Comments: two responses to the Central Florida letter

Smith and Conger present an interesting argument, one that my otherwise Anglo-catholic (now Roman Catholic) former rector used the more disenchanted he grew with the Episcopal Church.

However, I think an equally strong argument for the diocese as the fundamental unit of the church could be made by the inclusion of the preface to the ordinal and the ordination vows of deacons and presbyters. Likewise, the 1789 preface to the BCP reminds us that we did not seek to depart from England in terms of doctrine. I guess the question is whether the diocese or parish as locus of ministry is a matter of doctrine or discipline.

From a legal standpoint, haven't the courts in almost all cases supported the hierarchical understanding of the the Episcopal Church?

Even from a practical standpoint, parishes simply don't have an Episcopal identity, or even the ability to function (call clergy or produce clergy, confirm, dispose of property and so forth) apart from relationship with a diocese and the bishop.

Parishes simply are not and cannot be churches unto themselves in any sort of Anglican ecclesiology in the US.

Posted by Dirk C Reinken at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 1:12pm GMT

The TitusOnline article is having to talk history too much; the MCU article by Timothy Bartel simply tackles the contradictions taking place now and does link (as I have) the recent comments of the Archbishop to the Bishop of Florida and the letter of Jefferts Schori to the Bishop of Pittburgh - the latter having teeth, the former (Archbishop's comment) just being his own theology which would come about via the Covenant.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/11/reality-and-abstraction.html

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 1:32pm GMT

The other connection being comments to Fred Hiltz and that the Covenant Communion is a process not a doctrine.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 1:33pm GMT

This piece isn't new, per se. I wrote it about 5 years ago.

Posted by George Conger at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 2:27pm GMT

Bartel is spot on:

In the midst of these circumstances, the trustworthiness of the ‘Instruments of Unity' is scarcely enhanced when the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a personal letter to another bishop, takes it as read that the Instruments, in addition to having the power to deprive a member church of full status in the Communion, have the authority to recognise dissident dioceses of that church as retaining that status—so long as their bishop conforms to the strictures of documents and processes with no legitimate binding force on the Communion. And, pace Lambeth Palace, that is both a new policy statement—albeit a natural extension of current policy— and a road map for the future of the Communion—though in the event that TEC is expelled from the Communion, that Communion has no future worthy of the name.

Dr. Williams's argument is seriously flawed in that, as Cantuar, he is not the Pope, nor are the Primates, however pompous, his Curia. The Conger argument is based on the premise that church institutions neither change nor evolve. If that were true, General Synod--a recently conceived legislative body--would have no standing in the CofE either.

Posted by John Henry at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 3:07pm GMT

Does this mean that a parish can choose to align with any bishop, anywhere, for whatever reason? A parish in Wyoming could choose a bishop from South India just, well, just because?

I can imagine the vestry meetings--"Well, which bishop should we go with? I know Frank likes the guy from New Zealand, but Marge wants the woman in Wales who knew her cousin in high school. Is there any more coffee?"

Posted by Ashpenaz at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 3:27pm GMT

Smith and Conger's attempt to impose a congregationalist model sounds a bit desparate to me. The fact that it appears on Venomonline just adds to that impression, and certainly does nothing for its credibility.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 3:29pm GMT

Much depends on one's theology of episcopacy and priesthood. Is the presbyter the fundamental minister, and a bishop merely one among them who has been given the responsibilities of oversight? Or is the bishop the fundamental minister, with the presbyters merely ministering on his/her behalf?

Posted by MJ at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 3:34pm GMT

"Or is the bishop the fundamental minister, with the presbyters merely ministering on his/her behalf?"

This. I've been taught that the bishop is the "successor of the Apostles", the priest is his delegate. That is certainly the way things operate here. I have no disrespect for other views, but they aren't anything like the Anglicanism I was raised in. To say otherwise seems like revisionism to me, and thus not something that ought to be asserted by people who claim to be "reasserters" of ancient principles. That is, unless the reassertions are only of those things they find it convenient to reassert, the uncomfortable stuff being left out. But then, it's only EHBLs who do that.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 5:12pm GMT

The rules on implied trust and alienation of church property in relation to a diocese go back to an English statute of 1570. That was / is an established church, and the state has an interest in the proper use of church property. In the colonial period I imagine colonial churchmen observed all such statutes on alienation of church property scrupulously, responsible to London.

