on Wednesday, 14 June 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Erin K Wilson Religion and Global Society The changing nature of religion in today’s world
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Team Ministries and Minster Communities in the Church of England.
Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Playing the Victim
Charlie Bell misrepresents the position of CEEC and conservative evangelicals. A fair summary of their position would be: 1. They assert the right to hold to and declare the orthodox doctrines of the Church of England in all matters of faith and conduct. 2. They assert the right to seek and receive episcopal oversight from orthodox bishops. 3. They assert the right to hold bishops accountable and to distance themselves from bishops who clearly and wilfully reject orthodoxy. 5. They assert the right to have their legitimate property and practical interests protected and subject to fair management. 6. They acknowledge… Read more »
Peter every one of your dogmatic ‘assertion of rights’ here reads as a judgment and distancing from those holding different biblical/theological views from CEEC/conservatives. You do not make them sound like a group waiting at a table for someone to join them for constructive discussions. But this is a repeated claim of yours. Peter, you have also been informed before here that meetings between conservatives and progressives are happening – and have been happening for some time. Why not believe it? It is what you say you want.
If Charlie Bell is actively working to build a practical settlement with conservatives, then his article is clearly not part of that effort.
I was, as I made perfectly clear, responding to a set of specific misrepresentations made by Bell in that published set of statements.
Charlie Bell was responding to misrepresentations in CEEC statements actually. But ‘Asserting Rights’ is not usually the way to start a constructive conversation with folk you disagree with. Charlie Bell is responsible for his words. You are responsible here for yours.
The current division is based on two sets of incompatible “rights claims” by two groups who occupy one corporate body.
Progressives claim the right to call for a change to doctrine/practice. (Can we not get bogged down by the fact we do not agree if doctrine is being changed. My basic point is obvious).
Conservatives claim the right to hold to the historic understanding of doctrine.
It is a perfectly reasonable and meaningful way to frame the matter.
Peter, I think your seven points are a fair summary of the reasoning behind Charlie Bell’s blog post. The difference is that you’re choosing to overlook the very real ways in which CEEC and its cohorts are antagonists in the situation.
I’m not overlooking anything. I am correcting a false picture created by Bell’s published statements.
Sure, fine. Whatever.
There’s a wandering sage who once made a remark about taking the beam out of one’s own eye before trying to remove the mote from that of another. You might be interested to learn about his critique of religious conservatives.
Have you actually read Bell’s article ?
It makes repeated highly derogatory statements about conservatives. “Silly” and “ridiculous” are two of his calmer insinuations.
I simply set out a measured description of the actual position of conservatives to correct the public record.
As it happens, yes I have read Charlie Bell’s blog post. I have read most of his writings on Via Media, and his book, Queer Holiness. Clearly you haven’t observed the extent to which CEEC and their cohorts write articles that bear false witness against faithful people. Quite a lot of shameful language and brazen lies have been directed from conservative evangelicals towards LGBTIQ+ people over the past 50 years. Some of us remember what was considered respectable opinion in that quarter during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 90s. It’s a bit rich for you to get scruples… Read more »
Conservative evangelicals – along with everybody else – will have said stupid and ill-judged things over the past fifty years.
I am talking about the current divisions within the Church of England.
Yes, and conservative evangelicals continue to double-down on the stupid things they have said and exalt it up into “orthodoxy.” The problem is that “orthodoxy” at one time was Arianism.
Conservative evangelicals have formed, nurtured, and expanded “the current divisions in the Church of England” as an ongoing project for quite a while now. No sign of recognising that in your remarks here.
Getting upset when someone holds up a mirror so you can see yourself is the stupid bit. Not the mirror.
Peter I find the problem to be that you disparage ‘progressives’ every time you write. Your basic assumption is that you/CEEC/conservatives are orthodox and the rest of the CofE is heterodox and therefore there can be no settlement that doesn’t involve separation because those of us who differ from your view can not be tolerated in the same room. Working towards any kind of ‘settlement’ demands charity and grace. And a willingness to recognise that others have come to their view because they have somehow been guided towards it under God and not the devil. So far as I can… Read more »
I have never said anything at all about the Devil and I would sit in a room with anybody. I do not know why you have to impute such an obviously unpleasant set of sentiments to conservatives.
On your substantive point, the conservative view is that the bishops have abandoned orthodoxy.
