Comments: Opinion - 14 May 2016

John Reader presents what he concedes is a partisan view of the EU debate.

Personally I don't have much of a pony in this race. I'm marginally in favour of remaining in, because of the protections the EU seems to offer on human rights, but I'm also profoundly sceptical about the political union thing, because of the importance of self-determination. In addition, being pro-Scottish independence, an English decision to Leave could actually expedite Scotland's decision in the next referendum. Identity matters, as a basis for relationship, and that should include the self-determining right to dissent, to opt out, to vary. An overpowering political centre, rather like an overpowering ecclesiastical centre, is not necessarily a positive thing.

But probably my biggest concern about the European project (which, as I say, I marginally support) lies in this:

"If faith groups have a positive role to play in this, it is surely that of widening the scope of the debate and getting people to lift their eyes above the immediate self-interest horizon in order to see the ways in which we need each other and must work together."

Yes, we need each other. Yes it is good to work together. But in whose interests?

Ms Lagarde this week tried to use the spectre of falling house prices as an argument for staying in. How extraordinary and out of touch. It would be beneficial for millions of people (especially the young) if house prices fell.

If European Union means a system that upholds the neo-liberal agenda, and brings benefits to the 'haves' while austerity gets enforced on the poor, then are we being exhorted to "work together" to maintain a privileged status quo? To adopt TTIP and strengthen the power of corporations?

So I think that both the political and the theological arguments for and against the EU are ambiguous.

If we are to be good neighbours, perhaps we need to start by promoting a political system that really treats all citizens as neighbours, not just a system that works for the privileged. I am more interested in a political system or movement that resists the dismantling of the 'commonweal' and in the end, that resistance and 'neighbourliness' to the poor is needed whether we are inside the EU or out of it.

The EU itself is maybe not the main debate. The main debate may involve resistance to either system on offer, unless it is motivated by reduction of the gap between rich and poor, affordable housing for all, health services that are accessible for all and financed on the basis of ability to pay (ie central income tax), priority for climate and environment over corporate interests, and a global commitment to struggle to make sure that the resources of the world are shared by all the people of the world, not just the privileged few.

If we talk about 'needing each other' and 'working together' the last thing I want is a European version of David Cameron's 'all in it together'. Sharing is at the heart of God's relational nature. Without radical reform, the European project is not an overwhelming choice for social change. Nor is 'Little England'.

Socialism and communism seem to me to be closer in principle to the ethics and theology of the New Testament.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 14 May 2016 at 12:36pm BST

Thanks for the link to The Conciliar Anglican. His pieces are always well written, none more so than this one on real presence. Just a riff on the notion about places at the Lord's table. It is the Lord's table. We are there as his guest. Like all good hosts ( no pun intended) The Lord is present to the guests. Christ is the founder of the feast. He is not on the menu.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 14 May 2016 at 10:13pm BST

What a wonderful and wise post from Andrew Lightbown; with this paradigm of unity in diversity.

See also an article by the ACANZP Bishop of Dunedin, +Kelvin Wright, on what the English tradition of Unity in Diversity might mean for New Zealand's and the Pacific Islands' Anglican Church:

http://vendr.blogspot.com/2016/05/pulling-together.html

"Come, Holy Spirit, fill your Faithful with the fire of your Love, through Christ our Lord"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 14 May 2016 at 10:28pm BST

I obviously don't self-identify as a theological liberal, but that article by Guy Elsmore was full of real gems.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 15 May 2016 at 10:18pm BST

"I hope that all Christians hate murder in all its manifestations and whatever its motivations, for to murder is always an expression of hatred of the other."

And yet the official Church of England position is support for "just war", and the links with the armed forces are surprisingly deep. The church also stays silent on abortion rather than following the exemplary lead on the subject set by the Catholic Church.

So in terms of the most basic of hating the sin, the Church of England itself doesn't even make the starting line. It isn't just loving the sinner which is problematic; hating the sin can get pushed aside too when it seems expedient to do so for secular reasons.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 16 May 2016 at 6:16pm BST

@ Rod I think the difference between the Lord's feast and a polite dinner-party is that the host is indeed "on the menu." The Eucharist is not merely an opportunity for Christ to offer his friends rather meagre entertainment (what host provides his guests with a dry wafer and a tiny sip of wine?). The sacrament is a rather more extreme and discomfiting form of self-giving than that: as ever, a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Protestants. Having said that, few overtures make me more uneasy than a sentence beginning with the words "Anglicans believe..." Almost anything that follows could be true.

@ Kate - Not sure what makes you think the C of E is "silent" on the subject of abortion. The Church's website states that "The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be - strictly limited - conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative." As far as I can tell, that is basically indistinguishable from the position of the Roman Catholic Church.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 10:40am BST

@rjb, Polite dinner party, with its habitual polite superficial conversation, is not the kind of feast I was thinking of. Good you rule that out. I was thinking more in terms of messianic banquet or even symposium. Notwithstanding, the turn of phrase, Jesus is the founder of the feast but not the menu, is helpful. It is a reflection on the over focus of the magic words summoning the deus ex machina to come and reside in the food stuffs.

St. Luke is helpful. The Emmaus road myth wonderfully imagines a Christ who is present in the sweep of an event, in the breaking of the bread, without being overshadowed by that which points beyond itself.

