very well aware of the particular problem this poses. In other words, this has not been an innovation, carried out by rogue provinces who declare on their own local authority that this is adiaphora and can therefore be decided by them alone. It has been debated and decided by the whole church meeting in solemn conclave. That doesn’t, of course, make it any easier when the decision is passed down from Lambeth to Canterbury and York, which is where we now are. But it does tell us that the church as a whole has said that this matter is adiaphora: that it ought not to be something over which the church needs to divide.

I know, very well, that for some the issue is that Lambeth cannot decide such a thing while Rome, and perhaps also Constantinople, remains uninvolved. The obvious reply is that while Rome still officially treats Anglican orders as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ it is hard to give them a veto on what we do with those orders, and that if we went that route we should have to return to the celibate priesthood and embrace the Papal dogmas. These are just as mandatory in Rome as male-only ordination, and I don’t know of a sustained argument as to why Anglicans who insist that only when Rome changes will we be allowed to do the same should be allowed to disagree with Rome on these other points. If there is an implicit hierarchy of truths there, I have yet to hear it articulated. However, like many bishops who are in principle committed to the ordination of women to the episcopate I do not think I have yet seen the scheme which would enable us to proceed as one body, without further and deepening division, without straining one another’s consciences. All ministry, according to St Paul, is given to serve the unity of the church, not to divide it. That is especially true of the ministry of Bishops. I hope and pray we will be able to square that circle, and I would rather get the right answer in two or three years’ time than the wrong one tomorrow. I really do believe that ordaining women is the right thing to do; but St Paul’s insistence on how adiaphora works prohibits me from forcing it on those who in conscience are not ready for it. And the answer here, I believe, is a proper theological argument, which we have not yet had. The Rochester report has never been properly discussed.

My hope and plea, then, is that this summer in General Synod, and in the months that follow whatever happens there, we will observe restraint and patience with one another, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As followers of Jesus, invoking his Spirit at Pentecost, we should expect to have demands made on our charity, our forgiveness and our patience; not on our conscience. That is the key to how adiaphora works in the church.

And on TEC and the Anglican Covenant:

…And that, too, is why recent events in America are placing an ever greater strain on the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is, I believe, in the process of writing a pastoral letter to all the churches, and I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say. But the point is this. Unlike the situation with children and Communion; unlike the situation with the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate; in the case of sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman, the church as a whole, in all its global meetings not least the Lambeth Conference, has solidly and consistently reaffirmed the clear and unambiguous teaching of the New Testament. But the substantive issue isn’t the point here. The point is that the Church as a whole has never declared these matters to be adiaphora. This isn’t something a Bishop, a parish, a diocese, or a province can declare on its own authority. You can’t simply say that you have decided that this is something we can all agree to differ on. Nobody can just ‘declare’ that. The step from mandatory to optional can never itself be a local option, and the Church as a whole has declared that the case for that step has not been made. By all means let us have the debate. But, as before, it must be a proper theological debate, not a postmodern exchange of prejudices.

Actually, if you want to know about the present state of the church in America you ought to watch the video of last Saturday’s service in Los Angeles, which is readily available on the web. The problems, shall we say, are not about one issue only. But my point for today is this. In November the newly elected General Synod will be asked to approve the Anglican Covenant, which has been through a long and thorough process of drafting, debate, redrafting, polishing and refining. Synod will be asked to send the Covenant to the Dioceses for approval, and all being well it should be with you, the Synod of this Diocese, by the end of the year, and you will be asked to think wisely and clearly about it. No doubt it isn’t perfect. But it is designed, not (as some have suggested) to close down debate or squash people into a corner, but precisely to create the appropriate space for appropriate debate in which issues of all sorts can be handled without pre-emptive strikes on the one hand or closed-minded defensiveness on the other. The Covenant is designed to recognise and work with the principle of adiaphora; and that requires that it should create a framework within which the church can be the church even as it wrestles with difficult issues, and through which the church can be united even as it is battered by forces that threaten to tear it apart. Some of the voices raised against the Covenant today are, in my judgment, voices raised against the biblical vision of how unity is accomplished and sustained, the vision which enables us to discern what is adiaphora and what is not. I hope and pray that this diocese at least will appreciate where the real issues lie, and think and live wisely and cheerfully in relation to them.

Also Martin Beckford reports in the Telegraph that

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, called repeated demands for Criminal Records Bureau checks a “waste of time” and claimed they are solely designed to create a “paper trail” rather than safeguarding the vulnerable.

He also condemned the weight of legislation created by the recent Labour government, saying that new rules and regulations do not make for a better society…

Read the full report at Bishop of Durham criticises ‘time-wasting paper trail’ of Criminal Record Bureau checks.

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Comments

"The point is that the Church as a whole has never declared these matters to be adiaphora. This isn’t something a Bishop, a parish, a diocese, or a province can declare on its own authority. You can’t simply say that you have decided that this is something we can all agree to differ on. Nobody can just ‘declare’ that. The step from mandatory to optional can never itself be a local option, and the Church as a whole has declared that the case for that step has not been made. By all means let us have the debate. But, as before, it must be a proper theological debate, not a postmodern exchange of prejudices. "

What "Church" is the good bishop referring to? If the "Anglican Church" there is no such animal. There is the CoE, there is the Episcopal Church, there is the Anglican Church of Canada, etc. Each is an autonomous body with no obligation to seek approval from other autonomous bodies before taking action entirely within keeping of its own canons.

