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WHAT IS ANGLICANISM ANYWAY?

I realize that an attempt to define who and what we are as an Anglican/Episcopal Church is a difficult and perhaps a foolish task. I’m up very early in the morning, one of the side effects of chemo, don’t want to wake Pat with tea yet, and so here goes. I hope what I propose inspires thought and perhaps debate and response. (my email address is anthony.clavier@gmail.com).

1. We believe ourselves to be the Church, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, locally expressed, territorially based and community-committed. Attempts to express such an ideal by “branch theories” in fact lessen the impact of such a belief. Anglicanism is not a flavor of Christianity, not a distinct form of Christianity, not a denomination and not a sect. Of course Anglicanism has features which while not unique may seem so to be. Anglicanism has its own family likeness, history and tradition, largely shaped by the territory in which it finds itself in mission. The claim to be the Church in microcosm, in place, is one of mission intent and not in anyway a reflection on other Christian churches, or an attempt to upgrade ourselves at their expense. As they share in baptism and many other aspects, or all the aspects we enjoy of Christianity, they are partners in missions and not rivals.

2. It follows that we do not own our ecclesial reality, we claim no specific, unique doctrines of our own and we do not own the sacraments including ordination. Neither our claims to be the Church, our formularies (doctrine, discipline and worship), nor our sacramental rites and ceremonies are self-generated: we didn’t invent them. Historical events including moments of local creation – when and how was TEC founded, when was the diocese founded, when was the parish founded – are legitimate examples of how the Church in its local expression organizes itself for mission. They are not acts of creation. It follows that an Anglican Province at all its levels exists for all people in community, however community may be expressed from time to time. Anglicanism rejects the sectarian ideal that churches are for like-minded “saints”who agree about each others’ virtue, or election, or enlightenment, or on an agenda other than the Catholic Faith as described in the Liturgy and other documents, and in the living voice of scripture, the living experience of the Tradition and the living application of sanctified reason.

3. It follows that the mission of the Church and of an Anglican Province is to the world and to all people everywhere. The gracious offering of the Gospel, the Great Commission in the context of the Great Commandment is of Dominical authority and is to the whole world, to whole people in whole places. It brings down the mighty and exalts the humble and meek. It confronts worldly power with servant power. It rejects the usurped authority of any Imperial force – for Jesus is Lord – and holds the powers that be in their role as ministers of God. The Church exposes as frauds those who claim ownership of the earth and its resources, who exploit human labor, or who refuse to feed the poor, the starving, to heal those with diseases or who use military might to impose their will except in very limited and precise circumstances.

Yet the Great Commission cannot merely be expressed in such terms. It depends not on programs or policies, however virtuous, but fundamentally in the Good News in Jesus the Lord, in whom, and through whom and with whom lies the grace to transform individuals, groups and finally, in the fullness of time brings all into that servant subjection under the servant Emperor, Jesus when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord Christ.

4. The corporate life of the Church and our church is anchored to the Christian Year, in the Calendar and in the lectionary and not to idiosyncratic choices of lessons, occasions or festivals. This round of seasons, feasts and fasts, collects and lessons enables us to participate in the life and mission of Jesus and in the lives of good and holy women and men who have been lights in their several generations.

5. The liturgy, all corporate worship, and particularly the Eucharist authenticates the church, feeds the church, challenges the church and energizes the church. It reminds us that the church is always corporate, that its activities are always corporate and that its faith is always corporate. The church does not exist to promote individual religion or individual variations of belief. It tests such belief at the bar of the corporate life and mind of the Church. Liturgy is doctrine and mission in action. Liturgy is a participation in the reality of the Church’s eternal unity, in itself, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit towards and from the Father in the unity of the Trinity.

6. The authority of the Church and any Province of the Church lies in its communion with the Trinity. Through inspiration of God – nothing to do with the modern heresy of fundamentalism – the Scriptures occupy a unique position as the voice of the Word of God and as tests of what we believe.

The experience of the Church through history -God is a God of history and in history -is termed the Tradition and is located in the writings of Divines, sermons, hymns, poetry, liturgy, ceremony, church history, spirituality, the deeds of the saints and the lives of ordinary women and men. Tradition is not something past, static and dead, but something which continues and will continue until Kingdom Come.

In creating human beings God inspired us with minds to apprehend the wonders of God’s purposes and creation. As Jesus is the fount of all truth, whether religious or “secular”, human reason takes account of and participates in the discovery of all truth whether sacred or secular, scientific, philosophical or by what ever label a discipline is defined. The prerequisite for the use of reason in matters of faith is humility before God and an actively sanctified mind. This does not mean a closed or narrow mind or one incapable of changing.

7. Anglicanism’s ordained ministry, incorporated by a succesion of minister and faith into the Apostolic College is learned and pastoral. It clergy have usually been general practitioners! Their studies have been lined with books old and new, sacred and secular. Their learning more often begins in and is produced to the world from study than from university or seminary. The ordained are trained to be parish priests devoted to communities, to the application of the Gospel to the lives of women and men in places and communities. The best prophetic priests or bishops have been noted pastors, whose zeal has been created by hands on encounters with injustice or irreligion and the consequences of evil.

8. Anglicanism has always recognized and elevated the ministry of the laity, founded in baptism, as its list of saints and holy people attests. One thinks of Isaak Walton, Sir Thomas Browne, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, Dorothy Sayers, TS Eliot, CS Lewis to name a few. We can all add contemporary examples of servant-empowered men and women from different ethnic and social backgrounds from within our church.

9. The mission of Anglicanism to be inclusive, to be the Church, locally expressed, for everyone who will avail themselves of her ministry is limiting for those who seek single-issue communities, “prophetic communities”, or levels of right-thinking, moral righteousness, political correctness, enlightenment or orthodoxy beyond the capabilities of most humans or the embrace of a people whose backgrounds, origins, race, gender, “class”, political opinions are as diverse as the communities the church serves. Anglicanism rejects judgmentalism, the division of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the weeds, the pure from the impure, the right-thinking from the bigot. It made a stand for inclusion in the 16th. Century and in so doing was obedient to the commandments of Jesus.

To some, perhaps many, this vision m
ay seem quaintly Victorian. Indeed it is a softer version of the faith of Hobartian High Church people and Chase’s church evangelicalism. At the turn of the last century PECUSA began to slide into a very low, nationalistic, structural vision of the church, later accompanied ironically by a growing ensemble of elaborate rites and ceremonies. Perhaps, as one who embraces a high and universal theology of the church, I may have the temerity to offer this not quite extinct vision of Anglicanism for debate and comment?

A LETTER TO A LIST ON CONSENTS TO CONSECRATION

(I wrote this to the Bishops/Deputies email list in response to people who urged that standing committees reject the election of the bishop-elect of South Carolina)

I find the arguments on whether to confirm or reject the bishop-elect of South Carolina quite astounding. On the one hand it is proposed that the confirmation process is, or was in 2003, an arcane ritual undertaken -at some considerable expense- to satisfy a mysterious canonical requirement demanding that bishops with jurisdiction/standing committees, the House of Deputies, in suitable combination discover that which the Presiding Bishop has already discovered – that the Canons have been observed by the electing diocese- when taking order for a consecration. It is therefore suggested that our diocesan bishops and their standing committees get on with the job. What was good for New Hampshire is good for South Carolina.

Others now suggest that the bishop-elect of South Carolina’s election be voided on the grounds, quoted from B033: that his “manner of life represents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion”. What does “manner of life” mean? It seems to mean to some that the bishop-elect can’t swear on a heap of books that he would never, ever leave TEC and would never ever suggest that his diocese so do. Is it proposed that those of us who do not acknowledge the canonical validity of actions taken in 2003 have either to change our minds and submit or not present ourselves to be considered for any office or administration in our church?

Is it suggested that while the ratification and consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire caused the greatest crisis in Anglicanism since Cromwell’s day, that the ratification of the election in SouthCarolina would cause scandal of the same intensity or with the same ramifications?

It is possible to facilitate and encourage schismatic behavior. Those who seem determined, with scant logic, to drive South Carolina and the whole traditionalist camp closer to schism, and whose actions in so doing would only deepen the divide between our church and the Anglican Communion had best examine themselves in this matter. I abhor schism, and I do so from bitter experience. We are not playing politics here. We are dealing with the Body of Christ and with the mystical and actual relationship which the font symbolizes, and in which we become, in a manner unbroken, organs within that same Body.That organic unity has nothing at all to do with where we stand on issues, other than the issue that Jesus is Lord and we are called to be the church for all people, and not merely for some enlightened elite.I am so sick and tired of elitism; of this idea that we are the better informed more enlightened ecclesial group called apart specially by God to tell the world what God has told us. Call the Squire.

PLEDGE TIME

None of us likes to hear about giving money. We like it even less in church on Sunday. We feel as it we are being dunned or picked on. Getting the matter of “sacrifice” straight, of our offering our lives to God is at the heart of our getting what we mean by “church” right. I hate the term “church member.” We are parishioners. Otherwise it sounds as if we belong to Rotary or the local Garden Club. Now both are good organizations. The church is not an organization. Belonging to such organizations is, in a sense,”political.” We may feel free to join or leave, to withhold funds or give more, to quarrel with the board of directors or get into a blither about this that or the other.

