Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The List

Over at The Continuum (now, due to the writing of Father Hart, my favourite blog) a discussion in the comments has generated a list of basic premises that ought to be held when dealing with the Church of Rome in ecumenical dialogue. I've laid them out in a mildly adapted way here and can only add my hearty agreement.

Father Lawrence Wells contributed the following points that ought to be essential:
1) Anglican orders are absolutely valid and always have been,
2) The papal claims of infallibility are rejected,
3) The Marian dogmas of Immaculate Conception and Assumption are lacking in true Catholic consensus,
4) The Reformational understanding of justification is the only correct reading of Scripture.

Father Hart rightly added:
When Rome understands our position, then we can talk. This is no arbitrary list. I would say that at least all of these points are necessary. I would add one more:

5) "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

William Temple,

Archbishop of Canterbury, on symbolism and the Holy Eucharist

From Christus Veritas:

In the physical universe symbolism is the principle of existence. Each lower stratum of Reality exists to be the vehicle of the higher. The organism which was Christ’s Body in His earthly ministry derived the significance entitling it to that name from the fact that it was the instrument and vehicle--the effective symbol--of His Spirit. . . .The identity which makes it appropriate to speak of our Lord’s fleshy organism, the Church, and the Eucharistic Bread by one name—the Body of the Lord--is an identity of relation to His Personality on the one hand and to His disciples on the other. The addition of the outpoured Blood makes it plain that it is the symbol of His Personality as offered in sacrifice. As we receive His sacrificial Personality we become able to take our part in the one Sacrifice, which is the self-offering of humanity to God. . . .It is essential to the spiritual value of this sacrament that we do what the Lord did. It is all symbol, but it is expressive, not arbitrary, symbol; that is to say, the spiritual reality signified is actually conveyed by the symbol. The symbol is emphatically not mere symbol; if it were that, we should only receive what our minds could grasp of the meaning symbolised. It is an instrument of the Lord’s purpose to give Himself to us, as well as the symbol of what He gives. What we receive is not limited by our capacity to understand the gift. When with the right intention I receive the Bread and the Wine, I actually receive Christ, whether I have any awareness of this at the moment or not, and always more fully than I am aware. We, by repeating and so identifying ourselves with His sacrificial act, become participants in His one sacrifice. (1924, pp 239-251)

Friday, July 18, 2008

"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own."
— G.K. Chesterton


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:Grace and peace to all of you in the Name of our gracious and eternal God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I write to provide you with a report on the historic gathering of faithful Anglican Christians which took place in the city of Jerusalem from June 22 through 29, 2008. Participation in this event, known as the Global Anglican Future Conference, was by invitation only, and drew together nearly 1,200 participants representing some 35 million of the world's orthodox Anglicans from more than 25 nations on 6 continents. The Reformed Episcopal Church was represented by 14 persons including five of our bishops. The Rt. Rev. Charles W. Dorrington, the Rt. Rev. Alphonza Gadsden, Sr., the Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote, Jr., the Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, and I were all privileged to be part of this unprecedented gathering.Throughout the span of 8 days pilgrims devoted themselves intensively to worship in daily plenary sessions, to prayer in small groups, to Bible study and discussion, and to substantive examination of significant issues in skillfully conducted workshops and discussion groups. Throughout the week we traveled together to the holy places of Jerusalem and its immediate environs, as well as to more distant places such as Bethlehem and Galilee. An especially moving experience came on Wednesday, June 25, when all pilgrims assembled on the southern steps of the Temple, joining in a service of rededication and renewed commitment of Christ, to the truth of the Gospel, and to the mission of the church.The purpose of the Global Anglican Future Conference (or 'GAFCON') was stated by the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria, in his opening address. The Archbishop said that "GAFCON is a godly instrument to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican, biblical, orthodox Christianity that is firmly rooted in the historic faith and in the ancient formularies....We are here to inaugurate and determine the roadmap to our future."The logo of GAFCON bears the two words "Unity" and "Truth" superimposed upon the cross. The truth-claims of Christianity were the reiterated emphasis of the Conference, because they are the bedrock upon which historic Anglican Christianity was established. Every conference speaker and workshop leader made clear, in his own way, that Christ's desire for the unity of His people is always based upon truth. "Sanctify them through the truth; Thy Word is truth." (St. John 17:17)The outcome of this eventful week in the Holy City is articulated in the GAFCON Conference Statement, and in the Jerusalem Declaration which it embodies. This important document is attached to this letter, and I commend it to the serious attention and study of all of our people. The following matters are worthy of special note.

