Monday, December 11, 2017

Upstream: judgment

Advent is the time when we reflect theologically on various things ... Christmas ... shopping ... meaning of "Advent" ... whether we should have four Sundays in Advent if Christmas Day falls the day after Advent 4 (as it does in 2017) ... but, really, we ought to reflect on JUDGMENT.

When Christ came that first Christmas, the world was under judgment. According to the Magnificat, things were going to be turned upside down. Every time Jesus opened his mouth about his return - according to the Synoptic Gospels - he talked about an imminent, sudden, shocking judgment. We dodge the meaning of Advent if we focus on "coming" and do not talk about "coming to judge."

If we face Christ as Judge, if we have a day of reckoning in the divine court of justice, what might that mean for us? Would it, should it make any difference to how we live? And how we live, of course, is shaped by our understanding of Scripture. The prospect of judgment is the prospect of an inquisition about hermeneutical method!

At a biblical studies conference recently I was introduced to the idea that the first hermeneuticist was Eve, who questioned the meaning of what God had said. Perhaps not the best start to hermeneutics (!), nevertheless Eve's "Did God really say?" question is critical to hermeneutics. As all of us who freely ignore the Bible's entreaties against usury should know ...

I do not for a moment believe that at the Day of Judgement those of us who profess to being Anglican versions of Christians will be asked whether we faithfully believed all that the Thirty-Nine Articles teach us. Nor will we be quizzed on whether our use of modern Anglican liturgies represented a reprehensible departure from the eucharistic theology of the Book of Common Prayer.

No, on the Day of Judgment, we are going to face a Judge concerned with justice, with compassionate love and with how we have lived our lives as a gospel people (e.g. have we proclaimed the gospel? Have we followed Jesus by following his teaching?)

My question here is how the prospect of judgement, that is, of getting our hermeneutics right, measured by the "downstream" effect of accountability might affect what we think the "upstream" (deep background, hidden presuppositions) of Anglican theology means for how we live today. (See further the comment at the foot of this post).

(Put another way, every hermeneutical approach to Scripture has a theological starting point or "ground." And, re judgement, also an endpoint or "goal." Thinking "upstream" and "downstream" is thinking about what that theological starting point and ending point is. In 21st century language, we should ask, What is the "big picture" which shapes the details of our lives as Christians?)

Take the issue of the ordination of women as an example. It is entirely possible, and indeed happens in reality, that we take Scripture, a contemporary hermeneutic, thoughts about tradition, throw them into the melting pot and out comes a cast iron determination that women might be deacons, cannot be priests and certainly are not able to be bishops. But on that Day of Judgement, will that wash with Jesus the Just Judge? Will we get a commendation for "faithfulness to Scripture and tradition"? Or, will we be asked why we were confused about roles when we recognised that women could be doctors, judges, teachers but insisted they could not be priests and bishops? Such a question being driven, of course, by the matter of just treatment of one another as equal, participating human beings, made in the image of God and redeemed for life in the kingdom of God.

The "upstream" counterpart to this "downstream" could be asking whether Jesus came that gender roles as assigned by interpreters of Scripture might be reinforced? Is the "big picture" of creation and redemption not much, much bigger than a determination that the great work of God in the eternal plan for the universe is precisely forwarded by forbidding women from being successors to the Apostles?

This post sets the stage for another which I am hoping to post before Christmas. A seasonal reflection on the Incarnation and what it means for Christ to be incarnated in the world today, as he is through us, his body on earth. This post is NOT an invitation to resume discussion about That Topic. The Working Group is working on the Final Report and its publication will come soon enough. Fear not!

NOTE: In the background to this post and others in a series of "Upstream" posts is this comment by Bowman Walton, recently made here:

""I hope you will not despair of the loss of sight here of your appeal for debate about what is upstream rather than what is downstream."


It is worthwhile to try to identify the upstream assumptions that bedevil downstream discussion, so from time to time I try. My inspiration is the patient work of that 1922 CoE commission on doctrine that reported in 1938.

