Comments: Opinion - 3 February 2018

'that nothing about the eucharist (or anointing or absolu­tion) is significant for the jour­ney of salva­­tion;....'

I think I may have misunderstood Andrew Davison - is he saying (or implying) that Methodists do not have a valid eucharist? And does it then follow that Baptists, URC, Brethren, Pentecostals etc. do not have a valid eucharist either?

If so, that is quite extraordinary - that such a huge number of Christians the world over should be regarded as celebrating Holy Communion in vain, and not actually partaking of Jesus in this way. But perhaps I have got the wrong end of the stick here. I hope so.

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 12:36pm GMT

I suspect the obvious point is where "Baptists, URC, Brethren, Pentecostals etc" themselves disagree with Anglicans over how Christ is present in the Lord's Supper.

It isn't that Anglicans have some gold standard they are withholding from others, and ought not to. Historically there have been significant disagreements against Anglicans over what it means to "partake of Jesus." And some of these are resident within anglicanism!

Posted by CRS at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 4:21pm GMT

I don't venture to declare what God does in a Protestant communion service in terms of imparting grace. But I'm clear they don't have the Eucharist as described by Catholics. Nor would they claim to.

Posted by FrDavidH at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 4:39pm GMT

I agree with Fr. David H. The lack of proper Episcopal ordination is a stumbling block on the path to full communion. We Anglicans are saying what the Church of Rome says: valid ordination is required for a valid Eucharist. If Methodist clergy have valid ordination, why would there be any need for the planned discussions, which include episcope?

Posted by Richard at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 5:41pm GMT

I’m on holiday and was only able to read the report into cathedrals quickly before I came away (and I’m having as much of a break from all things ecclesiastical as possible). But I do want to put down a marker somewhere about the lack of anything in the report about the role, function, responsibilities and opportunities of the Cathedral Congregation and community. Although mentioned a number of times their position is nowhere examined in any detail or suggestion made about how it /they might more fully exercise and support the ministry and mission of the Cathedral itself and the Chapter.

I have to declare an interest as the current chair of the Chichester Cathedral Community Committee, one of a number of such bodies set up by a number of Cathedrals, though by no means all, under the Cathedrals’ Measure. I had hoped to find some helpful considerations of such Committees as well as the congregation/community.

I’ll hopefully write more about this when I return from the sun but I will be interested to see what this note provokes.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 6:33pm GMT

Janet - yes, I think this is exactly what Andrew is saying. It is pretty standard theology in Catholic Anglican circles. It takes apostolicity to mean bishops and takes apostolic succession pretty literally.

Posted by Charles Read at Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 11:29pm GMT

I know that Anglo-Catholics understand apostolic succession to be defined by an unbroken chain of laying on of hands for ordination and consecration. Evangelicals generally understand apostolic succession to be a matter of faithfulness to the teaching of the apostles, and that is what a fairly large number of Anglicans will believe.

I was unaware that Anglo-Catholics regard the Holy Communion as celebrated and partaken of by millions of Christians as not being Holy Communion at all. Not even my RC colleague at Salford went that far.

I wonder, then, what concept people who hold such beliefs can have of God. Does God withhold this grace from Christians simply because they happened to be born into, or grew up in, the wrong denomination? Or live in the wrong part of the world? If your country happened to be evangelised by, say, Dutch Reform missionaries rather than Jesuits, are you a lesser Christian?

I really hope I am misunderstanding this.

I think a lot of differences between Christians would assume a lesser importance if we could focus on the Jesus we all want to receive from, rather than the human being who is administering the sacrament to us.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 12:12pm GMT

On Pandora's Box (this time spiritual abuse, not definitions of valid eucharist):

Some 20 years ago I completed my MPhil on 'Charismatic Healing Ministries and the Sexual Abuse Survivor'. There is no doubt that some of the techniques and ministries I described were )snd are) spiritually abusive. Others are more less clearly so - as Anna asks, where do we draw the line?

I'm now researching the subject again, looking at how things have developed over the intervening decades.

Among others, there is a new (to me) technique called Sozo, which has been adopted by a number of churches from major denominations. Several Anglican churches are a part of their official network. I have to say I'm uneasy about what I've read so far, but much of what I can find is vague and I'm having difficulty finding out what actually happens in a Sozo ministry session.

