Comments: Some Anglican Communion Questions

The type of answer by this bishop is frustrating to lay people everywhere. This Anglican bishop sounds like the garden variety Roman Catholic bishop that Vatican II Catholics encounter just about everywhere. Unless I am reading this incorrectly, and if I am I apologize for my lack of understanding, but these types of comments represent a certain elitism and "set apartness" from the average lay person or as we say the rest of, The People of God. Radical reform in all of the hierarchy systems in the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions should be a front burner issue. It isn't working and this perhaps more than any argument is why representation in these bodies will be greatly enhanced when women and glbt persons are admitted to the episcopate. It will not eliminate all of the issues that need to be addressed but it will help. Optional celibacy in the other two communions would be helpful as well.

Posted by Chris Smith at Sunday, 25 July 2010 at 5:05pm BST

The innate yet unavoidable contradiction that still vigorously operates at the very heart of Rowan Williams leadership in favor of global communion-wide covenanting is that its policing/punishment claims to be necessary global support for inviting a range of real Anglican people to the tables for healthy understandings across our differences; while in fact the new covenant will serve to punish and push out, mainly Anglican types who dare to change in their beliefs/understandings of the current hot button target people of the moment (you know, those pesky queer folks, and still, women) - whose changes are preached to be the entirely guilty causes of global church difficulty.

This new covenant serves to define the Anglican Big Tent Future as completely beholden to a mind-blowingly settled and closed view of what God is up to in our modern world, not to mention how closed the view is, of how God is at work among us. We are globally defined by a meanly literalistic-rightwing-nonscholar Anglican sort of tradition. ... well, most often we hear about bishops, forget all the little lay people except when counting huge numbers of little Anglican bums in the pew can be used as a sign of some high legitimacy at a given preachy moment.

Nigeria, Uganda, and quite a few other Anglican places can openly contemplate the most egregious flat earthisms with little or no effective response from the New Anglican Top. RW rests all to comfortably on the obvious fact that a generally fair and open civil society around him will take care of all the queer citizens he so loves to say are not all right, nor welcome. Similar contradictions serve to say they are recognizing women's ministries and calls, while functioning in daily church life to make sure that real Anglican priests are walled off in their own special bell jar domains.

The whole spin doctor business really smells ... like used car marketing. All the usual indicators of dodgy marketing are present from time to time to time: bait and switch advertising, half-true and completely untrue claims, vigorous protestations of fairness and friendship towards the consumer who is meant to be duped and manipulated, and well ... keep counting?

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 25 July 2010 at 7:38pm BST

Chris Smith: "Radical reform in all of the hierarchy systems in the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions should be a front burner issue. It isn't working and this perhaps more than any argument is why representation in these bodies will be greatly enhanced when women and glbt persons are admitted to the episcopate."

Spot on, Chris: you are exactly right.

Maybe a generation change will be required too: organisations run almost entirely by men age 50+ are unlikely to be able to cope adequately with the rapid pace of social change experienced in recent decades, I suppose. The churches seem to be currently run on the basis that everyone in them grew up churchy, and will therefore bear with their painfully slow adaptation to prevailing social mores. That's no way to earn a place in the society of the future: I think we need to be concerned just as much with Christianity having a future as we are with its past (and I write as someone who spends a lot of time reading history books!).

Posted by Fr Mark at Sunday, 25 July 2010 at 9:37pm BST

A number of us Americans enjoy from time to time watching "Prime Minister's Questions," which are telecast in the US on the C-SPAN cable TV channels.

It's all beginning to make sense....

(At least American politicians have the decency to stand in front of the microphones and lie like rugs.)

Posted by William Moorhead at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 1:11am BST

Just wanted to say how much I agree with Chris Smith and Fr. Mark...

Posted by Scot Peterson at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 8:40am BST

Chris Smith: "Radical reform in all of the hierarchy systems in the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions should be a front burner issue.

The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 8:57am BST

RIW:

Set up by God, really? Care to show us where?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 11:24am BST

I cannot believe that such opinions are still held in any chuch as written by Robert Ian Williams. He must be joking, has he never heard of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that challenges, guides the Body of Christ to proclaim the Gospel, and serve His children in every age. Certainly not static, dull and self opiniated

Let the churches listen to, and obey the Holy Spirit. As we pray 'Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as in Heaven.

Fr John (Scotland)

Posted by Fr John at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 11:40am BST

Robert Ian Williams -- surely you know that the current method of appointment of bishops in the RCC is a recent innovation & NOT something that has been in place for 2000 years!

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 12:20pm BST

Just read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It gives me hope where so much of the churches reflected here, really makes me wonder / gets me down. Am I too old for all this churchy conflict stuff ?