If the "Church" as the entire body of Christians, well, he has a long time to wait before that comes to agreement on ordaining gay clergy...because even agreeing on what clergy are and do ought to be agreed upon first, wouldn't you say?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 1:17am BST

Has any man ever loved the sound of his own voice more than this one?

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 1:18am BST

It sounds very much like The Bishop of Durham is favor of a sort of Anglican Magisterium, which I think would be a huge mistake. I have read his words carefully and it seems he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. The Covenant is a bad idea and in spite of what he says it is expressly designed to shut people out and disinvite them from Christ's table. Delaying the decisive move to consecrate women as bishops is a tactic that I believe goes against the inclusive love of all human beings by Jesus. Either women have value that is equal to men or they are second class members of the Church. The Bishop of Durham is trying to please the misogynist elements in the Church and that is not acceptable on any level.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 1:30am BST

God, where to start? Well perhaps with this bit from Wright "Actually, if you want to know about the present state of the church in America you ought to watch the video of last Saturday’s service in Los Angeles, which is readily available on the web. (http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/26102)The problems, shall we say, are not about one issue only." What a wonderful multi-cultural event the liturgy in L.A. was. And so many connections between first nations' cultures and classical Christianity, such as honoring ancestors and the classical cult of the saints. Too bad Tom Wright felt compelled to put North Americans down in his closing address. I don't know why he provided the link to the consecration via standfirm with its odious tag line. The consecration is available from the Dicoese of L.A.'s own website
http://www.ladiocese.org/
Many years ago, I picked up some advice from a former professor of mine, a guy with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Louvain. He said, "its always a good idea to find out what is going on before saying too much about it". It's good advice. I pass it on to the Lord Bishop free of charge.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 4:09am BST

I'm really tired of the bog-standard disclaimer "Oh, but Tom Wright is such a great New Testament scholar!"

This: "the clear and unambiguous teaching of the New Testament", regarding homosexuality, is PATENTLY FALSE. And anyone w/ a Bachelor's degree should know it! >:-(

And then this:

"Actually, if you want to know about the present state of the church in America you ought to watch the video of last Saturday’s service in Los Angeles, which is readily available on the web. [I'm guessing Tom put in the LimpsVille link himself? Instead of DioLA's?] The problems, shall we say, are not about one issue only."

Oh spare me, I already addressed this twisting-of-knickers on a thread below. Just because TEC's worship isn't frozen on an English model from the 19th century (much less 1662!) doesn't mean we're any less "Anglican" than Mother Church (You want Krazy worship? See some of the North American schismatics, like Minns's place!)

When they were handing out *integrity*, Tom thought they said "Innit he gritty?" and he demured, nose in the air. Feh!

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 4:14am BST

"The Archbishop of Canterbury is, I believe, in the process of writing a pastoral letter to all the churches, and I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say."

He said that last time, he was at the centre of the action - and it wasn't true.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 4:15am BST

Dear Tom, why do you continue to wander into this minefield without a thought as to how the whole venture will end up? Your most recent thoughts on ecclesiology include these, ..." rogue provinces (sic) who declare on their own local authority that this (the equality of LGBT persons in their Church) is adiaphora and can therefore be decided by them alone. It has been debated and decided by the whole church meeting in solemn conclave."

May I ask which "church" you are referring to? Could it be the fictional worldwide "Anglican Church?" The one that Tobias Haller so aptly called, "the Church of All Outdoors?" The "church" that is dominated by bishops, and preferably Primates? The "church" that sets doctrine and policy for its subject provinces? Evidently, this "church" meets "in solemn conclave" and "decides" matters for the rest of us, rather like the Collge of Cardinals or Vatican II. Actually, Vatican II wasn't so bad. Other than Rome, and the shared imagination of yourself, the GS Primates and RW, where do you find this "Church"? Nevermind. If I were to find it, I would certainly not become a member.

It cannot come as a surprise to you that most of us in TEC, including our bishops, regard the Lambeth Conference, the "solemn conclave" to which you seem to refer, as a mere meeting of bishops to confer with one another and to share the experiences and concerns of their dioceses and provinces. And that we regard the resolutions of Lambeth to be interesting and informative, and sometimes inspiring, but hardly as doctrinal mandates. You see, we in TEC regard international meetings of bishops as lacking in something necessary, the representative voice of the laity. You know, "the baptized."

We know that you, and RW, regard the elected, constitutional, and accountable episcopacy in TEC to be also lacking: we lack the monarchical quality so important in some other provinces, including your own. We did that on our own too, "rogue province" that we are.

But make no mistake, Tom. We do not consider justice and equality for LGBT persons to be "adiaphora." Far from it. We include LGBT persons as equal members in our Church, an actual Church, unlike the "Church of All Outdoors". We believe that we are compelled to do so by the justice and equality implicit in the reign of God and in the Sacrament of Baptism. We have decided to take a long overdue stand against the intimidation, imprisonment, and executions of LGBT persons that are rife in so many provinces of the Anglican Communion.