Has anyone any experience, direct or indirect, of Sozo? I'd be grateful for any information you have.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 12:22pm GMT

I am happy to offer some clarification for Janet Fife. For some of my fellow Anglicans, the question of who celebrates the Eucharist is not a matter of particular importance, whereas it is a matter of importance to me (as it is in our canon law and our historical practice since 1662). There are several possible reasons why someone might place relatively little importance on that question of who celebrates the Eucharist, and I am trying to put myself in their shoes. Rather an extreme reason, but not totally uncommon among Anglicans, would be to think that sacraments simply do not bear on salvation, so little about them matters at all. I am not attributing that position to members of the Methodist Church, nor to every Anglican who is unperturbed by the idea of that ministers who were not ordained by bishops may soon be reckoned by the Church of England as interchangeable with Anglican priests/presbyters.

Posted by Andrew Davison at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 1:57pm GMT

I have tried to avoid the language of 'validity'. What I know, and am confident in, is the pattern of ministry bequeathed by the early church, and embraced and embodied by the Church of England. Where a Church has turned away from that order, is there nothing? Of course not, and charity properly compels me to celebrate all that is good and true in another tradition. However, I can and still do think that something is lost in departing from the inherited pattern. I will explain my own practice: I participate in Methodist Eucharists with joy and gratitude, but I think that the Methodist understanding of orders is sufficiently different from that of my own Church that I could not say that their celebrations are simply the same - for instance as to the manner of Christ's presence - as in a church ordered according to the historic episcopate. The differences are so significant that I think we must ask for some sort of episcopal ordination, perhaps a conditional one, for someone coming in who was not ordained that way, on the principle that no one is being compelled to work in a church different from their own, so if they choose to, they should respect the ecclesiology of the church they are moving into.

Posted by Andrew Davison at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:06pm GMT

Luckily for all of us, the Lord doesn't depend on us or anything we do to make his presence in the Eucharist "valid." The idea is breathtakingly arrogant. Even Roman Catholic theologians have become squeamish about how the term gets applied.

The fact of the matter, to be discovered by a clear reading both of church history and of sacramental theology, is that all of us - every part of the Body - have messed it up so many ways and for so long that the idea that anybody can claim an unsullied path back to the Apostles is, well, absurd. if anybody has doubts about that, just consider the venerable practice of buying and selling of bishoprics.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:16pm GMT

Richard says (3 Feb, 5.41 pm GMT): "We Anglicans are saying what the Church of Rome says: valid ordination is required for a valid Eucharist."
That may be what the Church of Rome and some Anglicans are saying, but it does not accord with my reading of the New Testament: see, for example, Acts 2 vv 42 and 46; 1 Corinthians 11.

For a book setting out the arguments for a change in practice within historic Anglicanism, see "The Lord's Supper in Human Hands - Who should administer?" (2008, Latimer Trust); also Grove booklet, "Lay Presidency: An Anglican Option?" by Andrew Atherstone (2011).

The official position of the House of Bishops was set out 21 years ago now in their 1997 report "Eucharistic Presidency" [GS 1248]. That report was produced in response to an amended Private Member's Motion from Timothy Royle and approved by General Synod on 19 July 1994 stating that the Synod "would welcome a statement from the House of Bishops about the theology of the Eucharist and about the respective roles of the clergy and laity within in." In accordance with an indication I gave in my election address in 2015, I intend to promote a Private Member's Motion in General Synod, requesting that the House of Bishops review the statement and giving the current General Synod membership the opportunity to discuss the issue.

Posted by David Lamming at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:20pm GMT

Our bishops are real bishops because a real bishop laid hands upon them; your bishops are false. Our ministers are real presbyters because a real bishop laid hands upon them; your ministers are false. Let's not beat about the bush. That is what Davison is claiming. We are better than you: I am better than you. The Lord has blessed us, not you, so we can do things that you can't do.

Matthew 7, Luke 6, James 4 etc.

