Monday, May 25, 2009

Faith and Disorder - the Odd Couple

Okay, I'm about to make claims that the Anglican Communion is - as a branch of the catholic church - not able to futz around with faith and order. I know that it'll make Vicky Gene cry, but it's true.

This is from the most recent Anglican SPREAD communique. They (or, I should say, we) are the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine (‘as classically expressed in the Anglican Formularies: the Thirty-nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal’).

Rowan Williams own comments would have supported this perception. Only twelve months previously, on 22 July 2001, the London Sunday Telegraph, in a report entitled ‘Archbishop hits out at ban on gay clergy’ Dr Williams, then Archbishop of Wales, claimed that the 1991 ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ report’s bar on the ordination of active homosexuals was incoherent and “this unwillingness to come clean can’t last. It is a contradiction.”

However, on his translation to the See of Canterbury, Williams’ enthusiasm for ‘coming clean’ seemed to be much dampened. He minimised his commitments to the gay lobby and wrote to reassure the Anglican Primates, saying ‘I have to distinguish plainly between personal theories and interpretations and the majority conviction of my Church.’ He has continued to emphasise this distinction between his personal (and in fact widely disseminated) views on the one hand and his official responsibility on the other.

You think if he says that with a pretty enough grin, we'll just give him a pass on that?

Oooh! Nice try. No...this is the standard Kantian retreat from integrity. It might work in a philosophy class, maybe even politics. But do you really believe that creedal, confessional Christians can be held together by someone who does not have convictions as to the trustworthiness of the Church's truth claims?

Hold on to your hat, Archbishop. Somebody is going to call you on that.

Superficially, this may seem generous, even sacrificial, but the consequences for the Church’s commitment to truth are serious. As Gerald Bray has observed, ‘Not to believe the teachings he is expected to defend is not a sign of superior holiness, as some have alleged, but the very opposite – it is deceitfulness taken to a higher level of deception.’ (Churchman Vol.122 No.4 2008 p293)

DOH!!! Too late!

This ‘higher level of deception’ is serious because, as a principle, it has the potential to downgrade Christian truth across the board. If the Archbishop of Canterbury himself can publicly treat the upholding of the plain teaching of Scripture as a formal duty rather than a personal commitment, the door is open to a kind of institutionalised hypocrisy in which it is acceptable to observe the formalities of orthodoxy while at the same time dissolving the substance of orthodoxy by conceding its provisionality. It is not difficult to see where this is leading; for instance Richard Holloway, former Primus (Primate) of Scotland cheerfully described himself in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald as an agnostic and yet can see no reason why he should stop ministering in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

I have no idea where national churches think that they get the authority to change the catholic faith and trivialize such essentials as the resurrection (which Mr. Holloway denies as a member of the Westar Institute) yet still keep less catholic traditions (such as liturgies, ideas of ministry & order, etc) in play. And they of course claim some sort of ethical high ground (while defending the ‘right’ to kill babies). Nonsense! (John Spong, et al...I’m talking to you!)

And this is why the Anglican Covenant will not work. Its minimal doctrine and diluted disciplinary provisions are simply inadequate in a Communion where we can no longer be certain what people mean by the words they use and whether they believe the words they use. Dr Williams by no means bears sole responsibility for this culture, but he presides over it and has lent it respectability.

It is said that the partisan nature of his appointment contained the seeds of Speaker Martin’s downfall and this week he has suffered the sudden death of his political career. The partisan nature of Dr Williams’ appointment also contains the seeds of his downfall, but his is likely to be a slow death as the confusion he has sown theologically gradually manifests itself in practice, as most recently in Jamaica. And in this light, we can see that GAFCON’s great contribution to the Anglican Communion has been to begin the process of restoring confessional confidence so that, as one body, Anglicans can speak of God and the gospel truthfully and clearly.

Read the rest here. I try to cut the poor guy some slack...after all, there are rumours that he's already looking for a way out of office.

Oh yeah...have a wonderful Feast of the Ascension!

Dr. Schori asks: “Is that the feast where everybody assents to our modifications of catholic faith and order?”’s where the whole Church remembers that Christ is King, he rules in his Church. We don't have the authority to change things that he instituted. And we acknowledge that he will grow his Church when we do his will.

Dr. Schori adds: “Hmmm....I wonder why we’re not growing?”

Yeah...keep telling yourself it’s that because of demographic shifts and your sterling education.

Nope...can’t possibly have anything to do with not disciplining heretical clergy or trying to consecrate Buddhists as bishops.


Reformed Catholic said...

I see that many Anglicans are having the same doubts that many Presbyterians are having.

As many know, the PCUSA went through another round of trying to change the ordination standards. This time the margin for keeping the standards vs. changing the standards shrunk.

IMHO, I feel this occurred that many moderate Presbyterians in the middle felt that the language in the proposed change brought it closer to what Jesus would want !!

Based on the language those who were call to ordained service would ... pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions.The trouble is, this assumes that everyone is reading the Bible from the same page so to speak. Of course, we already know that a few ordained ministers in the PCUSA don't believe most of the New Testament.

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Confessional integrity assured that we were reading the Scriptures together, obviating the need for extended legislation of moral codes. That's what the Westminster standards did for the Presbyterian Church - until they were eroded by C-1967 and 40+ years of doctrinal decay.

The PCUS had a thin little Book of Order - no directory for worship (Westminster had provided that, though it was not binding). They had a big thick book of the Westminster Standards, with Scriptural proofs under each point. When the Confession is meaty, the constitution doesn't have to be. Look at US legal code vs. the constitution. When we were all infused with the same values of liberty, the law could be small. Only when we'd surrendered to our baser instincts did legislation have to enlarge.

The same is true in any church - Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman, etc.

backwoodspresbyterian said...

Amen Rev'd Larimer. It tells you where the heart is when the rules for church order are larger than the confession of the Church

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

"Rabbi, your disciples aren't washing their hands before they ordain sodomites and undermine the faith!"

And they have the gall to call the orthodox pharisaical...