How is it that you have never, so far as I know, referred to Nigeria, Uganda, the West Indies, etc. as "rogue provinces?" Indeed, you hob-nob and make common cause with their Primates, do you not? Tell me, Tom, why your thunderous silence during the past year of killings, imprisonments and terrifying legislative proposals advocated by those with whom you so much agree?

What good is ecclesiology, dear bishop, without morality? To what end does a Church exist if it colludes with oppression and murder?

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 8:32am BST

It is troubling that Bishop Wright refers to the incorporation of Native American ceremonies, which were respectfully incorporated into a much larger service, to describe "the present state of the Church in America," as if this is a bad thing. Perhaps the Church in LA lacks the sterility of English evangelical congregations or the peaceful empty feeling of many ordinary parishes on Sunday mornings.

Posted by: Michael on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 8:38am BST

It would seem that, now that the ABC has issued his Pentecost Letter to The Churches, TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada are being declared 'persona non grata' in the Communion on issues touching ecumenical initiatives and any further inclusion in dialogue on faith and order issues in common.

No doubt Bishop Tom's Diocesan Statement on such matters has been taken into account by Rowan; while the recent 'Faith For Today' statement by another Bishop Tom (Butler)- distancing himself from further discrimination against women and gays - has been discounted.

As a retired clergy member of another Province outside the UK (New Zealand), I see this as a sad reflection on the tendency towards exclusivism in Communion Affairs which demonstrates a greater desire for institutional conformity than for the essential Anglican genius of 'Unity in Diversity'.

Matters of human sexuality and gender differences have been given priority over the potential divisiveness of divorce and inter-Provincial piracy - although, on this latter breech of the moratoria, no doubt the offending Provinces of Nigeria, Southern Cone, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya will find come way around the embargo.

It will be interesting to see if TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, for starters, will agree to go along with this imposition of external discipline - let alone the marauding provinces.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 10:37am BST

This address, read as a whole, nicely encapsulates both Bishop Wright's strengths and his weaknesses.

The first part is erudite, thoughtful, interesting and clear - although it is surely not necessary to dress up a simple concept like "things that don't matter" by sticking to the original Greek, as if to warn off those who don't have Greek.

The second part, on the other hand, forcefully expresses his own views, which are controversial, and brooks no opposition to them, without, however, establishing them rationally or in any way other than by assertion - much as the Bishop criticises others for doing.

He is a scholar and a polemicist and a pessimist. He is right to retire early from his see, because polemic and pessimism are not qualities which are much use to a bishop, who must be shepherd to a large flock of individual creatures with a tendency to run away, and who must achieve his pastoral care by persuading, coaxing, and leading; not by ordering, shouting and putting off those who can never be put on a leash.

Posted by: badman on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 10:43am BST

If Wright would like to see a real travesty of a church service, he should check out what his "orthodox" friends in Virginia are up to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X6th4pQTq8

Or he should consider this interesting little item: http://web.archive.org/web/20070330074533/surrounded.classicalanglican.net/?p=80

And then there's the matter of Bob Duncan, the Arbiter of All Orthodoxy, dabbling in the furthermost Sarah Palin fringes of Pentecostalism with his talk of "a breaker anointing": http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-is-pittsburghs-anticipated-breaker.html

All these things, presumably, are fine with M'lord of Durham, but let some American Indians in the place and he goes to pieces. Strange, isn't it?

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 1:25pm BST

Ah man, dig that rock 'n roll Sanctus JPM!!!! Well, at least the bishop can chant, but the sunlight must be really bright in that church, 'cause they've all got their hands up to shield themselves from something.......yeah, orthodox all right!

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 4:02pm BST

The link to which Tommy points is probably only going to work for folks with a PC.

If you have a Mac and are truly interested in seeing the service, the Diocese of Los Angeles has links to Mac friendly(er)* videos as well, at the link posted by Rod Gills above;
http://www.ladiocese.org/

*Both sets of videos are the accursed MicroSoft Windows Media formats. However, if you have the most up-to-date version of Apple's Quicktime and also install Flip4Mac ( http://www.telestream.net/flip4mac-wmv/overview.htm ), you should be able to view the vids put up for Macs. No need to buy anything, just download and install the free player app.

Posted by: David | Dah•veed | on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 4:26pm BST

Some kind of a triumph for liberalism that Wright is leaving after so short a time on the job ?

Encouraging to me anyway. Ive lost all patience with Fundy approaches to religion.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 9:23pm BST

After the American Revolution, The Episcopal Church in America got along just fine without the imprimatur of The Church of England. It is perhaps time for this Church in America and the Anglican Church of Canada to travel their own path without concern for the right wing fundamentalist elements who are trying to blackmail the Anglican Communion into a rigid, homophobic and misogynistic model of being a Church.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 11:37pm BST

Link to the page of videos is at
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/004380.html
and please make any further comments about the service over on that article and not here.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 May 2010 at 12:08am BST
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