Obviously the vision of the church we see in the New Testament and in the teachings of the Prayer Book have nothing to do with that sort of thing at all. The church isn’t something we join; something there for our personal enjoyment; something we can take or leave at will.Think of the font at church. Think of touching it. Think of it as the spiritual womb from which your new life in Christ sprung. It is because of the font, because God loved us and adopted us, that we are Christians and parishioners. God always starts things, even if we think we did it all ourselves alone! When we were baptized we lost the choice – at any rate the saving choice – to belong or not to belong. In our baptisms we became limbs, organs, blood cells in the Body ofChrist. We became interdependent. The Body began to rely on each one of us working together.

That working together is far more holy and of far greater consequence than a pledge and a time and talent card. It means that either we are in ministry and service to God and his church or we are not!

At the moment I know all about what happens when blood cells become enemies of the body and the destruction and death which may follow. The question is, “How do we look envision our self-offering and sacrifice in and through and towards each other and how will it show itself in concrete form during the next year? Please “touch” the font. Please remember that you are loved and adopted by God. Please remember that St. Thomas a Becket Church is you and that you are all mystically linked together as Christ comes in Eucharist and possesses the parish, all that we are, all that we own, and all that we shall be. Then pray as a family or alone if you live alone: you are never alone– and write that pledge as a sacrifice and symbol of who you are and whom you serve. No budget crisis this year please.

WHO GETS THE SILVER?

One of the compelling debates of our time surrounds the question of just how far the church may legitimately adjust itself to secular cultural norms. The argument goes that as moderns have no concept of, and don’t want anything to do with, shall we say a theology of the corporate, then it’s best to provide programs which speak to a thirst for personal religion or personal development. Again it is suggested that in this post 9/11 world, Americans live in a climate of fear and distrust and suffer the usual medical and psychological trauma associated with being frightened to death of the surrounding world. Given such a scenario, the church is better off providing therapeutic solutions and counselling. And then there is the question: “Which American culture shall we address?”

There’s a legitimate scriptural basis for this approach. St Paul used it in Athens and when he met the crowd which decided that he and Barnabas were gods. Start where people are. Starting and the intended destination are two different things.

As we keep observing, our church, in the 1979 Prayer, committed itself to stress the corporate nature of the Christian community, anchored in baptism, furthered in the Eucharist and authenticated by ministry. Indeed this ecclesiology is of the stuff of Anglicanism as it emerged from the trauma of the Reformation and confronted Roman Catholic claims, and the Puritan blue print for the elect.

The vision is there. Then there’s California! The Bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin has grasped the robe of Savonarola, and decided to defy the Episcopal Church by getting his Convention, if the proposed legislation is received, to adopt legislation reading themselves out of TEC. The response from HQ has been clear. If the bishop persists he will be suspended. If the diocese tries to bolt, all property will be claimed by TEC. It is argued, using a version of GK Chesterton’s”Democracy if the Dead” that those members of the diocese and its parishes who are now “dead” wouldn’t approve of schism. The fact that most of them used the 1928 BCP or earlier editions, and lived in a rather conservative Episcopal Church isn’t considered. No one can ask them. It’s a legal matter.

Many of us have been at vestry meetings when someone has said, “Let’s get practical.” The translation of this deadly sentence is, “Let’s do something which is at odds with our mission and even our faith.” Jesus leaves the room.

During the row over the ordination of women thirty years ago, a number of parishes attempted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church. I was then a bishop in one of the “Continuing Churches” and was involved in this process. The Diocese of Long Island eventually surrendered a property in East New York, rather than face racist allegations. Bishop Lee of Virginia leased a building to one of our congregations for a $1 a year. The humble Bishop of Lexington leased a building to a dissenting congregation, and instituted periodic reviews.

General Convention adopted what became known as the Dennis Canon. It was revolutionary. The ancient right of a vestry, going back to colonial times, to own and control parish property was clouded by a new claim that the diocese in fact owned the property and the vestry held the property in trust for the diocese. Similar reactive legislation clouded the rights of vestries to freely call rectors. Bishops were forbidden to allow other bishops to conduct triennial parochial visitations in their stead. Diocesan authorities began the process of creating a multitude of rules and regulations concerning vacancies, interims, and even the use of liturgical texts, few of which had an have any authority in Canon Law.

Someone had said, “Let’s get practical.” Family quarrels about wills can be utterly destructive. “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” It is certainly much easier, if a good deal more expensive, to go after property than it is to enter into patient, long term, untidy, prayerful dialog. But what of the watching world? When the world we seek to reach and save sees us in court, spending huge sums of money contributed to the mission of the church in seeking to retain an empty mock-Gothic pile in dubious condition, or a rather frightful Victorian chalice, the reaction is the kind of cynicism which, in a growing fashion, clouds the minds of those to whom we offer Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I am against schism for theological, ecclesiological and personal reasons and experience. I am utterly against the use of the secular courts -it is forbidden in scripture- to lay hands on bricks and mortar just to be able to say that we’ve peed on this area and it is ours.

ST. PUMPKIN and ALL SQUASH

It’s nearly thirty-seven years since I lived in England as a resident. I can’t believe that most of my life has been spent on this side of the Atlantic. I suppose I’m not easily assimilated. George Bush would find me infuriating, in more than one way.

Each year, at this time, I wonder why we make such a deal about Puritans/Pilgrims. Readers of my blogs will have probably realized that I’m not very fond of such people, either in the collective or the singular. Believe me, I speak from experience.

If those refugees from the English Church who reached Massachusetts, while aiming for Virginia, were really the first Europeans to give thanks for harvest in North America, I might be drawn to the whole story. However the “colonists” in Virginia had been around for thirteen years when the elect arrived much further north. We shall celebrate the Jamestown landing in May and June next year, when the Queen will be here for the first and a bevvy of Episcopal bishops, clergy and, most important, laity will “gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” Odd that the hymn is an anti-Anglican diatribe.

The fact that most of the original people who landed in Jamestown died of starvation or disease has nothing much to do with anything. One problem remains. The Church of England then had no “Thanksgiving”or Harvest Festival in the Calendar. The nearest to one was Lammas Day on August I: the feast of the first fruits of the harvest.

It may well be that our ancestors in Jamestown did keep a Thanksgiving. I haven’t done the research. Modern Harvest Festival celebrations, movable feasts, have their origin in the rest of the Anglican Communion in the mind of an eccentric priest. How typically Anglican.

Richard Stephen Hawker was vicar of Morwenstow, a lovely parish tucked into the folding hills of the Devon/Cornish border, on the Atlantic Ocean. The parish was under the patronage of Hawker’s family, and thus, after university and ordination, he was presented to the living. Most of his parishioners were “wreckers”. They lured ships onto the rocks with phony harbor lights and then dealt with the crew and sold the cargo.

Morwenstow’s new parson soon put a stop to that trade. He toured his parish wearing a top hat from which the brim had been removed, a knitted pullover with a design on it, a frock coat and wading boots. He adorned the church with his “take”on what a Celtic Catholic parish would have looked like. He was a minor poet, best known for his stirring poem about the seven bishops who James II put in the tower because they refused to issue a pastoral letter; the king’s Declaration of Indulgence. (Read John Spurr: The Restoration Church in England, Yale to discover when our discipline started to fall apart. Bloody Stuarts!).

It was Hawker who invented Harvest Festival and rural decanal synods. If you are a member of a deanery, think of the shade of Hawker next time you meet.

Before he died, Hawker became a Roman Catholic. His cousin, Sabine Baring Gould (Onward Christian Soldiers) wrote the first biography of Hawker.

I don’t think I’ll invite any puritans to our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ll just say hello to Parson Hawker.

THE CORE OF UNITY 2 Discipline

Well, you may be saying, it is all very well to point to core formularies which state what a particular church believes. It is all very well to stress that authenticity is all to do with God in Trinity, the relationship between the Godhead and the baptismal community located around a bishop who has been incorporated into the Apostolic College, but what about discipline? Isn’t there a point when actions speak louder than words? If there is who gets to determine whether the actions of an ecclesial community annul its professions of faith and indeed its sacramental reality? Are particular churches self-authenticating?

These questions are the ones which exercise the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion at this moment. The questions are well put in the Windsor Report. I would also commend the reader to an excellent two part essay written by our Bishop in Europe,+Pierre Whalon which may be discovered, if one can so do easily, under “essays” in Anglicans Online. The links are unclear. http://anglicansonline.org/resources/essays/whalon/reformanda.html

The questions arise from two actions undertaken by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2003. The Episcopal Church requires all ordinands who are to be ordained to any office or administration to refrain from sexual relations with any person not their husband or wife. Thus speaks the Canons. The Episcopal Church also teaches that the only sacramental ceremonials and rites which may be used in an Episcopal parish in which a marriage is undertaken, are the “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage”, page 423 in the Book of Common Prayer or a form for blessing a civil marriage to be found in another authorized text.

The Catechism speaks to both of these services when it asks the question: “What is Holy Matrimony? The answer is clear. “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows. ” All this seems very clear and constitutes the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church as they relate in these areas.