In any other context, the difficulty with Davison's proposition would be obvious but somehow clerical and episcopal orders are exceptions. Seriously? Why would the Methodists want full communion when many in the Church of England arrogantly see Methodists as second class citizens, lacking the proper inheritance.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:28pm GMT

When I see something from Colin Coward linked I always look forward to reading it. He did not disappoint. So often, analogy is a great way of teaching and his observations about citizenship are spot on. The more CofE leadership disenfranchises LGBTQI people, the more the conflict will escalate. Indeed, I think the debate now, as Coward intimates, has moved on from specifics to the fundamental demand that the bishops recognise our full integrity as "citizens" of the Church.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:41pm GMT

Speaking as someone who became an Anglican in part because of the Church of England's continuation of the historic episcopate, I would be sorely disappointed to see a breach of order that would allow non-episcopally consecrated presbyters to preside at the eucharist. It's not that I believe the eucharists I participated in as a Presbyterian were 'invalid'-- the grace of God is mysterious and wonderful-- but that the episcopate best represents the mind of the universal Church in regard to sound order. The more we move away from universal practice, the more we separate ourselves from the Body, both past and present, and, it seems to me, losing that family history and connection is a sad thing.

Posted by Evan McWilliams at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 7:41am GMT

"Does God withhold this grace from Christians simply because they happened to be born into, or grew up in, the wrong denomination? Or live in the wrong part of the world?" asks Janet Fife.
I'm sure God Himself decides where to impart His grace without regard to Anglican canons. An accident of birth can result in people being Anglicans, Jews, Methodists, or Muslims. Does Janet regard such beliefs as being "equal" because they're accidental? If it's not arrogant to suggest Muslim and Jewish beliefs are 'wrong', why can't Anglicans say Methodists are also "wrong"?

Posted by FrDavidH at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 8:15am GMT

Quite a number of people on this thread seem to be following Welby's example and either kicking theology into the long grass, or attempting to over-simplify the issues by insisting that the accumulated historical and doctrinal experience of the Church is irrelevant.

What Andrew Davison is underscoring (if I have understood him correctly) is the wider Oecumene beyond our relationship with the Methodists, and the impact that this decision could have on the Church of England's relationships with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, especially where the issue of the apostolic character of the ordained ministry is concerned.

Is the long-term hope of full and visible unity really served by a short-term and ill-considered compromise that would allow non-episcopally-ordained presbyters to preside at an Anglican Eucharist? Resorting to a simplistic 'what would Jesus have said' solution is simply not good enough - and is a betrayal of Anglicanism's equal appeal to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. How the Church has ordered its historic ministry is (to use the jargon) of the esse of C of E's claim to be part of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. Suggesting that a concern for sacramental integrity is no more than 'we are better than they are' simply has no place in this discussion. It is regrettable that the absence of a responsible theological perspective has allowed it to become so.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 10:29am GMT

FWIW I have always resisted being recognised as an authorised minister to lead the Methodist Holy Communion service - something quite common in my deanery - because I do not believe that I have the necessary formation in the Methodist tradition for me to be an appropriate Eucharistic president in such a context.

I suspect the debate has a lot more to do with ecclesiology - always the theological poor relation - than we might imagine. Certainly my reading of the GS document found it alarmingly light, and very much a theology of 'wouldn't it be nice if everyone was nice?' Reminds me rather of a lecture Kallistos Ware gave 30 years ago on the difference between the theological quality of ARCIC work and that of the Lima document (remember that?).

Posted by David Rowett at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 12:01pm GMT

Thanks for the various replies.

Andrew, I'm relieved to read that you don't consider Methodist eucharists invalid, and are happy to participate in them. However, the earliest Church, as recorded in the New Testament, used the titles 'presbyter' (what we now call a priest) and 'overseer' (bishop) interchangeably. So, how can we claim that our pattern of church order is more authentic than theirs? Are those ordained by, say, Peter Ball more authentically ordained than those ordained within the Methodist Church? I'm with Daniel and Kate on this.

Evan, in saying that 'the episcopate best represents the mind of the universal Church in regard to sound order' you are unchurching millions of Baptists, Presbyterians, etc. That can't be right. The universal Church is made up of all those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ and try to follow him - including Quakers, Salvationists and people who don't go to church at all. In the world today, as in the New Testament, there are different patterns of church order to suit different cultures and temperaments. That's how it should be. We are free to justify and defend the one we prefer, but not to claim the others are somehow less faithful or authentic.

