Comments: opinions to consider

Terry Philpott has not noticed that so-called 'secular society' is often far more humane and indeed godly than the offical policy of the RC denomination -and indeed other denominations.

And pray what society does Mr Philpott himself inhabit ? Whom does he have to thank for his education, health care and advantages, including career as an outhor and journalist - if not 'secular society' ?!

Gratitude to the given is not misplaced in a Christian person --even one's benefactor is something as large and impersonal as society -- a society SO secular that bishops sit in the legislature as of right, and the head of state, is also and by law, the chief governor of the (two) national church(es) !

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Saturday, 14 March 2009 at 9:57pm GMT

James W. Jones wrote of his experience of Synod:

"As far as I remember (I did not take notes), one speaker said that the American Church was “preaching a new gospel”; another said Americans were “tearing the fabric of the Com munion apart”. I got the impression that some of the speakers felt that the schismatics (as I think of them) were being persecuted by lawsuits, and needed to be protected from the American Church.

"I wanted to stand up and defend my Church. I have been a priest for 40 years, and I regularly read the church Fathers and the Anglican divines; I hardly feel as if I am “preaching a new gospel”. No self-styled traditionalist has been “driven out”, asked to leave, or forbidden by the Presiding Bishop from teaching or preaching."

He is absolutely right. But the Church of England has been fed a steady diet of misinformation about the Episcopal Church by the extremist right, and as a result, they don't know this.

Interesting fact: some of these extremists are the same individuals who fed the government and people of Great Britain a steady diet of misinformation about Iraq during the Bush Administration.

I am glad Fr. Jones is speaking up. The clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church need to keep articulating the truth clearly and often until they get through to those who have been misinformed.

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 15 March 2009 at 2:53am GMT

" I perceived the smell of the candles and of the wax and of the incense which is "encrypted" in these icons. I inhaled deeply and I smelt the icon in front of me, before kissing it: it was not an olfactory hallucination. I found myself, as if in church, praying. My aesthetic awe and theological reflection had been transcended."
- Alexandru Popescu -

What a wonderful, and truly Orthodox, description of what is going on in the use of iconography in worship. No need here for church edifice - only an attention to detail and a willingness to enter into the mysterium of what is taking place, in the 'space between' the icon and the viewer. This solidarity with the Saints is something which has been largely lost in contemporary Anglicanism. Would that there could be a renewal of the truly mystical in all meetings of the Faithful. Then there may be less preoccupation with acceptance of other people, on the grounds of their perceived differences. For all are one in Christ.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 15 March 2009 at 9:21am GMT

"Differences over specific issues (such as the full inclusion of devout gays and lesbians in the life of the Church) reflect breakdowns in un­der­standing of more fundamental theological concerns, such as the nature and distribution of power, and the place of experience and context in theological reflection. - Art. James W. Jones -

Dr. Jones, of the American Episcopal Church, has put his finger on one of the problems of the lack of communication between TEC and the C.of E. One of these problems is the perceived difference bewteen respective views of episcopal authority, which seems to have been taken more seriously in the UK and certain African countries, than in the newer Churches of the USA and, maybe, Canada.

Perhaps the main difference is in the relative views of the authority of the Bishop, versus the power of Synodical representation at the diocesan level. The monarchical model of the episcopate, prevalent in the UK and certain African countries does not sit well with the egalitarian systems of government of places like the U.S., which has grown up on the principle of a shared democratic system of government - whether civil or religious

In the world of today, where power structures are being questioned, one wonders whether the old monarchical system of the episcopate is any longer a valid expression of the Bishops' role in the 'priesthood of all believers' - a concept enunciated by bo less a theologian than Saint Paul. While one cannot say that the Church is exactly a democratic institution, and one does not deny the need of bishops and clergy, it is surely is meant to be a family based on the mutuality of gift-bearing members - each of whom has something to contribute towards the wellbeing and functioning of the whole. Such a structure requires mutual respect among its members - believing that governance comes from mutual respect, and not autocratic presumption.
Jesus' words on these structures - of both Church and world - were these: "The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve" Perhaps this ought to become the paradigm for episcopal ministry.