Andrew, our problem is with the bishops. I have not and do not write off general categories of people. However, we will separate from the bishops, who we no longer trust or respect.
We are perfectly entitled to do so.
Peter I’m sorry but I don’t think you have engaged with my points at all. I have not said you did say anything about the devil but I’m afraid lots of conservatives have done so. There are about 500,000 active CofE members and a bit over 100 bishops, and of course not all of those are diocesans. So it doesn’t make sense to say that your problem is only with the bishops. Of course you are entitled to separate from the bishops that we have. That would be called leaving the CofE. But please don’t do that. Instead, please recognise… Read more »
Separating from Bishops who have abandoned orthodoxy is not the same as leaving the Church of England.
Bishops have a responsibility for doctrine that is distinct. There is a difference between Bishops and the rest of us.
You have no grounds for insinuating I am in particular need of a sense of grace and charity towards people.
Peter I have considerable grounds for insinuating that you are in particular need of a sense of grace and charity towards people. Your lack of it here is indicated by a lack of a willingness to recognise that others have come to their view because they have somehow been guided towards it under God.
I do not believe it is possible to be guided by God to hold the theological position which Bell sets out. I’m not going to lie and say or imply I do not have that conviction.
Grace does not mean we should say things which are untrue.
“Grace does not mean we should say things which are untrue.”
I am reminded of a lyric by Tim Rice from Jesus Christ Superstar:
“But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law?
“We both have truths–are mine the same as yours?”
You do realise that you are setting limits on the power of Almighty God by refusing to recognise possibility? If relevant I also observe that in the tales of Abraham and Isaac and Noah, that God has also changed His position on things as He is perfectly entitled to do. Of course it is possible for Bell to have been guided by God. Just as it is possible that those taking a contrary position could have been guided by God. Both are possible. The Bible makes that clear. The question isn’t as to possibility but as to which (either, both… Read more »
I am not setting limits on the power of God. I am taking him at His word which is perfectly clear on the issues being discussed.
“I am not setting limits on the power of God. I am taking him at His word which is perfectly clear on the issues being discussed.”
And you are making the incredibly hubristic assumption that you know what God’s meaning is…and that those who disagree with you do not.
I commend to you the play and movie Inherit the Wind, particularly the part where Henry Drummond questions Matthew Brady on the stand in court.
Then for heaven’s sake, go! But that’s not what CEEC is asking for. It’s asking for an entirely separate structure within the church and one which the rest of the church must support–with money, with buildings, and with the CoE’s cache of being the established, national church.
“However, we will separate from the bishops, who we no longer trust or respect.
We are perfectly entitled to do so”
In orthodox doctrine that you claim to follow not only do conservatives not have such a right but are actually sinning against the traditional right of bishops to interpret the Bible and set doctrine.
Strictly speaking, CEEC are the transgressors here.
Within Anglicanism, and all mainstream Protestant denominations, episcopal authority is subject to Scripture. The laity are obligated to pay heed to the trustworthiness of their clergy and bishops.
Kate, what’s the source of this doctrine that bishops have the (sole?) right to interpret the Bible and set doctrine? I don’t recognise it.
1. Nobody is preventing you holding or declaring whatever you like (within the law). They might criticise some of what you hold or declare but that does not interfere with your “right”. 2. Ah, the Humpty Dumpty version of orthodoxy. 3. ibid. And yes, you can distance yourself from the CofE bishops. The Free Church of England is over there if you feel the need. 5. Nope, you don’t get to have it both ways. Go if you’re going; have the courage of your convictions. At least when the Free Church of Scotland left the Kirk they had the courage… Read more »
You’re basically saying that the CEEC position is (and despite your protestations, you seem to agree with it) “We’re right, we’re the upholders of correct theology (“orthodoxy”), we want to split from all those others who are wrong, and we want to take the CofE’s property with us.”
Your attempt at looking impartial fails.
Regarding the last phrase of my paraphrase, I’ve seen it try to be done in the USA between TEC and the various spinoffs claiming to be the real holders of church property. Fights over money (property) get ugly fast, theological or not.
It is perfectly clear from my comments that I am a conservative evangelical. I have never attempted to disguise that fact. There is no reason at all why I should do
I don’t think that answers the points Peter made?