FrDavidH, I don't suggest Muslim and Jewish beliefs are 'wrong'. I wouldn't have got far with interfaith relationships if I had. I focus on what we agree on, discuss (if appropriate) where we differ, and trust God to read the intentions of every heart and judge accordingly.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 12:03pm GMT

"Suggesting that a concern for sacramental integrity is no more than 'we are better than they are' simply has no place in this discussion. It is regrettable that the absence of a responsible theological perspective has allowed it to become so."

It has every place because that is precisely the attitude of Davison and several commentators. It is impossible to study the Gospels and not be struck by Jesus's distaste - almost despair - at Temple practices and customs. There is an an obvious parallel with the practices and customs which have built up around the sacraments of the Church. I am sure that 1st century Jewish priests, and many ordinary Jews, felt as passionate about those customs and practices as many contemporary "priests" and Christians do about the sacraments. That's a theological analogy. You might hate it, but it is inescapable.

And I do care about the sacraments. Passionately. But it is the Lord and the Lord alone who sanctifies them and no special celebrant, form or words is necessary. I find it deeply upsetting when people suggest anything other than the Lord is necessary. It makes sense to train people who, through experience and knowledge, can help us partake thoroughly of the sacraments, but in no sense are those professional celebrants necessary and it is deeply regrettable that some have come to see them as necessary.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 2:05pm GMT

Janet Fife, I am surprised that you haven't encountered the concept of invalidity beforehand.

In terms of my own view on the presbyteral ministry of female Anglican clergy, of Methodists, of Baptists, etc., is that, where the celebrant is a man who has been episcopally ordained, one can be sure that it is a valid Eucharist. I wouldn't dream of saying that others were invalid but I could not be sure that they were valid.

Posted by Richard (another one) at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 2:39pm GMT

"It is impossible to study the Gospels and not be struck by Jesus's distaste - almost despair - at Temple practices and customs."

This is breath-taking in its sweep, as is the alleged analogy. We just celebrated Candlemas. What a bunch of nonsense for Jesus' parents to follow the Law. Or for Jesus to send the healed man to offer what Moses requires. Or tell the Samaritans that "salvation is from the Jews" and point to the temple that he calls his father's house. Or ignore the hypocritical teachers' conduct but not their proper teaching of Moses. Not one jot or tittle will pass away. The righteous Israel filled with the Holy Spirit waiting for the messiah in the Temple. Go nowhere except to the lost house of Israel. No necessary form or words? Do THIS in remembrance of me. Words of Institution.

You are inventing a gnostic religion even Ulrich Zwingli would run from.

Posted by CRS at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 2:55pm GMT

There is nothing remotely Gnostic in what I wrote.

In any event, the Catholic Church insists that Anglican Bishops have not been made in apostolic succession. That's the thing, if you rely upon a specific rite performed by a specific group of people, then deviations break succession. And, according to Rome, our sacraments (apart from baptism) are all invalid.

So how do we tell whether an Anglican bishop is really a bishop? Because he tells us he is? Because other bishops, whose pedigree is the same, say that he is? It's totally circular and obviously unsatisfactory. In what way is that different that Methodists claiming their bishops are real bishops?

Posted by Kate at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 4:19pm GMT

Richard II, of course I have encountered the concept of invalidity before, but I hadn't heard it expressed quite so clearly in the context of other non-RC denominations. When I was working in an ecumenical uni chaplaincy, we had some discussions about the eucharist. One of the (pretty conservative) RC nuns expressed it this way: 'it's not that we think you aren't in communion with Jesus. It's just that when we receive the eucharist we're in communion with the Pope and the saints and bishops, and you aren't.' Which is fair enough. (Except I would say if we're all in communion with Jesus we're all in communion with each other, whether we recognise it or not.)

What some Anglicans seem to be saying in this thread goes much farther than anything my RC colleagues would have claimed - and certainly much farther than more liberal RCs I've known.

