Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 14 November 2018

Bill Carroll The Episcopal Café Our piece of the puzzle

Trevor Thurston-Smith The Pensive Pilgrim Rediscovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Remembering, Reliving & Dealing with the Church’s Abuse

Andrew Brown Helmintholog The trouble with religion

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Rowland WateridgeJanet FifeDavid EmmottKateL Nelder Recent comment authors
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David Emmott
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David Emmott

Trevor Thurston-Smith has given one of the most helpful and useful guides to the practice of sacramental confession that I have ever seen. It should be given to every priest-in-training as a matter of course: no excuses about ‘it’s not really my tradition’ accepted.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

You inspired me to read the article, and it was indeed very good. But I’d agree that ‘It should be given to every priest-in-training as a matter of course: no excuses about ‘it’s not really my tradition’ accepted,’ if every ordinand was also required to read a really good article on the necessity of regular in-depth (and lengthy) expository sermons. No excuses about ‘it’s not my tradition’.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

I agree. (Though as regards the length, shouldn’t it be a case of ‘all may, some should, none must’?!) But you raise a good point: if Anglican comprehensiveness means anything, it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to exist in a churchmanship ghetto, refusing to acknowledge the richness of other traditions.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I didn’t mean that all should preach lengthy sermons, but that all should read an article arguing for the preaching of lengthy sermons, and thereby be exposed to that rationale. I’m glad you prompted me to read the Thurston-Smith piece. I’ve never really encountered the practice of sacramental confession and I gained something from it, though I didn’t agree with it all. For instance, re the seal: if the priest is only a listener while the penitent confesses their sins to God, that seems to increase rather than remove their duty to report to the police any abuse that is… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Why would anybody bother to make a confession if they knew the seal might be broken? And why would anybody who was so devious as to avoid confession of a crime to the police, be happy to do so to (ok, in the presence of) a priest?
Re: lengthy sermons. I’d be glad to understand more of the practice and theory of expository preaching; however my experience of many ‘evangelicals’ is of rambling and self-obsessed monologues that only occasionally touch on, let alone elucidate, scripture. But I know my experience is limited and probably untypical.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘rambling and self-obsessed monologues that only occasionally touch on, let alone elucidate, scripture’ are not expository preaching. John Stott and Marty Lloyd-Jones are two of the classic exponents of expository preaching; you can probably find recordings online. Stott’s ‘I Believe in Preaching’ is readable and you might get a copy second-hand if you want to pursue this. Re. confessions of abuse: research and evidence given at e.g. IICSA indicates that too many priests do not insist on offenders going to the police, but simply give an absolution. One paedophile who made frequent confession reported that on only one occasion was… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I totally disagree. He is placing the emphasis on the “sin” confessed and suggesting penance / absolution based on that sin. Is that how God works? I don’t see anything in the Bible to suggest it. Worse, he is co-opting the Holy Spirit into working the same way. For me, his writing is therefore blasphemous. Simon Peter, for example, denied the Lord three times. He wasn’t told to do penance. He wasn’t told that absolution was down to some priest. He was essentially told that the Lord understood – He could see the weakness in Peter which would cause it… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Did you read the article Kate? It seems to me he answers all of your questions. The sacrament of reconciliation is not spiritual direction although they are closely connected and in most cases complementary.

Kate
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Kate

Yes, I read the article. Thurston-Smith claims that in the Anglican tradition of reconciliation confession is to God with the presbyter as observer but undermines it by suggesting that it falls to the presbyter to suggest penance and that the presbyter can withhold absolution. Obviously an observer cannot withhold absolution, nor impose any conditions upon forgiveness.

In the Catholic tradition, confession is to a priest who then can, at least in theory, impose penance or withhold absolution.