This servant model would de-emphasize the power of the Primates Council, in favour of a more balanced entity - such as that of the A.C.C. - as being more ecclesial than convocational, by its inclusion of both clerical and lay involvement in the polity of the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 15 March 2009 at 9:53am GMT

Exactly right, Father Ron Smith. Exactly right and wonderfully said.

Posted by Brant-in-LA at Sunday, 15 March 2009 at 5:14pm GMT

What James Jones doesn't mention, though, is that it suits a lot of people in the C of E leadership to make it sound as if the struggle for gay people to find acceptance in churches is principally an American "problem". In other words, there is a sense in which the C of E's leaders are content to view the TEC situation as a vicarious row which could then avoid the need for any similar rows nearer to home: C of E bishops never want any fuss and upset in England if it can be avoided.

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 7:51am GMT

Fr Ron Smith, as ever, makes some important observations. Concepts such as mutual respect and episcopal ministry as service are important to hear.

There is a proper challenge to monarchical models. but then what is the parallel challenge to democracy? It isn't enough to defend it with Churchill's "least worst" adage, as though that justified it in every place and context.

In Britain, governance theory has moved well away from the heavily representational (committee bound) structures of the 1960s and 70s towards more meritocratic models that focus primarily on the skills, experiences and attributes required to govern, so that decisions are, first and foremost, informed decisions.

Indeed, recent research into rural communities in England showed that those that have most successfully remained socially mixed and serve their poorest best tend to be the remaining feudal villages.

The notion of the church as both led and governed by the "bishop in council" has replaced the previous phrase "episcopally led and synodically governed" to good effect.

Democracy remains very poor at respecting the interests and wellbeing of minority viewpoints, of the external environment and of the future. All of these problems are writ large in the church, not least where it most follows a democratic polity.

Posted by David Walker at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 10:42am GMT

David W: the C of E is governed currently, though, not on a monarchical so much as an oligarchical principle, isn't it? The problem with that is that it is the based on the officer class/old boy net/ old school tie approach to the Establishment, which most values committee men, safe pairs of hands, time-servers and non-rockers of boats... none of which could be said to be based on Our Lord's way of leadership, could it?

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 1:20pm GMT

"But the Church of England has been fed a steady diet of misinformation about the Episcopal Church by the extremist right, and as a result, they don't know this."

Dr. Williams spent his sabbatical writing his book about Dostoevsky while holed up with the Jesuits in DC.

During that time, he could have visited as wide a variety of TEC churches as possible and not had to be driven more than 20 miles from where he stayed.

I suspect that during that time there might have been a diocesan council or an episcopal election to observe - for that, he might have had to travel a little further. [I don't recall which months he was here.]

He could have observed the excellent work of preparing people for ordained ministry at nearby Virginia Theological Seminary.

He did not.

Instead he has listened extensively to Archbishop-in-his-own-mind Dunkin', formerly Bob Pittsburgh, and other similar characters.

Such willful ignorance in the supposed leader of the Communion is inexcusable.

He will come to our Gneeral Convention, and, rather than observe how we go about our business, will likely lecture us and return to whatever rock he lives under.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 4:12pm GMT

"Democracy remains very poor at respecting the interests and wellbeing of minority viewpoints, of the external environment and of the future. All of these problems are writ large in the church, not least where it most follows a democratic polity."

Really? It is in the most democratic polities of this Communion where one of society's most despised minorities--homosexuals--have made the greatest advances in acceptance.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 8:20pm GMT

David Walker opines that "Democracy remains very poor at respecting the interests and wellbeing of minority viewpoints, of the external environment and of the future. All of these problems are writ large in the church, not least where it most follows a democratic polity."

I think it might be more accurate to say, "Human beings in general remain, individually and collectively, very poor at respecting the interests and wellbeing of minority viewpoints, of the external environment and of the future. All of these problems are writ large in the church, regardless of polity."

