Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Tom Wright Agrees with the FOCAs - BUT

The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, is another one who finds agreement with the ideological troops of GAFCON, like the Archbishop of Canterbury does.

As I read the GAFCON communiqué, phrase after phrase said to me 'How wonderful that my brothers and sisters gathered there were joining with me in this great adventure we call God's kingdom!'

He also liked the fact that it relates to the environment of the contemporary world, though how complaining about secularisation could do other I don't know. Perhaps it ought to have considered more the African religious culture - or is that setting of superstition, magic and the supernatural more fitting for Christianity? If it is, then Christianity is doomed, and many theologians have been wasting their time. I don't think this would be his view, as this suggests otherwise:
I have long believed and taught that our new century presents new problems (secularism, pluralism, the decline of modernity with nothing to put in its place, and much else) and that this means a great, fresh opportunity for the gospel.

It is the next bit I find disturbing from him, as he goes along with his 'agreements' section of his reflection on GAFCON.

I have been saying for years that, in this context, we shouldn't be surprised that serious challenges arise from within the church itself, offering the world a pseudo-gospel, a caricature of the world-changing love of God in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, an attempt to hold the outward form of godliness while denying its real power.

This is an attack and marginalisation of liberals in the Churches, of developments in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Now I know I got into trouble last time regarding what was meant by 'super-apostles', and that he really did mean the GAFCON crowd, whereas to me it seemed he meant Churches that were out of step like The Episcopal Church. Presumably now he no longer believes that the FOCAs consist of super-apostles (as he agrees with the basis of their faith!).

Furthermore his marginalisation of liberal Anglicanism relates the proper and actual election of Gene Robinson with what he calls muddled thinking and disastrous events with disastrous consequences, starting with those:

disastrous events of 2003. I have grieved at the muddled teaching which has allowed all kinds of confusions about Christian doctrine, behaviour and even the nature of Anglicanism to abound, with disastrous consequences.

As his approval continues he even agrees that the Instruments of Communion as they exist now cannot cope. Windsor and Lambeth, he says, are proposing and pursuing getting away from tired structures and sometimes creating new ones, even that:

God has more light to break out of his holy word

Yes, well some of us can use that phrase about the inclusion of minority people rather than what happens to structures.

He even praises new leadership emerging.

Now a BUT seems inevitable, and, after this writing technique of lavish praise, it will have to be a big one. However, he slides into criticism, that just as you go to Jerusalem to help:

Likewise, the historic link with Canterbury is not to be dismissed. Cutting your links with the past can be like cutting off the roots of a tree.

It's hardly a convincing argument, and he goes on to talk about a world Anglicanism. He says:

I know that the GAFCON leaders can't have intended to imply (as a 'suspicious' reading of their text might suggest) that they are the only ones who really believe all this, that they and they alone care about such things. The rest of us, no doubt - including several of us who were not invited to GAFCON - are eager to share in any fresh movements of the Spirit that are going ahead.

But that is the point, isn't it. Why were they not invited? Was it just numbers, as Orombi claimed? Of course not: they needed to control the launch and invite only the reliable for feedback. What bothered them was that some of those they thought were reliable actually weren't, and decided not to attend. Those who deliberately stayed away understood only too well that the ideology and the structural outcome were one and the same, that the point of it was to launch a different international oversight on Reformed theology principles and to force a different structure from Canterbury.

They are not even going to present an ultimatum to Lambeth, which would have been a means to keep structural unity. I thought they would have done, but no - they have made the decision and structures anew there will be.

So the big BUT comes along to "raise certain questions because of shared goals". Here he goes; he says:

I am sure the GAFCON organisers are as horrified as I am to see today's headlines about 'a new church'.

The headlines don't quite say it anyway. They are not horrified at all: the publicity is wonderful. They want a sense of importance and a sense of tension. What the FOCAs want is the tension of being parastic on the host Communion body. So they like the Church within a Church tag, because it secures oversight without the pollution of heresy whilst drawing on the Communion and being recognised.

There is a bigger BUT when he wonders:

what the proposed 'Primates' Council' is all about. What authority will it have, and how will that work? Who is to 'police' the boundaries of this new body - not least to declare which Anglicans are 'upholding orthodox faith and practice' (Article 11 of the 'Jerusalem Declaration'), and who have denied it (Article 13)? Who will be able to decide (as in Article 12) which matters are 'secondary' and which are primary, and by what means? ...Who will elucidate the relationship between the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, on the one hand, and the 14 Articles of GAFCON on the other, and by what means?

He goes on, starting to become tough guy Tom again:

and the 'Declaration' is actually a strange document which doesn't help us address them [the issues].

They won't like that, not after the Conference approved what the leadership wrote.

It is precisely because I share the officially stated aims of GAFCON that I am extremely concerned about these proposals, and urge all those who likewise share that concern to concentrate their prayers and their work on addressing the issues in the way which, remarkably, GAFCON never mentioned, namely, the development of the Anglican Covenant and the fulfilment of the recommendations of the Windsor Report.

Now that is an interesting point. Why does one suppose that they gave up mentioning the Covenant? It's because they know that from Nassau to St Andrew's was a watering down, and that many Anglican Churches have rejected that, especially with the disciplining proposed appendix. GAFCON is aware of these rejections. Having stated the (crass) means to judge on orthodoxy, they don't need a Covenant!

Here is a low punch from Tom:

I am delighted that many of the bishops who were at GAFCON are also coming to Lambeth, where their help in pursuing these goals will be invaluable.

He knows perfectly well that many aren't going. He is trying to undermine them with his delight! And here comes a big left hook:

there is something very odd about the proposal to form a 'Council' and then to ask such a body to 'authenticate and recognise confessing Anglican jurisdictions, clergy and congregations' - and then, as an addition, 'to encourage all Anglicans to promote the gospel and defend the faith'. Many Anglicans around the world intend to do that in any case, and will not understand why they need to be 'recognised' or 'authenticated' by a new, self-selected and non-representative body to which they were not invited and which will not itself, it seems be accountable to anyone else.

He later calls the GAFCON outcome:

strange in form and uncertain in destination

And he says a blank cheque to defy a bishop is surely not intended by GAFCON:

That, of course, is the risk when documents are drafted at speed.

Ouch to all that, FOCAs! That oh so careful document, the blank cheque, unaccountable, Even I felt that one and it was aimed at those not now super-apostles. He is even against (is Robert Duncan listening?):

the dangerous ambiguities that will result from the suggestion that there should be a new 'territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread.'

Yes, of course clergy in all sorts of circumstances will ask the Primates' Council for oversight, blank cheque or not: that will mean that Primates Council' grows in importance, and Canterbury structures diminish. I bet too they recognise a number of Continuing Anglican Churches. .

He wants GAFCON energies to come into "the existing central councils of the Anglican Communion..."

GAFCON itself needs to bring its rich experience and gospel-driven exuberance to the larger party where the rest of us are working day and night for the same gospel, the same biblical wisdom, the same Lord.
I'm afraid the horse has bolted. GAFCON came before Lambeth, not for an ultimatum, it seems, but to leave Lambeth with some confusion.

A looser, decentralised, Anglicanism needs to find itself again, away from the Canterbury and Durham centralisers, that latter based on relying on a Covenant that cannot be adequate to do the job when it is so watered down or rejected.

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