Thinking Anglicans

MCU conference papers

Many of the papers from the 2008 Modern Churchpeople’s Conference, Saving the soul of Anglicanism: the nature and future of the Anglican Communion are now available on the MCU website.

Here are the links to the PDF files. More detail and links to Word files are available here.

The Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan
Questions not Answers: A way forward for the Anglican Communion?

The Right Rev Michael Jackson
Anglicanism, blessing or curse – the Irish experience

The Right Rev Trevor Mwamba
A Holy Mess and the Grace of Ambiguity

Revd Dr Marilyn McCord Adams
The proposed Anglican Covenant and its implications for the Communion

Revd Dr Janet Wootton
A Dissenter’s view of Anglicanism and Establishment

Andrew Brown
A Journalist’s view of Anglicanism

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

What a lovely article by Archbishop Barry Morgan! In his thoughts on R.S. Thomas’s poetry and his relevance within the context of present-day Anglican oppositional theology, Barry Morgan is re-introducing into the argument that wonderful Anglican ‘uncertainty’ that is part and parcel of our tentative understanding about God and Creation. He rightly, I think, questions the absolutism of the ‘substitutionary theory’, which seems to place God in the role of vengeful Benefactor – rather than Who God really is – as revealed to us in the Person and Being of Jesus Christ of the Gospels – a Loving Creator God,… Read more »

Keith Kimber
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Keith Kimber

Agreed, Archbishop Barry’s lecture is inspirational. If its spiritual impulse is followed through, it will cause a lot of grief for the legalisers and the covenanters of Anglicanism whose activities presume a bedrock of ‘saving knowledge’, that allows them to feel secure and certain about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of the household of faith. Taking us back to the Cloud of Unknowing is the best remedy to the burden of ecclesial ideas and institutions from the past. But how do we evolve a mystical critique of the church that actually makes possible practical reform and renewal of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

The Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwanba, in his presentation to the MCU, has given all of us much food for thought, for instance, in his statement: “The problem in the Anglican Communion is that the bishops have “short ears” which means we are hard of hearing, all deafened by the noise of our respective agendas. The great tragedy, speaking as an African bishop, is that having ‘short ears’ make some of our Primates in Africa act like ecclesiastical Mugabes”. His story of the beginnings of Christianity in Africa – which were founded on the experience and preaching of some of… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“that wonderful Anglican ‘uncertainty’ that is part and parcel of our tentative understanding about God and Creation.” Give me doubt over certainty any day! I read something once that said ‘the opposite of doubt is not knowledge, the opposite of doubt is faith.’ This is one of the core issues here, actually. Some people have the idea that the tenets of the faith have to be “true” in some provable historic sense. It leads them down the path of having to decide which parts of the Bible are historical, though none ARE in any modern sense of the word. It… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ron Smith, You make some good points about the place for diversity and so on. That is not really in dispute. Can we also recognize the need for some boundaries? Or is it now “anything goes?” The rationale you resort to in the end will not hold up, you say: “openness to new revelation by the Spirit of God must always have precedence over any tradition that is closed to this revelation. Jesus himself said this – about the continuing influence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church: “When the Spirit of Truth comes, s/he will lead you into… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Sunday was St Batholomew’s Day and I was expecting some reference in a sermon to the ejection of nearly 2000 ministers. The institutional memory of that event you carry as an individual can mark you out: I see that, like me, Janet Wootten is on the ejected side. Thus you also see things from an anti-establishment side.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Ben:

The problem, as I see it, is that you want to keep the boundaries where they’ve always been (at least in your lifetime). Those of us on the other side of this issue wish to move them, not take them down.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Or is it now “anything goes?”” Ben, this seems to be a fear of conseratives in general, that there are only two choices: either adherence to a Law as traditionally interpreted, or the chaos of “anything goes”. But “liberals” aren’t saying “anything goes”. They are arguing for a more liberal understanding of the Tradition, perhaps, but not “anything goes”. Insistence on seeing anything that does not adhere to a well specified Law as a recipe for chaos just adds to the fear that has generated so much anger in conservatives and is fuel for the persecution myth. Please, why do… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat, The boundaries are what they have been from before the beginning of the church . . . definite lines of teaching that affirm the sexual relation in marriage of male and female from the beginning of scripture through the NT in Jesus and the apostle Paul (a little more than my “lifetime!”). Or is it matter with you, as with another lister on another thread, that it has to be “modern” to be valid? Is what is true or good a matter of modern?(and how modern – last century, decade, year, yesterday?). That is “truth” on the cheap and… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“you want to keep the boundaries where they’ve always been (at least in your lifetime)” Your parenthetical comment is essential, Pat. So often, those against LGBT (and/or female) inclusion—in all orders, all sacraments—do so on the basis of a “We’re just keeping to 2000 years of Tradition!” argument. In reality, often that “Tradition” is less than 200 years old—or 20! [Not to mention, the “confusing coincidence w/ causality” fallacy] It’s the Holy Spirit who keeps “moving the boundaries” (ever since “the Spirit fell” on an unexpected crowd, back in Sinai). Those of us who’re trying to be faithful to the… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Ben W: “…..based on and in continuity with Jesus Christ” And since when is dynamic theology not based on Jesus Christ?