I was addressing Peter’s claim that my “attempt at looking impartial has failed”. I have never claimed to be or attempted to appear impartial. With regard to his other points. 1. Peter Gross is correct that conservative evangelicals believe their view of Scripture is right. 2. We are going to distance ourselves from heterodox bishops. 3. We have legitimate pecuniary and property interests on behalf of Gospel ministry. There is no legal basis to the fiction that these interests can and will be easily removed from our stewardship for the purposes of ministry. 4. Peter Gross is obviously correct that… Read more »
It would avoid what happened in TEC, as well. TEC has adopted the ‘progressive’ position pretty much down the line (it is a small denomination on the US landscape of churches), with the exception of a handful of dioceses. The ‘conservative’ position in the CofE is more substantial. The financial costs in a non-established church, in terms of litigation in state courts, were substantial. (The legal battle in SC was also drawn out over a decade, with the TEC side ending up with not a lot to show for it in terms of parish properties). The CofE could decide that… Read more »
Your observation that the conservative position in the Church of England is stronger than was the case in TEC is interesting. Much of the comment on the CofE situation rests on a false belief that “The Church of England” is a legal entity. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no legal entity called “The Church of England”. There are tens of thousands of distinct corporate bodies or parties with legitimate title and property interests. In some instances, the legal structures have centuries of background to them. There is a good deal of “magical thinking” that expects a… Read more »
TEC has, in the last decades (I speak as a third generation priest, with roots in the Episcopal Church going back into the 19th century) become a fairly monochromatically ‘progressive’ church, and is proud of that. I believe roughly 30-35% of its Bishops are themselves within the LGBT category, and 90% of the totality in favor of it pretty much down the line. I mean this as an un-pejorative description of fact. There are no Ridley, Cranmer, Wycliffe, St Paul’s HTB, or Oak Hill or LST equivalents in the US. There is Trinity Pittsburgh and the Anglo-Catholic seminary Nashotah (who… Read more »
That’s a really interesting commentary.
It would be a blessing if Andrew Goddard could be persuaded to do a comparative analysis of TEC and the Church of England, with his characteristic meticulous attention to detail.
Why not ask him? He was on the Board of the Anglican Communion Institute that I ran until a decade ago. He knows TEC and is a close friend. ACI was involved in the legal arguments concerning implied trusts. We have a full archive at Wycliffe College in the University of Toronto. Andrew knows that terrain. He understands something of the history of the polity of TEC and how it as changed over the last several decades. Originally the Presiding Bishop remained a diocesan Bishop and only assumed the role of presiding when the Bishops met. That was his sole… Read more »
I will ask Andrew Goddard if the idea appeals to him.
It might be just the sort of thing that interests him.
“I speak as a third generation priest, with roots in the Episcopal Church going back into the 19th century”. Wowsers! I hear ya bro. Very patrician. My Catholic roots go back centuries to the highlands of Scotland and the through the mists of time in Ireland. I recall going up for Communion at St Pau del Camp, Barcelona. Clearly un tourista, the priest asked me in Spanish if I was a ‘good’ Catholic, I pretended not to understand him, stuck my hands out, and said, “Amen”. No Castellan elitist was going to rob me of my birth right, even though… Read more »
Whatever the import of your reply about yourself, my comment was simply in the context of changes in TEC over the years. My ancestors came to the US to avoid another war in the Rhine Valley. They were not patricians.
PECUSA has changed a lot since that period, in the realm of polity. That was my simple, and I thought obvious, point.
Polity, even my own, causes my eyes to glass over. However, change in churches from the perspective of social groupings is interesting. I wonder what accounts for the evolution in the progressive stance of TEC? A few years ago theologian and former Dominican Matthew Fox made a big splash when he joined TEC. (link) I gather that a significant number of Episcopalians are former Roman Catholics, TEC bishops and priests included. Be interesting to see if there is a common ground in that group i.e. people wanting a catholic sacramental spirituality without the repressive baggage of Rome’s brand of Catholicism?… Read more »
Polity. The way churches understand themselves. PECUSA was a federation. It is now a centralized top-down church, with a Presiding Bishop styled as an Archbishop (title and cross), national HQ, disciplinary canons moved from diocese to HQ, almost no ‘parties’. Glass over thine eyes. My wife and I worshipped in the local catholic church for almost 5 years in France, and I was a Visiting Prof at Centre Sevres in Paris (Jesuit seminary). It was a very ecumenical experience. The head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ office in Paris in charge of Christian unity is a friend. Tag line,… Read more »
Thanks. I know what it is about. It’s just not something that gets my attention. I wasn’t really following this part of the thread. Your bracketed comment just happen to get my attention and trigger a memory as I hurried through it.
