Comments: opinion

I'd be interested to hear how Robin G Jordan explains "how really Anglican" is the Reformed Episcopal Church, which seems to be where he is coming from. (That the REC does not feel comfortable with ACNA should come as no surprise -- that was obviously an odd coupling.) I'd like to hear his thoughts on "how really Anglican" the Diocese of Sydney is.

Being an Anglican presumably includes the right to be a late-sixteenth-century Anglican. Have a good trip! Send a postcard!

Posted by William Moorhead at Saturday, 11 September 2010 at 2:24pm BST

This section of M. Bunting's piece caught my attention, "All the debates that have torn the Anglican communion apart in recent years have gone underground in the Catholic church: it's a moot point which is the most effective way for a religious institution to deal with challenge. Both carry a punishingly high cost in terms of authority, credibility and, most important, the affection and loyalty that sustains an institution's life."

The Anglican Communion, it may be observed, seems to be opting via the so called Covenant, for a similar battening down of the hatches. Here in Canada the wind seems to be changing as well with loyalty to an increasingly fragmenting institution gaining ascendancy over the difficult task of openly discussing justice.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 11 September 2010 at 6:58pm BST

I quite enjoyed Howse's piece . . . until I got to this:

"His choice to be buried in the same grave as his friend at the Birmingham Oratory, Ambrose St John, has encouraged campaigners to claim Newman as a crypto gay. He wouldn’t have understood. Newman was an exponent of friendship, but being friends didn’t mean going to bed together."

First of all: Hello, Euphemism! What JHN "wouldn’t have understood" is close friends, sharing quarters, NOT "going to bed together."

What Howse means, of course, is whether Newman and St. John shared erotic stimulation (in a bed they certainly shared, AT LEAST time to time). Did their undeniable affection include what we post-moderns universally call "SEX"?

We shouldn't assume it did---anymore than we should (unlike Howse---and Benedict XVI?) assume it didn't.

Indeed, like civilly-partnered clergy today (who can be HONEST about preferring a "single-sex society"---within the privacy&intimacy of their own home!), we should respect the bonds of their monogamous union---and leave whatever happened/happens in the dark, "to conscience first".

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 11 September 2010 at 8:13pm BST

"we should respect the bonds of their monogamous union---and leave whatever happened/happens in the dark, "to conscience first".
- JCF on Saturday -

Indeed, JCF. This would be quite in keeping with the opinion of a once-celebrated Roman Catholic theologian - Hans Kung. In his recently published autobiography, he reveals that this primacy of one's own concsience, which JHN certainly would have upheld, was not popular with most of the R.C. hierarchy, but it informed his own decision to challenge the validity of the Magisterium.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 1:24am BST

"Newman was not, as has been suggested, the grandfather of modernism. But he certainly was a powerful intellectual influence on the Second Vatican Council, when Pope John XXIII, elected in 1958, led the way for the Catholic Church to be more receptive to new ideas."

- William Rees-Mogg, Daily Mail -

So what went wrong? And why is Pope Benedict coming to Newman's home territory to advance his
posthumous preferment - when Neman's ideas of *aggiornamento*, like those of Pope John XXIII, have been rejected by the new Magisterium?

If he were still there, no doubt this good man's body would be turning in his grave.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 1:46am BST

"A wise priest advised me a long time ago never to go near the engine room – the Vatican. Keep well away, he warned."

So you don't, Ms Bunting, notice what a CRAZY analogy this?!

[Oh dear: I fear it will be extremely difficult to take the essay seriously, after this.]

The "engine room" of the RCC is, of course, the billion or so faithful *Roman Catholics*. The laity, predominantly (as well as those hard-working priests, and harder-working religious---esp. sisters). That's the *source* of the power, the fuel.

The Vatican is *the bridge* (of the badly-listing ship): that extremely small group of men who keep crashing it into the rocks.

Bunting need not be warned away: as far as the actual command-center goes, by virtue of her gender alone, she'd never be permitted anywhere NEAR it!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 1:59am BST

For TEC, on the other hand, battening down the hatches would have no effect, as the Covenant is intended to scapegoat us, and will provide the means to expel us from the Anglican Communion. That is what the Covenant is for. When there was some talk of TEC's willingness to sign it, the then Bishop of Durham proclaimed that it would make no difference whether or not TEC signed -- we would be out in either case.

