Monday, November 20, 2017

The Blessed Isles Declaration

A recent comment on ADU challenged me re what a Blessed Isles (NZ) version of the Jerusalem Declaration would look like, noting that I commented then that I do not think any licensed clergyperson of our church has implicitly signed up to it because the meaning and intent of our constitution including our fundamentals are equivalent to the JD.

I have not time to rewrite the thing in toto so here is an annotated critique of the original JD. There is much that is agreeable in the JD. In summary my critique is not that it is a poor document but that it is imprecise.

Compared to some valuable Anglican documents such as the 39A (revised downwards from 42A) and the BCP (the result of several revisions, from memory, at least 1549, 1552, 1559, 1662), the JD is a somewhat hasty document!

NOTE: there is no need to comment about the connection between the JD and That Topic, or on clause 8 below. The post before this has had ample debate on That Topic. Comment further there if you must. 

I will only accept comments here which comment on the viability or otherwise of the JD as a general statement of faith and practice for Anglicans in the 21st century; or related comments on (e.g.) the continuing validity of the 39A or the BCP. Comments on my annotations are welcome - of course! - but note that I have not annotated clause 8 below.

"The Jerusalem Declaration
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.
  1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
  2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual readingThere is no agreed or "consensual" "plain and canonical" sense of Scripture in the Anglican world, and certainly not in the world of Anglican conservatism where (e.g.) veneration of Mary can be supported in Anglo-Catholic churches and ignored if not dismissed in Reformed churches, or women can and cannot be ordained as presbyters and bishops, or speaking in tongues can or cannot be welcomed according to varied theological understandings. Most alarmingly, neither here nor elsewhere in the JD is there any attempt to set out how the Bible is to be interpreted correctly. What body of teachers (synod? house of bishops? doctrinal commission?) assists the church when the "plain and canonical sense" is breached? Who or what determines that this reading rather than that is "a" or even "the" consensual reading of Scripture?
  3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Personally I am reasonably happy with this statement but it is a statement about how Anglicans understand "one holy catholic and apostolic church." The Orthodox, for instance, stand by Seven Ecumenical councils and the Roman Catholics understand the authoritative councils behind "the rule of faith" differently. Where this statement runs aground is on the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed: is it part of the "historic Creeds" or not"? The Declaration does not say. If it is part of the historic creeds then that is in contradiction to the four Ecumencical Councils referred to here!
  4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. I think this begs more than a few questions. Are each and every one of the Thirty-Nine Articles authoritative for Anglicans today? I note, for instance, two versions of the Thirty-Nine Articles, one for the USA which has no monarch and one for the Anglican churches still under the monarchy (see Article 37). I also see statements in the 39A about Rome and the papacy which not all Anglicans might like subscribing to in today's world where we have less antagonism towards Rome and seek rapprochement across our (continuing) disagreements - to say nothing of whether certain Articles are authoritative for Anglo-Catholics (noting Articles 19, 22, 31). I personally am largely happy with the theology of the 39A as they set out thinking on (e.g.) the sacraments, salvation and the church. But I am not perfectly happy with Article 19 which focuses ecclesiology on "congregation" and omits (as all other articles do) any helpful guidance on what it means to be an episcopal church with diocesan bishops. Further, I note that the 39A give absolutely no guidance as to the authoritative character of the "four Ecumenical Councils". What the 39A do talk about re councils is that they "may err" (Article 21). How do we know the "four Ecumenical Councils" have not erred? I also note that strictly speaking, according to Article 21 "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes." It is my personal hope, perhaps yours too, that we might yet have another General Council (e.g. to sort out, once and for all, the Filioque clause) and I do not envisage "Princes" having any role in sending out the invitations! I would be a bit surprised if GAFCON envisaged that and thus I call them out on whether they really do mean "authoritative" in this part of the declaration. Better by far, in fact, is ACANZP's constitution which includes the 39A among formularies in which the Doctrine of Christ and his Sacraments are "explained."
  5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
  6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each cultureHere's the thing, there is a lot of liturgical stuff happening, even in conservative Anglican churches, which does not abide by this rubric. Three examples: (i) when we follow modern revised eucharistic services (e.g. A New Zealand Prayer Book) we are generally following a revision of the BCP's Communion service which goes beyond "local adaptation." Without worrying about whether the doctrine of communion has been revised or not, the modern revisions are significant revisions of the structure of the BCP Communion service, a structure that Cranmer pursued to make certain points in the midst of the English Reformation, but which now is discarded in order to bring Anglican eucharists more in line with the great liturgical tradition of Christianity; (ii) in my experience, conservative Anglican parishes in the Reformed (rather than Anglo-Catholic) tradition are pretty happy with services that have prayers, sermon and songs and have no particular adherence to the template of Mattins or Evensong: again, this form of service goes beyond "local adaptation" of the BCP; (ii) I also hear of Dedication services for infants being conducted in some Anglican ministry units Down Under. Such services, whatever their pastoral merits (e.g. to accommodate members of the congregation who are Believers' Baptist in outlook), go against the BCP and the 39A. In other words, this clause is not - as best I can tell - actually implemented in all ministry units sympathetic to GAFCON.
  7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
  8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
  9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
  10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
  11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. Obviously this clause enables recognition of Anglicans who remove themselves from jurisdiction of an Anglican province but wish to continue being Anglican and the joining in making "this declaration" is potentially a way forward for determining who is truly Anglican and who is not. Indeed potentially this clause could result in (say) GAFCON provinces declaring other provinces, unwilling to sign to the JD, to be not truly Anglican. But there are many churches - notably in North America - claiming to be (a) Anglican (b) orthodox in faith and practice. Are they all to be recognised as Anglican? If I set myself up in my living room as a church and lay hands on myself, self-declare to be the Archbishop of My Suburb and sign the JD, will GAFCON recognise my orders and jurisdiction? I would hope not! But this clause does not set out any means for GAFCON Primates to distinguish between (say) ACNA and my little (and, by the way, perfect) church!
  12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. Again, this clause is imprecise. What are "secondary" matters? Who determines them in distinction with "primary" matters? How much freedom is there on secondary matters, I ask, noting brewing controversy in ACNA over the ordination of women?
  13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord. Also "again", this is imprecise. Who or what determines that someone in authority as a bishop or seminary theologian has "denied" the orthodox faith in word and deed? Is there a court or tribunal to look into these matters? Or is it simply to be the "court of public opinion" in which various pundits and bloggers nail Bishop X for saying something ambiguous about the resurrection?
  14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

