Sunday 31 August 2008

Just a Rumour... But

It is just a rumour from David Anderson but if Jeffrey John were to become Bishop of Bangor in the Church in Wales then it would be poetic justice. First of all, Jeffrey John would be rightly recognised. Secondly, it would be in Rowan Williams's own ex-Church, where he used to hold actively more progressive opinions himself on this matter. No one wants particular individuals to make religious-political points, so this should only be based on the talent of the man and the desire of clergy in that diocese and the Church in Wales bishops to have him, but that secured he should be appointed. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, and connected with the Modern Churchpeople's Union, has indicated he has no objection to consecrating a properly elected bishop. If he is, then let him be so consecrated.

Notice to GAFCON and its Primates' Council. Wales is to the west of most of England, and east of Ireland with some water in between. About a fifth speak Welsh and many more understand it as a secondary language from school. I suggest at least one Welsh speaking bishop for your new Province of the British Isles.

Please Do!

I received this:

Debbie P has left a new comment on your post "Duplicity, Duplicity, We're All Duped Explicitly":

Hi. I decided to send copies of Dr. Williams' letters to journalists as I had come to believe they might be worth publishing. Many agree and, as I suspected, were unaware of the strength of Dr. Williams' views. I sent the info ordinary mail, but Ruth Gledhill did not get it till she returned from Lambeth. If you like to access my letter to the Times of 15th August you will get more info and if you like I will email you a copy of the letter I sent to Bishop Tom Wright and his fellow bishops. Best wishes Deborah Pitt
Posted by Debbie P to Pluralist Speaks at 30 August 2008 15:37

Please do. You'd better say if you want such publishing or not.

You do realise that Rowan Williams's views are well known, and that he avoids duplicity by having his personal views well known. My objection is his centralising based on excluding a group he would himself include.

Saturday 30 August 2008

A Different Anglican Convention Acceptance Speech

Thank you everyone. I stand here and accept my nomination to be Archbishop of the Anglican Communion!


First, let me say thank you to some supporters. Thank you to my running mate, Henry, and to those others on the new Primates' Council, to be my cabinet, I mean of course Gregory, Emmanuel, Valentino and Benjamin. There may be others too.

So what will we do? Hang on, it is my mobile phone here. Peter!

... Yes. Yes, thank you. ... Bye.

Yes the advisory... And I must also thank Peter, and indeed Chris, and Martyn of course. The first thing is we setup the Advisory group, which will take the decisions before the Primates...

Just a moment. It's my telephone again. Hello Chris.

... Yes. OK. ... Of course. Yes.

It will advise the Primates in the work that we will do. OK, and Peter, he's the Secretary.

Now the Bible you see contains everything for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is never contradictory and you can open every page and there it is. So we're very sad when others don't see it and we can't have a Church that don't see this. So we are not having it. Now the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone and so we must insist upon this, whether you are rich or poor, slave or free, male or female, bishop or layman. There's a lot of corruption, poverty, and too many Muslims.

[The crowd gives a spontaneous cheer]

Yeah. So the first thing then is tackle this homosexuality. That's what we need to do. We do not have it here, or in Uganda, or where my other Primates are, so we must fight it, because these Western missionaries today would bring it to us. Not like the missionaries before. No, there was no homosexuality then. You don't find it in animals either, none there either, though we don't want that Mr Darwin either too. So first thing then is getting rid of this perversion, and asking governments too to really go and arrest and detain... Hold on it's the phone again.

Hello Peter. ... No. ... Yes the Western media is here. Some of them may be homosexuals Peter. ... No, no. I see. OK. ... I can say it. I will talk to you again.

Yes. God loves all his people whoever they are, but he does not like the sin. We cannot... sanctify sin. Yes. So that's the first thing. Just a minute, it's Peter again.

... OK Peter. Yes I will.

So I want to say how we are all opposed to torture. Now the problem of Muslims that affects us here. My opponent in England he talks to Muslims, you know, talking about their Law and that. We have that and we don't like it. We have more too, and you know they do not have a monopoly on violence. They know that; they ought to know that. I have great plans for the youth, you know, travelling around and meeting Muslims. Yes, but it is nothing to do with me.

Er, someone I haven't mentioned yet is Bob. You know, we are going to welcome Bob to our Council. So we can't have this sanctifying sin and therefore we will have a new Church in North America, and we will as Primates give up our bishops to Archbishop Bob but of course we all will be in control on the Council. As my running mate Henry said, Bob's time has come.


This is how we do it! This is not some democracy. No no. We don't have all that mess, and that so called General Convention Church with lay people approving people living in sin. No, we give the people guidance, and they do what we say. It is theocracy; that is what we believe in and the Primates rule.

This is where my opponent gets it wrong. Last year we as Primates said we want Primates to take Americans under our wing. Now our opponent ignores us and tells us he wants a Forum to take Americans and Canadians under its wing, in like in a ship's holding bay.

[Boos from the crowd]

You see he pinches our idea and he does not consult us. And we have a letter from them in America saying they don't want this any more. They want a province. They will have their province!

[Loud cheers]

You know this homosexuality, it gets everywhere. And so we are going to invite people who are not homosexuals with other homosexuals to join us. We call you, our supporters, the Fuckers. Just a moment, it's my phone again.

Hello Peter. ... Oh so we did.

We call it eff see aye. That's right. The Conference, where we produced that final statement for the attenders to comment on, that is the main thing, and then this thing - eff see aye - that is like the membership you can join. Send your money to Peter. Hang on. All these people ringing me.