I can only hope that this symbolic violence against the Communion's chosen scapegoat will have the desired effect. Surely once the evil TEC scapegoat has been driven forth, the rest of the Communion will live in loving, brotherly harmony forever. That's the way it happens, right? Just ask Rowan Williams, who used to be a reader of Rene Girard many years ago.

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 2:06am BST

Once the chosen scapegoat of TEC has been driven out, the communion will be living hand-to-mouth, for the scapegoat is also the golden goose.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 11:35am BST

"ACNA leaders are taking advantage of the evangelical and African avoidance of any criticism of the ACNA and the seeming unqualified evangelical and African support of whatever direction in which they lead the ACNA to pursue their own agenda. While the Africans see themselves as the future of world Anglicanism, the ACNA leaders harbor a different vision."

- Robin G. Jordan -

And herein lies the rub. Do either ACNA or the African/Evangelical alliance fully appreciate the danger behind an uncritical acceptance of ACNA at this point in time? Is it because their mutual hatred of Gays (and maybe Women) is blinding them to the territorial ambitions of both parties? - Africa wanting to dominate the Communion, while ACNA is counting on riding on the back of African numbers, will not necessarily deliver what each sodality wants. When will the bluff be called?

And will any form of Covenant be seen as either acceptable or useful to the ACNA/Global South contingency? Only time will tell - that is, if the Church of England General Synod decides to accept ACNA's argument for inclusion within the confines of the Anglican Communion.

One wonders what will really happen if, and when, the Covenant relationship becomes de rigeur for would-be Communion membership. Will ACNA find favour with the ACC Standing Committee, thereby
strengthening the hand of the Global South's manouvering for supremacy?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 12:10pm BST

The weird thing about depictions of St Sebastian isn't the eroticization of the martyr so much as the fact that they do *not* represent his martyrdom.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 1:56pm BST

The ACNA will be the golden goose :) Anglo-Catholics and Reformed Episcopalians in the same church? Not for long. Duncan still ordains women. The ACNA is united in its opposition to TEC. Not a good thing to build a church on IMHO.
The ACNA and Duncan have their own agenda, use the Africans. I can't believe Duncan's ego would allow him to be subservient to anyone!!! This is a man who thinks he's the next Martin Luther. The funny thing is when Duncan was bishop of Pittsburgh he openly licensed a gay priest to practice in the diocese. He doesn't hate gays, he uses them to further his ambition. You can't tell me that the fundies in the CofE dont' know this?????

Posted by bobinswpa at Sunday, 12 September 2010 at 8:38pm BST

" no one really knows what happens to a church whose rituals and structure are premised on plenty of priests when the supply dries up."

- Madelein Bunting -

As an ex-Roman Catholic, Madeleine Bunting gives us a sorry picture of the future of her former Church community. Apart from the crisis of the Magisterium - in not being able to 'control', for instance, the massive disregard of its members for its rules on contraception - there really is a lack of men coming forward with a vocation to the priesthood.


Maybe this visit of Pope Benedict may help to convince him that, despite other problems, the Church of England has gained a valuable insight into the worth and validity of ordaining women into its priestly (and hopefully also episcopal) ranks of servanthood of God in the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 13 September 2010 at 7:00am BST

" no one really knows what happens to a church whose rituals and structure are premised on plenty of priests when the supply dries up."

I think it has been a common situation throughout the history of the Church. Here in New Mexico, I understand, the country people were lucky to have a priest come through once a year. If your faith goes deep, you make the most of what's possible. If not, an army of clergy won't make a difference.

The clergy, the episcopate, the papacy, are necessary to the life of the Church. But the faith of the Church is that of the whole people. A corrupt clergy can be reformed; it's been done many, many times. A corrupt, unbelieving people is a wholly different matter.

Posted by rick allen at Monday, 13 September 2010 at 1:34pm BST

Re: Indeed, like civilly-partnered clergy today (who can be HONEST about preferring a "single-sex society"---within the privacy&intimacy of their own home!), we should respect the bonds of their monogamous union---and leave whatever happened/happens in the dark, "to conscience first".

