Saturday, June 28, 2008

Episcopi Vigilantes

I had intended to post in a general way about the recent Global Anglican Future Conference / Pilgrimage in Jordan / Jerusalem.

Naturally, I was going to mock their chosen name. What kind of a group deliberately chooses an acronym (GAFCON) so manifestly satirizable? A GAFFEPRONE group, obviously.

I intended to be a bit snarky about their shabby treatment of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, whom they made into their unwilling host without so much as a by your leave.

I intended to observe on their patent dishonesty in promising the said Bishop that they would hold their meetings in Jordan and that the Jerusalem portion would be a pilgrimage.

I wanted to make appropriate horrified h'rumphs about the fact that many of their leading figures cannot even manage to say that beating the living crap out of homosexuals is perhaps not in keeping with the Gospel.

I intended to have much fun at their expense over their ridiculous "banned" list - and over the fact that it took them three days to come up with the cover story that it was really just an overenthusiastic and misguided volunteer. (I might have believed that if it had come promptly. But three days? C'mon.)

But now, they have produced their manifesto. Despite the claim that they are not splitting, it really is nothing less than a declaration of war on any and all Anglicans who choose not to conform to their views and submit to their authority. It is a veritable coup d'eglise.

Yes, it is larded with bumph about staying in the Anglican Communion, but the media have outed it for what it is - a scheme for schism. Some of the best coverage is from the Guardian, here, here and here.

It has already been panned by an assortment of liberals - quel suprise.

The most withering comment has been from progressive Episcopal commentator Jim Naughton, who said:

Step back from the details of this particular document for a moment, and consider the nature of GAFCON. It has brought together bishops from some of the poorest countries on Earth to deliver the residents of some of the richest suburbs in America from living in a Church to which they cannot dictate terms. Zimbabwe is on fire. Darfur is bleeding. Ethnic strife and pandemic disease rage across the African continent while these bishops devote themselves to rescuing the Episcopalians of Orange County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia from persecution that does not exist. And how will they achieve this? By calling the world to faith in the Gospel as it was delivered to them by representatives of an empire that conquered their homelands, stole their resources and denied their ancestors even the most basic human rights.

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or weep.

This criticism from the American Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is vigorous if predictable. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington. John Chane, points to the "slanderous boilerplate" which misrespresents the reality of the North American provinces.

But it has likewise been panned by a number of conservatives - thoughtful and intelligent conservative commentators like Tony Clavier and Dan Martins. Fresh from his triumphal appearance on the Colbert Report and doubtless enjoying the Colbert Bump, Bishop of Durham Tom Wright sugarcoats a blow to the solar plexus.

Most important, however, is the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has finally had enough. He criticizes both the caricatures these pretendy "conservatives" employ to slander North American Anglicanism. And he makes it very clear that there is no room in authentic Anglicanism for a posse of self-appointed vigilantes to dispense their own form of frontier rough justice.

That particular criticism is directed at the most breathtakingly arrogant piece of all - the declared intention to establish a Council of Primates to police the Communion. This self-selecting inquisition - the six most dyspeptic prelates - would then determine which provinces were to be recognized and which were to be cast away.

There is a technical ecclesiastical term, episcopi vagantes. It refers to "independent" bishops of possibly valid apostolic succession but who operate outside of any recognizable structures.

This new Council of Primates (self-designated Good COPS) might best be described as Episcopi Vigilantes. What they propose is that the Anglican Communion be governed by vigilantes, by self-appointed posses, by doctrinal lynch mobs.

The good news is that these latter day inquisitors don't have anywhere near as much support as they think they do. By their over the top bullying, they have managed to alienate a goodly number of their potential sympathizers. Liberal, moderate and conservative Bishops and Primates have no interest in having pseudo-Anglican Wahaabists or Taliban imposing their own narrow definitions.

We don't need this:

from these (mind the salty language):


Tim Chesterton said...

Malcolm, you really have absolutely no idea of the depth of alienation that's felt by conservative-minded Anglican folk in North America, have you?

I'm on record as saying that I won't be joining the lineup to join Foca. But that's because I'm bloody-minded and stubborn. I've ministered for over twenty-five years as an evangelical Anglican in a denomination in which, nine times out of ten when the word 'evangelical' is used, it's used as a term of abuse. That gets wearing on people.

