Comments: ACNA and FCA

From across the pond - for some context. How many members are there in General Synod?

Posted by palger at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 8:44pm BST

This is an extraordinary document for the Bishop of Gibraltar-in-Europe to have signed. His Anglican Communion mission partners in Europe are the jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church and the Spanish and Lusitanian Episcopal churches which overlap geographically with his own. He has an agreement with the Episcopal Church's Convocation in Europe (as also with the Old Catholic Church, which is equally "liberal") under which no "competing" mission work is undertaken by one jurisdiction in a place where another one already operates. Surely his signing of this document tears up that understanding?

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 8:52pm BST

Just you wait until you see the ACNA press release on this! You will see a demonstration of the saying that if you give certain people an inch they will take a mile (and try to steal the family silver while they're at it).

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 9:10pm BST

This motion is almost unexceptionable. We desire to be in communion with other churches and Christians. You could replace this with "The Methodist Church" or "The Roman Catholic Church" [even "The Episcopal Church"] and it would pass without a peep. The question is the basis on which this is done - if desire were sufficient, we would have united with the Methodists, and the call based on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral would have led to the reunification of the Christian Churches. The irony is in desiring (and I think the intention here would be more than 'desire') communion with a group whose first act has been to declare that they are out of communion with fellow christians.

It doesn't instruct anyone to do anything.

One response would be for General Synod to pass such a thing as completely trivial.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 9:46pm BST

I fear this motion might put me and my Parish out of communion with my own Church.

Posted by Fr. Simon at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 10:34pm BST

"Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) to move: ‘That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America.’"

O Happy Chance for Mrs Ashworth, that it already is! {Pssst! They're called, respectively, The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada}

Posted by JCF at Monday, 13 July 2009 at 11:50pm BST

I gather that over the past 3 days the motion has gained the support of approx 25 per cent of synod members. I suspect that many more are likely to sign and that a number of bishops who were not present may do so. A qustion was asked at synod as to how many individual bishops considered themselves to be in communion with ACNA - the official response was that this information was not yet available!

Posted by David Malloch at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 12:16am BST

A PS to Fr Mark's comment, in the Diocese in Europe we also work closely with the Scandinavian Lutheran churches (Porvoo Agreement), sometimes even sharing clergy.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 6:57am BST

Not to mention The Anglican Church of Mexico, whose presiding bishop is called Touche, Mrs Ashworth.

Posted by Joan_of_Quark at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 10:07am BST

All I can say is, after D025 passes, I can imagine that it won't just be 100 signatures. I might as well hope that the Porvoo churches who support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians would seriously reconsider their relations with the Church of England as a consequence of this decision.

Prayers ascending for all, especially as relationships are both strengthened and broken by this moment of crisis.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 2:24pm BST

Fr. Simon, yes, unfortunately, I think now for the first time there will be a split in the Church of England also. Graham Kings openly says he wants TEC out of the Communion because TEC accepts the possibility that God may call gay and lesbian persons to ministry. Pete Broadbent openly says the same. Others in the C of E openly say they want to break communion with the Porvoo Churches over their acceptance of the ministry of gay and lesbian persons. Their C of E is headed toward isolation, breaking its ties with the existing Communion and its ecumenical partners, who hold diverse views.

All this gives the lie to the notion that there has ever been such a thing as an "open evangelical." There are only evangelicals: each of them reads the Bible his [sic] way; his way is the right way; and if you don't read the Bible the same way he does, you are a heretic. In the evangelical world, there are no second-order issues, no areas of legitimate disagreement, nothing waiting on further discernment. It either is or it isn't; it's black or it's white, of God or of the Devil.

All of this is well-trodden ground to those of us familiar with the religious disputes of the first Elizabeth's reign, of course. The evangelicals of that day took exactly the same stance with respect to the overwhelmingly important, communion-breaking issue of vestments. Yes, vestments. What sorts of clothes could be worn at a church service. The duty clearly enjoined in the Gospels* of denouncing others for wearing the wrong sorts of clothes clearly trumped all duties of obedience toward one's bishop or charity toward one's neighbors.

And if there was one thing that was clearly settled in the first Elizabeth's reign, it is that such an attitude is Not Anglican.

*I can't find the Gospel passage right now in which Jesus denounces the maniple, but the 16th century evos were sure it was in there, so it must be.

Posted by Charlotte at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 3:24pm BST

Interesting that the Bp of Willesden has signed. ACNA has within it dioceses and other jurisdictions which reject WO and also dioceses which accept it. Might he see the case for similar provision with the English provinces?