But even they admitted to a difficult problem: better thought had overtaken the positions that they were trying to reconcile. This could happen to That Topic in the C21 as it happened to the notion of *eucharistic sacrifice* in the C20. For subversive example, what if Romans 1:18-32 really is *prosopoeia*?

November 18, 2017 at 4:19 PM"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lead the Pope not into temptation and save us from a time of liturgical trial

We have not had a Pope like Francis in my lifetime. At odds politically with a US President we have not seen in my lifetime either, nevertheless there appears to be one thing they share in common: no thought goes unpublished. No temptation to air a view is resisted.

Today the Pope is in the news for airing a thought or two re changing the Lord's Prayer.

Indeed there is a restlessness abroad in the English-speaking world about the Do Not Lead Us into Temptation line in the Lord's Prayer, illustrated by ACANZP's adherence to "Save us from the time of trial" in the NZPB. Will we settle on an agreed translation in the course of the 21st century?

The issues around the Greek and presumptions about the underlying Aramaic are tricky (as the linked article hints above. See also Cranmer and The Times).

Perhaps we should say the Lord's Prayer in Greek, as we do the Kyrie Eleisons, on some occasions!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas this year should be 15th December

Top Five Reasons why we should celebrate Christmas on 15th December this year:

Counting down

5. Just as noone knows either the day or the hour of the Lord's Second Coming, so noone knows the day or the hour or the weight of the baby of the First Coming. A change of date from time to time would remind us of these uncertainties.

4. "Behold!", the church is not bound by tradition.

3. We spend all Advent preaching sermons about "being ready" and "expect the unexpected" about the coming of Christ so it would be a very good test of preparedness for the unexpected if we announced today, 7th December that Christmas was only eight days away.

2. No one (except clergy and choirs) really does any useful work between 15th and 25th December. So why not get on with Christmas ten days early?

1. Berries are essential to the joy of Christmas and here in the blessed Down Under, raspberries have incredibly started ripening in November. #thanksglobalwarming. I am very concerned that in my raspberry patch we may have reached peak raspberry on 6th December and there will be no berries left by 25th December. To be safe on the berry front, I commend bringing Christmas forward ten days.

But who does one write to about this? Is there a committee which sets the date of Christmas?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Priesthood - an anniversary

Today is the 60th anniversary of my father, Brian Carrell's ordination to the priesthood on 1 December 1957. In the low church tradition of our family there will be no special service to mark this anniversary. But we are noting it. It is a milestone. It has got me thinking about what might be noteworthy about such an anniversary, even within a tradition which takes great care about singling out such milestones lest an unwarranted distinction between clergy and laity within the priesthood of all believers widens further. Many friends and family have ministered in the church for those 60 years, not least my mother May Carrell, and more. And mostly not much is made of lay anniversaries for ministry. Occasionally I hear people note the years (say) since their confirmation.

Here is what I think is noteworthy about today's anniversary, even within a low church tradition.

It is 60 years of living life in a particular ordering through being available. To God, open to being placed where God and the bishop see fit, and to church and to community as priest - exercising roles of presbyter/elder, pastor, preacher and presider. In that ordered life there are responsibilities and privileges which are different to those of lay ministers of the church. Some of those responsibilities, for instance, are quietly significant and burdensome - by "quietly" I mean that as presbyters-and-pastors there are many instances in which confessions and confidences are received which few know anything about; difficult questions are asked by individuals which in the nature of the question cannot be widely shared in order to arrive at a wise and (because it is asked of an officer of the church) responsible answer for which the priest may later be held accountable according to the discipline of the church.

Secondly, in the priestly ordering of life, a priest is always accountable to an authority - to one's bishop, the local synod and the General Synod. Sixty years, in this case, of taking care to observe rules and regulations - more of which apply to clergy as officers of the church than to lay officers - to honour the church rather than to bring it into disrepute, and to respect the bishop, no matter what one thinks privately of the latest episcopal missive or appointment just announced.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Never underestimate the romantic appeal of a roast chicken dinner

Prince Harry, during a home cooked roast chicken dinner, proposed to Meghan Markle who was so excited by the prospect of appearing endlessly in the Daily Mail and NZ Woman's Weekly that she said "Yes" before he finished the question. I have watched Suits, once, and I see Harry's point of view: she is rather lovely.