In 2003 the Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire, summoned to elect a bishop, elected a man who was and is living with another man in an openly sexual relationship. Apart from this impediment, the election was open and canonical. All the other requirements were fulfilled.

Because this election occurred within a certain number of days of the assembling of General Convention, the responsibility for confirming this election devolved upon the diocesan bishops seated in the House of Bishops, and in the House of Deputies. Usually such bishops act with their diocesan Standing Committees in taking action on whether to consent or withhold consent to elections. In the matter of the Bishop of New Hampshire it was asserted that as long as the Canons were obeyed, the act was legal. We shall see whether this test is applied to recent elections.

Bishops with jurisdiction and the members of the House of Deputies, in effect, decided to make an exception to the Canons on Matrimony and Holy Orders in this matter and voted to consent to the election. In itself, the implications surrounding setting aside a Canon or group of Canons would seem to be enormous. Unhappily the Episcopal Church lacks any mechanism to test the legality of anything very much at all. At the root of a growing number of diocesan scandals and mismanagement, and of a General Convention which proposes to ignore its own Canons is the lack of any effective system of ecclesiastical courts. This lack is a prescription for activist anarchy and the rule of unruly bishops of every party and stripe.

During the same General Convention the question of the blessing of same-sex unions and the provision of liturgical texts for such ceremonies was raised. Particularly on the East and West coast, parishes exist with fairly substantial gay and lesbian membership. Parish priests find themselves confronted with the pastoral care and nurture of these parishioners. Our church quite rightly welcomes them and affords them the same rights as any other members in good standing save that of marriage and ordination, and in that case, only if they live or intend to live in a sexually active relationship with another person of the same gender.

In the end General Convention said something to the effect that it was corporately aware that priests were blessing same-sex unions using locally produced liturgies and and that some bishops were permitting such ceremonies. General Convention then decided not to authorize an official liturgy for same-sex blessing, or in any real manner comment on the canonical status of those who blessed such unions or undertook them.

Now there is something essentially Anglican about this second method. Many of the insights we treasure in the contemporary church are those things old and those things new “discovered” at the local level, proposed, practiced, accepted, rejected or amended at grass roots. Hymn book emerged in this manner. The liturgical enrichment which emerged from the Oxford Movement emerged in this manner. Many were illegal. The various attempts to suppress “ritualism”in the 19th. Century by General Convention on the basis that such things as auricular confession, or Benediction of the Blessed Sacraments were illegal, in the end failed and eventually many “illegal” practices emerged in the official Prayer Book of 1979. Anglicans practice liberality and openness in such a manner. It is an essential part of our tradition.

The question then arises, were these illegal innovations connected to doctrine, to core doctrine or teachings clearly flowing from or related to core doctrine? Were they merely “matters indifferent”, or “adiaphora” which with Rites and Ceremonies are capable of amendment by particular churches by their established means of practice? Interestingly enough the theological commission of the Canadian Church has decided that the matter of same-sex unions is doctrine although not core doctrine.But neither is it a “matter indifferent.”

News that the 2003 General Convention caused uproar in the Anglican Communion. Some approved, some would like to approve but fear that the Episcopal Church had once again defied the rest of the Communion and done as it pleased. Others believed that the Episcopal Church, by its actions, repudiated the received faith of the Church and should be disciplined or expelled.

This wasn’t the first time the Episcopal Church acted in such a manner. In 1974 a group of bishops illegally ordained women deacons to the priesthood. None of the bishops had jurisdiction over the women they ordained. The action of these bishops was censured, but the ordinations were recognized, regularized by vote and the General Convention the following year went on to recognize that women may be ordained priest and bishop. The Communion as a whole scurried to keep up with its independently minded sister church,and called on the Archbishop of Armagh, Robin Eames, to establish a commission to examine the whole question. On the whole, adequate time and debate had occurred over the previous decades to permit the Communion to go forward and today the ordained ministry of women is generally, if not always accepted.

The question of gay and lesbian sexual relations however was a different matter. In 1998 the bishops of the Anglican world, meeting at the Lambeth Conference, by a very large majority stated that the Anglican position, the very one on expressed in the American Canons,Catechism and Liturgy was the receive doctrine of the Communion. The Conference also urged all its Provinces to enter into a dialog with gay and lesbian people,
and into theological conversation with each other on the subject.

Many leaders of the Episcopal Church immediately turned into
local patriots. They objected that no one could tell their church what to do. No one and no body, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate’s Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council or the Lambeth Conference has the “legal right” to interfere in the affairs of the Episcopal Church. The words “legal right” are indicative of a mind frame.They are quintessentially American, born and bred of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But they have nothing at all to do with theology, Christology or ecclesiology. They ignore a higher right. That right is spiritual and moral. It is invested in the bishops of the church. Indeed that is exactly what our Prayer Book charges bishops to be and to do in the rite for the ordination of a bishop.

Certainly as primus inter pares, the Archbishop of Canterbury has the right and duty to listen to the voices in particular Provinces and their leadership, to receive advice and counsel and to give advice and counsel in exactly the same manner that any bishop is required to give “godly advice.

Certainly the Primates, collectively have a similar role as have the elected lay,clerical and episcopal members of the ACC. Certainly the Lambeth Conference has enormous responsibility as collectively the episcopate gives it godly judgments and recommendations to the church and the world.

The Windsor Report constitutes that advice and counsel to the Episcopal Church. BUT there were other responses, which to my mind were and are equally egregious. It was quite natural for those alienated and offended by the actions of General Convention 2003 to seek the comfort comfort, help and advice of Anglicans abroad. Yet as the process of reaction continued, Provinces of the Communion began to act as if they were themselves independent governments free to choose with whom they would have diplomatic relations and with whom they would not. In this they usurped the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For historical reasons, the method by which the authentic communion of bishops with each other is established in the Anglican Communion is personal and not provincial or diocesan. The reason for this is simple. When Archbishop Longley summoned the first Conference, many of the bishops didn’t belong to Provinces, but were missionary bishops under his general jurisdiction. Thus at each Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury invites the bishops he recognizes, by category. It may be that a decision is made not to invite coadjutor, suffragan or assistant bishops, but their status lies in their relationship to their Ordinary or diocese in any case.

It is for the Archbishop of Canterbury to decide with whom his see is in communion, and such a decision determines with whom the rest of the bishops are in communion. I can think of few occasions in which recognition has been withdrawn. It is thus quite beyond the bounds of competence of a Province or group of Provinces to declare themselves in impaired or broken communion with other Anglican bishops who are recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. One supposed that a theory could be advanced that impaired communion with a particular province does not extend to being in impaired communion with the bishops of such a Province?

The second breach of Communion contemplated largely by those Provinces which describe themselves as the Global South is the recognition of separated independent parishes within the territory of the Episcopal Church, ordaining clergy for such entities and creating the fiction that a church in Alabama is really in Uganda or Bolivia. If indeed the Global South leaders, without the consent of any competent Anglican authority, affords to dioceses in the Episcopal Church some form of extra Provincial status they will act beyond their competence and in defiance of the doctrine and discipline they seek to uphold.

The Archbishop of Canterbury continues to call us to patience. Now is the time for all these parties to back off, to wait, and pray and dig into their theology of the Church. The threatenings of the Presiding Bishop’s intemperate Chancellor, the posturing of “rebel” dioceses, the defiant xenophobia of those who advance uncanonical activities combine to sully the image and defeat the mission of Anglicanism at home and abroad.

THE CORE OF UNITY

I’ve just read a delightful interview which +Rowan Williams did on the BBC recently. It contrasted with one I also read giving account of the Bishop of New Hampshire’s visit to the General Theological Seminary.

The Archbishop proposed that the source of Christian and Anglican unity lies in the relationship of the Trinity to the bishop and through the bishop to the Eucharistic community. He might have added that the Eucharistic community is established and under girded by God’s initiative to us all in baptism.

His interlocutor suggested that not all Anglicans would agree with +Rowan’s theology of the church. For sure! There’s a growing neo-Puritan movement in our midst, which suggests that the personal or institutional trend in biblical interpretation, the converted or lack of converted state of the individual and moral conduct together form a type of litmus test to evaluate a church as to whether the church is there or has somehow evaporated.

On the other hand we have the Bishop of New Hampshire’s dream or vision of the purpose and mission of the Episcopal Church. In short its mission is to eradicate patriarchy and liberate all from its thralldom, at any cost or expense, including the loss of members within the Episcopal Church and a rupture within the Anglican Communion, at least until the rest of the Church and the churches catch up with +Gene’s vision.

All three proposals have their difficulties. In option one, what happens when the bishop, and the Eucharistic community seem to be miles away from the teachings of the jurisdiction to which they have pledged themselves and of whom they are representatives to the world.? This is no new problem. It occurred during the Arian schism, one of the few major dust ups in our history which ended in unity and not permanent division.

Some may suggest that some of the Edwardian Reformers in the 16th Century strayed close to heresy. Cranmer proposed that the godly monarch could ordain bishops by himself. Theological speculation seemed to come close to denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the priestly nature of the ordained ministry, Apostolic Succession, other than a line in an “historic episcopate”, the use of vestments –even the surplice – and the abolition of the parish, replaced by the gathering of the elect into distinct and closed meeting houses. Roman controversialists made much of all this and denied that the Church of England was a true church. True its people met in communion with their bishops and broke bread, from time to time. But were they really Christians and Catholics?