Ecumenism is an enriching experience. A R.C. prof of mine, at the ecumenically integrated AST, once said that ecumenism is the search for full catholicity.
Sincere condolences on your losses. It can be so difficult to lose the people we care about.
I was only clarifying that my comment did not pertain to ‘how TEC got progressive’ but rather how its self-governing got changed. It wasn’t about personal preferences in any rate. Thank you. re: loss. I have a recent book on ‘catholicism’ as an ecumenical possibility in Convergences: Canon and Catholicity. It is a topic that interests me personally. We had a rich experience of the church in France. I enjoyed my time at Centre Sevres (where I was last week). I thought the work of de Lubac and Danielou full of promise. I deal with Vatican II and scripture in… Read more »
The situation re property in the CofE and in TEC is as far as the east is from the west, legally speaking. Trust law is an issue decided in state courts in the US, as the last decade has taught us. How the CofE would handle such matters is not remotely analogous. One doesn’t need to throw around labels to get that much right.
Really? You think people can’t see through that? Several ordained women are members of CEEC Council. So this isn’t about following orthodox or traditional doctrine; it is picking which parts of orthodox and Christian they think are relevant. That is no different to the progressive side they deprecate. In attempting inaccurately to portray it as a strict adherence to all traditional doctrine in contrast to an alternative of social progression you are confirming the false victimhood Charlie Bell identifies. That’s not to say that conservative evangelicals shouldn’t have some sort of accommodation, but a humbler appeal for help might be… Read more »
You criticise the tone of my comments.
If Bell had expressed himself in moderate and irenic terms, I can assure you I would have been more than happy to follow his example.
Bell did not express himself in such terms.
I cross theological swords with David Runcorn on this blog regularly but he clearly seeks to measure his tone with care.
I respect and appreciate David’s restraint and I do my best to show him the same sense of moderation.
It is perfectly possible for these exchanges to be conducted without inflammatory exaggeration.
Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I think Bell is right to draw a false equivalence between the situation that conservative evangelicals find themselves in and those faced by inclusive gay clergy such as himself. A conservative evangelical priest can be married, can hold a licence while married, can gain promotion within the institution, cannot be compelled to act against their conscience on matters of same sex relationships and need not change in any regard once the optional prayers are commended. An inclusive gay priest, however, currently cannot marry and then be granted a licence to minister. Even… Read more »
Peter I am glad you find me gracious. Genuinely. But nevertheless I hear you repeatedly telling me (like others here) that I have abandoned the received Christian faith, orthodox belief and fidelity to the scriptures. Irenic? Restraint? It hurts very deeply my brother. And I just wish you showed more awareness here.
But David, my conviction is that orthodoxy remains as it has been. How can I say what I do not believe ?
I actually avoid saying that specific individuals have abandoned the faith because I do not know the people on this site.
I am insistent that the bishops of the Church of England can and should be castigated but that is a very specific group of people and it is perfectly obvious why I think they should be criticised.
How can you say what you do not believe? You might say, for instance, ‘I disagree with you regarding….’; ‘my reading of scripture is that…’; ‘my studies of church history show me…’. All of these, and other formulations, are ways of expressing your views without calling your fellow Christians heterodox. Which, as David says, is deeply hurtful.
I do not believe I am articulating my reading of scripture, or what my studies of church history show me. I do not disagree with David on the theology of marriage. I believe he is wrong.
You are calling on me to use language which is entirely at odds with what I actually believe.
I believe I am articulating the historic doctrine of the church. I do not believe there is another way of correctly understanding the matter.
Peter Let me offer a contrast to your approach. Bishop Peter Carrell is Bishop of Christchurch, NZ. He is a conservative on this – does not believe scripture supports equal marriage. But he fully supports his clergy who wish to bless such couples. When challenged he explained it this way (part of a longer piece): ‘As Bishop of Christchurch I have committed myself to permit a priest or bishop blessing a same-sex civil marriage or civil union. I have also committed myself to not conduct such blessings myself because I do not read Holy Scripture as supporting such blessings. Clearly,… Read more »
That’s not quite a fair comparison, David.
