Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sorry Rowan I don't agree with you

To illustrate my view on the proposed Anglican Covenant I simply quote these words from Anglican blogger Jared Cramer in his analysis of the flaws in Archbishop Rowan's response to the recent General Convention of the US Episcopal Church:

" I believe the fundamental problem with ++Rowan’s perspective is the idea that “the present structures” have “safeguarded our unity.” Rowan’s faith is in structures to safeguard the church. We should give greater muscles to the Instruments of Unity, or we should sign on to an agreed upon statement and Covenant. If we work hard enough on these structures, they will keep us in community with one another.

The problem is that community is not the sort of thing that will be enforced by structures. Rather, our unity as Christians is safeguarded by a set of Christ-like practices, by an attitude of meekness and humility. To wit, we are safeguarded by being more Christ like. If all within the church began to truly discern the body, to see the grave harm that comes whenever one part says to another, “I have no need of you,” then our unity would be strengthened. If all within the church saw the need for respecting the conscience and study of their brothers and sisters, trusting the Spirit to guide us into all truth, then our unity would be strengthened.

This is what has safeguarded the church, this is what will continue to safeguard the church: grounding our lives in the self-giving glory of God in Christ, shaping our lives after the Gospel, looking to recognize the gifts of those pushed to the edges and finding our own lives transformed by their witness. Structures will come in go, a lifestyle and attitude shaped by Christ will safeguard the church until God draws all things to Godself. I fear sometimes that ++Rowan and the broader church have forgotten that. I pray that we will all remember."


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Queen gets it right on FCA

There's been criticism by gay rights defenders of the Queen's message of good wishes to the newly-formed Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) meeting in London this week. And some Anglicans too might feel dismayed that the Governor of the Church of England appears to be endorsing a breakaway group. But I think the Queen has pulled off a rather wonderful diplomatic coup. By sending this message she's neutralising the threat and danger this group might be perceived to present to the rest of the Church. Here is yet another grouping in the wonderful diversity of the broad river of Anglicanism alongside all the others like Forward in Faith, Affirming Catholicism, or Affirming Liberalism.

It's like a loving mother who quietly and persistently affirms her enduring compassion for her rebellious teenage son even though he says the most horrible things about his family of origin all the while continuing to crave his mother's love. After all FCA appears to sought an endorsement from the Queen.

There's no doubt the FCA are saying "horrible" things about its family of origin, the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion. Though it's opinions are profoundly false and widely regarded as such by the majority of members of the Church of England, the difficulty the FCA presents is that it regards itself as the true bearers of apostolic Christianity in the Anglican tradition and the rest of us, who do not share its particular interpretations, as apostate. This is a tricky situation because some of the opinions the FCA hold, such as its rejection of homosexual love, were previously held by the whole Church as self-evident interpretations of the biblical tradition. And still are by many Anglicans the world over.

This is a re-visiting of contests which were fought at the beginning of the Church of England in the late sixteenth century; about whether all the laws of Scripture are binding on the Church and Christians, or whether there is an essential core of revealed laws which are necessary to be followed for salvation, whilst many other issues of Christian practice and church order are matters to be decided by the mind of the Christian community. Since the magisterial work of Richard Hooker (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity 8 vols c 1600)the mainstream position of the Church of England has been the latter view.

The FCA and similar groupings argue that those Anglicans who have revised the earlier position of the Church on homosexuality and the role of women in the ordained ministry have allowed the truths of the faith to be captured by secular cultural beliefs. In reality, the reverse is the case. Repression of homosexuality and the prescription of roles based on gender are cultural expressions which were elevated wrongly though understandably to the status of gospel truth; and are now being abandoned by many Anglicans who recognise this.

The Queen's tactic is a re-assertion of the mainstream Anglican tradition; that there are many secondary issues upon which Anglicans may disagree as times change, but that does not mean we must vilify one another as apostates and heretics, or still less ignore one another either. This is the genius of the Anglican Spirit. We must not lose it. And St Paul appears to have given it a good start when he wrote in his Letter to the Romans:

"Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister?Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?" (Rom 14: 10)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Holding Together: Gospel, Church and Spirit by Christopher Cocksworth

Holding Together: Gospel,Church and Spirit-the essentials of Christian indentity: Gospel, Church and Spirit - The Essentials of Christian Identity Holding Together: Gospel,Church and Spirit-the essentials of Christian indentity: Gospel, Church and Spirit - The Essentials of Christian Identity by Christopher J. Cocksworth

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book has an admirable intention. It tries to show that the Scripture, the Church and the Spirit are essential elements of being Christian which all churches must hold together if they are to be true to the core of Christianity. It is aimed especially at the evangelical wing of the church, but it also has challenging things to say to the Catholic wing especially about the place of Scripture.

There are very compelling arguments made , based on biblical and early church evidence. The works of the Protestant Reformers, such as Luther and Calvin are quoted too; and the principal source of evidence for an evangelical appreciation of the Eucharist is the work of John and Charles Wesley.

There is a very good chapter on the role of Mary in Christian spirituality. Whilst it may not persuade convinced believers in the Bodily Assumption or the Immaculate Conception to moderate their adherence to these dogmas; it may persuade evangelicals that they need to give fresh attention to Mary.

The large gap in the book is its failure to bridge the bigger yawning gulf in the Church, which is between the liberals or progressives and the conservatives, be they catholic , evangelical or charismatic. Liberal Christians will definitely be disappointed in this book if they had looked for fresh thinking on how to hold together with conservatives. Barack Obama might have more to offer them on this topic than this book.

Evangelicals and Catholics who are both in their own ways traditional in orientation have lived together in the same house in the Church of England like an old married couple whose love for each other has declined, but have decided its too expensive to get divorced. There are occasional , and sometimes fierce spats over territory, but on the whole they rub along without talking to each other more than they need to. Cocksworth's commendable hope is that they might learn to love one another again, and bring the house back to life.

The fierce arguments however are in the wider Anglican Communion, and especially within the United States, over how binding on the future church are traditional conceptions of Christian identity, personal and communal. So there are conflicts over homosexuality and gender issues.

I don't recall a single reference to homosexuality or women bishops in this book.

Finally the biggest difficulty with the book is its style. It is a very tough read. It can no more be digested in one sitting than a whole Christmas pudding!There is little to lighten the dense concentration of facts and arguments. It might be said that there are ten books in one here. Too much of the prose exposes its origins in theological college lecture or sermon. There is little likelihood that the book will be persevered with by those who might need to hear its message. It could be a useful source for Anglican ordinands in training; though the lack of a subject index limits this.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An odd god not to believe in

Have you travelled on an “atheist bus” yet? This is the
campaign, initiated by journalist Ariane Sherine and backed
by Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, to
place posters on buses which say “There is probably no God.
Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I haven’t been on one
yet and I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if I had to! The official responses of church leaders seem pretty relaxed though, even welcoming to the campaign, because when people see these posters it will make them think about the most important question in life. The word “probably” is the key. As one commentator pointed out: this is more unsettling to an agnostic than saying nothing at all – rather like saying to your spouse as the plane leaves the ground for your summer holiday “I probably locked the front door, so stop worrying and enjoy your holiday”!
I’m interested by the second sentence. The idea seems to be that since there is no God you can stop worrying and enjoy life. I’m enjoying the irony in that. “Stop worrying and enjoy life” is a fair summary of the message of Jesus! No need I’m sure for me to give you the gospel quotes here. What do you think?