In Latitudinarian days, although there’s been too much written about too little in this era, leading Divines steered close to denying the doctrine of the Trinity and taught that the church was only the religious arm of the State, existing to bolster the social order and to improve manners. The Eucharist was infrequently and sloppily celebrated and sermons were long, boring moralistic and failed to address the extraordinary lapses in public conduct led by a dissolute Court. We left that to the Methodists and church-evangelicals who played a positive and optimistic role in reviving the church.

The second option has its roots in the Puritan Tradition. It relies very much on personal judgment even if that personal judgment is “collective.” Godly people may stand apart and assess portions of the Church, making value judgments based on such factors as the way Scripture is evaluated, interpreted, preached and taught, the moral climate within such a church, local, national or international, the converted or otherwise state of its leaders, it mission program and even the validity or otherwise of some of its clergy. One of the problems is that many of the judgments made are based on theories of biblical inerrancy and proof texting which are not held even by the most formidable moderate biblical scholars today. Indeed “proof-texting” is forbidden by the Articles of Religion.

The vision which emerges is that of fortress church, erecting bastions of purity designed for the elect who have appointed themselves as judges and juries to pronounce on the authenticity of a particular church or churches and to take such action as they deem necessary to separate themselves from the ungodly. Private judgment writ large.

The last option has a distinctly evangelical tone to it. It might be dubbed “inverted fundamentalism.” The task of the church is to be the agent of social change, the eradication of poverty and injustice, freedom from male domination and the mutual recognition of all lifestyles as valid and appropriate as long as faithful to a vague principle of love. There is much to be said for this utopian post-millennial vision. But it again sets itself up in an ad hoc way to judge the church and the churches by a very narrow rule. It constitutes an elitist movement, as elite as any patriarchal or matriarchal system. Its leaders claim some private gnosis which interprets Jesus’ Kingdom theology and action into a narrow, 21st Century, political ideology and is laced through and through with a Pelagian conviction that programs, crusades, initiatives, committees, political and social action are, in themselves capable of bringing in a brave new world. With sublime historical indifference these people forget that their proposals have been tried and tested, in much their present form, since the mid-19th Century. Inconveniently their programs have been interrupted by the reality and power of evil among us and the destruction and murder of millions upon millions of innocent people.

This is not to say that much good progress has been made. Women have been freed at least in the West. Minority racial groups have been liberated, at least politically. Don’t go to the edges of a Southern City or a Reservation in South Dakota though. Our church has been vocal in these advances, although we often over-estimate just how much we have been or are noted or noticed by the watching world. We do have a tendency, at least in General Convention, of adopting enthusiasms and then, once legislation has been adopted, going on with scarcely a glance backward to see what happens next.

There are compelling similarities between options two and three. Both groups view the church as a bastion for right-thinking/believing people. Both groups look out on a hostile world peopled by unbelievers or right-wingers. Both believe they can transfom the world either by individual and corporate action if only they can get enough people on their side and their ideas across. Both are allied closely, with secular political parties, lobbies and pressure groups whose ideology are taken in fairly uncritical forms.Niether seems much good at testing what they stand for in prayerful contact and dialog with others, or against the receievd faith of the Church through history, with its conflicting and sometimes curious voice. Both lack that essential liberality and breadth which typifies Anglicanism. However, at their best these two historic parties, have contributed in a vital manner to the Anglican whole as their insights have been heard, evaluated, accepted, amended or rejected in the constant development of our tradition.

I return to option one. I would suggest that what the church believes, what it teaches, what its moral stance is, is not to be discovered anecdotally or by self-appointed guardians of public ecclesiastical morality, nor by pressure groups whose vision of he church is narrow, partisan and “me” centered. What the church teaches and believes, at least for Anglicans is to be discovered in the text of the Book of Common Prayer, in the rites provided, in that which the prayers and the shape of the liturgy actually state, pray and offer to God and in the Catechism and other theological statements printed in the Prayer Book. The shape, form and content of Liturgy isn’t merely antiquarian poetry. The Prayer Book is the theological arm of the Constitution and Canons
. It is so because the church, formally, officially, regards the Prayer Book as being biblical, traditional and reasonable. It conforms to the historic faith, doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church Universal. The Episcopal Church isn’t a sect or a denomination. It is the Church Catholic, locally expressed. Unless or until General Convention decides to make radical alterations in our Liturgy which deny core doctrines, “those matters necessary unto salvation” the church remains the Church. It remains so on the basis of objective, historical standards and not on the basis of the private collective judgments of parties or factions within the church, who at their best have enriched our tradition and at the worst have poisoned our communion.

In short our Liturgy provides the basis of our Communion. Through it we have a succession of bishops, “valid” through Apostolic Incorporation in part because bishops-elect corporately and individually, at their ordinations and consecrations solemnly promise to uphold and guard the unity, truth and mission of the Church Catholic. Through the Liturgy we have Baptism, the rite of the Church Catholic – not an Episcopal denominational activity – which ineradicably binds all Christians together in unity. Through the Prayer Book we have the Eucharistic Community, the visible sign of God’s Kingdom come, the place where the royal priesthood, by delegation from the Great High Priest, continues the work of reconciling and restoring the world to God and God to the world. “Where the bishop is, there is the Church.”

What if the bishop is a heretic or heterodox, stark staring mad, or incompetent? In times of good order or competent authority, such characters may be dealt with, with mercy and compassion. In other days it should be remembered that a bishop is not a bishop in that he/she is +Bert or +Molly, the human being, but by virtue of his or her office. The Articles again speak loud on the subject of unworthy ministers. What happens if a local Provinces’s Synod – call it what you will – legislates odd or even down right unChristian policies. Councils err we are told, and will err.

But there was the Arian schism. But there was a Great Schism. But the Early Church was divided. But we broke fom Rome or Rome from us. Yes and brutes beat their wives and rape old ladies. Faults of the past are not excuses for present sins but warnings against what we as Christians are capable of inflicting on each other when the font disappears from our faith-view. We are called to a more excellent way.

REVISITING BAPTISMAL COVENANT

I am constantly amazed to hear otherwise orthodox leaders propose the idea that the emphasis on Baptismal Covenant in the Catechism of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a gift to the rest of the Anglican Communion from the Episcopal Church. Don’t get me wrong.I don’t want to be tried for heresy, but I am more and more concerned that an aspect of the classical Anglican array of baptismal core doctrine has been stressed above all others at least in popular explanations of that which the Catechism teaches. The particular aspect in question, the identification of the unique High Priesthood of Christ, that of the “ministerial priesthood” and that of the laity in the Body of Christ, seems to become more and more muddled, confused and conflated, leading us outside of Anglican tradition altogether, except perhaps in the theology of the Elizabethan neo-puritan William Perkins, into the worldof the full-blown Calvinist revolutionaries like Travers and Cartwright, against whom Richard Hooker labored in his judicious “Of theLaws of Ecclesiastical Polity.”

A practical aside here for those whose interest isn’t particularly in the realm of historical theology. Our church is more and more pricing itself out in small communities where tiny congregations can no longer afford the stipend and pension paid to priests. A solution has been to call forth, by local discernment a ministerial team among whom may be parish visitors and eucharistic visitors to undertake pastoral work, preachers and lectors to preach and read the Scriptures, Catechists to teach confirmation classes and other forms of Christian education, and locally ordained priests to administer the sacraments. These teams, locally discerned, are usually under the supervision of a missioner, seminary trained and called to such a unique ministry.

The idea seems sensible and in most part is sensible. This is particularly true when the person who is ordained a priest from the team has been given the best training a diocese can provide, supplemented by wide reading and the growing volume of excellent on-line courses provided by seminaries.

One of the great traditions of Anglicanism is a learned priesthood, particularly skilled as pastors and teachers, as Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Catechists, Lectors, Parish Vistors, Eucharistic Visitors are wonderful supplementary ministries of the laity, locally discerned and valued. But their ministry is not autonomous or unique, at least in most forms of Christian ministerial theory within churches who hold the historic succession of faith and order, and in our own have always been directed and fostered by the ordained. The diaconate is another matter. Here the matter of deacons and priests being locally discerned raises the issue of polity. The unique core unit in Anglicanism is the diocese and NOT the parish. I remain uncomfortable with the idea that the initiative in discerning vocation to the diaconate and priesthood often now seems to begin in the local sub-division of the diocese, the mission or parish, and not with the bishop, and then to the parish and then with the bishop through COMS and other departments. In all this it must be remembered that unlike secular election, Christian election is always a discernment and recognition of an election which has originated in the Godhead and not in the democratic action of committees, synods or conventions.

My unease becomes greater when it is taught that all ministry is a “function” of all Christians by virtue of incorporation into “The Priesthood of All Believers” in Baptism. Now our Catechism doesn’t teach such a doctrine. It does locate ministry in four Orders, a unique turn of phrase within Anglican classical theology, but certainly not without merit.