Hello Martyn! ... Oh he has agreed another payment. Thank you, that is good. I will talk to you soon about transferring to Bob - when he is ready. He has business to sort out first, as you know. By the way, isn't he so generous about the cathedral there? ... I will talk. Bye bye.

No, we have plenty of money. Don't send any money to Peter. So, then, when people join us, you see, we can find them a bishop, who is under us, and then they come under that bishop, and wave goodbye to homosexuals. That's right.

Now, I said, I accept your nomination, but as you know we don't have any election. I have already won, or at least I will act as if I have already won. Oh it is Chris. Chris this time.

... Yes. Yes, that is right. ... Yes, I should say this. ... Well I know you could have written it all out for me but people look at these document properties don't they? ... Yes. Well I will say this.

Phew. Christian ladies and gentlemen. For too long we have not had democracy, and this Archbishop of the so-called Mother Church who thinks he has authority is just colonialism. It is the sin of nationalism. So when I say we have won, it is because we are not having colonialism any more, and we will reverse it. So we are taking power now, and not having that Western colonialism, no. So when we have our bishops in these other countries, then we will set up provinces in them too. This way we stop the collapse into chaos of the Anglican Communion - by controlling our own.

Now next year there is a Primates Meeting, one with others in it, and we are still going because we are going to tell them what to do and that we will do it when we get back. But no, we won't say prayers with her - not her - nor with any homosexualists. We follow the Lord; they don't. And if our opponent thinks we are going to sit in small groups so his scribes can decide what we said, we won't have that. We avoided going to that before. Anyway, let me reassure you that we will be back in Africa to do what we want anyway.


And so I wish you the love of God and the... Hang on, my phone again. What have I said wrong this time?

Friday 29 August 2008

Full Steam Ahead

So it is full steam ahead for GAFCON, with no backing down whatsoever as regards the boundary crossing. A Communiqué of its Primates Meeting in London is now online, together with a letter sent by North American based African Churches bishops for the Primates' Council's consideration.

GAFCON thus continues on with the establishment of its Primates' Council accompanied by that all important:

Advisory Board which will work with them on fulfilling the aims of the movement.

And there is a secretariat too. So here comes the bureaucracy, and - as we all know - once you set up a bureaucracy it takes a great deal of organisation or its own collapse to take it down again. It is staying.

It thinks "sanctified sinful practices" are staying too. But clearly it thinks it is far wider matter than just in North America.

It says:

there is widespread impaired and broken sacramental communion amongst Anglicans with far-reaching global implications.


We invite individuals, churches, dioceses, provinces and parachurch organisations who assent to the Jerusalem Declaration to signify their desire to become members of the Fellowship via the GAFCON web-site or written communication with the Secretariat. The Fellowship will develop networks...

So, to be clear. There are far reaching global implications and the Fellowship will develop networks.

These developments, from giving support to networks, will be for:

those who have confessed the biblical faith in the face of hostility and found the need on grounds of conscience and in matters of great significance to break the normal bonds of fellowship...

So here's how it works. There will be people joining up. There will then be, presumably, some of them waving goodbye to the existing diocesan bishop, wherever he or she happens to be in the world, and will then place themselves under this different, non-Canterbury, Primates Council and one of its appointed bishops.

This is bizarrely called:

an effort to bring order out of the chaos of the present time and to make sure as far as possible that some of the most faithful Anglican Christians are not lost to the Communion.

Whereas of course it adds chaos to the confusion and takes people out of the Communion.

These Primates meeting in London (from where do they get their air miles paid?) seem to agree with the drift of some of the conclusions of Lambeth 2008 but, more importantly, just see the strategy involved as continuous with what went before and therefore likely to mean:

delay and unlikely results.

Clearly the moratoria is no more than delay. Indeed, there is little faith in the Covenant now either:

The Anglican Covenant will take a long time to be widely accepted and may have no particular force when it does.

That's a fair point. And as for the Pastoral Forum:

The idea of the Pastoral Forum has only now emerged but has never been discussed with those actually affected by the innovations which have created the problems with which we are trying to deal (see the appended letter ). If the Panel of Reference did not work, it is unclear how the Pastoral Forum will succeed.

That's a fair point too.

They recognise that the Global South is still for the Windsor Process, which clearly GAFCON is not, but GAFCON sees itself as trying to avoid a collapse in the Communion that Global South is concerned about. Whereas, GAFCON via its separation strategy, is about collapsing the Communion.

Thus we might expect the non-GAFCON Global South to adopt the Covenant etc., but nowhere else will (if it intends to be juridical or punitive). The Western Churches won't accept it, just as they won't accept anything that GAFCON is doing.

All this should be seen in tandem with the GAFCON sympathetic churches of North America sending its letter to the Primates' Council (and specifically Archbishop Akinola as its Chair).

Bishops Atwood, Guernsey, Harvey, Minns, and Murphy, all in North America but of different African Churches, reject Lambeth 2008's Pastoral Forum holding bay approach. As such, the Pastoral Forum is stillborn. They are the ones who'll presumably merge into Robert Duncan's new Province in North America.

Here we are, then, with this Primates' Council body seeking to follow its own logic of expansion, which will be zero-sum regarding the Anglican Communion as it exists. Here is the Anglican Communion being pushed in a direction to itself isolate the North Americans, introducing institutions of centralisation many others as well as the North Americans would want to reject.

It sounds like something has got to give, somewhere, and the probable answer is the break-up of the Anglican Communion into sectors and outsiders.