Posted by David Malloch at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 8:29pm BST

Why it can't simply be accepted that evangelical Christianity is an inherently and thoroughly homophobic belief which is simply beyond change without becoming Not Evangelical is beyond me

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 14 July 2009 at 9:19pm BST

Merseymike, I take your point about Evangelical homophobia, but I think the problem really lies with the hermeneutic Evangelicals bring to Scripture. That hermeneutic rests on pure subjectivism, a kind of "it seems to me" that offers up incorrigible readings, but leaves them with no room for divergent opinion and no way of changing their minds on any disputed point.

I can't imagine today's evos have any way of stopping to ask just how it was that gay sex became of such overriding importance to them, or whether there aren't other issues they might appropriately consider on their way to schism.

But it was the same way in the Vestiarian Controversy. Once the Elizabethan evos took a stand, whatever it was, they had no way of backing down or changing their minds. So followed Puritans, Civil War, regicide, schism, and New England (well, at least some good came out of it all).

Posted by Charlotte at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 12:02am BST

...and most interesting to see Bishop 'I'm a socialist, me' Broadbent of Willesden supporting and encouraging institutionalised homophobia in a way he never seemed keen to do when a Labour councillor in Islington!

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 12:25am BST

All the hidden or subterranean nastiness towards queer folks must surely come right out now, into every open. Is there a nasty name in the book that somebody has not already spoken? Do these constant, loud repetitions really rub it all in deep? Or hasten the coming of a day when the trash talk loses even more of its powers?

Such dynamics begin to describe how these sorts of sea changes work, more or less. Expect it to grow thick, dark, and hectic with the impending rush to put some sort of condemnation and distance between any sort of conservative or traditional believer, and the highly offensive queer folks. Ditto, straight allies. Of course the same believers who yell that modernity is hell in a hand basket will probably still pick up the phone to call a neurosurgeon if their symptoms suggest a brain tumor. That is how these sea changes work, too.

Exit signs in church life will be posted with even bigger letters, and highlighted, and spotlighted - in every possible manner. I hope Rowan will be happy then, to reap the collapse of the big tents all around, that he helped sow by refusing to stand for what I suspect he knows, in his heart of hearts, is the corrected facts about queer folks and maybe even some other current hot button Anglican differences.

In this change as in others, God and grace will still be abundant. Eventually, we shall work through it, though it may take some time - if the Copernican revolution is any indicator. People who pride themselves in believing flat earth things are certainly not in short supply in USA. Don't know exactly about other Anglican realms, up close and personal.

The hidden but underlying big sea change item is the crisis of penal religion. Compared to that, queer folks are batting practice.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 3:18am BST

In response to Charlotte...
I would respectfully disagree with her comment that "in the evangelical world, there are no second-order issues, no areas of legitimate disagreement, nothing waiting on further discernment." I am a committed evangelical and neither myself nor the vast majority (if not all) of my evangelical brothers and sisters of whom I know are not correctly defined by this comment. There are many secondary issues that we would dissagree on whilst enjoying communion with each other as well as many from other traditions within the Anglican Church and beyond. This is not the place for me to explain my (and others) exegetical & hermeneutical framework, however I just wanted to point out that we do dissagree and this is then followed by a desire to lovingly, graciously and humbly come back to Scripture together to understand more of who God is, the salvation he has given us and how to live for him in response - whatever the issue being discussed is.
Many thanks.

Posted by AGPH at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 1:09pm BST

"we do dissagree and this is then followed by a desire to lovingly, graciously and humbly come back to Scripture together"

This post was quite gracious. I, however, read it through the blinkers of an admittedly sinful anti-Evangelical bigotry, that causes me to read into such comments things that might not be there. For instance, I NEVER understand myself to be included in the "we" of Evangelicals. I am too accustomed to people who identified as Evangelicals telling me I am not a Christian because I am not an Evangelical. Honestly, my immediate reaction, and I apologize for this, is that you, being an Eangelical, do not believe I am a Christian. I have met some who do not think like that, but it is a hard thing for me to change my thinking, when the overwhelming majority of my 47 years experience says my original belief is true. While you may not know Evangelicals who fit Charlotte's description, it have only rarely met any who don't. I'm trying to get over this, I apologize again.