I can hardly agree with that. Regardless of your views on whether homosexual sex is morally OK (I believe that it can be, just the same as straight sex can be), the fact is that Ambrose St. John and Cardinal Newman were vowed to celibacy, and so they had a moral obligation not to sleep with anyone, man or woman.

We can debate clerical celibacy all day long, but if one takes a vow of celibacy then they should try to honour it (which I certainly believe that Newman and St. John did). Or else, if honouring it is too difficult and painful, then do the honest thing and leave the priesthood. My priest back home lives by a vow of celibacy, and though as an Episcopal priest he isn't _required_ to be celibate, I'd certainly be disappointed if I heard that he was in a relationship with a man or woman.

Posted by Hector at Monday, 13 September 2010 at 4:11pm BST

I'd certainly be disappointed if I heard that he was in a relationship with a man or woman.

Posted by: Hector on Monday, 13 September 2010 at 4:11pm

Why so disappointed I wonder ? Are you expecting this man to carry something for yourself perhaps ? An impossible ideal maybe.

None of us are too comfy with the thought of parental coitus, and it can be hard to accept that parental figures are sexual beings (mammals) whether 'vowed' to celibacy or not.

Even 'celibates' may be led to new courage, new understand, new openness in an encounter with another. Which may or may not be 'genital'. I think May Sarton's novel A Reckoning explores this beautifully and subtly and tenderly.

I hope Newman and St John were happy. That's all.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 13 September 2010 at 5:16pm BST

And I suppose, Hector, that you're "disappointed" when a hostage gives into Stockholm Syndrome (or a POW signs a confession)?

[This doesn't even begin to unpack the (varying) definitions of "celibacy" or "chastity"!]

IMHO, definitions of vows only really matter to those making them. I can understand why Newman's and St.John's bishop(s)/religious superior(s) would have a interest . . . but that's not *my* concern.

[Otherwise, you're peering into bedrooms, checking to see if every couple measures up to YOUR definition of "forsaking all others", for example!]

Nope, don't go there. Let *their* consciences be *their* guide.

Or rather, *I* won't go there. My conscience won't let me look at other people's sins: heaven knows, I have enough of my own!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 14 September 2010 at 2:25am BST

Shortt's article is oddly enlightening, as he draws into focus what Canterbury and the Vatican have in common, as well as some distinctives.

Two well-read minds of alleged keen and inquiring reputation, sealed off in functionally and presumptively closed revelation bubbles loudly claiming to be otherwise open and capable of fully engaged listening and critical thought, no holds barred - all the way off on Planet Conservative - in a distant galaxy, far far away.

Their stodgy, stubborn mis-readings of both science and modernity (such as these variously are, and likely, will be) tilt at windmills of their own life storied imaginations. Conservative foils for Dawkins, indeed.

Alas, so far, neither figure/thinker is much relevant to helping us vividly varied global believers through when it comes to the big pictures (modernity, democracy, human rights, science, change), or the deep-dark-dirty hot button believer conflict items (theological anthropology in light of modern knowledge, human embodiment-human commitments, women, sex, body fluids as toxic waste, orgasms vs. the burning alive/gone totally humanly numb dichotomies, queer folks).

Alas. Alas. Alas. If the best and most literate lights that shine in our leaders are actually dim candles sparking off in studiously well-read darkness, how very great is our darkness? For now: No Covenant, No More Flat Earth stuff about sex or modernity from Rowan Williams or Benedict 16.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 14 September 2010 at 5:09pm BST

"...but if one takes a vow of celibacy then they should try to honour it (which I certainly believe that Newman and St. John did). Or else, if honouring it is too difficult and painful, then do the honest thing and leave the priesthood. "

You mean, like Cranmer did?

Posted by BillyD at Wednesday, 15 September 2010 at 12:39am BST

Okay, I think I see what Hector is arguing, and it is *NOT* the moral value of homosexual relationships, whether genital or non-genital, but the purely practical argument that *IF* one has taken a vow to a particular state - in this case celibacy - as a corollary to holding a particular position, then one must honor that vow or step down from the position.

Aside from the possibility of dispensation, which is compassionate pragmatism that church institutions have exercised, I would absolutely agree!