I understand why people are wanting to join Foca. For years and years we've suspected that, some day, we'd have to choose between being evangelical and being Anglican. None of us wanted to make that choice, but as the national church got less and less welcoming to us - as each successive liturgical and doctrinal innovation coming out of Church House made it harder to recognise the church as expressing anything like the convictions that were dearest to us - we began to think it was inevitable. One day soon, we'd have to choose.

But suddenly a shining alternative was presented. We could remain Anglican and evangelical, and do so under the oversight of overseas primates whose own brand of Anglicanism was so much closer to our own. Instead of being scorned and shunned for our evangelical convictions, we'd be welcomed.

This is not about sex. Sex is only the presenting issue. This is about a sense of belonging. These people feel that their own national church has scorned or ignored their convictions for decades. Meanwhile, the overseas primates have honoured those same convictions and welcomed these folk with open arms. It's no mystery to me that things are turning out the way they are. The only mystery is why it's a mystery to the liberal catholic establishment.

Malcolm+ said...


I started to write a snarky response.

You deserve better than that.

So I'm going to step away from the post now, ponder what I want to say, and post a proper reply to you tomorrow.

Amie said...


I do have an idea of the alienation that is experienced. I am a "liberal" in what has traditionally been a fairly "conservative" diocese. My father was a "liberal" when this diocese was even more "conservative."

I am not going to say that I have had it any worse. It breaks my heart that either "side" of the issue is just as unaccepting of the other. I can empathize with what you experience because I too have experienced it. For either side to claim that one has it worst is false. We are both guility.

My bishop served in New Westminister. I know what his concerns were as a more "conservative" priest in a "liberal" diocese. I wish I could deny his experience but I realize that alienation is part of how we humans deal with difference.

I could just as easlily say that for years we have wondered if we would have to choose between holding the understandings of faith as we do and our church. My father tells me that many "liberals" left in the sixties due to having to make that choice.

I will also suggest that sometimes the sense of lack of welcome is perceived rather than real. I know that I have often mis-read my acceptance and welcome in this diocese. Sometimes I have isolated myself and demonized the "other". I have been pleasantly surprised when I have come out of isolation and started to engage with my colleagues.

We make much of our differences because we have come to define ourselves by those differences rather than by who we are - children of God called to serve God with the special gifts we have been given. We don't like to think that God has given the "other" gifts and that God has just as much use for the "other" as much as God has use for us. We live in a world of either/or but, I believe, God lives of a world of more than both/and - a world of all.

This came home to me when I discovered that God has gifted me with a similar spiritual gift as a fellow seminary grad who is 'conservative'. When I struggled with this gift (it can have huge negative effects if not surrounded by prayer), this friend, with whom I would disagree on just about anything theologically, was the one that understood the best and helped the most. Although the current issues of the church have polarized us - I value this person's help and insight and wish him only the best. I have come to understand that God calls both of us, with our gifts, our faults, our differences. God is not so concerned with our theological differences - it is we humans that are. We seem to think that only people who think like us are the true followers of God. I would suggest that the reality, based on experience and observation, is that we are all true followers of God because the central thing that unites us is our love for God and our desire to serve. The rest is window dressing.

Not only were fisherfolk called, so was Paul. Nicodemus was also called. Joseph of Arimethea was called. Such diverse people. Such different understandings. And yet God reached out to them all.

Our divisions are human made and I believe that God has given us the tools to end division. We just have to quit putting ourselves first. We have to quit feeling that we need to prove ourselves right in order for us to have confidence in our understandings of our faith. We need to place God and our service to God first. Then maybe we can live and serve together without alienating the "other".

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Country Parson said...

I would like Tim to say more about what it is to be "evangelical." How is that manifested in his life. I've lost track of what it means anymore because it has become only one element of a popular trinity, "conservative evangelical fundamentalist". And that has become as much a cartoon caricature as anything else. So Tim, what is it to be an evangelical Anglican? Having asked that, I'd also like to know more about how Tim has experienced rejection, humiliation, or offense at the hands of those who do not define themselves as evangelical. Simple Massing Priest may not be the right venue for all of that, so feel free to write to me directly.

Malcolm+ said...

First, let me say that I'm quite happy to have this conversation carry forward on Simple Massing Priest for as long as anyone is interested in carrying it forward.

My objection to the GAFCON adventure, when push comes to shove, is about their attempt to disengage from people who think differently than they. I the conversation moves forward here, I hope that Tim will not be the only conservative voice.

Second, I'm glad I chose to step back and wait before responding to Tim.

The passionate and - if can call it - angry (?) tone is not typical of my experience of Tim. Now, my experience of Tim has all been online, so I certainly don't know him quite so incarnationally as some.