It is at this stage in the essay that I am going to get a tad more theological. I shall refer to the classical Anglican Tradition. I suspect that my use of the word “classical” and the word “traditional” will either stop the reader walking on with me, or cause an immediate knee-jerk reaction. By classical I do not mean some narrowly partisan antique position, but rather a wide body of scholarship from Jewel to +Rowan Williams, evangelical, moderate and catholic. By Tradition I mean both the witness and experience of the Church from the beginning, expressed in theology, spirituality, liturgy, architecture, doctrine, moral theology, biblical studies, sermons, music, hymns, poetry, ceremonial, and in the lives of saints, holy women and men known and unknown and I mean the contribution of that portion of the Church described as Anglican and in some countries and regions, “Episcopal”, not all of which are TEC territory. Such a tradition is not dead but lives in contemporary reflections on the great cloud of witnesses who encompass us and look to Jesus. Tradition is alive.

My ongoing ficht with these wretched cancers has given me time to visit some old friends. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the late Boone Porter, under whose tutorship I did post-graduate studies in late 16th and the 17th century Divines, Caroline and others. I also owe a debt of great importance to the late Archbishop Henry McAdoo of Dublin, who co-chaired ARCIC for many years. He was reknown as an expert classical Anglican tradition, not as an antiquarian but as an exponent of that tradition as it relates to the modern world. He died fairly recently. His heir is Bishop Kenneth Stevenson of Portsmouth.

So I bought for a song from Canterbury Press, a wonderful resource publisher linked to SCM, a book of McAdoo’s I hadn’t read. Its title is “The Eucharistic Theology of Jeremy Taylor Today”, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1988, ISBN 1 85311 004 3. It’s on sale.

Now to a lengthy quote from page 100. Meditating on Hebrews 7: 24, Taylor asserts that Christ’s High Priesthood is unique and intransmissible. The ministerial priesthood is unique but on another plane, that of “sacramental presentation”. Quoting Taylor in his “Holy Living”, As Christ represents to the Father the one Sacrifice, ‘So he hath appointed that the same ministry upon earth too, in our manner, according to our proportion.’

McAdoo notes that this is essentially what the ARCIC statement says. He continues by saying that the relationship between the Priesthood of Christ and the ministeral priesthood is relational and not identical.

McAdoo goes on to say “This is an important matter both in the doctrine of the eucharist and that of the ministry, that nowhere in Taylor’s work, as far as I am aware, is there any trace of the view that the ministerial priesthood and/or the RoyalPriesthood of believers is a sharing in the priesthood of Christ. Quite the contrary, since for Taylor it is clear that there are two frames of reference….Taylor speaks of the ‘excellent and supernatural abilities’ of the ministerial priesthood as ‘deriving from Christ upon his ministers’ by delegation from Him who is the fountain of evangelical ministry.’ The Archbishop then goes on to quote with approval a work by Jean Tillard, which he notes again parallels the Anglican Tradition expressed in the ARCIC document “Ministry and Ordination”.

Tillard writes: “None (of the NT texts) treats explicitly of the Christian Ministry. It even seems necessary to add that none establishes in a clear and inescapable way, any relationship between the Priesthood of Christ and that of the Church as a whole other than the following: because of the Priesthood of Christ, the faithful can offer sacrifices acceptable to God (Hebrews); because of the Sacrifice of Christ, the baptized are the People who bear the holy priesthood which is exercised in spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter). Nowhere is it said that the Priesthood of the Church ( a RoyalPriesthood, a priesthood of holiness of life) constitutes a participation in the priesthood of Christ. Nowhere is there any question of this Priesthood of the Church and that exercised in ritual worship…We had rather to do with a priesthood sui generis wholly related to the unique priestly act of
Christ, intended to assure the contact of the community with that act in the hic and nunc -here and now. This priesthood only yields up its meaning when in the light of the Memorial (in the technical sense of the term) which is the sacramental mirror reflecting hic and nunc to the Church the event of the Passover of Christ. Thanks to this priesthood the community can sit at the table where the death of the unique Priest is celebrated.”

Now in all this, if you are still with me gentle reader, is the Anglican tradition as expressed in Hooker, Andrewes, Herbert, Bramhall, Taylor, even Wesley and to this day in Ramsey and Williams. It steers a “mean between the two extremes” of the form of Roman sacerdotalism at least popularly taught in Reormation times and the Puritan reaction in its doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers, except among ministers who seemed to have been excluded in various degrees from particular priesthood. The old form of theological argument, see what your enemy says and argue the opposite quoting proof texts galore. Today the more dangerous version seems to come from those among us driven by secular egalitarianism, often with silly references to straw priests who- some did -say “Father knows best”; nor mentioning lay cabals of often unelected parish lay guardians who were often as powerful. There is also a distrust of hierarchy save that of bishops. A failure to translate secular terms into the Christian vocation therefore translates hierarchy into dominating ‘force-power’ rather than Christ modeled servant power, a hallmark of all Christian leadership. A theory of ordained and lay ministry derived as function from baptism has no biblical, traditional or reasonable tradition save in the theory if not the practice of Congregational churches of the 17th Century.

WHERE THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETS

WHERE THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEETS

I was amazed to read that our Executive Council spends over $94,000 for each meeting. Or at least they did until General Convention cut their budget to just over $70,0000 a meeting.

I wrote this to the Bishops/Deputies email list, on which I lurk:

One person who has served on the EC wrote to support me, another wrote a fan letter for the Council suggesting that it wasn’t fair for me to write as I did while they are in session and another said that if the Council didn’t meet where there are airline hubs, ticket prices would wipe out the savings. Some one else said that local parish churches might not be able to find room for the Council members and HQ staff.

Well, if I’d written a scathing email, attacking Council members, their policy and motives that would have been uncivil of me. I didn’t. If 815 obtained conference rates from an airline, booked early enough in advance, the gap between connecting flights to ordinary airports and that to hubs would be greatly reduced. I know.When I was a bishop I had my hand in such things.

All but the smallest parish church can accommodate the Executive Council plus the 815 staff needed there. Or are they all needed there in these modern days of instant communication?

Think of the savings. The hotel would provide a complementary breakfast, not to mention a special group rate. The local deanery could organize lunch and even dinner. There would be some posh people around who would love to throw cocktail parties. There might be a problem about adequate loos. But that could be dealt with.

I write all this without the slightest expectation that my suggestion will be met. Clergy and Deputies to General Convention, except minorities and youth, come from that 25% or there abouts of our parishes which are used to big budgets and a certain upper crust working environment. I’m not suggesting that there is a deliberate elitism here. But elitism there is.

Most of our parishes attract 80 to 140 people on a given ordinary Sunday. Many attract well under that number. Dioceses have financial problems not usually because a few parishes deliberately withhold funds to make a political statement, but because a growing number of parishes are losing the battle to pay for increased clergy salaries, pensions for staff and insurance on the building. They have no money to purchase books, course materials and other tools and resources to help them re-build. One of the reasons the Executive Committee’s funds have been cut is that the financial base of the church is in trouble. Yes people are leaving, sometimes because they are angry; sometimes because they are caught in the middle, and sometimes because they are bored to death.

The EC needs to meet these people, not from afar, not as interpreted by emails and the church press, not like the Queen on walk about, but face to face, in different times and places. Large metropolitan areas have large metropolitan churches.

And while this child of Yorkshire miners is on the rampage, a careful study needs to be made of just why and how deputies are elected at diocesan conventions. It seems to me that heavy favorites are diocesan staff, long serving deputies with financial means, clergy whose parishes can help the diocese pay the bill, and the professional classes. Now this is all very 18th Century pre-Constitutional, States Rights elitism. This is not true perhaps in wealthier dioceses but it is true in a growing number of financially strapped dioceses which can’t afford to cover the expenses of Deputies and particular those from minorities and young people. The manner in which the choice of Deputies is made is not merely a local issue. It affects us all.

So to your roots the bureaucracy: and give +Katharine a small diocese. Carve it out of central New York.

IN DEFENCE OF BLOGGERS

I think it was +Frank Griswold who first grumbled that the internet was making things much more difficult for church leaders. People were discovering what was going on almost instantly and responding, often intemperately to events and occasions.

Recently the Bishop of Southwest Florida called for a moratorium on blogging and the Bishop of Kansas, in his Convention address, took off after nasty conservatives and their frightful blogs. Now the former Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon John Peterson has joined the angelic choir. Peterson says:

“The internet allows a decision made by one church to be immediately known by all other provinces. Thus when The Episcopal Church consecrated an openly gay bishop, that action was instantly noted around the world and triggered protest from some of the provinces which disapproved on theological grounds. “No longer are we a family in isolation…no longer does it take three months to get a message from New Zealand to the United States or four months to get a letter from Southern Africa,” Canon Peterson said. While faster communication is a positive technological development, at present it is feeding divisive disagreements among provinces, including The Episcopal Church, he said. These disagreements create a splintering lack of unity and lack of harmony.”

I’m put in mind of the church leaders who confronted the invention of printing. The problem with printing presses was that they made information readily available and that information was difficult to control. Knowledge hitherto accessible to a privileged elite was now potentially available to people who learnt to read. And learn to read they did!

Remember the reaction of the diocesan bishops in the Elizabethan Church when puritan scandal-mongers produced the Marprelate Tracts? The author of these scurrilous pamphlets makes David Virtue look like a benign Sunday School teacher. Our own bishops even doubted whether lay people should be allowed to interpret the Bible for themselves. They could read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what they heard and even read. But it was for the Church to teach, the Bible to prove through its authorized pastors. No private judgment please.