Well we need to wait and see on this one but GAFCON is a little delayed in its reporting of its own doings after Lambeth. It is not a Lambeth wobble, but I'd guess it is to do with creating a job of a Primates Council in more ordered terms than having that rather more obvious 'religious trotskyite' leadership structure, where an unofficial self-created core have gathered and decided things and not let themselves be deflected. The new structure might be more limited in scope. But if it is, then the informal part just becomes more shadowy in its wheeler dealings.

My guess further is to crowd out and make unnecessary the Pastoral Forum proposed by Rowan Williams and his own shadow Conference of actors behind the discussers. It will continue the effort to shift things from the Canterbury "centre" (that isn't) to themselves.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Acceptance Speech at the Anglican Convention

My fellow Anglicans. I stand here, at this podium, at our Convention, to accept your nomination to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury!

[Loud cheers]

Brothers and indeed sisters, this is the time when we must all unite. And I want to say this: I should welcome the endorsement given in his long speech by my keen brother bishop, for he is that still - Michael - and I will give a short speech at this wonderful convention and we can all get to the drinks afterwards. Let me also thank David, who dropped out early for the greyest of reasons. And thanks duly to James, who showed such resonance with the media and clearly has made a name for himself passing from the east to the west coast. Yes, and Richard: the media in its unambiguity said he has few enemies, and indeed well loved he is in rising above the diversity of the south. And Bill: so independent, down in the south west there, so far away from the centre of things, and so well liked I would add. I am, in such company, most humbled to be here, now (and I found my way safely here - people wonder about this, and I can't drive either), and I'm privileged to receive your nomination. I have further thanks to offer too, surely, to the present incumbent, and I wish George, when it soon comes, a peaceful and quiet retirement, able at last to get away from the media spotlight and allow his successor to take the strain of the demanding post that he has so filled in the past years, including that Decade of Evangelism that was spoken about in the pressure cooker of the media in which he excelled in making his appearances. Look, George, and you know this: I couldn't do always what you wanted, and maybe that's just more to do with me and my writings than it is to do with you. You're so easy to talk to George, you've got some good drinks in that wine cellar of yours, and you know I think a great deal of you which is offered freely and needs nothing similar in return. I have valued your advice in these past few days: let that be on record. Well, well, what a season it has been: thanks to all of them. And here we are: friends, thanks to your nomination, we are heading towards having our next Archbishop!

[More cheers]

Friends indeed, we have so much to do. Let me tell you about myself. I was brought up in Wales, Abertawe we Welsh call it, where I was brought up and educated. My dad an engineer, I always skipped sports but I soon went to Cambridge and then Oxford and Mirfield and Cambridge and Oxford. And thanks to the wonderful Jane, who spoke to you a few days ago in that scintillating speech. I met her in Cambridge and she is the daughter of my evangelical brother bishop Geoffrey based as he was in multicultural Bradford. I have learnt much from him about multiculturalism.

[More cheers]

As she said, we have so much in common, with her theology lecturing, and what could I do without her backbone? And as you know, we live in Monmouth, such a good place to be for a Christian family. Let me tell you about my roots. Yes I am indeed Welsh, and I speak the language, and six others, and one of those I learnt quickly to help me get deeper into one of my influences: Russian spirituality, although institutional Orthodoxy has a particular difficulty with culture and nationalism. Western Catholicism, with its major theologians and spirituality, has attracted me greatly too. I could agree with all of it; I even think a pope is a co-ordinating positive, but cannot be so positive for the problem of an infallible pope. I come of course from the Land of Song, in its chapels too, and you all know that I think the State should view us all quite more equally. I know that, unlike all of you, I have never done the usual training for the ordained ministry, but your endorsement here at this convention suggests that this is no bad thing.

[Some cheers]

Well, so much needs to be done. Let me say now what needs to be done. The media says I am a moderniser, a liberal even, a radical in some senses, and will bring reform to this Church of England.

[A few cheers here and there]

And I have a theology not too dissimilar from those Radical Orthodox making such a name for themselves in Cambridge. You know that my theology is more dense and detailed, and that I like you do value the importance of scholarship.

[More cheers and some puzzlement]

You know my convictions in certain areas, some admittedly controversial, and indeed so long as the relationship is lifelong and consistent with marriage, I believe that gay relationships can be as those with marriage, and that Paul in the New Testament is talking about heterosexuals looking for variety in the context of idolatry. And yes I have known and supported clergy who are faithfully gay. I am a founding Affirming Catholic, ladies and gentlemen.

[A few cheers here and there and some other sounds]

So let me tell you what you can expect from the next Archbishop of this land. I'll be an internationalist. I will try and meet some of the demands of the Roman Catholic Pope regarding Anglicanism and bring more international episcopal coherence to the whole body: the Anglican Communion should be more recognisably like a Church. I want strengthened central institutions. The most literalist understanding of the Bible will be the norm for one Church's expectation regarding the orthodoxy of another Church and from the Communion point of view. Furthermore, my policy will be that no known gay person will be consecrated under my watch, and if anyone else does this abroad we shall have to find ways of isolating such a person and introducing restrictive measures. I will stress agreement I have with the most fundamentalist and extreme provinces. Indeed, in accepting your nomination, everything I have stood for I will overturn, except for that of an international model of Catholicism. In complete contrast to this, I shall put into the public arena a multicultural agenda and be particularly legalistic about Islam and be scriptural about Hinduism.

Except, and let me stress this, and let me assure you all, I shall not do anything particularly, though I am looking forward to 2008.

[Complete gasps of astonishment from the delegates]

I accept your nomination to be the next Archbishop!