* Our core identity as Anglicans is clearly defined as based upon the Holy Scriptures as God's Word written; upon the catholic creeds and the ancient Councils of the undivided church; and upon the historic formularies of our Anglican heritage: the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

* The Jerusalem Declaration offers a clear and forthright articulation of our present-day commitment, mission and purpose as a fellowship of faithful Anglican Christians.

* The establishment of a Primates' Council marks a step toward restoring the church to the ancient, conciliar form of order and government by which substantive matters of belief and practice can be collectively considered, effectively determined, and strongly upheld, so that both orthodoxy and orthopraxis are maintained and promoted in the life of the church.

* The Primates' signed affirmation, attached to the Conference Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration, provides authentication and recognition to the Reformed Episcopal Church as full partners in the realigned global Anglican fellowship which has emerged from GAFCON, together with other "confessing Anglican jurisdictions" who also agree to promote the Gospel and defend the faith.

* The commitment of the Primates anticipates the formation of a new ecclesiastical structure for North America, to be presented to the Primates' Council for recognition as a province. Work on the formation of this new structure has engaged the Lead Bishops' Executive Committee throughout the past ten months, ever since the College of Bishops of the Common Cause Partnership met in Pittsburgh in September, 2007, and commissioned us with the task. Relationships within this new structure will continue to be federated, with jurisdictions retaining individual identities, integrities, and autonomy.

GAFCON establishes a new alignment and marks a new beginning for faithful Anglicans throughout the world. In particular, it launches a new era of opportunity for the Reformed Episcopal Church. With joy and thanksgiving we take our place as members of a global family and fellowship, uniting in witness, mission, and purpose to bear testimony to Jesus Christ as the only Name whereby men must be saved, and to serve Him, together with all faithful Anglicans, in building His church.

Faithfully yours, in Christ,

The Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches

Presiding Bishop

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thoughts on GAFCON

by the Rt. Rev. Paul C. Hewett, SSC

Moderator of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas

Bishop of the Diocese of the Holy Cross

Nearly 1,200 pilgrims from five continents, representing 35 million faithful Anglicans, two thirds of the Anglican Communion, gathered for 8 days in Jerusalem, in what must surely be the most significant watershed for Anglicans since the Reformation.

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, the Communion’s largest province, gave the Opening Address, entitled “GAFCON – A Rescue Mission.” “GAFCON,” he said, “is a godly instrument to reshape, reform, renew and reclaim a true Anglican Biblical orthodox Christianity that is firmly anchored in historic faith and ancient formularies...We are here to inaugurate and determine the roadmap to (our) future. And from what better place in the world could we take the fullest advantage of the most powerful reminders of the life and ministry of our Lord and only Saviour Jesus the Christ than here in the holy land where he was born, grew up, served, was killed, rose again for our justification, ascended to heaven and now is seated at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us.”

Normally a conference of this magnitude takes years to prepare. GAFCON was put together, brilliantly, and funded, in five months. The hand of God was upon this mighty work. Our time together was filled with pilgrimages to holy sites, worship, devotional prayer sessions, workshops, Bible study and several plenary sessions. Each of these was arranged so that we could truly be pilgrims, journeying from our roots into the future God has in mind for us. We heard outstanding presentations and sermons from Professor Os Guinness, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England, Archbishop Yong Ping Chung from Malaysia and Archbishop Gregory Venables from the Southern Cone, and numerous others. The daily morning workshops were superb. I looked in on two, “Family and Marriage,” and “Anglican Identity in the 21st Century.” The others were “Gospel and Culture,” “Gospel and Leadership,” “Biblical Authority and Interpretation,” “Evangelism and Church Planting,” “Theological Education,” and “Bishops’ Wives.” We had opportunities to visit shrines in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee.
FACA was represented by bishops, clergy and laity from the Diocese of the Holy Cross, the Episcopal Missionary Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Mission in America. I had an opportunity to speak as part of a panel of bishops in the Common Cause Partnership, when we met as the CCP to lay out our perceptions and expectations. I said that it was clear that a green light was being given to us in North America to use CCP as the nucleus of a new and recognized North American province that could remain federated until it resolves its differences. And in so resolving our differences, we must always commit ourselves to the consensus of the undivided Church of the first millennium.