There are 'checks and balances' in the Church of England and different ones in the Episcopal Church (USA) that are meant to correct for those human failings. Neither is perfect, but having seen both the CofE and TEC up close, I don't feel that the democratic TEC model comes off badly by comparison. Pat O'Neill's point is well taken.

Posted by Mary Clara at Monday, 16 March 2009 at 10:00pm GMT

"There are 'checks and balances' in the Church of England and different ones in the Episcopal Church (USA) that are meant to correct for those human failings."

And this is the problem when it comes to the Church. Surely our decision making processes are based on seeking to discern the will of God. Of course, our human failings will make this process difficult, and we will make mistakes. But, are the "checks and balances" dealing with this, or with the usual problems that arise in any democratic process? Where did we get this idea that it is not actually the Kingdom of God, but the Republic of God, where our representatives speak for us in some sort of Divine House of Commons? If the Church is nothing more than some corporate entity, or some social group organized for the vague purpose of "doing good", then what's the darned point? I grant the idea is widespread in the Church, all the more reason to continually make this point, I think. This attitude certainly gives the impression that what is being decided at Synods of any sort only coincidentally represents our discerment of the will of God, if we've even bothered to attempt that discernment, since it is focussed on being some sort of "government" or something, where we all hash out what we want, and those with the best powers of persuasion, the greatest numbers, the best political skill, or were able to stack the meeting, will get their way. Tell me where in that I can find any concept of spirituality, much allow that spirituality to be guided by any such obviously non-spiritual institution?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 3:33pm GMT

Ford,
I don't understand your argument.

Every Christian tries to discern God's will at all times, not just in church.
One hopes that the church is made up only of Christians, so that this discernment is easier, because everyone is motivated by the same desire.

But the form this discernment of God's will takes is a completely different matter. For some churches a democratic principle may work, for others a more hierarchical one.

I would not wish to limit the Spirit by claiming that he can only act through one system of governance.

After all, taking the other line to the extreme means ending up with an infallible Pope through whom the Spirit speaks, because everything else could be considered as selling out to democratic principles.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 5:13pm GMT

Discernment is where we face our human condition, together, using the best available tools we can apply. I would not trade in the modern best practice tool kit for any of the alleged alternatives to using it, most often claimed to be safer than using it. Being fallible and thus able to be corrected as falsehoods or missteps are revealed over time, is really a tremendous, deep blessing.

Those who may believe they are infallible are suffering a terrible, painful curse. Such folks not only bear that burden, but frequently take it out on everybody around them.

The categorical searches for infallible discernment are folly at best, and mean abuse or domination at worst. Citizens, believers, we do the best we can under various circumstances, always aware that we shall find the errors of our ways and be called yet again to metanoia. Or, recalling somebody from the past whose names escapes me at the moment: Those who repent and follow Jesus, do change; and we who follow Jesus daily, change very often.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 8:12pm GMT

"Those who may believe they are infallible are suffering a terrible, painful curse. Such folks not only bear that burden, but frequently take it out on everybody around them." - drdanfee on Wed -

As witness the latest 'infallible' statement made by Benedict 14 during his African Safari - on the fallibility of condoms in the HIV/Aids battle. How can we condone such fallible statements when they purport to come from a Christian Leader?

The same sort of infallibility is claimed by such as His Grace the Archbishop of Nigeria in his pogrom against the LGBT community in his own country - which community he previously had claimed did not exist! The Church is fallible - like any other human institution.

Only the Lord of the Church can ever claim infallibility, and even He "..did not claim equality with God, but took upon himself the form of a slave, becoming fully human, as all men are..."

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 9:36pm GMT

Is infallibility a useful term at all I wonder ?

Jesus, in fact, seems to have got some crucial things wrong- and perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all.

Maybe it gives us permission and our struggles and cock-ups a certain grace

Listening to 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'(radio 4) is a good antidote, it suddenly strikes me, to infallibility phantasies, as well as being 'the antidote to panel games'.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Sunday, 22 March 2009 at 5:56am GMT

"Jesus, in fact, seems to have got some crucial things wrong"

What things?

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 22 March 2009 at 6:42pm GMT
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