Nor let us imagine that news of crisis on our Communion didn’t eventually reach the furthest ends of Empire in the old days. There was such a thing as telegraph. The trial of Bishop Colenso by Bishop Gray of Capetown and his comprovincials in the newly former Church of the Province of Southern Africa was a contributing factor in the calling of the first Lambeth Conference. The issue wasn’t merely that the bishop wrote a book in which he doubted the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. What was being tested was the authority of an autonomous Province to try a bishop who had been appointed by the Crown before the Province was established. The controversy rocked what was becoming known as the Anglican Communion.

When the redoubtable Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar went ballistic because his Evangelical brother bishops in Kenya joined in a celebration of Holy Communion with “nonconformist” missionaries, the whole world knew about it in short order. They called it the ‘Kikuyu Controversy’. Indeed the subject became part of the agenda of the next Lambeth Conference. Weston, a leading Anglo-Catholic went after the Evangelical bishops with a vengeance. Indeed his mischievous predecessor, Bishop Tozer had done something similar while visiting New York in 1873. He complained to the Bishop of New York that the Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, George David Cummins had participated in a pan-protestant Lord’s Supper. The Bishop of New York told Cummins off, and our church had schism on its hands. Soon everyone was taking sides. The Reformed Episcopal Church even spread its wings and flew to England where it survives to this day.

The suggestion that the news that the present Bishop of New Hampshire’s election confirmation by General Convention caused such a stir because of the internet seems to me to be plain daft and a symptom of entrenched conservatism among the powers that be.

Even before the internet there were telephones, telegrams and the apparatus of journalism. News travels. Trying to manage the news is self-defeating. Thinking that something done openly and vocally in the United States won’t be known in Papua New Guinea by tea time is positively medieval.

What about the lacks of civility, the lack of objective truth, even manifest bias among bloggers and compulsive email senders?

I know a priest who is the kindest, most laid back lovely person who, one thinks couldn’t knock the skin of a rice pudding. But get him at a computer and he turns into a monster. He is one of many I’ve known over the years even before the internet and Blogs. I wish this were not so. I wish we could argue fairly, be civil, be objective. We can’t. So sensible, innocent people now get the most extraordinary invective and twaddle in their email boxes. They don’t have to read these things. If they do read them, one hopes they have the ability to sift out the good from the bad, the truth from the twaddle. They also receive good and informative information.

I don’t for a moment think that the free exchange of information or even disinformation makes unity and mission more difficult. It doesn’t seem to in secular society. In fact the media today is much tamer than it was in 19th Century America or 18th Century England. Fewer then read papers, but fewer people existed to read them. Our leaders really shouldn’t worry about an open church and Communion. Certainly American leaders shouldn’t. After all don’t we keep telling the rest of the Anglican Communion that we are so much more democratic and open than they are? We’ve even told them that the Holy Spirit grants to General Convention at least indefectibility, once votes are counted. God is with a majority and God is a democrat, so why can’t God be a blogger too?

(Our younger daughter Megan is now in Thailand working with refugees on the Burma border. You can catch up with her news at http://clavierfamily.blogspot.com.
I start my second four day continuous chemo session on Monday. I feel better than I have in years. Keep those prayers coming.)

HERE COMES THE GLOBAL SOUTH

The Global South primates are coming to the United States, to an unspecified place, to meet with the bishops of dioceses seeking extra-provincial oversight. They are intent on changing the way TEC looks and is viewed by the rest of the world. Our Presiding Bishop, with great graciousness, has invited them to meet with her. We shall see.

What gets into the head of people who feel competent, even impelled to change everything? My mother was a changer. You could see it coming on. Then one day the furniture would be re-arranged after a flurry of activity. One spent some time trying to find where she had “hidden” things. They were hidden in plain sight, but that didn’t matter.

Over the past thirty years, it is the liberals who seem to have been possessed by the urge to move around the furniture. Indeed I’m wondering, historically, whether furniture movement is a sign of radical departures in our Anglican Tradition.

Cranmer and his friends started it. With swinging ax and hammer out went the stone altars; down went the statues, the roods and sometimes their screens, the old stained class windows. Buckets of whitewash covered the old wall paintings. The old church was now chaste enough for Anglicanism’s tamed version of Calvin’s God. It took centuries to recover “the beauty of holiness”, first spiritually through the work and prayer of people like Lancelot Andrewes, Nicholas Ferrar, George Herbert, and Jeremy Taylor. Laud had the altars returned to the east wall, frontals restored, and communion rails placed to stop dogs peeing on the Holy Table.

Two centuries later came the Tractarians. Once they had taught or re-taught that the Church is a Divine Society and not merely an appendage of the State or of polite and influential upper crust morality, liberal or conservative they began moving the furniture and indeed introducing exotic pieces imported from the Continent.

Thirty years ago our liturgical experts, following the lead of the Second Vatican Council, began to teach that the Eucharist, the main service, was for all the people and not just for the clergy. Well we knew that all along. That’s what Cranmer told us. At any rate that issued in another era of furniture moving. As is always the case, many lovely old things were lost, even destroyed. Almy triumphed. Tapestry was in with free standing Tables (shades of 1552 again) and pottery chalices.

Yet in almost all these movements, some clear attempt had been made to spell out a biblical and theological case for what would later be portrayed by the furniture and the use of what moderns term the “worship space.”

From at least the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury, we have believed in a territorial church and episcopate. We did so as an extension of our doctrine of the incarnation, our belief in the essential unity of the Church and our pastoral intent to be a people and place located mission, not of a denomination or sect, but of the Church Catholic. That there are other denominations around is not the point. Even in Established Church England there have been other denominations around since at least 1662. The same holds true for the rest of our Communion. To sense and act as the Church doesn’t mean one has to be anti-ecumenical.

At the Reformation, when people who believed in a “pure church” began to form conventicles filled only with the “saints”, we resisted that change and fought for a continuation of our Incarnational model. We did so because the theology and practice of territorial Christianity was scriptural, of the living tradition, and utterly reasonable.

In reaction, perhaps understandable reaction to the recent decisions undertaken by General Convention, a large constituency within our church is being seduced by the conventicle model. They want as little to do with the people they believe to be heretics as possible. They want pure parishes in pure dioceses or as pure as may be. And mark my words, that ideal with be their undoing.

To achieve this aim, they have suggested to the primates of what is termed the “Global South” that in some foggy manner, their dioceses detach themselves from the Province of the Anglican Communion called the Episcopal Church, and adhere to the Provinces of which the Global South primates are servants and leaders. At the same time, these diocese and their bishops want to affirm that they are loyal Episcopalians within the Episcopal Church. They just don’t want +Katherine our Primate and the General Convention, or even the innocuous provincial system to which they now belong in local areas.

Notice that these proposals haven’t a shred of scripture, tradition, or I would argue reason to back them up. Notice even more that in a politicized TEC, only political ideas obtain. A deeply spiritual problem is having a structural model thrown at it.

Most of the talks between the powers that be in TEC and the Network and its allies have been compounded and confounded by conversations and quarrels about structural models. What traditionalists fail to see is that the destruction of the territorial model, or its modification into something quite different, is an essentially iconoclastic and unAnglican process. It is Puritanism writ large. The purpose of the territorial model is to remind us that as Anglicans, we do not “belong” to a sect or a denomination. It reminds us that our mission is not to ourselves. It reminds us that we are not a gathered church of the saints. The territorial model reminds us that we are Christians, Catholics and Anglicans – reformed yes – who embrace the eternal purpose and mission of the Church expressed locally in place.

But how can we make this work at a moment when heterodoxy seems to triumph, heresy abounds, and the gays are winning? (Not my words) How can we rub shoulders in such a parody of the church? The same way we always have done. Just because we have managed to be called to live in a time of church crisis doesn’t mean that the Church or our church is done for. +Rowan Williams calls us to patience, and that we refuse to be. We lambaste the Left for changing everything, as if this moment gives us the time and the vision to change everything or much at all. In response, traditionalists decide to act as if this moment, this NOW is all that there is, and that change has to be made momentarily and instantly.

In all this we are guilty of practical atheism. We act as if God has gone to sleep on his watch. We act as if we are the ones who must change or rescue the Church and that at this moment, now, before worse happens. And so the Global South bishops and their TEC friends attack the very structures we have inherited and cherish, in the name of another structure, novel and untried and yet firmly described by the Puritan notion that Christian folk should escape a corrupt church and form something safe and pure. Perish the thought.

NUMBERS

Finally we are getting honest about our decline? What decline? Oh you mean that we are losing thousands of parishioners, and so affirm the 815 statistics staff? Some are leaving because they object to a bishop living in a non-celibate relationship with another person of the same gender. Others are concerned that same-sex blessings, although illegal and counter to Canon Law, will become such a growth industry in TEC, that our parishes will be inundated with gay, lesbian and transgendered people, blocking up the available time when clergy usually marry men and women.

Some are founding new missions under a bevy of African, South American and Asian bishops. Others group around Pittsburgh’s Bishop Bob Duncan’s “Network”. A few still go to the “continuing churches”. Two priest friends of mine are eventually going to Rome.