[Robotic cheers from the delegates who realise the cameras are on them]

[Loud baroque music plays and lots of wafers drop from the ceiling]

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Evangelicals Now and Present

Whilst others of his ilk boycotted the Lambeth Conference, Chris Sugden went there. He did so by having a press pass. Perhaps some of those bishops boycotting could have attended as roving reporters as well. He was as much an organiser as a reporter of press conferences, of course.

He has his own reflections, being positive about the final worship and about the meeting together of the folks in purple.

Without votes, Chris Sugden has to refer to what a few people said and use some of his own rhetoric: like the "pro-gay agenda" [bad, something else] versus the "remain true to Christian orthodoxy [good. something central] working for as long as the sun shone.

Another senior archbishop noted that the conference culture was highly controlled...

The outcome was predetermined, he claims. How about two conferences at the same time: the one of the formal working groups with agendas reporting into the conference, not deflected, and the more or less informal groupings giving their listening, conflicting, opinions?

He clearly dismisses the Pastoral Forum. They asked for this a year ago:

Orthodox Anglican leaders in North America say that they are not asking for this now.

It is a low blow to quote "another primate" who believes that the Pastoral Forum is to support the Archbishop of Canterbury and undermine the GAFCON Primates Meeting due to racial prejudice. Reverse racism, perhaps, from such a belief, just as the GAFCON primates seem to think in terms of reverse colonialism in their actions.

More deflective speculation is offered when Chris Sugden supposes that the presentation referring to some bishops as wife-beaters was an attempt to discredit African orthodoxy.

Even my Machiavellian mind (according to Ephraim Radner) doesn't extend that far.

If the Reflections document didn't refer to "clear disobedience to revealed truth in Scripture" it might just be because there was not sufficient weight of opinion in that direction. Just because Chris Sugden and the breakaway supporters think this doesn't mean it is so.

He accuses the Archbishop of Canterbury as failing to speak with the Primates when he spoke to them and others. This is to suppose that the Primates as collective have some sort of formal position. They don't. The Archbishop certainly put his stamp on this event, as he was the host of the party. This is not the Roman Catholic Church, much as some would see a loose Anglican Communion going that way and is indeed the Archbishop's own tendency.

If GAFCON wants to organise itself centrally in that fashion for its confessional set-up, then it certainly can: but Canterbury related Anglicans don't have to at all.

Perhaps the make-up of the market place was based on who made the effort to be there: how come these all so numerous evangelicals couldn't put up a show? A diatribe by Chris Sugden about secular liberalism and an inclusive conference has little to do with the bishops at the conference: they were always going to be there. There were some who excluded themselves, practising self-exclusion.

That's journalism for you. These journalists do have a tendency to make some things up, and to see things that are not always there, to come with an agenda before paper is set to pen, even the journalist who is otherwise busy organising the competition.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Cake and Eat

The Archbishop of Canterbury's expected Pastoral Letter wants it very much both ways.

It starts off:

The Conference was not a time for making new laws or for binding decisions; in spite of the way some have expressed their expectations...

But then he states later on:

there was a clear sense that some sort of covenant will help our identity and cohesion, although the bishops wish to avoid a legalistic or juridical tone. A strong majority of bishops present agreed [my emphasis, but a strong majority?] that moratoria on same-sex blessings and on cross-provincial interventions were necessary, but they were aware of the conscientious difficulties this posed for some, and there needs to be a greater clarity about the exact expectations and what can be realistically implemented...

What was the counting system used? What "strong majority"? Perhaps it was those big sheets used where scribes noted down in big writing the conflicting opinions of bishops in small groups and then scribes wrote an approximate summary.

He is still sort of counting when it comes to those in Jerusalem:

many of us expressed a clear sense of affinity with much that was said there and were grateful that many had attended both meetings

Yes. And many did not, apparently, particularly those with boundary crossings going on and expected.

In the same way, when is not a report a report? When:

it has a number of pointers as to where the common goals and assumptions are in the Communion.

Let's examine the rest of the Pastoral Letter's sense that decisions were not taken but were taken:

  • repeatedly stressed - The Millennium Development Goals
  • it was agreed - needed a much enhanced capacity in the Communion for co-ordinated work in the field of development
  • clear goals - for developing environmentally responsible policies in church life
  • a very widely-held conviction - premature or unilateral local change was risky and divisive, in spite of the diversity of opinion expressed
  • no appetite - revising Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 [hardly was on offer, was it?]
  • a clear commitment - continue theological and pastoral discussion of the questions involved
  • widespread support - moratoria
  • much support - the idea of a 'Pastoral Forum'
  • it was recognized - serious reflection on the Christian doctrine of human nature and a continuing deepening of our understanding of Christian marriage
  • a general desire - find better ways of managing our business as a Communion
  • Many ...expressed - the desire to see the [indaba] method used more widely

So through all this vagueness of what many expressed and what was recognised and any other phrase that reduces the amount of repetition going into a Pastoral Letter, we have this upshot:

I shall be seeking to identify the resources we shall need in order to take forward some of the proposals about our structures and methods

This is the big outcome, then, of the gathering. Couldn't he have arrived at this more cost-effectively? Presumably the one concrete outcome refers to the Pastoral Forum. This should be real enough, shouldn't it? It is:

  • a means of addressing present and future tensions
  • a clearing house for proposals concerning the care of groups at odds with dominant views within their Provinces
  • [a way to] avoid the confusing situation of violations of provincial boundaries and competing jurisdictions

Except, of course, it won't operate until after the big second votes are taken in Episcopal Dioceses in their bishops' attempts to break away from The Episcopal Church. It is their move first, not a Pastoral Forum's. Like a version of Monty Python's bishops coming by bus, it will arrive too late.