Oh, I’m sorry, yes, that’s right, you’re better than us.

Steven
Guest
Steven

It’s rather interesting that no one has commented on Andrew Brown’s article, which presents a novel approach–for a liberal–to the question of who got this whole thing rolling.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Dear Ben W. When I speak of the work of the Holy Spirit in my comments on this site, it ought to be remembered that, as a Christian and a priest, my intention is always to point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate revelation of God in human terms. To speak, therefore of the Holy Spirit as the past, current and future agency of revelation, is to be in accord with the Trinitarian doctrine of the co-equal nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I have never presumed to say that any revelation from God would be divorced from that… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat, There are lines of teaching from the beginning (in the OT) to Jesus and Paul (in the NT) that affirm the sexual relation in marriage for male and female (a little more than my lifetime!). Is truth something that just “shifts” with the time? Or is being “modern” the test of truth? You the evangelicals “want ot keep the boundaries where they’ve always been … Those of us on the other side of this issue wish to move them, not take them down.” Well that is interesting, boundaries tha tone can move around according to preference. Are we talking… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Steven I have not commented because I did not follow Anglican politics when women and the priesthood were debated. Andrew Brown may well be right, he makes a compelling point. And it’s quite possible that liberals made big mistakes during this process. But what’s your conclusion? That liberals transgressing against an unspoken understanding while protecting those who did not want the innovation was so incredibly bad that, quoting Andrew Brown: “ the conservatives went off and built their own prams, their battle prams, if you like, and now they are running them through the playgroup squashing everyone in sight” is… Read more »

Peter of Westminster
Guest
Peter of Westminster

Hi Ben, I think you’ve overdrawn the metaphor. Anyway, looked at historically, “boundaries” are always shifting, whether we prefer that they do or not. Things that Christians once thought essential to the faith, you no longer believe in yourself — the flat earth, the fixed earth, the young earth, fixed and immutable species, and (in the American Antebellum South) slavery (Southern clergy argued with complete conviction that since the NT does not require the freeing of slaves, slave holding is Biblically justified. As war broke out, they were even arguing that it was structurally essential to the faith of many,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Ben: You see, there’s the problem again…seeing anything in the scripture as “definite” (other than the essential “Christ as God and savior”). You read a translation into modern English of documents originally written in ancient languages (including three that were initially passed on only orally, and primarily in a language–Aramaic–that is not spoken by anyone in the world today) and you take every word in it as literal. You see definitiveness where others–including most of the great Biblical scholars–see ambiguity. Can I point something out to you? In Jesus’ time (and for most of Jewish history before that and for… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Steven, I DO remember the OOW debate in Canada. The ACC’s behaviour in that was the cause of my abandonment of the Church for 18 years. It still is an issue, but not one I care about all that much any more. I don’t go to church because I think a bunch of bishops know what they are talking about. There are some, like Victoria Matthews, who get it. There are others who spectacularly do not. God gets it, though, and that’s why I go. I agree though, that we have abandoned the older Imperial idea of working together in… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I think the debate between Ben and the others on this thread demonstrates really well how fundamental the difference is between the liberal and conservative approach. I can’t really see any way of reconciling these views. Ben could never accept any change because he thinks truth is revealed only ion the bible and cannot be re-interpreted over time irrespective of subsequent developments.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford “Might it be that the opposition of the rest of the Church is actually evidence that TEC has NOT accurately discerned the will of the Spirit in this area?” Since you are also often at the forefront of musing whether evangelical behaviour has driven most liberals and less obsessive people out of the church this is an interesting point. If those who don’t agree with you leave, is that then evidence for the truth of your position? Social changes take many decades to percolate from vociferous interest groups only to general acceptance to the point that everyone has forgotten… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I can’t really see any way of reconciling these views.” But you aren’t being asked to provide a way, neither am I. All we are expected to do is love those we find it hard to love, perhaps we even find them unlovable. I certainly find them so, and I usually fail to do what’s expected, but that’s what confession is for! Their failure to do the same to us is meaningless. I figure God knows how to bring about a reconciliation, and will do so in His own good time. Don’t look for it soon, though, “a thousand ages… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Erika: Andrew Brown’s colorful language about “battle prams” is a product of (and proof of) his overall liberal mind set. I do not take offense–I would not expect anything different from him or you. I mainly bring him up for two reasons. First, because he recognizes that conservatives did not “start” the battle, nor were they the first to utilize certain tactics. As my mother-in-law says, “what goes around, comes around.” This is her way of saying something like “one reaps what one sows,” or possibly, “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind,” (an appropriate and pithy summary of Brown’s… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Merseymike,