The bishop you quote is clear he regards the matter as a secondary issue on which people should agree to disagree
I see it as a first order issue, as do conservatives generally.
They are not the same, though you get to the heart of the matter by elucidating the distinction.
That simply moves the discussion to next point. You claim marriage/ss relationships biblically a ‘first order issue’ – and therefore one we cannot choose to disagree over. But where in the entire history of the Christian church has marriage/ss relationships been treated as a ‘first order’ doctrinal issue up there with the cross, incarnation, atonement, resurrection etc? It is not in the creeds or the historic church councils. Nowhere. But not only are you, and others, asserting this. By making this a non-negotiable matter we must divide the church over, you are effectively claiming it is THE first order doctrine.… Read more »
If you believe David is wrong, you disagree with him.
Do you never for a moment entertain the possibility that what you believe may be wrong in any detail? No human being can claim infallibility.
One point that has been rather glossed over in the responses to Charlie Bell’s article (which by the way did use some unhelpful terminology) is the situation in Uganda following President Museveni’s endorsement of the latest legislation which introduces even more draconian punishments for gay people. I would like to see a united front between our Bishops and the CEEC in speaking up to challenge the bishops in Uganda over their support for the new law and the earlier legislation which is equally damaging. The CEEC could do this without in any way reducing their opposition to the Synod decision… Read more »
CEEC have publically opposed the criminalisation of lgbt people.
They took an awful lot of words and beating around the bush to get to that opposition, almost like they were more concerned with polishing their conservative credentials than protecting gay Ugandans.
Personally I don’t think anyone should pat themselves on the back or be awarded brownie points for opposing the criminalising of LGBT people. All sane and decent people – secular, humanist, catholic, buddhist, etc – oppose criminalisation. You’d be crazy not to. Therefore if someone believes in chucking gay people in jail, frankly they shouldn’t step foot in a church. I think the reality is that decrying criminalisation of LGBT people is the easiest and softest of soft actions that a cleric can take. It enables them to ‘feel better about themselves’ and sound less ‘nasty’, but at the same… Read more »
Sorry but I thought the Church of England *was* a ‘settlement’. The resulting diversity of Anglicanism, with all its difficulties and contradictions, is I believe a blessing that we are in grave danger of squandering. But to claim that the CEEC is right and everyone else in the CofE is wrong as Peter appears to be doing is fundamentally un-Anglican anyway.
I assume you are referring to the Elizabethan Settlement. That largely ended the bloody conflict between Catholics and the reformers. That settlement remains intact.
The issue we face is different. It needs a different settlement.
I am not an apologist for CEEC. I am an apologist for authentic orthodoxy. I reject the false claim that I am thereby being un Anglican.
There is nothing “authentic” about your conflation of orthodoxy with a particular understanding of marriage. It’s a confection based on a false notion of (a) the centrality of marriage to Christian orthodoxy and (b) marriage as an unchanging institution, as if modern evangelical ideas of marriage wouldn’t look pretty alien to Christians 500 or 1500 years ago. It’s ahistorical nonsense.
Exactly so Mark. And you highlight the whole reason that the proposed Anglican Covenant was rejected by so many: it is fundamentally un-Anglican.
There is a rather difficult and disturbing self-righteousness about the way Peter – echoing CEEC – frame their request. It is quite possible to be evangelical without being self righteous. What we are witnessing is more like Puritanism linked with a particular disgust about anything sexual and sensual.
Mark: “Sorry but I thought the Church of England *was* a ‘settlement’. The resulting diversity of Anglicanism, with all its difficulties and contradictions, is I believe a blessing that we are in grave danger of squandering.” This is an incredibly important point to be made. It is a distinctive feature and charism of the Church of England. It allows for uncertainties and diversities of conscience, and it means people with very differing views have to co-exist (in local community and service) with one another by exploring graciousness and an underlying imperative of love. Though in fairness to Peter, puritanism (and… Read more »
Really enjoy Charlie Bell’s articles reposted here. He is a bright and feisty lad who has the annoying characteristic of knowing what he is talking about. I’ve attached a link to an article from The Conversation on the subject of the human sciences and sexuality, by Rayyan Dabbous.