I’m told by others, that it all doesn’t matter –unless one is the church treasurer – because numbers aren’t the thing. The thing is quality. Once purged of old duffers like me, the new TEC will be a stream lined adjunct to the left wing of the Democratic Party, just as the Network has resumed Anglican’s old vocation to be the Conservative Party at prayer.

“Go into all the world and make disciples.” Not only is that a very straight forward command, it was a thoroughly sensible idea. Unless Christianity was to remain a Jewish sub-sect, with its “815” in the Upper Room, it had to grow. And so it did. It grew because it was fervent in the belief that Jesus is Lord. Everything had changed. History was different and would be until Kingdom come.

Meanwhile, marked by baptism, demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit and holiness of life, the church grew and grew until one day, the persons who say that the church shouldn’t grow, were part of the growth, as babies, teens or adults.

The last great growth spurt for TEC was in the late 1950’s. The old Prayer Book was still the liturgy of the church, Morning Prayer rivaled the Eucharist in many of the dioceses, the same old favorite hundred hymns from the 1940 hymnal were sung and most bishops never wore a miter.

Now I’ll grant you that it was a very different world. I’ll grant you that much we have done in re-arranging our worship, ceremonial, “worship-spaces” has been excellent. I’ll grant you that America has become a much more mobile society with atomized or divided families scattered all over the place. I may even grant that we are in a post-modern world, although I seriously doubt whether most of the population knows what that means if it means much at all.

To my mind we are rather like a restaurant chain which decides to revamp all the interiors, order new menus, and then forgets to issue the order to put the Open sign on the doors. And the menus are not comprehensive. They offer a narrow diet of either liberal or conservative proportions. There’s not much mystery to them, and there’s not much substance either.

“See these are they who turn the world upside down.” The congregational development people have some very good ideas links to which may be found on the TEC web site. That one man show, “The Magnetic Church” trundles around the country teaching evangelistic methods, some of which I use in this parish. The only gap, I suppose a small one, is that we don’t seem to know much about who we are, what we are, and what we are offering. I am appalled by the general ignorance about our history and heritage. We shall have been here four hundred years in 2007. I haven’t heard much about it. I’ve heard plenty about how clever we all were in founding, making it ourselves, a new democratic, American brand church a couple of hundred years ago; which we did and didn’t. But that’s all about trying to put down those overseas Anglican churches which have Lord Bishops appointed by monarchs.

We seem to know little about a theology of the church, rather than the composition of a human society. We know not much about the Bible except to repeat the mantra that there all now all sorts of interpretations, equally valid, make of it what you please. Sit in a circle and emote about a passage. Doctrine? Moral Theology?

People are drawn by our liturgy, by our liberality, and by our ethos. Really? Well that has always been true, but it is less and less true now. Some parishes try to emulate the Mega Churches with some success, and one predicts the same inherent personality problems eventually.

The main problem is, as I see it, we are dominated by two conservative parties, both in that stage of decay when past out of the box endeavors have become firmly in the box laws. The sixties produced the liberals, and in a tiny experiment, the Ambridge PA seminary, the birth place of modern American Anglican Evangelicalism. Nearly fifty years later, these two movements, born in excitement, now spend their time and hours embraced in a dance macabre. The rest of us in TEC, the silent majority only produce soloists and can’t do much together and we probably represent 70% of the parishioners, if the surveys from 815 are to be believed. Our bishops are too scared to associate with the moderate Windsor lot, and too self-conscious to abandon the left entirely. Yet in these Prayer Book people, to whom the mission of the church is still reflected in what that book teaches as it prays, may be found the identity of our church, its reason for being and its mission to the watching world. These central people reflect that which our church officially teaches, how it is ordered, and how it worships. This does not mean a rejection of new ideas, new strategies, new vision. It does mean that everything we undertake is placed at the bar of Scripture,in the living Tradition, by sanctified, on the knees Reason, because “it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service” (Collect for this week) It is high time our moderate bishops gave unified, clear and challenging leadership.

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INVESTITURE

What a daft title! Sounds like people are putting money on +Katharine, or giving her a vest for her purple shirt.

I was moved. She has presence, but I knew that. She is warm. I knew that. She can preach! I loved her line about reaching out to those with different theological perspectives. I hope and pray the Right will meet her half way. If +Rowan can send his love and blessings, as he did, why can’t our own traditionalists, and I am a traditionalist, do the same? Today wasn’t the best hour for the Network and the Windsor compliant bishops. I understand those who don’t think she is ordained not being there – I think – but most Windsor bishops aren’t non-possibilitists.

Yes, I know it is galling hearing Jon Bruno talk about reconciliation. He reminds me of Ferovius in Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion.” Who dare say no? He can’t walk in the shoes of those he is saying he wants to love and he’s no moderate.

I am sickened about continued talk of schism. The more sulky and obdurate those who talk of APO are, the less likely +Rowan is to listen to them. They only fuel and energize the far Left. If African and Caribbean primates offer them a deal, it will have no teeth, and I’ll bet a 1928 Prayer Book the rest of the primates will take them to the woodshed when they all meet next year. To be Windsor compliant one cannot condone or encourage violating jurisdictional integrity. What’s sauce for the goose…..

+Katharine has a hell of a job ahead of her. I hope she confounds her critics and her friends. From my experience she may do just that.

Pray for her, for our Church and for our common baptismal unity. For it is God who will have the final say and as God is God we may all be confounded. Serve us right.

Exclusive Universalism

I was chatting the other day with an experienced and engaging priest. He shared with me and some others his sort of vision for the Episcopal Church. I suspect that his convictions were very much shaped in the Sixties and in association with some of the more sociological and political passions of the age.

Just before he expressed himself, I’d been thinking of a particular parish in a declining community, the walls of the parish hall of which were bedecked by fading portraits of mutton-chopped worthies, bankers, mine owners, property developers; the movers and shakers in Victorian days, to whom the Episcopal Church was home, and Morning Prayer their affirmation of status. They had built the building and lovingly adorned it with muddy stained glass, burnished brass and acres of varnished pitch pine in an attempt to look English. Of course they were not the only parishioners, but for the most part they were THE parishioners. They represented the ethos, morals and drive not only of the parish but of the wider community. Yes, there was immigrant Roman Catholics exploited by these very pious Episcopalians in the local mines and factories. Of course there were those who had drifted in from the surrounding countryside, hard shell Baptists, fundamentalists of various stripes, Methodists and the Presbyterians who vied for respectability and influence at city hall.

The Episcopal priest was, in many although not all cases, a safe man. It was said that Episcopal ministers were born with a natural bow, indicating their ability to bow to the wishes of their betters, vestry members all.

The heirs of these leading men and women are a dying breed in days of corporations, national and multinational. They left endowments and now crumbling buildings. As their firms and businesses have given way to Wal Mart, Target, multi-sited law firms and banks, those who once worked for them, or whose lives were often in servitude to them, have gone away, or if they remain, their children seek a new life elsewhere.

In earlier days, people were either “born” into TEC as part of the family heritage, came to TEC by upward mobility, or, in the later 19th Century were attracted to the music and liturgy of post Tractarian worship; a worship which had moved steadily from the verbal to the visual. The more cerebral were also impressed by our odd mixture of fairly precise theological formulation and a freedom to think and explore the mysteries of faith in the context of real and contemporary human experience. And to some the very strange history of this Church, at once Catholic and Reformed, a history available in a number of often mutually exclusive versions, provided romance and community identity. After all, what was good enough to so many of the Founding Fathers must be special?

Who can but note the fertility of such a ground for the sins of arrogance, snobbery, class and elitism? An also for the most profound, self-offering measure of Christian life and experience.

Yet, as I chatted with my friend I found the ground didn’t seem to have shifted much at all. For he/she, propounded a modern vocation for our church as a body for progressive, liberal, sociologically and politically aware people, “the leaven in the lump” in a conservative, right wing, fundamentalist America, but a leaven distinct and apart.

I’d mentioned that sort of thinking in a conversation with a bishop as we drove a fair distance, I’d asked what our mission was to the men and women driving the trucks which passed us at great speed. It was partly a humorous aside, but in it was a deeper question about the nature of the Church and its mission.

Surely our church doesn’t want truck drivers in the pews? It has a justice ministry to the poor, the outcast, the single mother, the girl with an unwanted pregnancy, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, those without medical insurance, HIV/AIDS sufferers; those dying of starvation, malaria, in the midst of Civil War, or our wars abroad. We’ve identified the Millennium Development Project and are setting aside our .7%; we have soup kitchens, champion women’s’ rights, gay, lesbian, transgendered rights, civil rights, human rights, and the list goes on. We gather in commissions, committees, task forces, have an extraordinarily vital relief and development agency, and these opportunities for good works are to be found at almost every level of our structural reality, from 815, the executive council, General Convention, to diocesan, parochial an ad hoc gatherings. The only trouble seems to be that we don’t seem to be able to attract enough people and money to sustain all this anymore.