About that submission ...

I have decided not to make a further submission to the Motion 29 Working Group (by end of tomorrow 17 November 2017), being happy and privileged to now be part of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui itself.

Bosco Peters' has made a submission and posted it here.

The summary of it is this:

"This submission suggests:
• If discussion since the publication of IRWG deems it sufficiently helpful, amend the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW.
• Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples.
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct blessings of committed same-sex couples. Clergy and couples can choose from available resources and/or work together to produce a service of blessing. 
• Provide immunity from complaint for bishops for exercising their discretion on whether or not to ordain or licence anyone in a committed same-sex relationship."

If you want to comment directly on it, please do so at Liturgy itself. I am reproducing the summary here because it offers thoughts I generally agree with. And they are similar to what I proposed here on 26 September 2017 - resulting in some robust comments! That was:

"My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:
(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal
(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit
(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position."
If I were to make a submission (i.e. combining Bosco's submission and my 26 September points) I would now add a bullet or numbered point, supporting the principle of the recommendation in the interim report of the working group that there be provision for "Christian communities" of individuals and ministry units who share common values on one side or another of the disagreement. 

In practice that recommendation involved a proposal for legislation which also references Religious communities, with some severe commentary against that inclusion. 

If we could excise that reference and focus on what it might mean for individuals and ministry units to make compacts together - the underlying model of voluntary societies is not new to Anglicanism - then my understanding is that many (but not all) conservatives on this matter would be comfortable supporting the proposal.

A few other thoughts

Since this will be my last post on these matters until the Final Report is out (unless some major development warrants comment) I want to put down a few further thoughts, some arising from discussions in the last few days with colleagues.