But, with all its passion and anger, Tim did engage the issues. He engaged the issues honestly and without writing anybody off. He did so "in the lion's den," as it were - in a place and context where he had no particular reason to expect a sympathetic hearing.

Well, good for Tim. And that's why he deserved better than the snarky response I had started to write.

So, Tim, my brother, let me try to respond with the consideration that you deserve, and with respect for the charity and courage you've shown.

1. I am aware that lots of conservative minded Anglicans in North America and elsewhere feel alienated. I suspect that, not being one of them, I cannot really know the depth of their experience - your experience.

When I listen to many of the more extreme expressions of that alienation, I am baffled. When I read the horror stories of a liberal establishment denying the significance of scripture, denying the deity of Christ, denying, denying, denying, I simply do not recognize the Church in which I live and work.

But the fact that some people may exaggerate or distort the facts (deliberately or otherwise) does not mean that the sense of alienation is not real and profound.

Of course, that is easy to forget when the loudest voices on all sides are often (usually?) those who are prepared to distort the facts to advance some particular grievance or agenda.

2. The issue about evangelicals is a little different, I think. The "party name" is not so well known here as it is in the UK, and possibly in the Antipodes. Here, the word "evangelical" is more commonly associated with a religious movement that is largely alien to Anglicanism, and which, at it's worst, seems to be a religious cover for a political agenda that seems to have little to do with Jesus.

I'm not sure how much, but I strongly suspect that this contributes to the suspicion of some people that leaves you, in turn, feeling disdained and devalued.

3. Church House and General Synod do not exist in a vacuum. While it is tempting to claim that liturgical and doctrinal "innovations" arose in some alien place and were foisted on the people against their will, I fail to see how that is really possible in a synodically governed church, when the majority of the lay house at any synod at any level have been elected by their brothers and sisters who know them.

4. I agree with you that this isn't really about sex. And I'll agree that for many people, it is about belonging. But at the end of the day, I don't think that's what's driving it either.

Some people, for their own reasons, have been using sex and have been using existing alienation as a wedge to accomplish other goals that have exactly nothing to do with the gospel of Christ.

Jim Naughton has done a good forensic job of tracking how Howard Ahmonson, the Dominionists and the Institue for Religion and Democracy have undertaken deliberate campaigns to split mainline US denominations - in order to marginalize them and to silence their witness on a range of issues from race to homelessness. They want religious voices in the public sphere to be monochromatically neoconservative.

5. I hope you don't think I'm part of the liberal catholic establishment. I'm certainly a liberal catholic, but my establishment credentials are pretty limited.

6. I do have some sense of the pain involved in feeling alienated from one's church. I spent 14 years having relinquished the exercise of my ministry, and for most of that period had fallen away from regular attendance. The sense of having been betrayed by my spiritual family took a long time to heal.

But for me, there was no other spiritual home. I could not be a Roman because of the way those people practice authority. Nor could I be a Protestant because of the way those people practice authority. Orthodoxy was attractive, but I could not with integrity agree with them on the ministry of women, so there you are. I was, as I described myself to more than a few people, a trapped Anglican.

But at the end of the day, however alienated I may feel from my family, they are my family. And however alienated I may feel from some of my Anglican brothers and sisters, they are my family too.

It cuts me to the quick when I and those who are with me are accused of preaching "another gospel." The only gospel I know is that God Incarnate pitched his tent here among us, and when the time appointed came, he died for us and rose again, destroying the power of death forever.

Tim, I don't know if that addresses anything you said in any way that is meaningful.

Whether it does or it doesn't, I want to thank you for coming here to say what you felt needed saying.

Tim Chesterton said...

Couple of points of clarification.

First, I thought I had made it clear in my original post that GAFCON and FOCA were not for me. I fully understand why they are important for some people, and at times I have felt that something like them might be important for me. But I've always felt it was important to bring my evangelical heritage to the table as a full contributing member of the Anglican family. I've tried to avoid the ghetto mentality.

This is a challenge, as Malcolm points out. In England, where I was brought up, Anglicanism is far less monochrome than it is in North America. Most of the best known evangelicals in England are Anglicans. Here, when Anglicans use the word 'evangelical' they are almost always talking about people outside Anglicanism - or, if they're talking about someone on the inside, they're suspicious that he or she is 'not a real Anglican'. When I tell the story of this spiritual family tree that goes back to the Reformation, through the early Methodists and the Evangelical revival of the seventeenth century, through the great Evangelical social activists who led the fight against the slave trade and a hundred other ventures to make the world a better place in the nineteenth century, through to people like John Stott, Elaine Storkey, Donald Coggan and George Carey today, most Canadian Anglicans are surprised at how deeply this movement is embedded in the Anglican story.