“Ben could never accept any change because he thinks truth is revealed only ion the bible and cannot be re-interpreted over time irrespective of subsequent developments”

That’s not quite true. Ben and those like him have always been very good at accepting those changes they wanted to accept and claimed that they suddenly interpreted Scripture correctly, where previous generations of Christians had interpreted it incorrectly (see the slavery issue as a prominent example).

They only refuse to accept those changes they don’t like.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ford: Your post is very good, and (as usual) exceptionally forthright in terms of your overall perceptions and experiences. However, I think you err in terms of your criticism that conservatives don’t “represent the Gospel at all in any obvious way.” Remember, these are (in general) folks who are extremely dedicated to promulgating the Gospel and Gospel ideals. Consequently, your remark–taken on its face–seems to take a pretty broad brush approach. If you are speaking only with regard to the presenting issue, then perhaps it would be better to restrict your critique to this issue. If you cannot separate the… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Merseymike:

You are right in terms of some fundamental differences that separate liberals and conservatives. These differences cannot be bridged. One side or the other will prevail in terms of the presenting issue. However, as a conservative I can say that I don’t think that every arrow in the liberal quiver is bent, just some. Others merely represent a different emphasis and approach to issues that are (or should) be of concern to all Christians. I can live with that.

Steven

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“If you are speaking only with regard to the presenting issue, then perhaps it would be better to restrict your critique to this issue.” True. The only thing I can say in my defence is that I get very angry being misrepresented concerning my faith, my politics, and my life. The Gospel is not a Gospel of falsehood. But you’re right, I shoud restrict myself to the presenting issue. I see nothing of the Gospel in the way conservatives address the presenting issue. Do you? Where? “If you cannot separate the two, are you truly any better than all of… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Erika, “If those who don’t agree with you leave, is that then evidence for the truth of your position?” No. That’s not what I said. I’m just saying that TEC seems convinced of the “prophetic” nature of its position. No-one seems to have considered that the opposition they are getting from the rest of the Church might, just might, be an indication that they are not so utterly justified in their confidence of their own rightness. “vociferous interest groups” I think this is why Church change takes so long. If we go along with the demands of “vociferous interest groups”… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

The one weakness of Andrew Brown’s analysis is that he accepts one particularly odious “conservative” canard as true.

The North American provinces never demanded that anyone else conform on the issue of the ordination of women. Certianly there was an expectation that others would eventually come around – and many have. But to suggest that there was any attempt “to force other Christians to do what they did not want” is still a fabrication no matter how many times the lie is repeated.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford “”If those who don’t agree with you leave, is that then evidence for the truth of your position?” No. That’s not what I said” Sorry, I did not express myself clearly. What I’m trying to get at is that if everyone who would agree with you, but does not feel compelled to stay and battle it out leaves, then you are left, by definition, with those who disagree with you, who naturally are in the majority. So to say that “the rest of the church” is against you says more about the rest of the church than about the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Steven

Yes, but even if the liberals were at fault over women’s ordination, where does that get us now?
My question to you was what can be done to move forward.

The tactics of liberals and conservatives may be at fault, but the fact is that there are two groups with differing views, both of which are legitimate.
So what do we do, in practice, to end the deadlock?