Second, the idea that we "come back to Scripture" to understand more. For many of us, Scripture is not the only place where we seek to understand more. I often say that, as far as I'm concerned, the Scriptures are the User's Manual for the faith. They are not Christianity itself. If we base our decisions solely on Scripture, I believe we will make mistakes. We must also look to Tradition, and Reason. So, how do we resolve disagreements when we do not agree on the process of doing that? Neither of us can cite as authority something the other doesn't see as authoritative, after all. While I accept the authority of Scripture, I recognize other sources, and, ultimately, it is the ecclesia, not the Scriptures, that are the authority. So how you and I resolve our conflicts, given our different concepts of authority?

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 7:50pm BST

Thanks for your thoughtful, respectful and, in my view, very helpful response re. evangelicalism. Your characterization of evangelicalism conforms with my past experience. You are quite right to emphasize that evangelicals DO see a number of issues as "second order" and allow for diversity of belief and practice. It isn't fair to suggest otherwise.

What I think frustrates many non-evangelicals is the seemingly inconsistent selectivity in what will be regarded as a "second order" issue. For example, many non-Anglican evangelicals take a very a "low" view of the necessity and efficacy of baptism, a view that clashes with Scripture (see, e.g., Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), the strong teaching of the Church Catholic (East and West) and traditional Anglican sources (such as the 1662 baptismal rite); yet many Anglican evangelicals treat this as a "second order" issue, and even affirm this approach over against clear Anglican teaching; for example, making the non-scriptural recitation of a "sinner's prayer" the way one becomes a Christian and gets "born again". One would think that something related directly to salvation and the New Birth would not be a "second order" issue, yet it is. Likewise, many Anglican evangelicals (EVEN supporters of Reform) are willing to see Anglo-Catholic worship of the Blessed Sacrament as "second order" although the rubric of the 1662 BCP says this practice is "idolatry".

So, we have the odd situation that the saving sacrament commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19), and a practice that may be idolatry, are "second order," but the possibility that God might call a "practicing homosexual" to the ordained ministry of the Church can't be "second order."

Posted by WilliamK at Wednesday, 15 July 2009 at 9:24pm BST

Dear Ford, thank you for your honest and deeply humbling post.

With regard to your second point, I would agree that there is certainly a place for Reason and Tradition and I would desire to use both. However I would say that whatever conclusions we may draw from these two sources would work in support with the divine source we have in Scripture. The reason I say this is that the Bible is not subject to human error, it is God's divine word (2 Timothy 3:16) for us (although our reading of it may be!), whereas there is the danger that Reason and Tradition could be?

I'm sure there are many times where we will not resolve a conflict on a secondary issue and where that is the case we must be able to lovingly,humbly and respectfully "agree-to-disagree"!!
Many thanks again

Posted by AGPH at Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 1:33pm BST

AGPH, you couldn't read a word of that Bible
--if you didn't speak and read the English language
--if you didn't use a commentary to help you over the hard passages and point out the words whose meaning has changed
--if you didn't make a choice (even a passive one) to adopt one commentary over another
--if you didn't choose to adopt one or another translation of the Bible as your standard
--and make some choice as to the sources on which your preferred translation is based. The Textus Receptus or a later critical edition of the sources?
-- and...

There is plenty of room there for Reason and Tradition to operate in your Bible-reading, isn't there? I suppose that's all right as long as you don't let yourself be aware that your "plain meaning of Scripture" is in fact shaped by particular, historical uses of Reason and Tradition. I say, however, that those who won't reflect on their uses of Reason and refuse to be aware of the Traditions that shape them are in a dangerous condition.

And you've dodged the real issue: You say you can "agree to disagree" when there is a conflict on a "secondary issue," but won't tell us what makes an issue secondary. My observation is that, historically speaking, anything can be a first-order issue if some Evangelical or other decides it is.

My further observation is that, historically speaking, evos choose headline-grabbers as first-order issues. They attacked the theaters in Shakespeare's day because it guaranteed them attention. Today, in my part of the world, evos regularly picket Disney World because it sponsors "Gay Days." That, too, is a headline-grabber.

Is there another criterion among the evos for judging what is a first-order issue? I must have missed it, but am willing to be enlightened.

Posted by Charlotte at Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 4:05pm BST

AGPH wrote:
"...the Bible is not subject to human error, it is God's divine word (2 Timothy 3:16)...."

There are several problems with this claim. First, many honest readers of the Bible have recognized that it IS "subject to human error." At several points, it simply gets its facts wrong. For example, how did Judas die? Suicide (Matthew 27:5) or accident (Acts 1:15-18)? It can't be both, despite ingenious (and desperate) attempts to harmonize the two contradictory stories. Please NOTE that this is just ONE simple example. There are many, many more.