Second, Country Parson, if you want a good snapshot of what a positive Anglican evangelical contribution to the church looks like today, you can't do much better than the Fulcrum website (

Third, I may not be the best voice of evangelical Anglicanism any more, for the simple reason that in recent years I've been captivated by the Anabaptist tradition. This tradition has some things in common with evangelicalism, but in others it charts out a path of its own (hence the title of Walter Klassen's book 'Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant). for those interested in finding out more about this, my sabbatical blog from last year ( might be helpful.

Tim Chesterton said...

P.S. Tom Wright has a superb assessment of GAFCON on the Fulcrum website:

Country Parson said...

With Malcolm, I am a liberal catholic deeply anchored in the Anglican tradition. Perhaps with Tim, and with regard to moral theology and the ideals of "Christian" politics, I am a product of the late John Howard Yoder, the great Mennonite teacher at, of all places, Notre Dame.

Tim Chesterton said...

Yes, Yoder has had a huge impact on me.

Malcolm+ said...

And here, because we have engaged in an honest (if occasionally heated) discussion, we are reminded that those things which unite us are ever so much more than those things that divide us.

I refer you as well to Country Parson's reflection on how the interweb (that vile seductress) has made it harder to have these conversations because the rhythm of immediate response denies the place and importance of reflection.

Tim Chesterton said...

Malcolm, I have always believed that what we have in common is more important than what divides us. But I'm not sure the other side always believes this.

You meet someone who believes that the scriptures are inerrant, that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and that other 'ways' lead to hell (which is a literal place of eternal torment), who believes that the meaning of the Cross is that the Son took our place and the punishment from God that we deserved so that God's righteous anger against our sins was satisfied. This person believes that individuals need to come to a conscious decision to commit their lives to Christ, and that if they don't do so, even if they are baptized, they aren't really a Christian. This individual believes that stuff like auricular confession, the use of symbols such as ashes on Ash Wednesday and the paschal candle during Easter, and anything other than the bare minimum of ritual is a waste of time. This individual believes that the most important act of Christian mission is to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others and try to persuade others to commit their lives to Christ as well. This individual believes that homosexual activity is sinful and that the Church as a community (not just they in their private opinion and conversation) needs to make this clear so that people are not misled.

Is this person an Anglican?

I know many, many Canadian Anglicans who find it inconceivable that such a person could be an Anglican. The fact that this list of beliefs includes Anglicans like the Wesleys, John Newton, Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce, and many others around the world to day, would be astounding to them. On blogs such as Mad Priests and Father Jake's I've read of people like this being dismissed as Baptists who don't understand what Anglicanism is all about.

Last year when I was on sabbatical leave in England I attended two Anglican churches where liturgy was hardly present at all, where the clergy led the services in jacket and tie, and the theology preached was straight down the line evangelical. However, they were meeting in Anglican church buildings and as far as they were concerned were 'Church of England'.

So tell me - is what you have in common with such a person more important to you than the things you disagree about?

Country Parson said...

I confess that I have little in common with a confession of the Christian faith as outlined by you. I guess that has something to do with the judgmental expression that unless x,y an z are visibly present and satisfactory to an observer then I may not be a real Christian. I wonder also about a single lens understanding of the doctrine of atonement which, to me, is a very great and wonderful mystery. And, as you can imagine, I am not among those who find homosexuality or homosexual acts per se to be sinful. I would never, under any circumstance, condemn those who do define their Christian faith in such terms as being heretics or non-Christian. Neither do I want to be defied as heretical or non-Christian. I believe my Christian faith to also be firmly rooted in Anglican tradition, indeed even in patristic tradition, and that includes a constant, deep engagement with Holy Scripture. Not everyone does, but I cherish the catholic adornments to worship that engage my whole body and all my senses in holy space and time. In my retirement we have worshiped at a variety of other churches around town. I know their modes of worship are very important to those who attend, and so be it. But I have come away from most of them feeling let down, flat, desperately missing the Eucharist, and wondering where God, prayer, scripture and worship could be found in that hour. Their clergy are a part of my Tuesday morning lectionary study group so I know very well how deep and well formed is their faith, but their style of worship leads me nowhere. I guess we could go to war over that like we did back in the 17th century, or maybe we could rejoice that the body of Christ has many parts and they don't look much like one another any more than ears look like feet.