Posted by Pantycelyn at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 1:03pm BST

"The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years."

"Served us well"???

As a cradle RC, I suggest you seriously reconsider that statement in light of Bernard Cardinal Law et al. There are a great many RC children and former children who haven't been at all well served by that hierarchy (do you not read the newspapers?) -- not to mention, over the course of that nearly 2,000 years, untold numbers of (Roman) Catholic women, LGBTs, victims of the Inquisition, etc etc., and not to mention Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and other non-RCs resident in (Roman) Catholic Christendom over the centuries.. The list really goes on and on.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 1:18pm BST

"The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years."

Yes indeed. Just ask the tens of thousands [if not more] of victims of priestly child abuse whose predatory abusers were shielded by said hierarchy.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 1:39pm BST

"The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years." RIW

Well then, I guess there's no more to be said. Thanks so much.

Posted by Cal McMillan at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 2:02pm BST

Robert Ian Williams: "The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years."

Oh?

And on what planet would that be?

Posted by William Moorhead at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 2:54pm BST

RIW: "The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years."

I'm tired of the Romans refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. They seem always ready to blame things in God. And as far as the hierarchy serving anyone well for 2000 years, there seems to be some differences of opinion on that. Of course if you are a Roman Catholic Prelate, the statement may very well be true.

Posted by Deacon Charlie Perrin at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 2:56pm BST

Robert Ian Williams: "The Catholic hierarchy was set up by God and its not up for revision, thank you. It has served us well for nearly 2,000 years."

Oh, give us a break, RIW. You know nothing about that, and are obviously in denial about the evolution of the Roman structure.

Aside from that, your suggestion of immutability (even if your incorrect statement was accurate) would be a denial of the Spirit moving through creation. Humanity is not fixed in its understanding of God's plan for us in the year 50 AD, nor 100 AD, nor at any other time over your 2,000 years reference.

If you want to drink the Roman Kool Aid, fine, and good for you, but many of us former RC's (and even a good number of continuing RC's, who keep desperately hoping it will get better) want to vomit when we read absurd statements like yours.

My own impression, based upon your posts to this Anglican site, is that you simply get your jollies from insulting the members of your former faith community. At least I have the decency of not going to some Roman-focused website and insulting the members of my former faith community.

The good in the RC Church - and there is much that is very good - actually occurs at the lower levels of the church, and it survives despite (and not because of) the denial-based and self-perpetuating Roman hierarchy.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 3:22pm BST

I believe the hierarchy system was set up by MAN and not by GOD as Robert Ian Williams suggests. God did not set up an imperial system that EXCLUDES and DISENFRANCHISES others. God does not operate this way. Any system that is set up by man is subject to CONSTANT change as was the case for the vast majority of the two thousand year history of Christianity. Mr. Williams imagines a Church hierarchy that is fantasy and not reality. We are talking about men who are fallible and at times corrupt. Read your history of the Church and especially the Roman papacy and you will find plenty of activity that is not "of GOD" but purely of MAN. Radical REFORM of the Papacy is an essential task that must happen. A good source book for Robert Ian Williams reading that outlines the most basic problems with the modern papacy was written by retired Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn. It's called THE REFORM OF THE PAPACY. His insights are remarkable and will most likely be used as guidelines for this important task. EVERY hierarchy system in all of Christendom needs to be REFORMED in a radical way that most conforms to the examples set by Jesus. The current systems in all three branches of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity are broken. They are not working and they are causing millions of people to turn their backs on them. They have lost their authority. The entire hierarchy systems of these three branches of the universal Church are TOTALLY up for REVISION and RADICAL REFORM.

Posted by Chris Smith at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 5:19pm BST

These comments have wandered a long way from the content of the article, which was about the Anglican Communion stuff. Please confine all further comments to the topics of the article. Thank you.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 26 July 2010 at 5:58pm BST

Ebor is being economical with the truth. The real reason they did not call for a supermajority on the Covenant is that they knew there wasn't a snowball's chance in Abuja that they'd ever get a 2/3 majority in each house.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 5:41am BST

Ecumenical dialogue between Rome and Anglicanism presupposes that Anglicans believe in the Apostolic Succession -- am I right?

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 6:07am BST

Well, Robert's managed to distract you, again, with his mythological mumblings and magical thinking about Rome's little playhouse.

The issue is, as Chris Smith and Fr. Mark, the rampant power taken as their due by the episcopacy, and the inherently flawed way in which bishops are empowered to begin with. My suggestion is, as it was, strip them of all actual power and require their authority come from consent. It is imperfect, but less imperfect than a sort of warped view of medieval primogeniture and rule as currently practiced.