The question, however, which is keeping the good ecclesiologists of Anglican Down Under awake at nights is how could ++Justin so readily step up to the mark as the marriage celebrant for this couple's wedding in a church? Meghan, famously, is a divorcee. Not so long ago, Prince Charles and Camilla could not marry in church. They had a civil wedding followed by a blessing in a church, conducted by ++Justin's predecessor, ++Rowan. What is the difference?

Ian Paul helpfully sets out the rules and regs of the C of E re marriage of divorcees here. And he explains the difference between Charles and Camilla's situation and Harry and Meghan's situation. Along the way Ian clearly explains why Anglicans accept the dissolvability of marriage whereas for Roman Catholics marriage is indissoluble.

I will NOT accept comments which seek to link questions of marriage, divorce and remarriage with same-sex marriage or same-sex blessings. There is a link but we are having a holiday of posts about the latter here so I see no need to have further comments re SSM or SSB. (If desperate they can still be made at the post below, About that submission). I am interested in your comments re the situation in the CofE re divorce, Ian Paul's explanation of what Jesus taught, the situation in your own church and the situation in ACANZP.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A great weekend, but not for blogging

I have been a bit distracted, in a good way, recently, so no posts since last Monday and not much engagement with comments in the last few days. Our youngest child turned 21 at the weekend and the celebrations involved our house and garden. Some intensive effort to prepare things and then some full on hospitality as family arrived home and other family arrived. Food and drink to be purchased.Oh, and not all has been purchased so back to the supermarket. It has been great and wonderful and heartwarming. But a 21 year old youngest child means I am, well, older myself and the intensive effort has been tiring, including muscles not normally used when typing words on a laptop.

Fortunately the greatest crisis or moment of change in the Anglican world seems to be the non-controversial restoration of the Archbishop of York's clergy collar, following Mugabe's downfall. If only all Anglican challenges were so simply resolved - albeit after many years, too many years of waiting for change.

Also noted, English cricket's perennial struggle to match Australia, innings for innings when playing in Australia!

A comment each on a couple of comment threads through last week.

Creation in Genesis - myth or history?

A fascinating exchange last week which (in my words) went something like this:

X: you can't claim Genesis 1-3 as historical facts

Y: you claim we are made in the image of God, which comes from what you call the "creation myth" in Genesis 1-3, so either Genesis 1-3 is true or it isn't. Which is it?

Critical here is that Genesis 1-3, before it is determined to be historical or mythical (or even both), is Israel's claim that in these chapters truth has been revealed about God, humanity and the world in which humanity lives. God is sole source of the life of the world and of the life in the world. Humanity is the apex of God's creation (Genesis 1) and the centre of the life God has created (Genesis 2). As apex of creation, humanity is distinguished from plants and animals by being created in the image of God. This theological claim cannot be confirmed by biology or archaeology. It is a theological claim because it is integral to Israel's "talk about God." Israel's God has both created the world and communicated with the world. In Francis Schaeffer's phrase, God is not silent.

What many Christians struggle with, in the modern age, is that the scientific narrative of the origins of the world and of the life within it, at best contrasts with and at worst (from a theological perspective) contradicts the theological narrative told through the first chapters of Genesis. (By "theological narrative" I mean that a story is told in which truth about God and God's actions as creator and communicator is conveyed to readers and hearers of the narrative.)

Something we who live within the modern age seem to rarely grasp about the Genesis narrative is that it was a response within a particular, non-scientific context. In a world of plural creation myths, Egyptian through to Babylonian, and most likely with particular reference to the latter, since Genesis was almost certainly finalised after Judah was exiled to Babylon, the Genesis narrative told Israel that the other myths were at best partial insights into what happened. There was only one creating God and that God had neither competitor nor delegated secondary God/god assisting or hampering creation.

Genesis had to respond to the myths of the day not to a forecast of Darwinian evolutionary theory some 2300 years hence!