I can understand the concern for wider ecumenicity which Michael Mulhern expresses, and that's a good point. But it's not quite what I read Andrew Davison as saying, and that's why I asked for clarification.

As for 'attempting to over-simplify the issues by insisting that the accumulated historical and doctrinal experience of the Church is irrelevant', I don't believe 2000 years of experience should be disregarded. It needs to be weighed - RC, Orthodox, Anglican, URC, Pentecostal, the lot. All need to be considered as to what is helpful, or not. And all need to be considered in the light of what the New Testament teaches us about conducting Church, and what the Bible teaches us about God.

I was brought up in free churches and chose to become Anglican because I believed the Church of England has a better way of ordering church life. It was in an Anglican Church eucharist that I first realised Jesus is present in the eucharist. Personally I usually find Holy Communion in Anglican churches more meaningful than in non-Anglican communion services. But that may be partly due to my particular psychology, history or experience - I'm not prepared to say
another Church's communion services are one whit less effective or valuable than ours.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 5:15pm GMT

A few random comments perhaps somewhat unrelated among themselves:

when I was training for ordination, I was very lucky (in my opinion) to be in an ecumenical training course (EAMTC) and I certainly never felt that those entrusted with my training who were not Anglicans were somehow less "Christian"or less "entitles" to oversee my work, nor did I ever feel that a non-Anglican Eucharist "wasn't"indeed a Eucharist;

Methodists in UK don't have bishops, but in the USA (and maybe other places) do - any comments?

In my retirement I have taken a Sunday morning Eucharist at one of the C-of-E chaplancies in Paris. Although I am a high-church anglican ("mostly" my training encumbant might say)their service is much less formal andmuch less dressed-and-vested than the Eucharist at the French Reformed Church I attend most Sundays. Is one a Eucharist and the other not? It doesn't seem so to me or to those who attend those churches.
Finally, as an ordained woman, I have always wondered why those colleagues who do not agree with ordaining women refuse to receive from a woman (and same for those who don't agree with non-bishop ordinations): is to make a (public) point, to show what side they are on, fear that it might actually "feel" like a "real" Eucharist? A mystery to me.... PACE

Posted by Sara MacVane at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 5:25pm GMT

It is perhaps worth pointing out that the "historic episcopate" is one of the four "laterals" of the Lambeth-Chicago quadrilateral, and thereby designated as one of the "distinctives" of the Anglican Communion.

I understand that the Communion is not necessarily popular around here, but the quadrilateral is the foundational document, and says nothing whatsoever about the Secretary General, the ABoC, the ACC, or the Primates meeting. But the historic episcopate is listed as one of the four key elements of Anglicanism, and of the Communion, and our claim to being part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

If the CoE wants to change that, fine, but Synod should withdraw the CoE's consent to the quadrilateral prior to setting it aside.

Posted by TJ McMahon at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 5:48pm GMT

I am totally unable to accept that Methodist ministers can celebrate the Eucharist any more than an Anglican layman can. But I'm not prepared to say Methodist communion services are "less effective or valuable than ours" (Janet Fife). Why is it unchristian to believe Methodists are different?

Posted by FrDavidH at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 5:49pm GMT

As a new contributor, I would be very interested in further clarification of the difference between a valid and invalid eucharist. Does God actually allow one to transmit his grace but not the other? Are people who attend invalid eucharists merely deluding themselves that Jesus is present when, in fact, he is absent? However one defines it, the presence and power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit in the eucharist is the central issue. I regard with horror the possible consequences of some arguments over validity, which seem to hold their nose and concede that he may be present, but merely in an “anomalous” way, to use the language of Ministry and Mission in Covenant. I have a feeling that we will all reach heaven as “anomalies”! Of course, the congregational perception of his presence is affected by the way in which, and by whom, the eucharist is celebrated, which perhaps explains much of the anxiety over “validity – but let’s not add to that anxiety by our theologies. Pace CRS, there is a huge gulf between “Do this in remembrance of me” and an absolute certainty regarding Eucharistic practice! In defence of Kate, Jesus’ declaration that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” surely suggests the ultimate provisionality of all religious practices
I am, incidentally, an Anglican Priest “recognised and regarded” as a Methodist Minister.