Malcolm+ said...

Fair question, Tim. And I certainly don't doubt or question that there are those on both sides who see their own experience / expression of faith as valid, while seeing the "other side" as invalid and not authentically Anglican.

To the degree that either side does this, they both, as I see it, deny some part of authentic Anglicanism in that the seek - or claim to have - a "window into men's souls."

Perhaps part of the answer would be for all sides to learn a little but about Anglicanism beyond their own baillywick.

Apart from scriptural inerrancy - which, depending on what one thinks it means, I would find outside modern Anglican norms - all those things you list fall within the broad Anglican tent, I should think.

More later. The realtor just got here.

Tim Chesterton said...

Just to be clear, I'm not a believer in inerrancy either. But I'd be very interested to know by what standard you judge it outside of Anglican norms. J.I. Packer and Nicky Gumbel both believe in it, and Packer is well practiced at pointing to an impressive list of Reformation divines who did as well. Last time I checked, they were all Anglicans.

Malcolm+ said...

Saying that something is outside the norm is not (necessarily) to say that it is outside the bounds of Anglican comprehensiveness.

That said, leaving aside Packer and Gumbel for the moment, the fact that someone in the 1600s believed something in accord with the societal norm of the day doesn't necessarily say much about what they would believe in the abstract. Reformation divines would also have believed that slavery was ordained of God, for example. I'm inclined that such a position would be out of the norm - if not beyond the pale - today.

Anglicanism as a distinctive polity arose from the Elizabethan Settlement which deliberately set the boundaries of Anglicanism in terms of conformity to liturgy and polity rather than conformity to a particular confession of faith.

So, on that basis, the person you described earlier would be an Anglican so long as the were prepared to conform to the authorized liturgy / liturgies and to polity.

Thus the suspension of Packer's license in New Westminster, despite the misrepresentation of some, was not due to his theological opinions, nor even for his defiant opposition to the bishops' and the diocese's policies. He was suspended when he departed from the polity of the Church by effectively declaring himself out of communion with the bishop of the diocese.

On the larger question of evangelical estrangement, as I had started to say earlier, part of the solution is for Anglicans to know more about what Anglicans really are and really have been. Most Anglicans are woefully ill-informed about the breadth of our own ecclesiastical tradition. Even the terms "high church' and "low church" have been narrowed in their scope to refer only to the preferred level of liturgical pomp.

(There is a story of a woman returning to her own parish in Muskoka, having been on a trip to Toronto. She said the church she had attended there had been horribly high church - it was just awful. Turns out she'd been to Little Trinity, the lowest low church parish in the diocese. I her experience, the term 'high church' was merely an epithet for liturgical practices one doesn't like.)

The GAFCON / FOCA initiative borders on schism, at the very least, not because it advocates a conservative or evangelical position but because it rejects the traditional boundaries of Anglican comprehensiveness in favour of a confessional test.

Tim Chesterton said...

How far does this go, Malcolm? 'Believe what you like, as long as you're prepared to worship and take communion with us'?

And I'm sorry, but when my father was inducted to a parish in England as vicar as recently as December 1969, on his first Sunday as vicar he was required to read the Thirty-Nine Articles and give his public assent to them. Sounds like a Confessional test to me.

Country Parson said...

Consistent with the idea that the Spirit continues to inform and move the church in new directions, the Lambeth Conference of 1968 adopted a resolution declaring that affirmation of the 39 articles as a confession was no longer required, keeping in mind, of course, that Lambeth resolutions are not binding but only advisory. My own understanding is that the 39 Articles are where any Anglican theologian is likely to begin but not end his/her inquiry. Informed by scripture, tradition and reason, one quickly realizes that the principles a handful of 16th and 17th century English men laid down to differentiate Anglicans from Roman Catholics and Presbyterians for their time and in their place cannot be the end of the quest.

By the way, if you are interested, I have a presentation on the resolutions of the Lambeth from its inception that I could send to you.

June Butler said...

What an interesting and civil discussion. I'm a little out my depth, here, but to you, Tim, I'd say that what puts folks off evangelicals are the extremist types who say such things as, "If you don't believe this, this, and that, and if you don't do this, this, and that, you are damned to hell". I gave you an example of such a conversation that I was involved in on the blog of an Englishman. That's not the sort of conversation that I hear from you ever, but that's what puts folks off evangelicals. No matter that is not right to lump people into categories, that is the way of the world.