Jesus himself (and Paul) worked with the world in which they lived, an Israelite context in which a bedrock "fact" was the single origin of humanity through the first couple, Adam and Eve. Jesus was incarnated into a specific context. We must not think of his brain pausing every time he mentioned (or implied or presumed the story of) Adam and Eve to work out how truthful he was going to be because he also "knew" all about Darwin. He lived and breathed the scriptural world of his fellow first century human beings.

And the mission of Jesus was to save those made in God's image. (Sorry, dogs and cats, but we have absolutely no reason to think you will be also saved. You may or may not be. You are just not important enough for Jesus (or Paul) to have bothered with inane - yes, I am deeply prejudiced against the salvation of animals - questions about those not created in the image of God)!

Has Anglican theology, or Anglicans theologising, gone deep enough into the theology of life, of church, of salvation?

I have a lot of material to digest via various posted links in comments made, as well as comments themselves about my critique of the Jerusalem Declaration (as well as some comments made on my last post on You Known What). I cannot guarantee I will get to much of this before Christmas. My daughter's 21st is a gateway to quite a lot of Christmas/End of Year functions coming up :). But a quick sense is that we Anglicans really, really need to dig deeper than we are doing. It is not just that we are going to the dogs by drifting away from orthodoxy/"orthodoxy" and only digging deeper will bring realisation of how close to the precipice we are going (cf. Bryden Black's recent comments here). It is also, I sense, that we are not even close to understanding what development/"development" of dogma and doctrine might mean for a rapidly changing world. By which I do not mean being progressive/"progressive." Indeed the fact that for some Anglicans we appear only able to consider "development" to be development when it is clearly "progressive" is itself a sign of the lack of depth to our theological ruminations.

Right, back to annual leave. There are some post-party developments in my garden (Eden!) which need attending to :)

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Blessed Isles Declaration

A recent comment on ADU challenged me re what a Blessed Isles (NZ) version of the Jerusalem Declaration would look like, noting that I commented then that I do not think any licensed clergyperson of our church has implicitly signed up to it because the meaning and intent of our constitution including our fundamentals are equivalent to the JD.

I have not time to rewrite the thing in toto so here is an annotated critique of the original JD. There is much that is agreeable in the JD. In summary my critique is not that it is a poor document but that it is imprecise.

Compared to some valuable Anglican documents such as the 39A (revised downwards from 42A) and the BCP (the result of several revisions, from memory, at least 1549, 1552, 1559, 1662), the JD is a somewhat hasty document!

NOTE: there is no need to comment about the connection between the JD and That Topic, or on clause 8 below. The post before this has had ample debate on That Topic. Comment further there if you must. 

I will only accept comments here which comment on the viability or otherwise of the JD as a general statement of faith and practice for Anglicans in the 21st century; or related comments on (e.g.) the continuing validity of the 39A or the BCP. Comments on my annotations are welcome - of course! - but note that I have not annotated clause 8 below.