Second, 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn't actually say that the Bible is "not subject to human error." This is, in fact, an interpretation, based on particular presuppositions about the implications of "all Scripture" being "inspired by God."

Third, it is actually far from clear what 2 Timothy 3:16 actually is saying about Scripture. What does the Greek that literally means "God-breathed" really mean? And does the verse say "all Scripture is inspired by God" OR "all Scripture inspired by God is..." (see the NRSV textual note)?

A final note about the claim that Tradition IS "subject to human error." I understand that this is the standard Evangelical view. But this seems to me to be part of what Ford Elms was getting at (as well as something implicit in my earlier post). There are many Christians (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and many Anglo-Catholics) who would assert that Tradition is just as "inerrant" as Scripture; indeed, in some ways, since it defines the meaning of Scripture for the living Church, it may be MORE "inerrant."

Another finally.... I'll refer you back to my earlier post and pick up on Charlotte's latest to ask you to explain how issues are defined as "second order" versus "first order." As I noted, the question of whether baptism is a saving sacrament, the means of achieving New Birth, strikes me as "first order"; yet most evangelicals treat it as distinctly "second order." I'll confess that I ceased being an evangelical and believing in biblical inerrancy when I recognized how fast-and-free evangelicals played with this particular issue (and several others)...making the Bible say what their doctrinal positions needed it to say rather than what it actually says. In short, we're ALL "liberals" since none of us simply takes everything the Bible says at face value. We all interpret Scripture in relation to other governing principles and we fill in what it says with our traditions (lower-case or upper-case).

Posted by WilliamK at Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 5:23pm BST

"the Bible is not subject to human error, it is God's divine word"

But, from my point of view, Jesus is the Divine Word. This is not a small thing for me. At most, the Bible is the Words of God. Second, it is clear that the earliest Christians accepted the stories they were told, not the documents they read, since the documents weren't written at that point. So, the Gospel must be more than what is contained in the gospels. Third, as I said, I do not believe the Bible contains all there is to Christianity. It was written after the message had already taken hold in many parts of the Empire, and is a part of the Tradition, not separate from it. Fourth, the idea of "Biblical Christianity" is a myth of the Reformation. No such thing existed for the first 1500 years of Christianity, and I feel it is a serious error to think one can somehow reconstruct Christianity from a book that was not intended to conatin all of the faith in the first place. Sorry, but I cannot give to Scripture the degree of authority you do. Sorry, I'm not trying to insult, but I don't believe the Bible was ever written to be such an authority, it is the Church's book, and the Church as the ecclesia has the responsibility of interpreting it. Furthermore, given that this absolute authority of Scripture did not exist until 1500 years after the people had died who not only wrote the books, but who actually heard the original teaching of the message, I think it is a dangerous innovation. Oh, and, so as not to come out with it later and sound snotty, I believe the Reformers were the original "reassessors", carried out innovations far more radical than anything being done today, and while the Reformation was certainly necessary, I think everywhere, including in England, it went too far. In some instances waaaaaaaay too far.

What is the way for us to remain in unity while disagreeing so profoundly? As an Anglo-catholic I'd say that despite our disagreements we MUST continue to celebrate the Eucharist together. THAT is the most important thing for our unity.

And as to my posts being gracious and humbling, your praise is undeserved. Most people here probably suspect you got me in a good mood, I can be very cutting and nasty to Evangelicals when I want to be. Couple that with a sarcastic sense of humour, mocking of others and self alike, and you can see why I get myself in trouble here with great regularity.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 8:12pm BST

3 comments to reply to and only 400 words?!

Many thanks for your comments, I have read them with great interest and am enjoying this opportunity to discuss such issues in this manner. I don't think I have the space or brain power to take issue each by turn within the space permitted and much could be written, discussed and debated on each. This is not me trying to avoid giving answers rather I don't want to make summarizing statements of what I think and have the danger of leaving confusion or frustration in its wake. I would therefore, if I may, make two closing observations. Firstly, there is a great deal that you have written that I agree with say along amen to. Secondly, I have noted that through this discourse (I and we in the most general sense of the word) hold preconceptions of what we think an anglo-catholic, evangelic, liberal, anglican, free is like and these are different within our various cultural settings. For the sake of unity we do need to look beyond these andy yes Ford, amen amen to sitting at the Lord's table side by side.

I'm sorry that I have not been clearer in my answers. I would be happy to email or blog you in far greater detail where I can explain myself clearer.

Many thanks again

Posted by AGPH at Friday, 17 July 2009 at 1:58pm BST
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