Posted by John Peet at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 6:38pm GMT

I think Anglicanism (which we like to think of as its own ecumenical movement, and very broad-minded and tolerant) may turn out to be 'the church it's impossible to have unity with' - from the Catholic and Orthodox point of view, because they don't think our ordinations are valid, and from the Protestant point of view, because we don't think their ordinations are valid!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 8:28pm GMT

(Yawn). And meanwhile the work of the Gospel goes on (or not), and new disciples are made (or not), and the poor are served (or not), and justice and compassion are promoted (or not) - by people of all denominations...

I'm sorry, but if this made a blind bit of difference in the lives of ordinary Christians, I'd expect to see a qualitative difference in the holiness and love exhibited by those who *really* receive the Body of Christ on Sundays as compared to those who don't. Didn't someone give us the right to use this criteria? '...if you have love for one another'.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 8:34pm GMT

A few points from an Australian Episcopalian in no special order. (1) Did Jesus institute the Holy Communion ? Apart from S.Paul's writing,"do this...&c" is found only in one Gospel - the "longer version" of S.Luke. (2) What proof is there that early Eucharists were celebrated only by bishops or presbyters ? Andrew McGowan, expert in this area, shows that there was great diversity in the early Christian communities with regard e.g. to the elements used, and I'd guess regarding who "celebrated" (and they included "prophets". (3) What exactly is meant by the "presence" of Jesus in Holy Communion ? The BCP service and the Catechism clearly rule out any identification of the consecrated (set apart) bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ. (4) What is meant by the body and blood of Jesus? Dean Stanley - following some of the ancient Fathers - thought "body" referred to the life of Jesus, "blood" to the charity and spirit of Jesus.(5) In some parts of the world this discussion (in which I once would have taken the Anglo-Catholic position) is irrelevant. I have been in a Roman Catholic parish in Australia where the local Uniting Church minister presides at Mass when his colleague is on holidays ! I have a friend who tells me that in Africa, the brothers of his Roman Catholic order, all of them laymen, celebrated Mass since, where they were, any visit by a priest was rare indeed. (6) In my own hospital, the Roman Catholic chaplain - when we had one - always received Communion when I celebrated as have most RC staff ; at our rare RC masses, all have received the Sacrament. (7) In my Diocese of Sydney, celebration by deacons is common in church, local churches are often in the charge of deacons, and celebration by lay-people is common in house services. Despite all I have written, and although I think such Communions are "valid", I think for the sake of people's conscientious beliefs and for the sake of good order in our particular Church, Sydney's deviations should not be authorised, and that we should keep to the law of our particular Church - which brings one back to the original discussion!

Posted by John Bunyan at Monday, 5 February 2018 at 9:29pm GMT

"38. These considerations do not diminish the importance of the episcopal ministry. On
the contrary, they enable churches which have not retained the episcopate to appreciate
the episcopal succession as a sign, though not a guarantee, of the continuity and unity of
the Church. Today churches, including those engaged in union negotiations, are expressing
willingness to accept episcopal succession as a sign of the apostolicity of the life of the
whole Church. Yet, at the same time, they cannot accept any suggestion that the ministry
exercised in their own tradition should be invalid until the moment that it enters into an
existing line of episcopal succession. Their acceptance of the episcopal succession will best further the unity of the whole Church if it is part of a wider process by which the
episcopal churches themselves also regain their lost unity. " the WCC 'BEM' document

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 3:28am GMT

Thanks for the article by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes. I'm surprised there has not been more comment. Old fashioned and intellectually out of date paradigms about 'validity' of this and that seem to have overtaken the conversation. I did not realize that TA was populated by so many conventional, dare I say, conservative voices.

By the by, the fixation with 'valid' ordinations and 'valid' sacraments in general is very much a buy into a conventional patriarchal framework.