After the Revolution, the Episcopal Church became “necessarily” independent of English jurisdiction, “civil” and “ecclesiastical.” (Preface to the BCP 1789; enacting clause of the first Constitution of TEC). However, as TEC was considered a self-governing extension of the Church of England, the authority to limit alienation passed to the appropriate bodies, in accord with custom, until the enactment of a canon in 1806 (“the old Canon 59” on parish vestries.)

Interestingly enough, such limitations remain a matter of civil law in many places where the English statute of 1570 had been adapted (New York for example). From the foundation on, no church could alienate property without permission of the legislature (or later the chancellor, and now the Supreme Court of the State of New York). In New York, even a 6-year lease requires approval, to say nothing of sale. The state’s interest is not proprietary, but directed towards the good order of a society that, like itself, is intended to survive a particular generation’s whims.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 7:09pm GMT

John Henry has identified the core flaw in the paradigm, namely that "as Cantuar, he is not the Pope, nor are the Primates, however pompous, his Curia. The Conger argument is based on the premise that church institutions neither change nor evolve. If that were true, General Synod--a recently conceived legislative body--would have no standing in the CofE either."

Ashpenaz tongue in cheek comment "I can imagine the vestry meetings--"Well, which bishop should we go with? I know Frank likes the guy from New Zealand, but Marge wants the woman in Wales who knew her cousin in high school. Is there any more coffee?"

This joke becomes prophetically true when the we paraphrase:

"I can imagine meetings in Lambeth or with primates -- "Well, which policy should Cantebury go with? I know conservos like Jesus as the whole of God and unaccountable, but liberals like Jesus who knows and collaborates with other consciousnesses. So is Jesus the great imposer and slayer, or is Jesus the great collaborator and saviour? Is there any more coffee?""

Coffee break

Back to work "Let's insult a lot of the softies and go for the slayer model. We've stacked the numbers and other side naively trust that God actually wants peace, whereas we really know tyranny is never going to go away, and we're going to work to be in with the top tyrants, and God is going to help us, or he just ain't Jesus."

Jesus' words to the Daughter of Zion about not being frightened because his churches were going to be gentle deserves a reply. She should have been terrified and is now angry at how her trust was betrayed and her covenant denied and her energies corrupted.


Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 8:09pm GMT

Re: The parish being the basic unit and the National Church an "abstract reality"

I do not downplay the importance of the parish - from the clergy to the staff to the people there and programs offered. But if you think about it, we are awash with things from the National Church from beginning to end. When we drive our cars into the parking lot, we see the Episcopal Shield and the words "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You". We enter the church and see certain colors on the altar reflecting the church seasons. We see familiar vestments again with certain specific colors. We sing from the Hymnal and our liturgy comes from the Book of Common Prayer. We hear sermons preached from clergy trained in Episcopal Seminaries. In short, just about everything we experience comes from the National Church. In light of this, I am completely dumbfounded by the reference to our National Church as "an abstract reality". On the contrary, for me it is the very core and essence of what we do. Without it, we would be just another brand X church. No matter how nice the facilities, no matter how nice the clergy and people, I could not even consider joining a church not in the Episcopal Church. Having just attended a Network diocese's annual convention, believe me they would be in way over their head if they tried to go it alone.

Posted by Dallas Bob at Friday, 2 November 2007 at 9:34pm GMT

I converted (from Roman Catholicism) to the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion was nice but I converted because of the Episcopal Church. It is not the diocese, nor parish, nor AC but the national church with which I identify. It is our book of Common Prayer and TEC's real belief in the Anglican idea of the three pillars - Scriptures, Tradition and Reason- that helped me make the decision to convert. The acceptance of Reason was very important to me standing as it did in such stark contrast to my upbringing as an RC. It so well fits the history and foundation of the United States and reflects the Age of Enlightenment philosophy of its revolutionary founders.

Posted by pam at Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 1:33am GMT

Why is ecclesiology such a quagmire? How many millions of pages have been blackened, within Roman Catholic theology along, by disputations on the respective powers of bishops and councils and popes! And as churches multiply so do ecclesiologies; and even the most rigid codes of canon law seem unable to end a confusion sustained by the constant battle for power/authority by all parties. This huge expense of energy might be better applied, surely?

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 7:56am GMT

"We enter the church and see certain colors on the altar reflecting the church seasons. We see familiar vestments again with certain specific colors. We sing from the Hymnal and our liturgy comes from the Book of Common Prayer."