Forward in Faith from North America and England were well represented, and it was very useful to have time to network closely with them, to keep coordinated and on the same page. We could see that what GAFCON was doing was launching a new, or second, reformation, positioning itself as the beginning of an ecclesial movement for renewal and proclamation opportunities. To do this GAFCON would open up enough structure, like a giant umbrella, within which we can deal with secondary issues. The largest of these is the ordination of women. In his Address, “Where do we go from here?” Bishop John Rodgers noted the “serious degree of impaired communion...around this matter,” and the need for a proper study such as the one AMiA conducted. To encourage this, Forward in Faith at its recent Assembly in Belleville, IL, passed a resolution urging Common Cause Partners who ordain women to begin such a study, with a moratorium on ordinations until the study is completed. The same resolution will be on the agenda at FACA’s meeting this September.

Bishop Rodgers went on to assert the necessity of returning to “a common prayer book tradition. The classic expression of this is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal. This classic prayer book is grace-centered to a unique degree. Cranmer surpassed all others in placing the Gospel in the center of the worship and prayers of the people.”

He also takes a strong stand for a conciliar form of governance, using the sobornost theology of the Russian Orthodox Church and the other Orthodox. “Our present form is really more like a global family picnic than a council. The early Church from biblical times onward held councils, not picnics...In addition, with regard to ecumenical conversations, a conciliar form of Communion would enable clearer and more easily recognized conversations and cooperation. We should do this because it is biblical, traditional, catholic, missional and ecumenical.” In a Diocese like ours, Holy Cross, we already have a markedly conciliar way of governance. For example, we have holy synods, not conventions. The business or political part of our synods is an hour or two at most, and the rest is all “fellowship in the Holy Spirit.” It is recognized in advance that no matter of Faith or Morals could ever even appear on an agenda.

Bishop Rodger’s projection for the future is that a new faithful Anglican conciliar Communion should be formed as soon as possible. The GAFCON primates would call a Council “which would begin the reformed Global Anglican Family comprised of all those provinces, dioceses and congregations as wished and were able to align with it. It would thus initiate the reformed Anglican Family allowing it to take its place in the world, unattached from the present Anglican Communion. The days of weak response and delay are past. The issues are far too serious, too serious for the spread of the Apostolic Gospel, and too serious for the preservation and vital work of faithful Anglicanism. No matter what the pain or no matter what the cost, we are called by the Lord to devote ourselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers, while living in vigorous apostolic mission.”

The opportunities for networking were massive, meeting new people and strengthening existing ties, with people like Fr. Kevin Donlon, Bp. Mark Lawrence, Professor Edith Humphrey, Bp. John Rodgers, Fr. Douglas Mussey, Bp. and Mrs. Jim Davis, and Ron Spears and the Association of Western Anglican Congregations, and many others. After the final Eucharist and lunch, the Ackermans took me to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I shall never forget kneeling in the Empty Tomb with Bishop Keith, placing our SSC Pectoral Crosses on the spot where Jesus rose from the dead.

Bishop Keith by the way was a strong presence at GAFCON, as was everyone from Forward in Faith and FACA. Everyone knows that we cannot and will not compromise the ministry as our Lord instituted it and the apostles continued it. We are not, and can never be, in communion with anyone who ordains women. If those who do so continue the practice, we will remain in our federated relationships, entirely independent in our own synods and structures. But we will declare to them “all the counsel of God,” (Acts 20:27) and the way in which all the issues we face are interrelated. All these issues are one and the same thing: the gnostic impulse to redefine human nature apart from Christ. Those who persist in ordaining women are backing themselves into an ever-shrinking corner. It is the women themselves who are increasingly going to rise up against it, and ask that the tables in the house of the Lord have men at their heads. Boys must have this if they are to be men-in-Christ. Our culture is crumbling because not enough boys are learning how to be godly men. Chesterton predicted, early in the 20th century, that the most radical thing in the world by the end of the century would be Christian Fatherhood. The Bible shows us how patriarchy is redeemed, modeled in Jesus the Son, who reveals the Father as the ultimate gracious Patriarch. The Incarnation of the Son is the ultimate in kenosis, or self-emptying. In the Holy Spirit, patriarchy is gracious and kenotic.

For a proper, biblical release of feminine gifts that grows out of the one great tradition, we begin with Our Lady, the first Christian, the new Eve. With a growing awareness of Mary as our Mother, we can begin to ennumerate and build up the ways in which girls and women live in the Body, first as wives and mothers, and then in the plethora of ministries that are or can be open to them, according to their gifts, to build once again a culture of life. Christian women from Africa, with their dress, modesty, courtesy and manners, have some things to teach us, and are a good example to our secular culture.

It is essential that we deepen our relationships with Rome and Orthodoxy, first and foremost because our Lord desires this, and also because the Muslims are coming. At the very least, we need to learn to speak with one moral voice in the face of the rising tide of Islam. The person who hinted at the need for convergence with the larger Catholic world was the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, in his brilliant talk, “The Nature and Future of the Anglican Communion.” The patristic consensus of the undivided Church is our foundation as Anglicans, and is now the basis for dialogue with Rome and Orthodoxy.

As Anglo Catholics we have been in the purgative fires for over 30 years. The Evangelicals have not been in as many refinings. We need to help them understand the Catholic Faith. We need to help them get rid of the cancer of gnosticism that has invaded evangelicalism and the mushy theology that has marked much of the charismatic world. We can help them to really go counter cultural and swim against the tide, as transformers of our culture. Meanwhile they can help us become better evangelicals and take sides with John Wesley, who saw the world as his parish, not his parish as his world. I am going to be asking what opportunities or structures we can create for encounters, at the deepest level, between Anglo catholic, evangelical and charismatic Anglicans.

I would say that GAFCON got it about right with the amount of structure being put into place. We can go slowly on structures now, until we begin to sort out the issues we face. This is the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic way. We cooperate to the greatest extent possible, and let the paperwork follow. This will help us to steer clear of some of the division that followed the St. Louis Congress in 1977. In some ways GAFCON resembled St. Louis on a global scale. One senses from both events that from now on, nothing will ever be the same. What makes GAFCON different is the preponderance of Global South leadership and membership, which will drive our faithful Communion for generations to come.

Of the three models for governance (confessional, conciliar and magisterial) we will, many of us hope, emphasize the conciliar. We are a confessing Church, (now, more than ever, like the confessing church movement in Nazi Germany that resisted Hitler). But we are not a Church with a Confession (a quite lengthy doctrinal statement) like the Lutherans and Presbyterians. Our only confessions are the 3 creeds of the primitive Church, and the Ecumenical Councils. There can be magisterial elements in our governance, because the Book of Common Prayer is our equivalent of a magisterium, a teaching office. But like the Orthodox, we do not have a magisterium centered in the Pope. The teaching office of the Pope should be sufficient for the entire Body, because all Christians should be aware of what he says, and take it very seriously.
GAFCON’s blessing to us in the United States is the acceptance by the Primates’ Council of the Common Cause Partnership as the nucleus of a new province in North America. Building this is a monumental task, probably our last chance to “get it right.” The task before us is staggering, as it was before Nehemiah and the Jews returning from exile. Nehemiah told them “of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” (Nehemiah 2: 18)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bishop N.T. Wright on the Colbert Report. . .

Truth in advertising here: I think N.T. Wright is an excellent New Testament scholar and theologian. However, he is very weak on other areas of theology and when he walks off the path into political theorizing he sounds like a liberal member of the House of Lords channeling Karl Marx. Also, I really don't like the parody show "The Colbert Report." All that being said, I think N.T. Wright did rather well in this little segment, given to his sticking to what he knows best:

Some initial thoughts (on GAFCON)

by + John H. Rodgers Jr.


It is important, when considering what was accomplished at GAFCON, to keep in mind its singular focus. That focus was to identify the Anglican grasp of the apostolic faith, to claim that identity for the whole Anglican Communion and to provide a firm oversight and standing from which to confess the apostolic faith as we Anglicans have received it. This singular focus meant that many very important matters were not directly addressed at GAFCON, in the Statement or in the Jerusalem Declaration. This by no means relegates matters such as the status of 5th, 6th and 7th Councils, the ordination of women, the form of the Anglican Communion, abortion, the nature of and conflict with militant Islam, our relation to the persecuted Church etc. to secondary issues. There are serious issues and differences among the fellowship of confessing Anglicans that must and will be faced. It will not be easy, nor will solutions be sudden, nor can we be absolutely certain that some will not, in the end, decide they must walk apart. The difference is that they will be faced in the context of the authority of Holy Scriptures and the apostolic faith as Anglicans have historically received it. The Conference said, echoing Canon A5 of the Chu rch of England: “The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teaching of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it.”

With that in mind, let me state I believe to be the most important things that we did accomplish:

1. We are the Communion. “We are not breaking away from the Anglican Communion.”
In essence the fellowship of confessing Anglicans took things in hand and declared that we are the true and faithful Anglicans, upholding the historic Anglican grasp of the apostolic faith, and as such we are the true representatives of the Anglican Communion. Let those who are departing from historic Anglican convictions about the authority and content of the Scriptures come back to what Anglicans have confessed all along. If they are unwilling to do so, it is they, not we, who should leave. I suspect that there are differing expectations among those who have placed themselves under the Jerusalem Declaration as to the future of the structures and membership of the Anglican Communion as it is presently constituted. I myself do not see how we can long abide together structurally, but I could be wrong, my friends do remind me of the parting of the Red Sea and God still does miracles. However, of a faithful confessing Anglican Communion, all at the Conference expressed a confidence in a fruitful and “bright future”.

2. We are under the Jerusalem Declaration.

If we are a confessing fellowship of Anglicans, then we have to be clear as to what we are confessing. In essence we are simply confessing what the Scriptures confess, the apostolic confession. The 16th Century Reformation was not a new faith but a correction of teachings and practices where the Western Church had contradicted Scripture. It was a return to the apostles teaching, particularly with regard to the depth of sin in fallen humanity and the application of God’s grace to the sinner. The specific value of the Declaration is not that it is new, for it is not; it is really ancient in content. The value is that it is clear and concise and we can all be held accountable to teach and act in accord with its statements. One need only to be familiar with much that is being said and taught and done in significant portions of the Anglican Communion today to see what a difference adherence to the Declaration would make, were all to comply with its teaching. We mean to set a caring, welcoming example of obedience.

3. We are under the oversight of Primates who themselves are under the Jerusalem Declaration.
The establishment of a Council of Primates who can and will give recognition, oversight and direction to the various expressions of the fellowship of confessing Anglicans constitutes a new form of authority among Anglicans. It is an effective form of authority. It is concilior, that is, we are governed by a council. It has authority to act. And it is new and distinct from the all other authorities previously existent in the Anglican Communion. It is hoped and expected that other Primates will be added to this Council. There is a freeing aspect to the formation of the Primates Council as well. Being under the Primates Council, we can ignore erroneous and oppressive structures and leaders. In the Jerusalem Declaration we have said that we reject the authority of leaders, structures and churches that operate in contradiction of the apostolic faith as Anglicans have received it. For example, it is noteworthy that this Council of Primates will give recognition to the new orthodox province in North America. The Anglican Consultative Council, which is the official body in the Anglican Communion which recognizes provinces, will be by-passed and not be asked to recognize the new province. Surely this is an application of the rejection of an authority which at present is not seen to be in agreement with the apostolic faith. Couple that claim to and exercise of authority with the assertion that being Anglican is not necessarily attached to recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury and one sees a very serious demarcation and hedge of protection for the fellowship of confessing Anglicans and for the call to all Anglicans to return to the apostolic faith.

Two thoughts come to mind. First, I wonder if those quickly reading the Statement and Declaration have realized just how serious this action is. One could hold that this action is actually more searching and radical than just leaving would have been.

Second, we can only hope that this initial concilior form of governance under the Primates Council will one day be the form of the entire Anglican Communion. At present, with our autonomous provincial structure, we Anglicans lack an authority to effectively discipline errant provinces. The Concilior form of oversight is biblical, apostolic, patristic, catholic, and ecumenical in nature. Our present structure in the Anglican Communion has existed only after Henry the VIIIth absorbed concilior authority to Himself and as the Anglican Communion grew outside of the Great Britain. Our loose federation resembles an international annual family picnic more than a global Communion. The early Church held a council not a picnic. Unlike some in fellowship of confessing Anglicans, I do believe the Communion is a visible expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as are congregations, dioceses and provinces, each in their own sphere, and hence is best governed by a council and is to be in conformity to Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the 39 Articles. This too is a difference among us needing to be addressed in the days ahead.

Conclusion: On Mission: Free to Serve

We do not know what the future holds, given this bold claim and action by the fellowship of confessing Anglicans, but we do know that we have been delivered from the oversight and from limitation by those oppressive structures and leaders in the Communion (not all of structures and leaders in the Communion by any means) that have been moving in an increasingly unbiblical consensus and direction. Such compromise, error and time-consuming delay has hindered us in our mission. Now we have been freed to serve without hindrance or delay. May we in the days ahead, by God’s mercy, take full advantage of the freedom to serve Him that He has given to us. And may the entire Communion return to its apostolic foundation and calling. So help us God!