A bishop that can win hearts and minds may actually be worth something, as opposed to one who wins elections and admittance to "The Network."

Perhaps, in discussing it, we can remember that this is Thinking Anglicans and not Magical Romans?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 8:12am BST

Spirit of Vatican II: I didn't think anyone really believed it. In any case, if it isn't in the creed Anglicans don't necessarily believe anything, and usually not the same things. A strength or a weakness depending on your point of view.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 11:31am BST

"Ecumenical dialogue between Rome and Anglicanism presupposes that Anglicans believe in the Apostolic Succession -- am I right?"

Whyever so?

I mean, yes, based on the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, Anglicans hold to the historic episcopate, locally adapted, as a form of apostolic succession (although in ecumenical agreements, e.g., TEC's with ELCA, the term "apostolic succession" is construed more broadly to cover continuity in the faith, with or without the historic episcopate).

But Rome has plenty of ecumenical dialogue with partners who don't have the historic episcopate (e.g., many Lutherans) or who have it but don't understand it as of the "esse" of the Church (e.g., Lutherans such as ELCA and the Church of Sweden). For example, for the full range of RC ecumenical dialogues in just the U.S., see: http://www.usccb.org/seia/officialdialogues.shtml#10 (includes Reformed, Southern Baptists, United Methodists, etc.)

Or have I missed your point, SoV II?

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 2:47pm BST

"Spirit of Vatican II: I didn't think anyone really believed it."

You thought wrong.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 27 July 2010 at 3:02pm BST

Well, Bill, I'm sure apostolic succession is key to the bishops' self-esteem.

Whether it matters in any way to the rest of us is a question. It is a pleasant notion (or fiction). It does happen to be an organizing principle in Anglican churches. It may help Anglicans in claiming legitimacy.

But does sacramental validity depend on apostolic succession? No.

Does priestly ordination really depend on it? Does my confirmation really depend on it? I honestly don't think God cares.

Does good preaching depend on apostolic succession? Don't make me laugh.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 29 July 2010 at 12:00pm BST

"But does sacramental validity depend on apostolic succession? No."

This entirely depends on who you ask. I don't think that I'm alone in only receiving the sacraments from those I believe to be in the apostolic succession.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 30 July 2010 at 2:31pm BST

"This entirely depends on who you ask. I don't think that I'm alone in only receiving the sacraments from those I believe to be in the apostolic succession." - Bill Dillworth

I would second Mr. Dillworth's "motion."

To me apostolic succession is an essential element, regardless of how the various selection processes may have changed over the millennia, or other aspects that are more form over substance.

I may have a personal preference regarding liturgical garb, or clerical garb, or how one addresses the deacon/priest/bishop, or whether (or when) incense is used, etc, but all of those are matters of form or style.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Friday, 30 July 2010 at 6:22pm BST

Why is apostolic succession so important to you?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 31 July 2010 at 5:22am BST

"Why is apostolic succession so important to you?"

I don't mean to sound coy, but: because I think it's the truth.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 1 August 2010 at 3:50am BST

"To me apostolic succession is an essential element."

I thought there were two elements to Holy Communion.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 1 August 2010 at 4:54am BST

I'm rather surprised by your question, and not accustomed to justifying for you, or anyone else, my beliefs.

Nevertheless, I believe that the succession of designation from Jesus, to the Twelve, to Matthias, and on and on, is essential for the validity of sacraments, and is His ideal for the Church.

That does not mean, in my belief, that redemption is only for those who participate in the Sacraments brought to believers by bishops and priests in the apostolic succession.

Indeed, I believe - based upon what I know of their lives - that Mahatma Gandhi and the current Dalai Lama, among others, and not just the Anglicans, Romans, and Orthodox, and not just the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Pentecostals, are as redeemed and bound for God's eternal love (since I can't really define or truly understand "heaven") as you and I.

But, for me, and for countless millions of others, there is a need to pursue the ideal path created by Christ, and that requires the apostolic succession.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Sunday, 1 August 2010 at 5:24am BST

"I'm rather surprised by your question, and not accustomed to justifying for you, or anyone else, my beliefs."

That has been part of the failure of Christianity Triumphant. When no one questions us, we don't question ourselves.

I understand your - and Bill Dilworth's - position to be that you, personally, need this because you, personally, believe it. I don't ask to attack but to understand. I'm still not sure I understand why such a succession ensure "validity" to a sacrament. However, insofar as I am able, I understand your devotion to this concept.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 August 2010 at 5:50am BST

"I understand your - and Bill Dilworth's - position to be that you, personally, need this because you, personally, believe it."

While this may or may not be a good armchair diagnosis of the dynamics of my belief, it is not my position. I do not claim to need this because I, personally, believe it.