In the same way, one takes vow in marriage - if you can no longer uphold and honor those vows, the marriage is dissolved, either *de jure* or *de facto* or both!

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 15 September 2010 at 5:32am BST

Re: but the purely practical argument that *IF* one has taken a vow to a particular state - in this case celibacy - as a corollary to holding a particular position, then one must honor that vow or step down from the position.

It's a bit beyond a merely practical argument. I do think that priestly/monastic celibacy is a beautiful ideal, even though I don't think most priests are called to it, and I don't think it should be mandatory. It should be honoured, admired, and encouraged. Romantic relationships are a great and good thing, but they intrinsically mean loving one person more than others, which is different from the totally self-emptying, disinterested way in which Christ loved us (well, OK, he did have a best friend, St. John, but that's still something slightly different than having an intimate partner). A priest who has a romantic partner, gay or straight, inevitably has ties and obligations to that partner that take something away from their ability to enter fully into the lives of each of their parishioners.

I don't believe celibacy is required of priests who haven't embraced the vow (and I think those who do take the vow should be allowed dispensations if necessary) but it's to be encouraged and admired. I admire anyone who sacrifices something great and important for the Kingdom of God, whether it be one's life, one's possessions, one's earthly pleasures, or one's possibility of romantic love. Virginity is one big form of self-sacrifice and like all forms of self-sacrifice, at best, it can bring us closer to God.

Re: None of us are too comfy with the thought of parental coitus, and it can be hard to accept that parental figures are sexual beings (mammals) whether 'vowed' to celibacy or not.

Way to psychologize an intellectual disagreement, Laurence. Unfortunately, the atheist psychoanalysers are waiting in the wings, and they use just such arguments to argue that religious believers like myself and yourself are just deluded children seeking for God, the ultimate daddy figure. Live by Freudian psychobabble, die by Freudian psychobabble.

Re: And I suppose, Hector, that you're "disappointed" when a hostage gives into Stockholm Syndrome (or a POW signs a confession)?

Er, when last I checked, neither my priest, nor Ambrose St. John was being beaten, tortured and bullied into having a sexual/romantic relationship. (Which isn't necessarily that far-fetched; I'm told that at the height of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards did force celibate Buddhist monks to have intecourse in public. Fortunately, neither modern America nor 19th century Britain was run by Red Guards). So the analogy hardly holds.

Posted by Hector at Wednesday, 15 September 2010 at 2:16pm BST

If celibacy is God's gift, it should be encouraged, otherwise . . . no.

Some of us have been gifted with the celibate life, others not.

Frankly, I'm not impressed by "giving up" anything for God. You're going to die, regardless of what you do or believe, so that's not terribly impressive. Lots of people have died for lots of causes without improving the world or humanity one iota. As far as anything good or worthwhile, when compared with God - what would that be? Money, fame, family? None of those are good or worthwhile in comparison.

"Sacrifice" is an empty concept in Christianity. *The* Sacrifice was made, however you view the Crucifixion. What was incomplete in Christ's sufferings that you think you, or anyone else, can complete? If it was incomplete, then it was ineffectual and the religion it spawned is without merit and our faith misplaced. "Self-sacrifice" is simply an attempt to pay back something you cannot and have no place trying to. If you give up your life, you gave up nothing that was yours to keep. If you give up money, you've given up nothing that was of any ultimate worth. If you give up love, you've given up God's essence, and so have not sacrificed, so much as betrayed. Self-sacrifice is a concept that shows that you have misplaced values to begin with.

I have very little patience, sympathy or tolerance for would-be moral *uebermensch*.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 17 September 2010 at 5:01am BST

""Sacrifice" is an empty concept in Christianity. *The* Sacrifice was made, however you view the Crucifixion. What was incomplete in Christ's sufferings that you think you, or anyone else, can complete?"

Not "complete," Mark; "unite ourselves with," rather.

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 18 September 2010 at 12:03am BST

Re: "Sacrifice" is an empty concept in Christianity. *The* Sacrifice was made, however you view the Crucifixion.