During the last few decades we’ve reformed the Liturgy, must have destroyed forests in order to print all our alternative services, rites and ceremonies, new hymns and songs –despite the fact that surveys show most parishes to be very conservative in the use of the Prayer Book, the Hymnal and the organ – moved the furniture around, gone ecumenical, well sort of, and asserted ourselves to the rest of the Anglican world as a special, Spirit guided, developer of doctrine and morals.

In short we have become elite. We champion all these people, but the problem with most of the people who need justice, is that they are poor, under-educated and tend to be conservative or right wing. They send their children to fight the war and support George Bush. Damn! So we are for them, but don’t want them in our pews, and have marginalized those Episcopalians who look rather like them. Not that that “conservative” Episcopalians are any less exclusive in their own way. I’ll get to them later. For the moment though, I’d single out one of areas in which their reaction to liberals and perhaps to our new Presiding Bishop, is also deeply sectarian. Liberals seem indifferent because they often say that as everyone is loved by God, there’s no need to offer them Christ, let alone the Church. And liberals, who don’t want to be crass about it, waffle about Christ being our savior for us and that other religions contain the same fundamental truths and perhaps are just as viable.

In reaction our neo-evangelical Anglicans thunder texts about Jesus being the way, the truth and the life, and that in him alone is salvation. By this they seem to mean that only a set of formulae, mostly 16th or 18th Century in precise terminology, although biblical of course, applied precisely to an unbeliever as a challenge and a question, is used by God to determine whether Joe or Mary, a Moslem or a Buddhist are in the Book of Life. So now a confession.

I believe that all people and people come to know God in Jesus. I believe that the Cross is universal in application, and not merely the property of Christianity. I believe that the Cross changed everything.

I believe that the coming, living, dying, rising, ascending Christ is the Lord of all things. I believe that the Trinity creates community, all community, however much we sully the vision and the reality.

I believe that Jesus is all truth, religious, scientific, social, political, communal.

I believe that it is God’s eternal purpose to return his world, this world, to “pre Fall Eden”.

I believe that God has called together a kingdom of priests to be the present sign, and the continued imperfect agency of that restored Eden.

I believe that it is in Baptism that this Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation is peopled, sanctified, set aside and called in power.

I believe that the mission of this people is holistic. It embraces most, but not all of the “liberal” goals, but perhaps marvels at the liberal naiveté in leaving out the manifest capacity of people to be evil, grasping, self-serving and plain bad. (I was reading the new PB website and thought perhaps its mission statement should be “A Post-Millenialist Gospel for a Post Modern World.”

BUT I believe that this distinct calling and mission is the oppos
ite of elitism. For the power of Jesus is not in his advancing his own authority, power, prestige or even in a sense uniqueness. The power of Jesus is in weakness, self-sacrifice, slavery-that IS what servant means – and death, the abandonment of all. It is in this manner alone that all things are made new.

The Church’s mission is to approach all people, everywhere, telling them the Good News, witnessing the Good News, offering the Good News, in humility, as St. Paul himself did in Athens. We are to offer Baptism as God calls to himself his priestly body, who are to serve the rest of the world, and mediate God to the rest of the world We are to do this as offering Jesus in his humility to all religions and ideals, sharing and recognizing their visions of truth, as we apprehend the path, the truth, the life in their words and lives. Indeed it is Christ in his Church which offers this, humbly whether to people of other faiths, or to people of no faith, or occasional faith. Who God embraces in his saving love is known only to God. It’s none of our business. That’s what Jesus said.

No Christianity is not just a cultural, Western religion. It didn’t start that way. We were in India and Iraq a thousand years before we were in America. There isn’t always a common thread in all religions, or all philosophies or ideas. Some religions and this has been true of Christianity, have had and practiced monstrous evil and not always without textual encouragement. Mrs. Besant call home. Jesus is the Word made flesh. But we don’t own Jesus and certainly our own collective or personal “take” on Christianity doesn’t own Jesus.

Does such a belief lead to indifferentism? I believe it gives us freedom to explore the more deeply our faith in all its aspects, to become more passionately who we are and whom we serve. It gives us something extraordinary to offer.

Are we the heirs of those mutton chopped bankers and their, often more holy, crinolined wives? Certainly not. We are educated, progressive, right minded, justice seekers and not as others are, oppressors, bigots, narrow-minded moralists. And so we stand in the Temple.

THE NEW PRIMATE

By the end of this week the Episcopal Church will have a new Primate, Chief Pastor and Presiding Bishop. Isn’t it odd that when we try to avoid lengthy high sounding titles we arrive at something equally convoluted?

There are two potent symbols of Bishop Katherine’s new vocation. One is a rather down at heels sky-scraper on 2nd Avenue in New York City. The other is the faux gothic National Cathedral in Washington DC, built in the days when the manifest destiny of the Episcopal Church and the USA seemed obvious. It might not be the national church, but it was to be the church which guided the nation in wisdom, common sense and perhaps good breeding and taste. There’s still the air of the patrician about it as there is about much in TEC. Patricians don’t have to be conservative.

The first building is that of a corporation. Despite its chapel, it’s a corporate office, filled with people who do what corporate officers do. Elevators usher the visitor to various floors where may be found experts in parish or clergy development, the ecumenical movement and relations with other Anglican churches. The latest liturgical texts filter through those concrete walls, and structures to give Episcopal relief and provide development jostle with minority ministries and sermon services. High up may be found the offices of the corporate leader and even higher up a penthouse apartment to which the chief executive officer may retreat when time permits. Nothing of this size or scale may be found in any other Province of the Anglican Communion. Leaving New York would be an abdication of power.

The second building, as we have noted, is the National Cathedral. It’s an extraordinary place, an assertion that anything Europe can do, we can do better. It’s a labor of love, a place of on-going craftsmanship in stone, and glass, sculpture and fabric, music and dance. Its gothic pretensions seem to lay claim to a former day, to the concept of democratic Christendom. As a house of prayer for all, or at least most people, it alternates as an ecumenical center, a nation state shrine and a vast funeral chapel. It lacks that aura of prayer and holiness which only the long years provide, but neither are much marked commodities in contemporary life.

Washington Cathedral – an exclusive title – is indeed the site of the cathedra of the Bishop of Washington, a seat the present occupant shares from time to time with the Bishop of Virginia, who has no cathedral. This weekend it will do nicely as a place where the new Primate of TEC may also place her slim fundament. Of course it is not her church, not her seat, not her cathedral. But it is not quite not her seat and cathedral. When TEC began to be enamored of corporate models, the job of Presiding Bishop was shorn of jurisdiction. In a sense a PB becomes an un-bishop: something crucial about the nature of episcopacy was removed. One doesn’t refer to function alone. Part of the nature of episcopacy is taken from whatever bishop ascends to the primacy. They become a driver forbidden to drive. Apart from the Canadians, who trot along after American Anglicans in awed fealty, no other Anglican Province has stripped their primate of immediate jurisdiction as a diocesan bishop. There’s a theological problem here but what the hell.

Actually the Presiding Bishop has a cathedra, a cathedral and a jurisdiction. It is in Europe! There on Avenue George V in Paris, within JP Morgan’s statement to the French, the throne of the Primate of the Episcopal Church is located. It is usually used by her suffragan, the Bishop in Europe. When Bishop Griswold voted to confirm the Bishop of New Hampshire, he did so as occupant of the Parisian chair, much to the chagrin of the other Bishops in Europe..

As in Alice, things get curiouser and curiouser. So far we have a person called to be an executive, housed in corporate offices, who is installed to office in someone else’s cathedral. In the job description a good deal of space is given to the task of getting things done. Every three years, as we know, General Convention comes up with a budget, allocations and programs In between the Executive Council supervises that work, and the Primate and her staff enable the work of this and a host of committees, commissions, task forces and advocacy groups..

The Primate must also make sure that bishops are correctly consecrated, speeches made, the position of the Church on this that and the other articulated. She must fly the globe imparting instant wisdom, meeting with people who may well not want to meet with her, and from time to time remind +Rowan that he is only primus inter pares, however holy he may be.

The Presiding Bishop presides over the House of Bishops when it meets at Convention and when it meets outside Convention. That’s all that is left of the original job description. Behind the scenes she will perhaps seek to give advise and counsel to a growingly independent minded episcopate, many of whom, whatever their Cause, sit lightly on Canon Law and strongly on their own local regulations which may not always have much to do with Canon Law.

What the Episcopal Church does not encourage is the ideal of primacy which comes to us from the past. The American primate is the head of a parliamentary majority, a winning faction and is called to be a true believer. The Primate is not everyone’s Primate.

Ironically this eminent platform for advocacy has been provided at a moment when what Presiding Bishops actually say about almost anything is only heard by the first two rows of the audience an David Virtue. True, PBS will do some interviews from time to time, but the leaders of the parties, those who exercise power in Congress, in business, even in education can’t hear a thing being said by the church at large and its leaders. The Presiding Bishop, the General Convention, prominent “prophets” in fact preach to the choir and if anyone is upset, it’s that part of the choir that turns up for Rite I.

In short, the office of Presiding Bishop is impossible. It has grown, but it has not been shaped and it has become neither fish, fowl nor good red herring.

Into this situation now comes a very intelligent, warm, gifted woman of faith, perhaps not yet in tune with the Anglican world: TEC is so isolated and so eccentric. God bless you Katherine.