Anyway, let's hear it for the rest of the Pastoral Letter: it's like the script of an awards ceremony. Thanks! to:

  • all who planned and organized the Conference
  • those who composed the Bible Studies
  • those who devised and monitored the work of the indaba groups
  • others who served us so devotedly - not least the Stewards
  • bishops and spouses
  • God for his presence with us

And I love you all!

Saturday 23 August 2008

Theological Position

My theological position seems to be a small issue at Fulcrum. It derives from me thinking I could, from a position of agreement with his biology, give Richard Dawkins a run for his money when it comes to him straying into religion. However, the run for the money he'd get clearly would not satisfy open evangelicals. It wouldn't suit traditionalists either. It probably wouldn't even suit some called liberals either.

In the context of the present Anglican situation I've been calling for more of a theology of innovation. If all the emphasis is on one Church not offending another Church on the basis of, say, that Advent Letter of 2007 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, then the whole weight of active theology is on slowing down and slowing down until there is nothing of any innovation anywhere that isn't centrally approved. The genius of post-colonial Anglicanism has been to be responsive to local culture as well as present its central core messages. The present attempt to centralise - which ought to be resisted - would overturn what it means to be particularly Anglican.

I am more than grateful to have been in receipt of some books recently, and there is clearly available a theology of innovation - if not called that, but it could be so developed. It is linked to diversity. Twenty years back in Clarke, P. A. B. and Linzey, A. (eds.) (1988), Theology, The University and The Modern World, London: LCAP, Andrew Linzey wrote a chapter himself called, simply, 'On Theology', 29-66. In this he used his own considerable understanding of Karl Barth (he did his Ph.D on him) to move on to a theology that would focus more on Spirit (Barth might have done such himself). From a position more orthodox than I can produce, the result is a rounded trinitarian belief that demands diversity of expression, a critical approach and a responsiveness to matters arising. This is the theology of inspiration and achievement, and creativity: doing something new. Andrew Linzey writes there, after a passage from Paulos Mar Gregorius on the God as dynamic and the universe as dynamic:

This it should be emphasised is not 'theological liberalism'... the emphasis is not upon what we cannot know but rather what God cannot be if he is to be what we traditionally claim him to be. Some fundamental open-mindedness is essential not because we cannot know what God is really like but rather because without this prerequisite of open-mindedness we cannot know God at all. We have to be open because God has and is opening himself up to us. (1988, 49)

The Church itself needs to mirror the very unity in diversity that God the Trinity expresses, he states (1988, 49). In later writings (also received!) the same position goes on to reject centralisation towards a communion (Linzey, A. (2005), Has Anglicanism a Future: A Reponse to the Windsor Report, London: LGCM) and to express diversity and indeed a sort of listening, responsive innovation: Linzey, A., 'In Defense of Diversity' in Linzey, A., Kirker R. (eds.) (2005), Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: Responses to the Windsor Report, Winchester: O Books, 160-198.

My argument has been a little more sociological than that, but amounts to the same thing: that the Churches being the points of unity are more responsive, flexible and quite capable of applying the core message to local situations in place and time.

I am fascinated by that definition of religious liberalism:

'theological liberalism'... the emphasis is not upon what we cannot know

That is right too. This is more my position, where I will emphasise what I cannot know, and then write about what I do know as best I can. It is why I have become interested in some of the wider ideas of Ernst Troeltsch in that he too looked at what cannot be known as theology was seen as an academic subject along with history and sociology and philosophy. Since the loss of optimism the modern theologians - Barth, Bonhoeffer, Tillich, Bultmann, the Niebuhrs - have given a special space for theology separate from other academic subjects. A special, revelatory space went along with one-way Christ narrative, Christianity in the secular, ultimate questions for Christian answers, demythologising not quite everything and either own-life responsiveness to the narrative or social and economic pragmatism.

This is where I differ (just) from Andrew Linzey, as in the 1988 chapter as above:

Certainly I would want to say that the affirmation of Christ as ousia with God the Father is not only intellectually defensible but true. For all kinds of reasons I think that those who attack this doctrine are mistaken. But even here I cannot persuade myself that the conception of the unity between Christ and the Father expressed in the Chalcedonian definition by way of the term 'ousia' is the only or best conceivable way of understanding that unity. (1988, 63)

I don't attack it; I don't understand it. Of course I understand what it is saying, but I don't have a space for its operation other than in the realm of myth.

Now myth I regard as important. Myth is like art, and art is important. Meanings in our world are not simply centred around physical causality. However, I don't have a space for the objective existence of something like 'ousia' and that is not because I tend to the postmodern.

I look at the figure of Jesus and see many. I see a figure in traditions and I see one that might be historically reconstructed, with great difficulty, as a messianic Jew seeing a Kingdom coming with all speed and vitality. I see early Christians' Jesuses. What I don't see is some sort of essence that is a given, from beyond. I could just be blind; I might, in Calvinist terms, be one of those people chosen by God to be damned. Or I could just be rather sensible. I don't know, but I don't see it.

In the end the Jesus figure or figures is a reflective personality, that a kind of dialectic relationship on what is important in one's own and the community life. It is like a challenge, a reference point (among others).

When it comes to God, then we clearly have, in the arts in particular, but in all sorts of mundane and inspirational moments, signals of transcendence. When Richard Dawkins expresses wonder and amazement for the evolved world, we have a signal of transcendence. They give clues to transcendence, but only clues, and the dots of transcendence may not join up. Again, theological liberalism is about what is missing.