Also, I know the phrase " a stumbling-block to the Jews" has a NT context; but I'd rather stay out of debates where it is used unnecessarily.

Having received Eucharist in reformed churches upon their gracious invitation from time to time, the term "protestant" paired with "foolishness" shivers me timbers as well.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 2:21pm BST

Re Fr Jonathan's blog on the Eucharist and real presence. I found it very affirming and a valuable corrective to the trivialisation of the Eucharist in so much of present-day Anglicanism (in England at any rate). And contra Rod Gillis, Christ is not just the host at the feast, but the feast itself (and of course the Host). It's a mystery too deep for words, but Anglican worship needs to regain that mystery, and draw people into the heart of God and of God's suffering and death, in order for them (us) to share in the resurrection. As T S Eliot wrote, 'The dripping blood our only drink,/The bloody flesh our only food.'

Posted by David Emmott at Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 6:26pm BST

@ David Emmott, Certainly, the Eucharist is no trivial matter, but a mystery. With all due respect to the literary genius of T.S. Eliot, his is an over the top poetic expression.

The text below is from the WCC document, Baptism, Ministry, Eucharist: Faith and Order Paper no. 111, Eucharist: II The Meaning of the Eucharist # 13, Commentary (13):


Many churches believe that by the words of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine of the eucharist become, in a real though mysterious manner, the body and blood of the risen Christ, i.e., of the living Christ present in all his fullness. Under the signs of bread and wine,the deepest reality is the total being of Christ who comes to us in order to feed us and transform ourentire being. Some other churches, while affirming a real presence of Christ at the eucharist, do not
link that presence so definitely with the signs of bread and wine. The decision remains for the
churches whether this difference can be accommodated within the convergence formulated in the text itself.

The second notion, expressed above, outlines some of the parameters of the conversation.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 11:03pm BST

Note to self: re-read Cranmer on the Eucharist. One of the best books on the subject I've ever read.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at 4:40am BST

Rjb: the Catholic Church automatically excommunicates anyone who has, or assists in, an abortion; the CoE allows is members, or even its priests, to do so without any sanction or investigation whatsoever.

Actions speak a lot louder than words, and here, we have classic English ecclesiastical hypocrisy. As so often, the CoE lacks the courage of its supposed convictions, whether that's sanctioning those involved in abortions, or having the guts to come out and support a woman's right to choose.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at 12:41pm BST

Guy Elsmore is wrong in attributing the report 'From Anecdote to Evidence' to Prof David Voas. It was produced in Church House and it is not the place to look for an accurate account of the church growth research. 'From Anecdote to Evidence' is a glossy and tendentious 'summary'. The full report by David Voas and Laura Watt is far more interesting and reliable.

Posted by Mark Hart at Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at 6:42pm BST

Thank you James. That's my sense too. The CofE policy on abortion has all the appearance of a paper policy which is never spoken of.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 19 May 2016 at 11:42am BST

@Rod Gillis. I'm no theologian (and no literary scholar either) but I can't help but think the only response to a mystery can be poetry, or silence.

Posted by David Emmott at Friday, 20 May 2016 at 5:36pm BST

@ David Emmott, sure thing. Check out this poem, Real Presence, by Nan Shepherd.

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/real-presence

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 2:42pm BST

Fr Jonathan asks for a “fully formed Catholic theology, grounded in the Scriptures and the historic teaching of the Church.”

He will, I hope, be relieved to learn that we already have one, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Agreed Statement on the Eucharist, produced by ARCIC (the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) in 1971.

One action of Lambeth Conference in 1988 was to recognize this Agreed Statement as an official teaching on Anglican Eucharistic doctrine of the Anglican Communion.

In 1996, Archbishop Carey and Pope John Paul II signed a joint statement that, from a Roman Catholic perspective, affirms that the Roman Catholic Church recognizes, at the highest level, that the ARCIC Agreed Statement is in conformity with official Catholic doctrine.

For the ARCIC Agreed Statement on the Eucharist, as well as various related discussions and elucidations, go here:
https://iarccum.org/doc/?d=2

Posted by jnwall at Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 5:48pm BST

Folks may be interested in this article by John H. McKenna, C.M.


"...crucial is the issue of the manifold presence of Christ in the Eucharist,
namely, in the whole believing community and especially when the
faithful gather together in his name, in the présider and ministers of the
assembly, and in the proclamation of the Scriptures in the assembly. Christ
is really, personally present and active in all of these, although according to
different modes. To understand Christ's presence in the bread and wine we
must situate this presence in the context of these other modes of presence.89
Finally, there is the issue of the incompleteness of Christ's presence
or his absence that makes us long for the parousia. Only in the context of
these related issues does the presence, often referred to as real presence,
have its place and meaning."

The complete article may be found here;

http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/60/60.2/60.2.5.pdf

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 10:55pm BST

@jnwall, Thanks for the reminder about ARCIC and The Lambeth Conference. ARCIC statements, like BEM, are landmark ecumenical documents with welcome achievements. A link to Lambeth 1998 Resolution 8 re ARCIC is included below.

Note, "Some provinces asked for clarification about the meaning of anamnesis and bread and wine 'becoming' the body and blood of Christ. But no province rejected the Statement and many were extremely positive."


http://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1988/resolution-8-anglican-roman-catholic-international-commission-(arcic)?author=Lambeth+Conference&year=1988

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 2:25pm BST
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