"I don't ask to attack but to understand. I'm still not sure I understand why such a succession ensure "validity" to a sacrament"

Sometimes it doesn't. Baptism, for example, does not require a priest in valid orders for it to be valid; neither does matrimony. But in general, valid sacraments depend on the succession. As the Apostolic Father St. Ignatius says in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, "Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop."

And it's worth pointing out that while belief in the apostolic position can reassure us of the validity of sacraments in a given branch of the Catholic Church, it doesn't necessarily make definitive pronouncements about the sacramental actions of Christian bodies without such succession. We believe we know where the sacraments are rightly celebrated; we don't necessarily know where they are not.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 4 August 2010 at 3:50pm BST

Bill, how does the quote from St. Ignatius support your position? As far as I can tell, it doesn't touch on apostolic succession at all.

"[B]elief in the apostolic position can reassure us of the validity of sacraments."

Is that what apostolic succession is really about? Reassurance? A margin of safety? If so, that seems to imply nervousness about sacramental validity in the first place.

"Wherever two or three are gathered in my name" but one of them has to be in succession?

"Do this in remembrance of me" but remember also to make sure that the right people have put their hands on the celebrant?

I don't think so.

It all seems so antithetical to Jesus' own antipathy towards religious hierarchy and priestly castes.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 6 August 2010 at 4:11am BST

"Bill, how does the quote from St. Ignatius support your position? As far as I can tell, it doesn't touch on apostolic succession at all."

Jeremy, the question lies in just who is a bishop. Ignatius says you can't set up church in the absence of a bishop - and bishop isn't a self appointed or local office.

"Wherever two or three are gathered in my name" but one of them has to be in succession?

You seem to be assuming that this quote is about the sacraments, or that Christ's sacramental presence is the only way that he is present with believers. I don't think either is true.

"Do this in remembrance of me" but remember also to make sure that the right people have put their hands on the celebrant?"

Who did he give that order to?

"It all seems so antithetical to Jesus' own antipathy towards religious hierarchy and priestly castes."

Only if you edit Jesus' actions to remove all the instances of him grooming an inner group of people: the calling of the apostles, or things like the encounter on Mt. Tabor (which we celebrate today), or his explaining his meaning to the apostles but not to the crowds.


Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 6 August 2010 at 2:08pm BST

"Ignatius, though urging in the strongest terms the value of the monarchical episcopate as the bond of unity, knows nothing of an apostolical succession."

Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1959) (rev. ed.) 42.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 7 August 2010 at 5:39am BST

Jeremy, I'm not really that concerned with providing historical prooftexts about the apostolic succession; check out Tracts for the Times, or any number of works written in the Anglican Communion on the subject.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 7 August 2010 at 12:29pm BST

Bill, it was you who started the proof-texting.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 7 August 2010 at 7:25pm BST

Oh, and it would have been odd if Williston Walker, a Congregationalist, had found evidence of the apostolic succession in this or any other work.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 8 August 2010 at 1:32am BST

Rather than try to rescue your view of Ignatius (and thus your original point), you attack Walker's accuracy by reference to his denomination.

Interesting.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 9 August 2010 at 4:54am BST

(*sigh*)

Jeremy, I wasn't offering Ignatius as the *basis* of my belief about the Apostolic Succession. I was offering him as an example of the Church's teaching on the role of the bishop as indispensable. I thought it followed logically that if the bishop is important, the fact that bishops are consecrated by other bishops, not manufactured out of thin air by whoever decides they want to be a bishop on their own.

As long as we're getting snitty about debate points, you addressed none of my earlier answers.

If you are truly interested in learning the Church's teaching about the episcopacy, which is not something that I cooked up in my leisure time, do some reading.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Monday, 9 August 2010 at 2:53pm BST

Bill, if you weren't relying on Ignatius to support your position on apostolic succession, then why didn't you say so in the first place, when I asked?

It certainly looked as though you were supporting your first sentence, "valid sacraments depend on the succession," with your next sentence, "As the apostolic father St. Ignatius says . . . ."

As for your "logic" connecting the importance of the bishop to the principle of apostolic succession, any student of business organizations, or for that matter constitutional or military structure, could tell you that most organizations find it useful to have decision-making power and accountability concentrated in one person. See the modern CEO -- or the Roman centurion, for that matter.

So to conflate the importance of executive leadership with the importance of apostolic succession is a mistake. One can acknowledge the one while objecting to the other. Ignatius, for example, appears to have held the one, but not the other.

Eventually, after Ignatius, the church did dress its executive leaders in the robes of apostolic succession. But this does not mean that the church has some privileged revelation as to how people can function effectively in groups.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 2:42am BST
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