For what it's worth, the majority of folks in my Episcopal parish in south Louisiana are somewhere between your position as an evangelical and mine as a "liberal", but my views are very much in the minority. Certain of my fellow parishioners, including my rector, very likely would put me in the "radical" class. Whatever. Who is it that calls for separation? Not the majority of "liberals" or "radicals".

However others label me, I consider that I am entirely orthodox in my beliefs. I say the creed honestly and with no reservations. Somehow, that does not seem sufficient for some, although it is for the folks in my parish. Thanks be to God.

Malcolm+ said...

Tim said: "How far does this go, Malcolm? 'Believe what you like, as long as you're prepared to worship and take communion with us'?"

I think it's a fair question.

Historically, that seems to be where we ended up - and it seems to be the strength and the weakness of Anglicanism.

But to reduce it to that, I think, leaves it out of context and isolated.

The ancient saying is "lex orandi, lex credendi" - the law of prayer is the law of belief.

Because an Anglican conforms to the authorized liturgy / liturgies and to the episcopal polity, his / her belief is shaped by the experience of worship and the experience of being part of the church in the context of both liturgy and polity.

Like Mimi the fact that I must say the creed(s) with some regularity - if not every single week - means that I must confront that summary of faith on a constant - or at least regular and frequent basis. And like her, I can say them without crossing my fingers once. If I could not do so, would I not be motivated to depart of my own volition?

The 39 Articles are an interesting point. Their status has always been a trifle unclear.

The oft-quoted line is that one may subscribe to them in the same manner one ascribes to the local gasworks. One acknowledges their existence an one is not currently engaged in a plot for their overthrow. For a century before the requirement for subscription was removed in most provinces, the process had come to mean pretty much that for many catholics - and for many evangelicals as well.

I do confess, though, that the present highlighting of the articles seems ironic given that they include a very clear proscription regarding the interference of foreign bishops in the affairs of another province.

(The following observation arises from the foregoing. I acknowledge that you have not thrown your lot in with the GAFCON / FOCA, and I'm not asking you to defend them.)

All that said, GAFCON / FOCA has clearly gone beyond the 1662 BCP, the Creeds and the Articles and appears to be adding extra bits.

Not only must oe believe in the authority of scripture, but one must ascribe to a particular hermeneutical approach.

Not only must one accept the doctrine of Atonement, but one must ascribe to a particular understanding thereof - Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

But the worst thing out of GAFCON / FOCA to my mind - and the area I and others have most criticized - is in it's vigilante approach to settling disputes.

A Canadian analogy. (Non-Canadian readers, feel free to be baffled.)

As Unity Minister, the present Liberal Party leader introduced the so-called Clarity Act. The Act purported to establish what the requirements and ground rules were should any province (or group of provinces) seek to separate from Canada.

There were any number of pragmatic objections to the Act - icludig the prospect that it would enflame the souvreignistes who were then quiescent.

My biggest issue with the Clarity Act is that it is a complete fraud.

It provides no CLARITY at all.

What it says is that, AFTER a jurisdiction has held a referendum on separation, the Parliament of Canada will decide if the question was clear enough and if the majority was large enough. In other words, the losers will decide the rules after the fact.

A real Clarity Act would have said: 1) the question will be phrased like this in English et comme ca en francais and 2) it will require an x margin in order to carry.

"We'll make up the rules on the fly and let you know what they are after we're all finished" is the clarity of a madman.

Yet that is essentially what the Council of Primates is - an unaccountable star chamber, with no mandate, no rules, no due process, no appeal and no authority except that which they have usurped.

It has all the debilitating lack of clarity that afflicts us now, with a soupcon of authoritarian dreck to make it all truly surreal.

Malcolm+ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June Butler said...

Now I have read Bp. Wright's words in Fulcrum, and, without going into detail, I was rather stunned to find that, to me, a good many of his statements could easily be read as parody, if I did not know better. And he says that North Americans are without irony! I may do an entire post on the subject.

Tim Chesterton said...

Malcolm, my lifelong problem with the 'lex orendi, lex credeni' formula has been that someone has to write the prayers, and those who write them do so from a theological viewpoint.

This means that the law of prayer is not in fact the law of belief - rather, the theology of the liturgist is the law of belief.

Two examples.

In the 1985 Canadian BAS, despite the fact that we were given six alternative Eucharistic prayers in contemporary language, not one of them expressed the Eucharistic theology of the Book of Common Prayer - a Eucharistic theology which is closest to my own evangelical position. So the 'law of prayer' outlawed a particular belief - my own - unless I wanted to consign myself to prayin gin Elizabethan English.