(1) I remain of the view that the core of the proposal on the table (no change to formularies, permission to bless same-sex relationships) is not reason to split off a new church from ACANZP. My primary reason is that I can only see any new church formed having at the core of its new identity a view about homosexuality (whatever formal, rhetorical protestations are made that this would not be the case). There are no grounds in the New Testament for forming church on the basis of a view on homosexuality. (Not even 1 Corinthians 5 offers those grounds - the opening to that chapter speaks of church discipline not church formation). 

(2) When Bosco Peters writes, "Have an explicit, clear and positive recognition and acknowledgement that we are living together with disagreement – differences in belief and practice on committed same-sex couples." I wholeheartedly concur. We need a written something in the canon/resolution we final decide which explicitly names the church we are on this matter: in disagreement and therefore (if we so choose) remaining together as that church and not as another church. Living with disagreement is possible - personally I do it on a daily basis as an Anglican!!

(3) I am interested (please comment to support me or disagree with me) in the possibility that GSTHW might also decide on a moratorium on discussing this matter for (say) ten years.* In his post Bosco Peters laments the amount of energy we have spent as a church on this matter. One way to dissolve the energy level, at least for a period, would be to have such a moratorium. To be clear: this would mean those who wish to make further "progress" on the matter desisting from pushing for further change and this from provoking further resistance by those who value tradition and orthodoxy in matters of faith and practice.

*Some readers here will recall that a moratorium along similar lines has been a recent feature of the NZ Presbyterian church.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My report on the IDC meeting on Saturday







Interpretation: it was a process which is part of a process towards Tikanga Pakeha contributing feedback to the Working Group, thus, hopefully, shaping the Final Report and Recommendations so that the breadth of our Tikanga can receive and, at General Synod in May 2018, approve without too much further discussion that something which we can live with and move forward together on. (Ditto, for the other Tikanga, who also have their own processes going on).

In our process on Saturday we had opportunity to share what processing, thinking and concerns are part of our Dioceses responses to the Interim Report. That was illuminating about where we are each heading and yielded a variety of statements which will be collated and forwarded to the Working Group. It would not be fair to the process for me to put in writing what I thought were "emerging themes" or "common concerns" because that would not just be my personal take on what I heard and experienced but also weighted towards the voices in the small group I was in, which was but one of six such groups.

Am I confident we are going to secure agreement eventually? Will we hold together? I think we can only answer such questions when we have the Final Report, in February 2018. Thus, unless some significant development here or in the Communion is reported and worth commenting on, I am going to try very hard not to post further on these matters after the 17th November, until the Final Report is published. The 17th is the deadline for submissions to the Working Group and I think it best to let them get on with their work after that!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Red blooded Anglicans will want to comment on at least one of these items!

Prayer in parliament. Change is coming, may even have been prematurely determined by our new Speaker. What do you think?

Filioque clause: keep it or drop it? Would the latter change Anglicanism at its very Reformation foundations, asks Doug Chaplin? Does the former inhibit important ecumenical movement towards greater unity in Christ? (Incidentally, marvellous theological writing in the document Doug Chaplin refers to). Liturgy also picks up the recent Anglican-Oriental Orthodox dialogue and, in the process, reminds Kiwi Anglican readers of some important "eastern" characteristics to our liturgies. (Comments specific to Doug Chaplin's and Bosco Peters' respective posts should be made there; but here you might focus on my somewhat rudimentary question: keep it or drop it?)

Should a prospective bishop of a diocese in a province which is not officially aligned with GAFCON be forced to sign the Jerusalem Declaration in order to be considered as a bishop of that diocese?

Friday, November 10, 2017

NZ Bishop leaves for Leeds

Up a bit earlier this morning and what should be the first Tweet I find staring back at my sleepy eyes but news that Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki Diocese, is returning to England to be the Bishop of Ripon in the Diocese of Leeds. Announcement is here.

It was a pleasure some years back to meet Helen-Ann when she was doing research at SJC in Auckland and then not long after that to be part of an appointment panel which recommended her appointment as Dean of Pakeha students there.

I wish Bishop Helen-Ann every blessing in her new role.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do we need to talk about an Extra Provincial Diocese?

The Anglican Communion is reasonably flexible when it comes to episcopal arrangements.

It has not ejected my church for casting tradition aside in the early nineties when we established our Three Tikanga Church (breaching the tradition of one episcopal rule per territory), nor more recently when we established that the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki would have two "co-equal" bishops (and two cathedrals).