I'm not sure we all do, actually. Common Prayer is not Common, after all. Time was, we all said the same words, inadequate though they might have been, but now every national Church has it's own Prayer Book, and they are all different, so the commonality now seems to be one of structure in worship, rather than commonality of prayer. I might have had disagreements with the theology of the BCP, and I might have felt it to be liturgically deficient, but the fact that I was praying the same prayers and reading the same readings as Anglicans around the world meant I was part of something spacially and temporally huge. Getting used to that no longer being the case has been difficult, and I still feel something's missing. Besides, look at NP's scorn of anything liturgical. Many places wouldn't have vestments, let alone have anything to do with changing colour for the seasons, and their worship is anything but traditional Anglican. I sometimes feel our commonality, at least in the modern age, is a "fond fable and dangerous deceit", actually. I have an aunt who says, truthfully I think, "When I go into a United Church, I expect a United Church service, when I go into a Pentecostal Church, I expect a Pentecostal service. But when I go into an Anglican Church, I have no idea what to expect any more."

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 1:12pm GMT

Ford - I agree with your aunt!

I come back to the Lord and his apostles....they would have no idea what different dresses and colours mean and would care less..... this is yet another thing they did not bother with let alone teach as their focus was the gospel of Christ and salvation in his name.....maybe we should follow their example?

Posted by NP at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 2:27pm GMT

NP,
There was an old lady at our church. On occasion, she would have me over for lunch after Mass. Every Sunday there was a TV program called Meeting Place, that broadcast a service from some religious tradition or another. One Sunday the Pentecostals were on, and we watched in silence, sipping our sherry as we waited for our grapefruits to grill (I kid you not!). She inclined her head to the television, and said "You know, Ford, I suppose Our Lord doesn't mind that kind of thing." Just so's you know, it's not only Evos who think they are the only true worshippers of God. I find it really funny when you piously assert that you not only know what worship was like in Apostolic times, but that it was the same as what you do at HTB! I find it funny that you think that anything that developed in Christianity after the Bible was written cannot be God leading us into a fuller understanding of the faith. Most of all, I find it hilarious that you seem to think that style of worship is something worthy of judgement. What's more important, how we come to God, or what that does in our lives? It's not good enough for me to worship, I have to do it the same way you do, and by God, I'd better be spiritually nourished by it too! Thing is, if you are an example of what your style of worhsip does to someone, I want nothing to do with it. I'm bad enough, the last thing I need is encouragement to mine the Bible for verses to justify not making metanoia.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 4:15pm GMT

NP:

And then what would set us apart as Anglicans, as opposed to Methodists or Presbyterians or whatever? Does liturgy have no meaning to you? Does an order of worship mean nothing? Why don't we just go the Quaker route then, and all just come in to the meeting house, and sit quietly until the Spirit moves us to speak?

I have no argument with the Friends, BTW--I love them...but it's not the kind of worship I'm comfortable with...and definitely not a tradition I could follow.

One other question--does the Gospel of Christ anywhere call for us to reject a person because of the nature he was born with?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 5 November 2007 at 5:07pm GMT

Pat - I have no problem with our Anglican liturgy....not the made up stuff of recent decades out of the US....I mean Anglican liturgy.

Ford says "It's not good enough for me to worship, I have to do it the same way you do"
Not at all, Ford....if you read what I said, I was encouraging you to follow Christ and his apostles.....worship like them....in spirit and in truth. THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)and living it out (loving one's neighbour as oneself, sharing with the poor etc.
Don't copy HTB....copy Jesus. Don't worry if I disagree with certain beliefs if He and his apostles agree with you.......but do not place the same authority in things added in later centuries - St Paul was not happy with people trying to add things to the gospel in the first, as you know. So, to be clear, my encouragement to you is to follow Christ and his teaching first and foremost and to place most authority in what his Apostles, inspired by the SPirit, taught.....

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 9:55am GMT

"THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)and living it out (loving one's neighbour as oneself, sharing with the poor etc."

Not the Eucharist? "Do this in remembrance of me?"

As for the liturgy of the TEC BCP--what offends you, NP? That we speak in modern English? The Anglican tradition has always been that our worship is to be in the language understood by the people. I don't know about you, but in America we stopped using "thee, thou, thy" and similarly Elizabethan constructions even before our Revolution.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 1:28pm GMT

NP,
"worship like them....in spirit and in truth."