A moratorium on SSBs and consecrating gay bishops was suggested. That may well work, provided the conservatives also show a willingness to compromise.

So what are you proposing? Playing blame games alone isn’t getting us anywhere.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Erika, by and large, I agree, especially with the part that begins: “And the fact that those who oppose it have…” But there’s a couple of points. First, “So to say that “the rest of the church” is against you says more about the rest of the church than about the rightness or not of your position.” But the Church is the assembled body of believers filled with the Spirit. We still have to make allowance for the possibility that She will work with what She has. She did it with Paul, after all. “At first those affected by an… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat, An array of assumptions and oversights! You yourself a few days ago thought that the ten commandments were quite definite! Now you seem to have difficulty affirming anthing as “definite” (other than the essential “Christ as God and savior”). Your Arians ancient and modern would not go with your essential! I have studied both Greek (and taught it) and Hebrew which is 98% of the language of Old and NT. The more thorough scholarship actually says that oral transmission was prominent but learners/disciples would take notes that they might learn “by memory.” You presume, “and you take every word… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford “But the Church is the assembled body of believers filled with the Spirit” Except where there is a strong possibility that years of flat earth preaching and intolerance have emptied the church of those who might otherwise be part of this body. The Church is the body of believers filled with the Spirit, but this includes people not in the official church organisation, and it excludes those within the organisation who are not motivated by faith. And I know that being affected by injustice isn’t a trustworthy assessment. That’s why it takes time to discern whether it is valid… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Peter of W, Since when was the idea of a “flat earth” central to the faith? If you said it was incidental you would be on target. Scripture speaks specifically about the “circle of the earth,” and further, things are variously described as we experience them or as they appear (e.g. we talk about the “sun going down” – is that simply “wrong?”). On boudaries, always shifting? On key lines of teaching this has at times happened but we call it “apostasy” when we want to call it by the right name! (+++ Williams a while ago called this to… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

What percentage of the NT is in Hebrew, Ben? The only written versions we have of the Gospels, Letters, and Revelation are all in Greek, and it is generally understood that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew, and would have orally transmitted their stories in that language. When did these learners/disciples start taking notes? The vast majority of first century Palestinians were illiterate. You are correct that the separation of social and cultural from religious concerns is mostly a post-Reformation concept. But the fact remains that, to a first-century Jew, the family and society’s approval of a marriage… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

‘Since when was the idea of a “flat earth” central to the faith? If you said it was incidental you would be on target’. – Ben W.

It was essential enough for ‘The Church’ in its day, to anathematise those who thought the earth might be a sphere. – or was that nothing to do with ‘faith’? If that, indeed, was the case, then why did the Church have to pronounce on it?

And since when has the “circle of the earth” meant, empirically, that the earth is spherical?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Almost all the people running the anti-gay operation at Lambeth in 1998 were veterans of the anti-women operations of 1988. They had digested the lessons of their defeat then”. This comment, by Andrew Brown to the Conference at MCU, does give us a bird’s-eye journalist’s view of what was going on at successive Lambeth Conferences. This would explain the almost inevitable outcome of Resolution 1.10. The Conservative elements in the Church had realised their relative lack of cohesion on their approach to the issue of women’s ordination, and were determined not to make the same mistake (in their view) on… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Since when was the idea of a “flat earth” central to the faith?”

I’ll see you and raise you a “Since when was ‘man/woman-ONLY marriage’ central to the faith?”, BenW.

***

“This does not mean that I want to see liberals eliminated and cast out if it can be avoided.”

So you conceive of circumstances where it CANNOT be avoided eliminating me and casting me out, Steven?