The Communion is also able to episcopally relate to churches with weird names such as the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church but not because it appreciates weird names. That church is an "Extra Provincial Diocese" which typically refers to a small church which is under the metropolitan oversight of the ABC. But only "typically" because one of these churches, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, has two dioceses and one, Cuba, is under the oversight of a metropolitan council.

Of course the Communion does not welcome all dry and sundry dioceses to its midst. Readers here will know that ACNA (a whole province of dioceses) is kept at arms length and the Diocese of South Carolina, while separate from TEC and not joined (as it now is) to ACNA, was not welcomed into the fold.

But that refusal to welcome has stiffened the resolve of GAFCON (representing the numerical majority of Anglicans in the world) to recognise ACNA. So ACNA is not without reason to continue to retain "Anglican" in its title.

Here in the Blessed Isles, as we work our way through our dilemma over same-sex blessings, we may have to consider the possibility of having an Extra Provincial Diocese created. Before we get to that, a few observations about what I am hearing these days

(1) Concern that the attempt of our church to steer away from doing the solid theological work which should undergird a momentous decision is a mistake. That theological work needs to be done and should be done, if we are to have a semblance of a chance of holding together what otherwise continue to be irreconcilable convictions.

(2) There are seemingly unbridgeable differences which the current interim proposal does not seem to offer a bridge over (despite some, er, at least me, thinking it is a beautiful proposal!); and thus we find this sentence describing our situation:

"... there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of." (see larger citation below for source).
(3) Related to (2) is the concern that it is impossible to teach in a responsible manner what one believes if that is directly contradicted by the neighbouring parish.

Whether you share these concerns or not, whether you think they have weight or not, they do weigh on the minds of people I am hearing from who are doing careful reflection on the situation we are in. They will, I believe, be part of the discussion which Pakeha reps from the seven NZ Dioceses to next year's General Synod will take to a meeting on Saturday in Wellington. A kind of pre-General Synod round up of views and where we are ats.

Why raise the question of talking about an extra provincial diocese? It is because last Thursday, 2 November, Dave Clancey, one of my clerical colleagues here in Christchurch, wrote an article for the GAFCON website, entitled, "Remaining faithful to the gospel in New Zealand - a response to Motion 29."

I understand this article to update global Anglicans on the final views from FCANZ on the Motion 29 Working Group's Interim Report. FCA NZ's initial response, a couple of months back, was published here.

In that initial response there was a response to the Interim Report as it offered a way forward for those dissatisfied with the proposal which was "additional episcopal oversight": FCANZ then wanted "alternative episcopal oversight."

In Dave Clancey's article that request has shifted, as seen in the following excerpt (my bold):
"While the proposals by the Working Group state that the Constitution and the Formularies of the Church are not changing, the change to the Canon allowing services which are inconsistent with the Constitution and Formularies is simply circumventing them. The provision of protection for conservatives through Religious Orders or Communities may be a good start, but FCANZ has said that at a minimum the provision of alternative episcopal oversight (rather than the additional oversight that an Order/Community would provide) would be required. Even then, many feel that this will not be enough.  
Ultimately FCANZ sees that the best way forward for the Province of New Zealand is the formation of an Extra-Provincial Diocese. This was FCANZ’s suggestion to the Working Group prior to the release of their Interim Report. Extra-Provincial Dioceses exist in a number of places in the world, and the creation of one in New Zealand would allow faithful Anglicans to remain faithfully Anglican, while at the same time being distinct from the Provincial church. It would also honestly acknowledge that there are two irreconcilable convictions present in the national church; those who see the blessedness of same-sex marriages, and those who believe such relationships should be repented of. An Extra-Provincial Diocese would be the best way for the Provincial church to give expression to this reality.  
Should the Provincial church choose not to pursue this proposal, and continue on its stated course of blessing same-sex marriages, many associated with FCANZ will be left with no alternative than to seek new ways of being Anglican."
No pressure then, for our meeting in Wellington, for the Motion 29 Working Group as it works soon on its Final Report, and ultimately for General Synod in May 2018!
- we need to find a way forward
- if possible, a way forward through "irreconcilable convictions"
- could that way incorporate Alternative Episcopal Oversight?
- if not possible, and even if it is possible, could we see our way to an Extra Provincial Diocese?
- and if that is not possible ...