So it is too, that whilst one can talk about a human spirit, but does not have to objectify it into something other (I see how Hindus do this: the Atman becomes part of the Brahman) so one can talk about a Spirit at work. But, for me, this is mythological talk. There is no objectivity in it, beyond the possibility of objectivity. Clearly diversity is a means to open up, and opening up allows things to happen. Is that 'the Spirit' at work? Well, I don't know.

What liturgy does is gives a content and arts-supported pathway towards reflection. It was constructed, and maintains that construction even when translated into modern speech forms, in a mythological age. It expresses things in other terms of reference from the way people today practically think and operate. Too many people throw a religious switch and talk in one manner, very defensively sometimes, only to actually act and work in every day life in an entirely secular thought-frame. Quite simply, I am looking for more consistency than this. So much of the mythic language when objectified becomes inconsistent, and actually becomes surplus. Not only can I not understand it, I cannot see the point of it.

Thus is my theology: I thought, at this point, I'd better explain for the sake of clarity. As you get deeper into disputes that are going on, people start claiming you as their friends, so I ought to lay some cards on the table in case they need other friends.

Friday 22 August 2008

Power to Persuade and Cohere

Back in the days of my first degree I did a course in American politics, and in fact I followed that part up for an abandoned course on American Government at the University of Essex for a few months from the end of 1981 (it is not on my CV!). I had a succession of accommodation problems. Only after this did I draw on the Sociology within the first degree and ended up doing a Sociology of religion Ph.D, and later on in the nineties became a qualified pop group with an MA in contemporary Theology.

One question we studied in the BA and aborted MA was how American presidents gained their power. The answer was - skilfully, via the power to persuade. They can initiate and they can veto (overturned by two thirds majorities in both Houses of Congress). Another way they gain power is by organising the Executive branch, to have their cabinet ministers and advisors in some competition with each other regarding advice. The President coheres and the President has the buck stopping with him.

Now a powerful Prime Minister in Britain, despite having a small majority, was Harold Wilson. One of his master strokes was to keep George Brown busy with the new Institute of Economic Affairs. The idea was to match it against the Treasury. Anyone who knows their political history knows that the Treasury throttled the IEA and George Brown ended up drunk in doorways. Ministers constantly argued, and Harold Wilson took the decisions. He had a 'kitchen cabinet' but he did let the real one function. When Harold Wilson suddenly resigned, he did it because he had the first clue of loss of his considerable intellectual powers, and there was a history of Altzheimer's Disease in the family. Indeed he did get the disease and ended up nursed in the Scilly Isles. He had also become paranoid about the secret service listening in on him.

I mention this in a largely (not completely) religious based blog because I'm thinking of designing a conference where I can end up taking the decisions. How would I do it?

One of the things to do is to keep people occupied, and the best way to do that is through lots of workshops or the equivalent. Whilst the conference can go on a long time, I want the actual subjects to consider to be short of time so that there is a sense that they are unfinished (I can then finish them myself). Now, I don't want them to take the decisions, just in case the majorities run against me on anything, or there is some sort of insistence I don't want. So this would mean separating out the reporting system of what was said in the groups from the groups themselves. I'll have some scribes to work for me.

(It's like when Margaret Thatcher read out the minutes. They were always agreeable to her interpretation of a discussion. She actually had two advantages - she did most of the speaking too.)

Now I don't want other scribes in there, so the conference will have to be private. I want reporters and people to feel involved, but not actually to be involved, so this will be a high fence conference and other people kept on the fringe. Those who are really involved can even be entirely isolated from the outsiders and reporters as they wish: if the involved leak to these outside scribes it will be obvious who the involved are. There are always those who want to enhance their own position by leaking, giving interviews and generally making relationships with unreliable scribes. Remember that at the conference these reporters won't be opening their mail until they get back.

So what sort of process and outcome do I want? I want heads down and studying, and small discussions, and arrange the groups to consist of opposite types so that they all clash and have to listen to each other. The scribes then write down the conflicting messages on big sheets of paper and they will have leeway what to emphasise: there can be a feedback on this so the conference goers think they own the process - but they don't.

We need some big plenary sessions of course, so I will invite some of my mates to come down and give speeches that will nudge along my argument. However, I shall make my own speeches and have my own press briefings because I want to make sure the agenda runs my way. I know what I want.

My first speech will be to set the scene. My second one will sow a bit of confusion by an even-handedness that will reflect the divisions in the small groups and the incomplete subjects discussed. So that will lay the whole thing open for my last speech. I need to make sure that I will carry people with my last speech, which, if it coheres will be a tremendous relief to them, so what I will also do is have a few working groups starting up before and outside the actual workings of the conference carrying out my agenda. So they will make some initial recommendations into the conference that will whet the appetites of the attenders. Then I will draw on these working parties for my big finale in which I will make announcements of having more working groups.

That should do it. They will be drinking out of my hands.

Now I need a venue. I wonder if the University of Kent has a spare two or three weeks?

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Purple Huddle

This is basically a link to someone else's excellent portrait two days ago of the Lambeth Conference. It really does have the ring of authenticity about it, that shows what it was like as seen from from the boundary. The bishops became increasingly remote, a purple huddle mainly somewhere else, decisions of sorts being taken from behind metaphorical high wire that will change Anglicanism into something else. It comes across in this writing as a conference of fear: fear about itself, fear about others, fear about the future, operated as such not for the rest of us but in spite of the rest of us.

Holding Together but Going Nowhere is by Jean Mayland of the Modern Churchpeople's Union, who made the effort to run the MCU stall, and it is just dripping with insight.