{gobsmacked}

Sooooo not feeling any Christian love. 🙁

Lord have mercy!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Your Arians “ Coming from an Evangelical, this is a truly amusing accusation! “Since when was the idea of a “flat earth” central to the faith” Well, actually, Ben, up till the Enlightenment, a flat Earth centred universe was quite important. It was understood to reflect the centrality of humanity in Creation. That centrality was important for our understanding of the Incarnation and of Redemption. The argument was: human beings are, or must be, the pinnacle of Creation. Thus, when we fell, all Creation fell with us. That’s why God had to Incarnate as a human being, so that, in… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat, Once more, did I say something about the NT being written in Hebrew? Read again, see that I was talking about the two languages in which most of the Old and NT is written. I did not think it had to be said that the Gospels are in Greek! Actually, it is generally now “understood that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic” but also Greek (there were Greek speaking cities almost within sight of Nazareth. You have reference to Greek speaking Jews in Jerusalem itself from the earliest days of the church, e.g. Acts 6:1). You can read the… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ron Smith, You have not addressed the issue of continuity of revelation with Jesus Christ. Is it simply determined by preference and what you think of as modern knowledge (Richard Dawkins may be of great help to you here!)? If so how are you different from the Mormons with their “new revelations?” Again, “Since when was the idea of a ‘flat earth’ central to the faith?” Is it in any of the key NT statements or in any of the confessions or creeds? Not last I looked! You say the church acted to “anathematise those who thought the earth might… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Ford: Regarding your comment that you see nothing of the Gospel message in the conservative approach to the presenting issue, I am not sure that I follow you. Are you making a distinction between Law and Gospel, between God’s goals for us and his promises to forgive us for our failing to achieve those goals, between God as Savior and God as Lord? Christ admonished, forbade and commanded as well as forgiving sins. So it has always been with God–God’s role as Savior and His role as Lord are never separated. Consequently, I for one, find it very difficult to… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ben
“As to reliability in language and translation, there is a wide array of evidence that enables careful translation – and parrallel translations from the original into other languages,”

So what, for example, is the evidence that definite articles, which do not exist in Aramaic, have been inserted correctly in the translations?

We read “I am the way, the truth and the light”, deducting some kind of exclusivity from it.
But the spoken word would have been “I am way, truth and light”.

Just one example.

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Erika,

To start with the terms you set, have you studied the Biblical languages?

You quote, “I am the way, the truth and the light”,and add “deducting some kind of exclusivity from it.” Who and what kind? Somehow you know “the spoken word would have been “I am way, truth and light”. You insist we cannot know but then you are sure you know – amazing! If you really want to learn read some good grammers on Aramaic and Greek, they are available.

Ben W

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Regarding your comment that you see nothing of the Gospel message in the conservative approach to the presenting issue, I am not sure that I follow you.” References to the “inhuman” act of homosexuality. False claims that homosexuals choose their sexuality, or that “many” can change if they choose. Support for a measure jailing not only gay people, but those who dare to council them to self acceptance, for 5 years. This from someone who says of homosexuals “we should love them more than that.” ie more than to allow them to keep sinning. Where’s the love in 5 years… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Steven, if I don’t mention this, I’m sure Erika wil. Where is the evidence for the Gospel in the treatment of Davis Mac-Iyalla by the Church of Nigeria?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Oh please, Ben, can you never just answer a question without being sacastic about it first? Christians have often claimed that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and one of the sentences they quote to support this is “I am the way, the truth and the light”, that Jesus apparently said. Now, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but in Aramaic there are no definite articles. You said to Pat that careful translation of one language into another, without ambiguity, is possible. I am asking you to show me how, using the example I gave. I am making absolutely no claim as… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Somehow you know “the spoken word would have been “I am way, truth and light”.” I have found an online source that confirms the lack of a definite article in Aramaic. You teach it, so I would bow to your expertise. Every language has strategies for indicating definiteness. How is this done in Aramaic? Fronting? Topicalization? What is the semantic difference between the way we do it in English and the way it’s done in Aramaic? What is the Koine for this phrase? Besides, what’s the difference? I, like you, believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the… Read more »

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Ron Smith, You question my statement, “Since when was the idea of a “flat earth” central to the faith?” Well, is it part of any key statement in the NT? Is it in the confessions or creeds? (It is more that Christians lived with the language that reflected experience or how things appear, which is what most people still do when they are not trying to make an issue of their knowledge!). You emphasize “It was essential enough for ‘The Church’ in its day, to anathematise those who thought the earth might be a sphere.” As I remember they did… Read more »

rick allen
Guest

Not to make a big deal out it, but no educated person believed in a “flat earth” after antiquity. The Ptolemaic and Copernican models presume a spherical earth. Dante’s Commedia takes place on, and in, and over, a spherical earth. On John 14:7, the Greek of course has the definite pronounns with “way,” “truth,” and “life.” I think the Aramaic of the Peshitta has those words in the emphatic, a final “a” with the aleph, which my grammar tells me is the counterpart of the Hebrew definite article, the “ha-” prefix. In any case, I think the phrase following is… Read more »