Second, prayers for the dead. At the Reformation the Church of England ended this practice. In recent years the C of E has had several theological debates about the legitimacy of the practice, and those debates have guided the liturgical revisions in Common Worship. But in Canada no such debate has taken place. Rather, the liturgists have simply made the decision for the church. Once again, the law of prayer that is guiding the church's belief is itself being guided by the beliefs of the liturgists.

So - quite frankly, I think this oft-quoted formula is a fraud.

Tim Chesterton said...

Anglicanism as a distinctive polity arose from the Elizabethan Settlement which deliberately set the boundaries of Anglicanism in terms of conformity to liturgy and polity rather than conformity to a particular confession of faith.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not this was entirely honest (as my previous comment indicates, every liturgy bears the marks of the theology of its creator(s), and Cranmer's is certainly no exception)...

Bear with me for a moment while I think out loud about this question of the Elizabethan Settlement.

I'm always surprised when people such as yourself, Malcolm, who are well aware of the shortcomings of Christendom, base your theological approach on such a thoroughly Christendom concept as the Elizabethan Settlement - a religious solution designed to unify Elizabeth's kingdom under her authority. How does her often-quoted maxim that she had no desire for a window into other men's souls actually compare with New Testament principles of church life and the teaching of Jesus? Especially the mutual accountability that we find in Matthew 18:15-20 and the epistles?

Is it really a principle we can find in the New Testament that as long as Christians are prepared to conform to a set liturgy, it doesn't matter what they actually believe in their hearts? Would you be prepared to defend that as a theological principle?

Also, just as you have correctly pointed out that the 39 Articles bear the marks of their original historical context, does not the Elizabethan Settlement also? The Queen needed one religion to unify her realm (just as Constantine needed one religion to unify his empire). What has that got to do with us Canadians in 2008, living in a pluralistic society? If we were really putting into practice the Elizabethan Settlement, we should be pressing the government to recognise us as the official state church of Canada, and telling all other Christians that they shuld come and worship with us, because we don't care what they believe in their secret hearts as long as they're prepared to conform to our liturgy.

In this respect, I don't think radicals are radical enough. That's my problem with GAFCON and FOCA too - they look back to 1662 instead of ahead to fearless discipleship in 2008, based on the witness of the New Testament. We don't live in the realm of Elizabeth any more, we live in a post-Christendom world, and we need to recognise the fundamental flaws in what Elizabeth was up to, and ask ourselves what Christian faithfulness looks like now.

And now I'm going to quit for twenty-four hours and allow someone else to get word in edgeways!

Malcolm+ said...

It's late and I'm tired, but I don't know when I'll next have a chance to respond. So, to keep the conversation going . . .

Clearly the Church at a particular time shapes the liturgy (and in particular the leading liturgists). From that point forward, the liturgy shapes the Church. So, I don't think I'll agree with you that it's a fraud, but I will agree that the shaping is not all one way. The liturgists, however, are not working in isolation, and the synodical bodies must sign off on the final product.

I'm assuming (forgive me if I assume to much) that your reference to the lack of a modern language eucharistic prayer like 1662 refers to less of a direct focus on substitutionary atonement? (I'll admit I don't find it a particular lack - but that is a reflection of churchmanship.)

If so, part of the process, it seems to me, is to engage the Doctrine and Worship Committee. The BAS is less of a set in stone book than an official BCP would be, and there have been new eucharistic prayers in experimental circulation.

I agree that the Elizabethan Ssttlement is a product of its times - and that I'm really only taking one part of it as a standard here. If one works from the present context where religious uniformity is off the table, then there is only what is left. There is no question that the Elizabethan policy shaped what Anglicanism became - a religious denomination which allowed for shadings of opinion and understanding about doctrinal questions.

Even those articles tend to focus on what they say isn't so than on what they say is so. Thus, while agreeing that the Sacrament was not INTENDED to be lifted up, carted about and venerated, it does not necessarily follow that none of that is permitted. See you at Benediction next week. ;-)

I think that you are correct, though, that we need to start figuring out what it means to be Christians in 2008 - and how (or even if) being an Anglican Christian fits into that.

But I don't think we can do that - or at least not do it effectively - if everything we do is constrained by a series of shibboleths, many of recent innovation.

And that, it seems to me, is what SOME evangelicals are trying to do with these new-fangled declarations and doctrinal standards which, despite claims of deep roots, are often ill-rooted or based upon revisionist approaches to history.