That's a quintessentially Calvinistic way of looking at things, it reminds me of Zwingli and his infamous sausage luncheon during Lent. And like most things Calvinist, it's wrong at its core. Christians are called to sacrifice, and to give up good things for the sake of the Kingdom. As Christ shared in our lives, we are supposed to share in his, and that involves, in some sense, uniting our little sacrifices to his big sacrifice. Our Lord said, after all, "Take up your cross and follow Me." He encouraged fasting, as he said, "When you fast....", he encouraged voluntary poverty, when he said to the rich young ruler, "Give up all thou hast to the poor and come, follow me." And he encouraged voluntary celibacy too, as it is said, "Some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven...". Celibacy isn't for everyone, of course not, but for those who are called to it it's to be honoured, encouraged, and admired, not mocked and jeered at.

The Christian church, east and west, orthodox and heretical, always held that sacrifice was a good, an important, and a necessary thing. Right up until Zwingli's notorious sausage luncheon, all Christians believed this. The heresies as much as the orthodox; in fact most the heretics were typically far _more_ ascetic than the orthodox, and valued celibacy even higher (see the Montanists, the Albigensians, and many others). The only Christians to claim that 'sacrifice has no valence within Christianity' are calvinists in the post-zwingli era. With the witness of the Calvinists on the one side, and the unified witness of nearly all Christians for sixteen centuries, including the Lord himself, I know which argument I find more convincing.

Posted by Hector at Saturday, 18 September 2010 at 12:04am BST

RE: completing Christ's sacrifice

On the other hand, in Colossians 1:24 St Paul writes, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church..." so the concept can't be as foreign to Christianity as it might appear at first blush.

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 18 September 2010 at 12:07am BST

Come to think of it, "And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice" would seem to suggest a role for the concept of sacrifice in Anglican Christianity after all.

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 19 September 2010 at 12:13am BST

"A corrupt clergy can be reformed; it's been done many, many times. A corrupt, unbelieving people is a wholly different matter." - Rick Allen -

And what, precisely, is the difference here - except that, with the clergy we're dealing with just a few people compromising their priestly Vows? Your category of 'an unbelieving people' is made up, surely of individuals, created in the same image and likeness of God as the clergy?
Perhaps, though, those errant clergy's behaviour could have something to do with the 'unbelief' of the unbelievers.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 19 September 2010 at 11:35am BST

"Here in New Mexico, I understand, the country people were lucky to have a priest come through once a year. "

The experience of the RCC in Japan after the expulsion of the missionaries would also seem to an example of this. And some of the Old Believer groups in Russia were left without the priesthood, too.

These are relatively small populations, though, and maybe cohesiveness was easier to keep in the absence of the clergy than it would be for entire countries.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 19 September 2010 at 10:41pm BST

You can argue it all you want to.

It's simply rationalizing.

The Sacrifice was made. He came for us to have life, and have it abundantly.

You use "sacrifice" as busywork so that you won't have to realize how absolutely helpless, hopeless and completely unable to do anything of yourself you *really* are. You use "sacrifice" to act as if you had anything *to* sacrifice. Nothing is yours. Even the power you have comes to you from another. Your very existence is at the thought of God, and has no reliance on your own activity. It's the same self-serving moral superman routine Paul of Tarsus used to do a little self-glorification. Paul completed nothing. Personally, I don't find not killing people, not sleeping with everything that moves, not indulging myself to the point of ill-health to be "a sacrifice." What I do, I do because it's for my well-being. If you find these things "sacrifices," then the trouble is you, not God's demand for sacrifice.

"Wrong at its core?" LOL!!! Not absolutely correct like the concept "I'm giving something up that I owned before!" You want to make a sacrifice? Stop thinking you own anything to sacrifice, that you can "give up" anything that was worth having. If God wants you to suffer, you'll suffer - and He'll be just as complete a tyrannical demon-god as any ba'al - if not, you make yourself suffer to no real end. Nothing you give up makes you any closer to God. Nothing. It makes you no more Godlike than you already are. It's a pointless distraction.

If it's what you want, feel free. It's still pointless and without merit, though, and there's no reason to embrace it.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 6:36am BST

Mark, as someone said on another thread, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. Your not finding sacrifice a meaningful concept is one thing; declaring ex cathedra that it has no place in Christianity and that those who embrace it don't quite make the cut spiritually is another.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 21 September 2010 at 12:05pm BST
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