Sigh! The unrequited love for the male patriarchy of Roman and Orthodox institutions fills one with longing. No Methodists please because some day Rome shall surely deign to love us with an undying love. ( :

It is time to get behind feminist voices.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 3:44am GMT

What an interesting debate. I've chosen to be an Anglican, not a Methodist. I'm all for working together and respecting one another. But I'm an Anglo-Catholic because the liturgy, sacraments, and music help me enter into the Great Mystery and connect with God. I don't know what's "valid" or "invalid," but I do believe that intentionality makes a difference. We believe in the "real presence" in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we do not believe that it is only a memorial. Our BCP (TEC) has it both ways, it has "do this in memory of me" and the epiclesis. So no, I'm not interested in having a Protestant pastor celebrating the Eucharist (assisting is fine) any more than a layperson.

I also believe that the sacraments can be catalysts for ontological change. I felt that way about my marriage, so I can imagine ordination having that capacity, and more. Again, for me, it comes down to intentionality. I'm sure that Methodist pastors have something like that, but put to different purposes, different priorities (word vs. liturgy), etc. We can be different and still be sisters and brothers in Christ.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 5:22am GMT

If apostolic succession is true then we need to be 100% certain that every person on that list was validly ordained and then validly consecrated as a bishop before translation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Just one - just one - failure and the chain is broken and every subsequent sacrament is invalid. We won't know, of course, until after death because nobody has set out a litmus test to determine if the Eucharist, marriage or ordination we attend is valid or invalid.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 8:49am GMT

In the context of this discussion, I think it's worth pointing out that no-one is formally proposing that Methodist ministers should be able to exercise a priestly ministry in the C of E just as they are.

The proposals before Synod involve (1) the Methodist church receiving an adapted form of the historic episcopate (2) the Methodist church commiting to exclusively episcopal ordination in the future. The proposals contend that these actions are sufficient, within Anglican theology, to permit existing Methodist ministers to exercise priestly ministry in the C of E with no further ordination.

Many people have raised concerns as to whether these measures are by themselves in fact sufficient, and in my opinion they are right to raise these concerns. But no-one is at the present time formally proposing that Methodist and Anglican presbyters in England should be interchangeable without anything else changing.

Posted by Russell Dewhurst at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 8:58am GMT

In part answer to Kate's point, W E Gladstone published a mathematical analysis of this question in 1840, in which he claimed to demonstrate that even if one bishop in twenty were invalidly consecrated as a result of defective baptism or mistakes in the rite of consecration, then the chance of all three consecrating bishops at a consecration sharing such a flaw would be 8000 to one, and even were this to occur, the chance of anyone they had purported to consecrate being himself in due course chosen as a consecrator with two other invalidly consecrated bishops would be 512,000,000,000 to one.

Posted by Robin Ward at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 10:09am GMT

It's hardly a deep analysis. 20^3 = 8000. 20^9 = 2^9 x 10^9 = 512000000000.

It's however a flawed analysis, because it presumes that each bishop only consecrates one other bishop, and that each person being consecrated picks three bishops at random from the pool of all bishops. Neither's true.

Links in chains of association are catalogued semi-seriously, such as the Bacon Number [1], the Erdos Number [2] (mine is 4), or even, for the very specialised, the Erdos-Bacon Number [3] show how these sorts of chains cluster around particular "hot" individuals. It would be interesting to plot a similar metric for bishops.


Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 1:17pm GMT

Re Cynthia "I've chosen to be an Anglican, not a Methodist."

Fair enough; but I've chosen to be an Anglican in part because it is a tradition committed to ecumenism. William Temple was among the pioneers of the modern ecumenical movement well before Vatican II.

In the case of the Anglican-Methodist issue, is the glass half empty or half full? Do we focus on the fact that Methodists are not on the same page with so called "apostolic succession", or do we focus on the fact that the proposed covenant will result in a form of episkope personally embodied and with a reintegration of a tradition that was born of Anglicanism?

There are a couple of places where one may look for sources. See the World Council of Churches document, Baptism, Eucharist Ministry ( see the section on Ministry). See also the critique of the mechanical notion of apostolic succession.

"As ordination came to be linked primarily with priesthood and its ability to "confect" the Eucharist the idea of ordination as installation into an office was eliminated and, with it, the possibility of women being ordained. ...Thus the triumph of a priestly eucharistic concept of ordination, passed down through apostolic succession, is itself an integral part of a process in which women were eliminated as ordainable."