Reacting and Pragmatism

Ephraim Radner has responded to my blog entry that suggests The Episcopal Church would do well to withdraw from the Anglican Communion before central Anglican Communion institutions come to define TEC and the ACC as second division while it centralises. Graham Kings also provides questions and answers from the final press conference from Rowan Williams. So these are worth a response; I already have responded, directly into the Fulcrum site (yet to appear as I write) but there is some more to add here. Furthermore Thinking Anglicans has collected relevant responses to Lambeth from one American bishop and three English bishops, as well as the email by Bishop Robert Duncan who is set to become Primate of the Province of North America in GAFCON.

To start with the press conference. The key aspect of the Pastoral Forum is this, that it should be set up quickly and its basis is:

something in the Dar es Salaam Primates’ Communiqué about how external support might be factored into a local church like the Episcopal Church. Something is worth pursuing so it is putting a bit of flesh on that.

So it is another go at an institution that had failed to take off and in all probability will fail again on the same basis - it means interfering from outside.

Secondly is the matter to do with the intention towards centralisation. This indeed was affirmed by Rowan Williams:

is this suggesting the Communion itself is moving more towards being 'a church'?

I think the answer would have to be yes from where I stand. I hope that a little bit more mutual responsibility and accountability and a bit more willingness to walk in step will make us more like a church.

Not enforced conformity, but:

a challenge to the tendency for local churches to get trapped in their local contexts. I think that’s a danger. The catholic ideal, if you like, the global ideal, is one of the ways we push back against those tendencies.

Rowan Williams is understating things as per usual so the question is what he means. It means, I think, if some potential action is a cultural response on a specific situation then there should be global level mutual responsibility and accountability first - which means do something other, or not do what was intended. It means the speed of the slowest, and it means intervention should come if the speed of the slowest is not observed.

Ephraim Radner responds that the Communion used to be centralised back in history and there was no independency then. This does not compare with anything Rowan Williams, "nasty evangelicals or integralist catholics" might be suggesting There was no golden age. Centralising has not yet happened (I think he is referring to the Communion here, though the point comes later). Secondly TEC may not be actually governed authoritatively by General Convention and dioceses may actually be "the only real entity of authority in the U.S." The various responses in TEC may be pragmatic and there may be nothing traditional to govern the responses, and Rowan Williams is trying to provide an ecclesiastical rationale via his Catholic stance.

First of all, there is of course a long tradition of pragmatism in the United States: it is in its philosophy and theology for example (two names come to me immediately: Richard Rorty as a pragmatic version of postmodern philosophy, Reinhold Niebuhr as a pragmatist of social and economic theology). Pragmatism is practical and measured: I am myself something of a pragmatist. It does not follow at all that tradition should be the decider of what to do. All Churches at different stages innovate, usually because some pressing issue forces it, though the innovation is usually accompanied by an argument from tradition for reasons of legitimacy. Hobsbawm and Ranger wrote a good book on The Invention of Tradition in 1983 about how people draw up arguments and practices for this purpose.

I think there should be a theology of innovation, otherwise everything slows down to slower than a snail. Anglicanism is not Orthodoxy. Roman Catholicism might be as slow as a snail, but it can potentially be revolutionary because the pope is a means to change; Anglicanism is a far more flexible and culturally founded organ, and it is more fluid and open to change. Presumably it wants to identify and keep key doctrines, but beyond these it can change however it likes.

The past is no judge on this: there was no actual Communion but the Church of England extended and other agencies elsewhere, putting out a cultural Christianity to others. The Church of England insisted on its own autonomy, all the time, and this is what other Churches gained when they had their independence. They became more culturally responsive, usually ending up with a peculiar hybrid of English and local Christianity. The oddity of Britain, however, meant that Scotland was different, and tinged with support for a deposed king and descendents. Thus we get a different stream out of Scotland, and that became the American one.

In the end hard, concrete, pragmatic incidents will decide what happens. It is the Pastoral Forum when up and running that will impact by what it does, and it is the making of a new province of GAFCON that will decide what happens. Robert Duncan is quite insistent upon it (see below), and it won't be the last new province either: these people are out to remake Anglicanism as a narrow, confessional Communion that really would be like a Church. These are realities far more significant than my or anyone else's rhetoric. It is looking at those realities that affects what I am writing.

This is why the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle provides the best analysis of the three English bishops highlighted. Paul Richardson is not wearing rose tinted spectacles.

The fault lines are within provinces (indeed they are) and there is the province of North America coming, he says. And, as well:

There is no guarantee that either the Covenant or the Pastoral Forum will prove acceptable to the Communion. There are questions about whether Parliament would give its approval to the Church of England entering the Covenant if this were seen as narrowing the broad national and popular base of the church.

This is plain and clear (and rather obvious). It is not wrapped up in Ephraim Radners "Christ centred" language: that language can be applied to all sorts of options (and is one reason why I don't use it). Another fact is that the Covenant could take up to 2013 to be agreed, which leaves a lot of time for events.

Here is a key passage:

It is difficult to see this happening if traditionalist bishops from elsewhere in the Communion continue to take parishes and dioceses in the US under their wing or ordain bishops for North America. The diocese of Fort Worth is set to follow the example of San Joaquin and enter the Province of the Southern Cone (fully represented at Lambeth). The pressures on American bishops to respond to outside interference by disregarding the moratoria will be enormous, especially in those places such as California seeking to legalise same-sex marriage.

My argument, though, is that the Americans should not have the moratoria. It is just wrong. And the basis of it, in order to hold some centralising arrangement together, is not worth the cost of exclusion.