In a completely different context, another priest of this diocese (who seemed quite surprized that I say the whole creed without crossing my fingers once) referred me to a line from Arhur Michael Ramsey who said something to the effect that the study of scripture should not be archeological.

It appears to me that it is the GAFCON / FOCA crowd who are treating doctrine as archeology.

That said, some catholics are as bad for doing the same with liturgy.

"Sir" said...

Thank you so much for this. Inspired and informative.

Country Parson said...

I want to make a couple of observations. One has to do with the role of liturgy and liturgists. The other has to do with the visceral importance of having something in one’s life that will not move. However, this post is long enough as it is so I’ll skip the second point for now.

Before I go on I want to cite a portion of something I wrote elsewhere:
A passage from Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, caught my eye that I think speaks directly to the current internecine warfare within the Anglican Communion. About the various hard-core reformists and their opponents of centuries gone by he writes:
The tremendous investment in reform and hence discipline, which inspires such a sense of their spiritual superiority in the breasts of Latin, and ex-Latin Christians, when they contemplate those of other faiths, or even other Christian churches, this immense effort seems itself to have obscured the essentials of the faith, and to have led to a substitution of something secondary for the primary goal of centering everything on God.
I follow a number of Anglican blogs and news sites. Most of them are consumed with demonstrating that they are the first to know and know the most about what is going on with Lambeth, GAFCON, or any of a dozen other flashpoints in the world of Anglicanism. I follow them because they are informative, and the occasional appearance of wry wit has some entertainment value. But Taylor is right not only about the Church of past centuries. In our own day we have “substituted something secondary for the primary goal of centering everything on God,” and that is to our shame.

As Chris has pointed out, there sometimes appears to be a disconnect between what liturgists give us to be the words guiding our worship and the theology that expresses the content of our faith. But when I look back on the evolution of our own BCP it seems even more evident that the liturgists are often engaged in a difficult balancing act that attempts to accommodate a nexus of the prevailing thinking in the pews and the competing demands of very serious theologians. Consider the prayer books of 1549, 1552, 1559 and 1662. It’s a pretty remarkable evolution that worked hard to preserve our catholic heritage without being Roman while incorporating important Lutheran reforms, picking up a bit of Calvin here and there, mediating with Puritans and finally with Presbyterians. It took a brutal war, years of dictatorship and too many deaths on both sides to bring it about. At least we have not gone that far yet.

As brilliant and bloody as it was, nothing epitomizes the sort of waffling stance of Anglicanism more than the words, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.” On the one hand it proclaims the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist while on the other articulating the Reformed understanding of the bread and wine as a memorial in which Christ is present only spiritually. Is it either/or and we cannot make up our minds, or is it both/and and a holy mystery? In any case, the whole effort was little more than dressing up medieval theologies of worship in the acceptable Reformation language and thinking of the day.

Christian worship did not start with the Reformation. It did create a new direction for the greater Church but it did not establish a new foundation for Christianity. Skipping forward to the 20th century, and all the theologians aside, it was the liturgical renewal movement that brought together the churches of the catholic tradition (and others who were willing) to dig back through the modern language of the post-Elizabethan and post-Tridentine periods to rediscover the theology inherent in the earliest prayers of the church and incorporate them into contemporary worship in contemporary language. To be sure, various alternative services have also popped up with some pretty goofy language in them, but how is that all that different from the experiments between 1549 and 1662?

So it seems to me that the role of the liturgist is to put into the popular practice of worship the best of what the theologians have to offer in a way that achieves some sort of acceptable balance.

Tim Chesterton said...

OK, I'm going to back out of this conversation now, because (a) I wasn't trying to win an argument anyway, simply to test the waters of respect for a different position as validly Anglican, and (b) because posting something resembling an intelligent reply is starting to take up a disproportionate amount of my time!

Thanks, Malcolm, for the grace with which you've hosted this conversation.

Malcolm+ said...

I think it's been a very positive conversation. And a reminder that, while a moderate catholicism (at least liturgically) seems to have become the norm in North America, our tradition has never been quite so monochromatic as that.

An anecdote.

In Prince Albert a few years ago, I went to the midnight service at one parish - only to see a North End celebration - using the BAS.

I'd never seen a North End celebration before in my life. Mentioned it to several clergy back home afterwards, and they'd never seen one either. They all knew what it was, but had never seen it.

Yet that was the norm throughout the Communion for much of our history.