The two approaches are very different but Thurston-Smith seems to muddle them up.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins ye retain, they are retained” was just part of the mission Christ gave to the Apostles. We talk much about apostolic succession of bishops (in the case of Anglicans, refuted by the RC Church), but does not apostolic succession extend to the parish priest who is ordained by a bishop? Surely this is still the Biblical authority for the sacrament of reconciliation in 2018. The famous Anglo-Catholic Brighton vicar Arthur Wagner (Brighton still has several churches which he founded) once heard a woman’s confession of a crime. He persuaded her to… Read more »

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
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Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Thank you Fr Trevor.I fully endorse all you say. I now live in West Lothian, and we attend our Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. It grieves me if I visit the Cathedral in the week, to find an empty cold uninviting place. No notices of how to contact a priest, no notice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This seems to be general in the Diocese. So I wrote an article on the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the Diocesan Magazine. It was welcomed by the Editor, but declined by the board. Our Anglican church where ever it be is called to use… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

“Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins ye retain, they are retained” was just part of the mission Christ gave to the Apostles. We talk much about apostolic succession of bishops (in the case of Anglicans, refuted by the RC Church), but does not apostolic succession extend to the parish priest who is ordained by a bishop? Surely this is still the Biblical authority for the sacrament of reconciliation in 2018. The famous Anglo-Catholic Brighton vicar Arthur Wagner (Brighton still has several churches which he founded) once heard a woman’s confession of a crime. He persuaded her to… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

In the Anglican tradition, reconciliation is not a sacrament. As I commented above, nor is the passage you quote Scriptural basis for the act of reconciliation because confession is to God with the presbyter attending as witness only. Were a presbyter to deny absolution or impose a penance they would be intruding uninvited between the penitent and the Lord and would, I believe, commit blasphemy. It is why it is arguable that the seal of the confessional is not absolute in an Anglican context. The passage you quote is Biblical basis for the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Confession where the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I think by “the Anglican tradition” you must mean the Thirty-Nine Articles of the C of E. I am no theologian, but on that basis I believe you are correct about the strictly legal sacramental status of confession in the C of E. (I won’t venture further into the realms of penance, absolution or the seal of the confessional.)
Interestingly, I understand that the TEC has approved rites for confession, although I don’t know the details of them.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

I don’t want to comment further on the specific matter of confession/reconciliation. But I do get a bit uncomfortable when people oppose the ‘Anglican tradition’ to that of the Catholic Church, as if we sprang out of nothing in the 16th century. The BCP (not the 39 articles) is supposed to be something which unites Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and all other flavours in agreeing that we are merely part of something much wider.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I agree with this. I am not an upholder of the Thirty-Nine Articles, but felt that the point about them should be made in fairness to Kate.
But events have overtaken all of us. Today’s TA Opinion topics include two articles about confession and absolution by Robin Ward and Philip North, both published in The Church Times only yesterday.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Kate, I could not disagree more with your pronouncements. But that is the extreme breath of the Anglican church.

Fr John Emlyn

Kate
Guest
Kate

Indeed, Fr John, but neither’s viewpoint is harmful to others so, as you say, we can co-exist.

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

“Interestingly, I understand that the TEC has approved rites for confession, although I don’t know the details of them.”

The current TEC Book of Common Prayer has two forms for the Reconciliation of Penitent at pp. 447-451. While it is implicitly assumed the confession will be made to a priest with priestly absolution, both forms also contain a declaration of forgiveness by a deacon or lay person.

As far as I know, the inclusion of these services in the Prayer Book has been entirely non-controversial.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Those TEC rites do seem uncontroversial. There’s no provision for the minister to impose a penance and no indication that the minister may withhold absolution which are what I would regard as the contentious points. The inclusion of the alternatives also makes it clear that absolution isn’t restricted to ministers so God isn’t excluded, and they even recognise that lay members can administer the rite. Am I right, though, that the Church of England doesn’t have an approved rite for confession and certainly nothing which permits a minister to impose penances, withhold absolution or make absolution conditional? I wonder if… Read more »

L Nelder
Guest
L Nelder

In response to post on confession and sermon length, isn’t this a perfect example of the breadth of Anglican tradition and the need for a priest to respond and administer to the spiritual needs of all parishioners? I personally don’t feel the need to confess other than to God, but there are those who do feel that need: and it would be wrong of me to denigrate, or seek to deny either side of the opinion that option. What I find worrying is that ordained priests who’s salaries I contribute to, through the Church of England’s financial arrangements would seek… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I agree. That’s the beauty of belonging to a broad church, we can learn from each other. We can also adapt and change our own practice without having to leave the denomination. I’d add that it would also be useful for all ordinands to learn how each traditional practice developed, and the rationale behind it. Customs which have seemed unnecessary, irritating, or just plain silly can become moving when we learn why they are done, and what they mean to others. The ablutions before the consecration became meaningful to me when I realised they are part of the Passover meal.… Read more »