"It being so obvious to you that I do not!

THey did not care for finery, clothes, ceremony but for the proclamation of the gospel (Acts 4:12)"

Which, of course, isn't worship at all.

"trying to add things to the gospel"

I'm not sure how liturgical symbolism, that comes down to us from the time of the Apostles and is yet another way we express our continuity with them, constitutes "adding things to the Gospel".

"to place most authority in what his Apostles, inspired by the SPirit, taught....."

If you don't think it is important to do this, why do you want me to do it? Besides, why do you think I don't do this? You're not exactly the first selfrighteous fundamentalist to scorn the way I worship, NP. I'm glad you get what you get out of what you, for some reason, think is the way the Apostles worshipped. Jesus worshipped in Temple and Synagogue, not exactly bastions of hysterical hand waving. The evangelists took it for granted their audience understood their worship, which is why they didn't describe it to them and us. The only real images we have of worship is John's depictions of the worship in Heaven as seen in his visions on Patmos. Even then, this wasn't a prescription for how to worship, but an expression of what he understood worship to be, and it looks a lot more like what we did last Sunday than anything you see in the average Evo church.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 2:00pm GMT

"Not the Eucharist?"

Pat, one of my stereotypes of Evangelicals is that they have some kind of embarrassed horror of the Eucharist. Rome is centred on the Eucharist, thus, True Christians are not. The Eucharist is merely a pious exercise in memory, certainly not anything mystical or supernatural, and certainly not central to our worship. This despite the practice of the past 2000 years, despite the fact that thousands risked and lost their lives in the Roman Empire to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday because "It is what we do", as one group of martyrs told the magistrate who sentenced them. I think that the presence of mystical things is disturbing for them, actually. I was thus quite surprised to find a website of a very Evangelical Episcopalian Parish that was totally centred on the Eucharist! Talk about blowing away your preconceptions. I often think of that site when NP goes on one of his dismissals of liturgical worship, his confusion about Real Presence versus Transubstantiation, and his rejection of both.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 3:35pm GMT

Ford - you know as well as I do that the Lord and the Apostles did nothing that resembles the grand masses you may love and they were not clad in fine clothes not did they carry about the bread they were given to eat by the Lord........sorry, man-made traditions are not "gospel" and often are off-putting to seekers.

Maybe one reason the evangelical churches see so much more growth is that seekers are not confused by the strange clothes and ceremonies being performed in "high" churches?

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 8:42am GMT

"you know as well as I do that the Lord and the Apostles did nothing that resembles the grand masses you may love"

Actually, NP, I much prefer when things are off, when the choir is not on key, where something is dropped or forgotten. It feels a lot more homey. And I really don't know any more than you do how the Apostles worshipped. John in Revelation describes something very much different from what you find in Evo churches. No hand waving, no hysterical weeping, no babbling of nonsense monosyllables, no falling to the floor in hysterical swoons, none of that. There's incense, though, and bells, I believe, and people prostrating themselves on the floor, like the True Orthodox do, before the Throne. Certainly no hymn sandwich leading up to a 45 minute sermon. As to what happened in the average house Church in the first 300 years, I don't know. I do know they didn't think the Eucharist was a pious act of remembrance they did once and a while.Itt was, as I said, core to their experience. Indeed, as Dom Gregory Dix points out, there was a period of several decades when the Eucharist was how they understood the Gospel, it was there that they found the meaning of their faith, they having no written letters, much less gospels to go by. I do know that the scorn I expressed above for Evo worhsip is sinful, which is why I try not to say it. I have edited numerous snide jabs out of many of the posts I have made here before hitting 'post'. Do you not think your oft repeated scorn is equally sinful?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 5:31pm GMT

"Maybe one reason the evangelical churches see so much more growth is that seekers are not confused by the strange clothes and ceremonies being performed in "high" churches?"

Oh, yeah, heaven forfend that you should actually have to WORK at your religion, that you need to comprehend the nature of your worship. Better that your "liturgy" on Sunday morning be little different from the country-music concert you attended Saturday night.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 8:51pm GMT

Pat, while your sentiment echos my own, we also can't ignore the "leather and lace" Anglicans who Sunday mornings get rid of the gear they wore to the gay bar Saturday night in favour of a fetching little lace cotta Sunday AM! I rather suspect they are to be found among this (I know, it's a satire) little group.

http://www.fuc.org.uk/

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 5:33pm GMT
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