"The Jerusalem Declaration
In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:
We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity.
  1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
  2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual readingThere is no agreed or "consensual" "plain and canonical" sense of Scripture in the Anglican world, and certainly not in the world of Anglican conservatism where (e.g.) veneration of Mary can be supported in Anglo-Catholic churches and ignored if not dismissed in Reformed churches, or women can and cannot be ordained as presbyters and bishops, or speaking in tongues can or cannot be welcomed according to varied theological understandings. Most alarmingly, neither here nor elsewhere in the JD is there any attempt to set out how the Bible is to be interpreted correctly. What body of teachers (synod? house of bishops? doctrinal commission?) assists the church when the "plain and canonical sense" is breached? Who or what determines that this reading rather than that is "a" or even "the" consensual reading of Scripture?
  3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Personally I am reasonably happy with this statement but it is a statement about how Anglicans understand "one holy catholic and apostolic church." The Orthodox, for instance, stand by Seven Ecumenical councils and the Roman Catholics understand the authoritative councils behind "the rule of faith" differently. Where this statement runs aground is on the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed: is it part of the "historic Creeds" or not"? The Declaration does not say. If it is part of the historic creeds then that is in contradiction to the four Ecumencical Councils referred to here!
  4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. I think this begs more than a few questions. Are each and every one of the Thirty-Nine Articles authoritative for Anglicans today? I note, for instance, two versions of the Thirty-Nine Articles, one for the USA which has no monarch and one for the Anglican churches still under the monarchy (see Article 37). I also see statements in the 39A about Rome and the papacy which not all Anglicans might like subscribing to in today's world where we have less antagonism towards Rome and seek rapprochement across our (continuing) disagreements - to say nothing of whether certain Articles are authoritative for Anglo-Catholics (noting Articles 19, 22, 31). I personally am largely happy with the theology of the 39A as they set out thinking on (e.g.) the sacraments, salvation and the church. But I am not perfectly happy with Article 19 which focuses ecclesiology on "congregation" and omits (as all other articles do) any helpful guidance on what it means to be an episcopal church with diocesan bishops. Further, I note that the 39A give absolutely no guidance as to the authoritative character of the "four Ecumenical Councils". What the 39A do talk about re councils is that they "may err" (Article 21). How do we know the "four Ecumenical Councils" have not erred? I also note that strictly speaking, according to Article 21 "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes." It is my personal hope, perhaps yours too, that we might yet have another General Council (e.g. to sort out, once and for all, the Filioque clause) and I do not envisage "Princes" having any role in sending out the invitations! I would be a bit surprised if GAFCON envisaged that and thus I call them out on whether they really do mean "authoritative" in this part of the declaration. Better by far, in fact, is ACANZP's constitution which includes the 39A among formularies in which the Doctrine of Christ and his Sacraments are "explained."
  5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.
  6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each cultureHere's the thing, there is a lot of liturgical stuff happening, even in conservative Anglican churches, which does not abide by this rubric. Three examples: (i) when we follow modern revised eucharistic services (e.g. A New Zealand Prayer Book) we are generally following a revision of the BCP's Communion service which goes beyond "local adaptation." Without worrying about whether the doctrine of communion has been revised or not, the modern revisions are significant revisions of the structure of the BCP Communion service, a structure that Cranmer pursued to make certain points in the midst of the English Reformation, but which now is discarded in order to bring Anglican eucharists more in line with the great liturgical tradition of Christianity; (ii) in my experience, conservative Anglican parishes in the Reformed (rather than Anglo-Catholic) tradition are pretty happy with services that have prayers, sermon and songs and have no particular adherence to the template of Mattins or Evensong: again, this form of service goes beyond "local adaptation" of the BCP; (ii) I also hear of Dedication services for infants being conducted in some Anglican ministry units Down Under. Such services, whatever their pastoral merits (e.g. to accommodate members of the congregation who are Believers' Baptist in outlook), go against the BCP and the 39A. In other words, this clause is not - as best I can tell - actually implemented in all ministry units sympathetic to GAFCON.
  7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.
  8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.
  9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity.
  10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.
  11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. Obviously this clause enables recognition of Anglicans who remove themselves from jurisdiction of an Anglican province but wish to continue being Anglican and the joining in making "this declaration" is potentially a way forward for determining who is truly Anglican and who is not. Indeed potentially this clause could result in (say) GAFCON provinces declaring other provinces, unwilling to sign to the JD, to be not truly Anglican. But there are many churches - notably in North America - claiming to be (a) Anglican (b) orthodox in faith and practice. Are they all to be recognised as Anglican? If I set myself up in my living room as a church and lay hands on myself, self-declare to be the Archbishop of My Suburb and sign the JD, will GAFCON recognise my orders and jurisdiction? I would hope not! But this clause does not set out any means for GAFCON Primates to distinguish between (say) ACNA and my little (and, by the way, perfect) church!
  12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. Again, this clause is imprecise. What are "secondary" matters? Who determines them in distinction with "primary" matters? How much freedom is there on secondary matters, I ask, noting brewing controversy in ACNA over the ordination of women?
  13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord. Also "again", this is imprecise. Who or what determines that someone in authority as a bishop or seminary theologian has "denied" the orthodox faith in word and deed? Is there a court or tribunal to look into these matters? Or is it simply to be the "court of public opinion" in which various pundits and bloggers nail Bishop X for saying something ambiguous about the resurrection?
  14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives."