Saturday, March 25, 2017

It is all happening

To be honest, I have little to say today. What is worth thinking about are some comments I have just posted to the previous post, comments which illuminate the possibilities when we think theologically with theo-logic rather than theologically with today's-thinking-logic.

But, if it interests you, today has possibilities to reflect on tomorrow: a training day followed by an ordination of four deacons who will be priested.

There is a cricket test starting.

A quick glimpse of a headline suggests Trump cannot get the new health care bill over the line.

See you soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

More on the Sheffield Debacle

Excellent points made here at Episcopal Cafe re the recent controversy over the appointment of Philip North to be Bishop of Sheffield (subsequently withdrawn from by Philip North himself).

We can be all things to all Anglicans - sort of - but, actually, there are "limits to diversity", toleration within certain degrees only. As English Baptists and Dissenters once found out.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wellington Episcopal Movements

Announced yesterday, Ellie Sanderson will be the new Assistant Bishop of Wellington (consecration, 2 June 2017).

But note in the article mention of another "episcopal movement" in the Diocese, the move of Diocesan Bishop Justin Duckworth to Whanganui (northern part of the Diocese). (Ellie Sanderson will be based in Wellington city).

This represents a striking initiative on the part of a Diocesan Bishop, possibly unknown in the 20th and 21st centuries in our church, to move residence from the cathedral city to another location in order to advance the mission of the church.

We keep saying if we do things the same as we have always done before we will get the same results.

While I am not entirely convinced of the truth of that statement (because faithfulness over time can lead to eventual fruitfulness, cf another mantra, vicars need to stay in their parishes at least seven years to see numerical growth  ...), I suggest + Justin is to be applauded for initiating a new direction in his episcopal leadership of the Diocese.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer

Yesterday was the day we Protestants remembered one of our favoured saints. No, wait, that doesn't read quite right.

Yesterday was the day we Catholic [Anglicans] remembered one of our favourite Protestant saints. Also, no, wait, that doesn't read quite right.

Let's try again. The middle way. Yesterday was the anniversary of Thomas Cranmer's death.

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer.

There are many things we can name about TC with thankfulness: his example, his humility, his ability, his survivability (until that fateful day).

But perhaps one thing stands out with Thomas Cranmer: he had a way with words. Wordsmith. Poet. Liturgist. He did things with words which few have done. Namely, written words which have been used, said, cited, repeated, and, still, in the face of updates and revisions, used, said, cited, and repeated for nearly 500 years.

Here is C. S. Lewis on Cranmer:

First he notes:
"Thomas Cranmer's great achievements as a translator are sunk in the corporate anonymity of the Book of Common Prayer." 
Secondly he observes his deficiency, apart from the Prayer Book achievement:
"the finished product, except in the Prayer Book, is so severely utilitarian that we might not have suspected any conscious concern for style in the author." 
Thirdly he highlights his clarity:
[Writing about his Homilies] "They aim neither at subtlety nor eloquence. Cranmer's only concern is to state an agreed doctrine with the least possibility of misunderstanding ... there is hardly a single sentence that leaves us in doubt of its meaning."
[pp. 194-95, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (OUP, 1954)]

So Cranmer gave expression to the newly reformed faith of the Church in England as it became the Church of England. Expression through liturgy. Exposition through doctrine. Memorable words, clear sentences.

What is our faith as Christians if not a matter of words, words which tell the truth, words which proclaim good news. Words which tell us both how we might live and what we might die for, without regret or being in vain.

Cranmer gave us Anglicans the words we needed to express our distinctive faith even as that faith was continuous with the faith received through Scripture and the ancient fathers.

I thank God for Thomas Cranmer!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (C)

With two posts below in view, what is the greatest question Lambeth 2020 could address?

No. It is not whether Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump. It is not even whether Trump is like the Worst Ever Thing To Happen To The Western World.

It concerns God's Will In The Long Run

In the long run, however we interpret the long narrative arcing through Scripture, from Eden to Paradise, earth then heaven or heaven on earth (lookin' at you Tom Wright), this is God's will:

that God is in communion with God's people and that people is a single body of humanity.

There are no separate areas in heaven for Catholics and Protestants, for men and women, for the former masters and the former slaves. One people. One. That's the meaning of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5), ut unim sint (John 17), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), the communistic vision of the early church (Acts 2, 4) and the glorious vision of many tribes and languages gathered as one humanity in God's presence (Revelation 7).

Whether we focus on the prayer at the heart of the Lord's Prayer, Your Kingdom Come (OK, especially for some readers and for the CofE, Thy Kingdom Come) or on the kernel of the theology of Ephesians ("a plan ... to unite all things in [Christ]") there is one will of God in the long run: one communion, one people, one God.

That's why Trump is so dangerous: he is a divider not a uniter. That's why we are right to be wary of Putin: nationalism has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. That's why ISIS is simply evil: it maims and kills "the other."

So the greatest question Lambeth 2020 as our Anglican Vatican 2 for the 21st century could ask is this:

How can the Anglican Communion bear witness to the will of God for all humanity?

There are many supplementary questions but this overarching question is vital. The church does not exist for itself but for God and for God's will. And God's will is greater than the church, it is a will for all humanity. Our task in bearing witness to this will includes calling people to God, calling people to repent of all sin (for that distorts and disrupts God's plan), calling people to forgive and to be forgiven

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (B)

What if Anglicans had a conference the equivalent of the one Pope John XXIII called, known now as Vatican 2, which discussed a range of topics?

The topics, except That Topic, which involve our Anglican Communion response to the post-modern world.

Topics whose discussion involve strengthening the Anglican Communion.

That conference could be Lambeth 2018 2020, which ++Welby is in the process of designing/calling into being. Yes, yes, I know, we all want a laity/clergy/bishops conference of Anglicans. But can we not trust our bishops? You know, the ones we elected because we thought they were trustworthy!

What might we usefully discuss? Here be some thoughts. Some not original but sourced from commenter here (see beginning of yesterday's post). You make yours in the comments ... we might yet get a (C) post.

Caveat: I know that most if not all of what follows is "Western" in outlook whereas the Communion is "Western," "African," "Asian," "Oceania," etc.

Some pretty big picture stuff

What shifts in the tectonic plates of culture are taking place? What responses are appropriate for Christians, for churches, for Anglican churches? What responses are sustainable? Are we entering an epoch like the Dark Ages for which the "Benedict Option" us required?

Do we concentrate on making the church truly Christian in a post-Christian age, and worry less about evangelization/Christianization?

(Do we understand the tidal wave of hostile post-Christianity which is bearing down on the West? See, for instance, this article about the "Benedict Option" and the trickle down effects of post-Christianity in our academies. H/T B. Black.)

What is the gospel? What is "good news" for the world today?

Is its core point of connection with this post-Christian world "justification by faith"? (What was going on in 1517 which made that pertinent and is 2017 the same kind of era?)

Or is it John's Gospel's cri de coeur that abundant life is available through Christ?

Luke's emphasis, is that the better connection to our hurting world, that God loves the last, least and lost?

Perhaps Matthew comes into play: the blessed life lies inside God's kingdom, secured through recognition of our poverty of spirit and sustained through obedience to Jesus' ethics of the kingdom?

Wow, imagine an Anglican version of Vatican 2 which aggiornamentoed (updated) our understanding of the gospel, precisely by engaging with the aggiornamento of the NT documents themselves as they translated the gospel of Jesus for the new worlds into which the first Christians migrated!

Useful stuff

A strength of the Anglican way is the ways within its ways: evangelical, catholic, liberal, (in our case) Maori, Pasefika pathways. Woven together these strands make us stronger.

But what does it mean to be (say) a catholic Anglican in the 21st century (cue discussion of rites, lace, divides between "modern" and traditional catholics, etc)? How can catholic Anglicanism be the best catholic Anglicanism? What specific charisms does it offer the Communion?

I have a specific, tribal concern for Anglican evangelicalism. 1517/2017 Reformational celebrations highlight that concern for me which I put like this here: how can we evangelicals look forwards as much as we look backwards as we promote gospel, Scripture, doctrine and liturgy? An alternative way of saying this is this: if Luther and Cranmer (respectively)  catalysed the transformation of German and English medieval churches (weighted towards works rather than grace, guilt rather than peace, transubstantiation rather than transformation, Latin Scripture/liturgy), notably ending with churches speaking their own indigenous languages, who are our Luthers and Cranmers today? What is the work they need to do to translate the gospel into the language of post-Christianity?

To give a specific example: when both Luther and Cranmer highlighted the importance of justification by faith and not by works, their renewed understanding of the gospel scratched the itch of medieval Christianity which weighted achievement of salvation towards our works and away from Christ's work. That itch no longer exists in the world around us. (It can exist within the church!) What itch is it that 21st century Luthers and Cranmers need to discern in order for their new scratch to relate to it?

There are various "dittos" in this section so that we could do with a Vatican 2-style Anglican Lambeth Conference which looks at science, at social ethics and social justice.

A pretty big picture issue 

Then, surely, such a conference needs to re-look at what it means to be "Anglican Communion." Great idea in theory - the best idea. Interdependency. What is not to like about such ecclesiology? But why is it not proving a great idea in practice? What might we do to ensure that we are what we say we are? That the label on the tin matches the contents within?

Yes, that could mean renewed discussion of "the Covenant." But it could also mean looking at the current Instruments? Are they fit for purpose? Do we need an ABC who has less responsibilities within the CofE?

All of this is worth doing because of the biggest picture of them all ...

God's will in the long run

Let's leave that to tomorrow. Today's time remaining is pressing against today's To Do List!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Welby's John XXIII moment at Lambeth 2020? (A)

Let's join two notes together.

One is this report of the Lambeth Design Group meeting to plan Lambeth 2018 2020 [H/T R Smith]. The other is a suggestion from a commenter here.

The combo goes like this: what if Anglicans had a conference the equivalent of the one Pope John XXIII called, known now as Vatican 2, which discussed a range of topics?

(Except the You Know What topic which is consuming energy, time and affectionate bonds. Also out of bounds here during Lent 2017.)

Yes, even better could be a Pan Protestant Conference which offers a Protestant aggiornamento (you may need to look that word up! But it is a vital word for gospel minded people today.)

What topics, you ask?

The topics, except That Topic, which involve our Anglican Communion response to the post-modern world.

Topics whose discussion involve strengthening the Anglican Communion.

The Communion, let us never forget, which many Anglicans prior to our current woes thought the ace means of representing the best of "church" in the world: an interdependent communion of churches, not tied to a hierarchy like Rome, better bound together than the Eastern Orthodox churches, faithful to God's Being in Communion. A potent model for fissiparous Protestant churches to consider following. Worth strengthening!

I will develop thoughts on these topics further tomorrow. But suffice for today to say that I continue to be overwhelmed by the state of the world and underwhelmed by many (sincere, intentional, hard working) efforts to relate the gospel of Christ to that state.

Need, meet solution? Itch, meet scratch?

More tomorrow ...