I urge Kiwi and other Anglicans here not to reject anything out of hand. See my opening sentences: creativity in modern Anglicanism, especially Down Under, has few constraints.

I ask Kiwi Anglicans to ask ourselves whether we are seeing these matters too much in "black and white" or binary terms. Yes, there are irreconcilable convictions, but there are those who cannot live in a church with irreconcilable convictions, and there are those that can. I think that is at least three groups, not two groups of Anglicans!

Is it whistling in the wind to point out to faithful Anglicans that we already live with contradictions? Just because we do not talk about them much does not change the fact that we live with them. 

Right inside Scripture, there are contradictions between the histories we know as 1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Not just contradictions of narrated facts (compare the respective stories of Manasseh; or ask why the story of Bathsheba figures heavily in one of the histories and not at all in the other) but also contradictions in theologies (Mosaic covenant perspective v. Davidic covenant perspective). These two histories God has seen fit to include in our one Holy Scripture, even though they were composed by different groups of Jews with "irreconcilable convictions."

On what basis do we live with contradictions inside Scripture but not within our church?

Warning: I will not post comments which speculate on or otherwise discuss specific individuals or groups of people in ACANZP in respect of departure. Do not mix such speculation with comment on the concept of (say) AEO or EPD because your comment will not be published. Focus, please, on concepts and ideas and leave views of people out. This post is also not an opportunity to further canvas the much canvassed issues and questions which typically arise when discussing human sexuality. If you want to comment on the situation our church is in, please focus comment on that. There is no need to drift over into comment on human sexuality issues. Constructively speaking, I am looking for comment about whether we can or cannot live with irreconcilable convictions and what a way forward might be as a consequence.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Preaching the gospel for 21st century cut through: tradition

Ruminating after a week spent north of here, a few posts down, I raised the question - again! - of what the gospel means in the 21st century. What is good news for a society in which many people cheerfully ignore God because, it seems, there is much to be cheerful about? And God is not needed to provide the "much" in our Blessed Isles -  good income, good wine, good food, good company, good health: the good life. (Yes, yes, I know some people are struggling ... but we do have a low unemployment rate, the vast proportion of people are housed satisfactorily, few if any people are actually starving to death.)

Andrei, in some comments responding, helpfully reminded me and us - in my words - of sticking to our liturgical, ritual, traditional knitting.

That raises for me this question about getting cut through for the gospel - sort of a "pre question."

What is the (Anglican) church to which we long to see new converts join us in membership of Christ's body?

There are various versions of being Anglican churches in these islands! Some even work :)

When we seek conversion through proclaiming the gospel we are not simply engaged in saving souls from hell. We seek people to be transformed from reckless sinners rebelling against God into participatory members of the body of Christ. Various modes of expression of that body exist and when it comes to evangelism there seems to be temptation to adjust the mode to enhance evangelism.

Being Anglican as a church is sufficiently flexible to adjust our mode. We can, for instance, lessen emphasis on the ministry of the Sacrament in order to stronger emphasis the ministry of the Word or vice versa. When we lessen emphasis on the Sacrament we can look more like a Baptist church than a Pentecostal one, or vice versa. When we place more emphasis on the Sacrament we can look like a Roman Catholic church or like Taize. (And all these modes have been proven, in certain times and places to "work.")

Also, some ministry units are able to sustain a varied programme of services: standard p. 404 eucharist, informal family service, youth flavoured evening service, Messy Church. In such a case there is something of the best of all Anglican liturgical worlds!

In my experience, for a number of Anglican ministry units, there is a question about what kind of church new converts would be joining.

For instance, musically, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it is 1977 or 2017?

Liturgically speaking, would the convert be joining a church which feels like it loves the liturgy it uses and understands how liturgy works to glorify God and to edify the congregation? Or, joining a church which keeps implying some things are only done "because we are Anglican"?

There are other questions ...!

For clarity: I am not arguing here that if we get Sundays right we will draw new people off the streets into our midst. That may or may not happen. I am raising the question what kind of church new people would come into if we invited them to participate as we encourage their new faith in Christ.