The above is from a very lengthy article by Rosemary Radford Ruether that is worth reading in its entirety.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 2:48pm GMT

I doubt the numbers Robin, and he is ignoring that in the early years bishops were often made only by archbishops, but he is also assuming that the participation of one invalid celebrant doesn't invalidate the entire sacrament. Does it? Who can guess?

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 3:37pm GMT

Stephen Croft hopes for outcomes when he writes: "This closer working to­­gether will be a significant witness to the gospel, and a healing of past di­­visions, and will be of immense pra­­ctical benefit — particularly in rural and urban areas where re­­sources are stretched."

One hopes his prevision comes to fruition. However other outcomes are possible. One is that Methodists may end morphing into a more hierarchical culture.

We have had this experience in Canada with regard to full Communion with Lutherans. Rather than Anglican bishops becoming less hierarchical and authoritarian, Lutheran bishops have been assimilated into a more 'episcopal' culture complete with purple shirts and a greater distinction from other Lutheran pastors.

Do Methodists want to be assimilated into an increasingly administratively authoritarian culture such as the one to which the C of E is trending under it's current episcopal leadership? This is something both Methodists and Anglicans ought to be concerned about.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 4:29pm GMT

Interested Observer, the matter is complicated for Anglicans in that there are nearly always more than two co-consecrators, but they are not required to say anything expressing an intention to consecrate. This, combined with as you say the fact that only the two archbishops generally consecrate, means the whole thing is quite a bit riskier, even if Gladstone's assumption of one fundamental flaw for every twenty bishops is excessive. Perhaps his maths improved when he became Chancellor.

Posted by Robin Ward at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 4:33pm GMT

I find the language of 'spiritual abuse' unhelpful. What defines it? It could mean anything - including a strong opinion offered in a sermon that someone in the pew finds unsettling. The issue about the 'abuse of spiritual power'. This needs more carefully defining.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 5:40pm GMT

Rod Gillis, thank you for pointing me in the direction of Miranda's very good article. Thank you also for making the connection between the patriarchy and debates about validity.

I have been tracing the validity arguments back to Origen and the intrusion of legal thinking into Christianity with its adoption by the Roman Empire. I hadn't made the connection with patriarchy but it's a good point.

Incidentally, Jerome received a lot of help with his translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) from Marcella, a high-born Roman woman. Her Hebrew and Greek were even better than his and he consulted her often, but being a woman Marcella could not be credited for her work on the translation. A number of priests also used to come to Marcella seeking guidance, and she would advise them, 'Jerome says such and such' - but actually it was her own advice.

Reminds me of various Christian business meetings I have sat in, where the only way to get a suggestion adopted was to make my contribution quietly, so one of the men could pick up my idea and present it as his own.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 7 February 2018 at 11:32am GMT

"Her Hebrew and Greek were even better than his and he consulted her often."

I'm just curious how you know this to be true.

Posted by CRS at Wednesday, 7 February 2018 at 2:23pm GMT

Jerome was commissioned to produce a single fresh Latin translation of the scriptures. After his first effort he decided he needed to consult the "Hebrew Verity" as he called it, and get behind Greek translations then available to him. One gets a good sense of the implications of this in the Psalms, as critical editions print his serial efforts and one can see the changes he made. Jerome himself describes how difficult it was for a Christian to learn Hebrew. One could get only so far with Origen's Hexapla as a kind of 'crib.' He relocated to Bethlehem in part for this purpose. I'd be curious to know more about Marcella's role as his guide and superior consultant in Hebrew.

Posted by CRS at Thursday, 8 February 2018 at 8:21am GMT

In Jerome's words:

'As in those days my name was held in some renown as that of a student of the Scriptures, she never came to see me without asking me some questions about them, nor would she rest content at once, but on the contrary would dispute them; this, however, was not for the sake of argument, but to learn by questioning the answers to such objections might, as she saw, be raised. How much virtue and intellect, how much holiness and purity I found in her I am afraid to say, both lest I may exceed the bounds of men's belief and lest I may increase your sorrow by reminding you of the blessings you have lost. This only will I say, that whatever I had gathered together by long study, and by constant meditation made part of my nature, she tasted, she learned and made her own.'

Posted by crs at Thursday, 8 February 2018 at 10:07am GMT
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