Pierre W. Whalon, the Bishop in Charge, Convocation of American Churches in Europe, wants the Communion to succeed. However, his point is that within the Communion the argument that inclusion is moral theology and not key doctrine has to be better made, better arguments using theology and not just social science and science. Moral theology does change - and he is (this way) developing a theology of innovation. I just think it won't be accepted by those who formed GAFCON and by many other evangelicals. They do not accept the argument, as believed by Rowan Williams personally, that a Pauline text against homosexual activity is about heterosexuals looking for sexual variety - that Paul was not on about committed lifelong intended relationships that can be the equivalent of heterosexual marriage. The evangelicals, we know, say that because the Bible in simplistic literalistic form is never pro-gay regarding sexual expression that it becomes first order to be anti gay inclusion where sexual expression is involved.

So it is an impasse. We either have the same sex relationship blessings and priests and bishops who may be in same sex relationships or we don't. Well in some Churches there will be cultural reasons why not (whilst there are indeed gay people about and many who feel very threatened) but in others there are cultural reasons to proceed - reasons that allow other Churches at some point to develop more tolerance at least. The Churches in lands where gay people have civil partnerships ought to have blessings and ought to have representation within the ministry.

Pierre W. Whalon is naturally against schism, but schism is being forced upon him and others, and actually getting out of the Communion a way to reconstitute a more flexible, responsive, set of Churches in relationships with one another.

The alternative is something like Anthony Russell's piece, where all is so positive including a clear majority that the moratoria should work. Trouble is, it doesn't take many doing otherwise for the moratoria not to work, however many would like it to work. It is irrelevant what the majority wants, because they don't decide it: a minority do.

This is what he is happy about:

As one Bishop said, 'We have never really had an Anglican Communion. It's starting now.'

It might also be finishing now, in terms of hard realities.

In some contrast, the Bishop of Oxford is struggling. It was all a good experience, Lambeth, but:

The difficulty remains in the final part of the Covenant, and in the appendix, where details are spelled out of a possible way of handling disputes. More work needs to be done here to avoid an aura of punishment while still preventing the fabric of communion tearing further. I don't envy the task of the Covenant Design Group but I do believe they are to be trusted.


Of course there are real concerns. Mine centre on whether the Gafcon bishops and leaders will be prepared to engage with the re-affirmed Covenant and Windsor processes, and whether the American church will hold to the moratoria.

And that is the point. So let's see what Bob will do to help the process (as of August 11). To help, numbers are added:

There are at least four serious problems with the thinking surrounding the work of the Windsor Continuation Group...
  1. the moral equivalence implied between the three moratoria
  2. We all anticipate coming under Southern Cone this fall, thus to join San Joaquin. This process cannot be stopped
  3. Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Southern Cone (including Recife) will never consent to the "holding tank" whose stated purpose is eventual "reconciliation" with TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada.
  4. the legal proceedings brought by TEC and ACC

Well that is clear then. Time to take off the rose coloured spectacles.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Fawning and Imagining

Some Open Evangelicals are now making their responses to Lambeth, particularly Graham Kings in England and Ephraim Radner in North America.

Graham Kings takes a ride on the African theme (given these cut-down indabas at Lambeth, and probably the provinces behind GAFCON too - that he reduces to a "shadow conference"). He says African wisdom comes in proverbs whereas European wisdom (equally treated) comes in aphorisms.

Then he is on to "conversation" (being different from talk) and "writing" at Lambeth itself, including those Reflections, where only the mildest of criticism is offered.

Then we have something of a staple of Fulcrum: the desired fawning of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now I happen to think that we should be respectful, and even more see the better side of someone and give the benefit of the doubt. Yet even the second address of Rowan Williams gets a positive response from Graham Kings: that was the one that troubled evangelicals and traditionalists because he voiced the liberal inclusivist opinion alongside the excluding one, and left evangelicals and traditionalists to worry about an apparent even handedness:

He went on, riskily and imaginatively, to enter the world of the 'innovator' and the 'traditionalist' concerning sexuality and tried to describe them from the inside and their respective calls for generosity. Surprisingly, and perhaps deliberately, he left little room to develop the depth of the 'centre'.

Surprisingly - but perhaps deliberately - Graham Kings can offer the only the tiniest criticism of the Archbishop here when he must have heard how other evangelicals were responding.

However, the tiny criticism is allowed because there is the third address, the "magisterially resolute" one. Deeper into Christ, it went, apparently, as it set out a programme far more deliberate than anything resolved (as nothing was resolved - or was it so?) at the Lambeth Conference.

Intriguingly, he used the phrase 'Anglican Church' several times, and time will be needed to elucidate this hint.

It was no hint: it was deliberate, underlined at the last press conference.

The baddies of the magesterial denouement, however, went away from this tight lipped: these bishops had "media advisors" to do this. Double think and double talk!

If they were angry, but not in public, how does Graham Kings know? Did Susan Russell represent them all? Unlike the magisterial Archbishop, Americans think one thing in private and say one thing in public, and this would never do.

So the Archbishop is acting "urgently" with the Pastoral Forum, with as much legitimacy as every other dreamt up organ of intervention. GAFCON can come back in - build bridges with them while North Americans cross bridges with their private anger in media-guided public silence.

The Pastoral Forum has "potential" against the interventions of GAFCON, interventions which can only lead to a "vacuum centred federation", unlike the Archbishop building his centralised Empire with Christ somewhere subsumed in the middle. Such a Forum needs a "Primate of significant distinction" (is there one?). This would have to be someone conservative on sexual issues and keen to hold the communion together.

Graham Kings forgets one thing. He forgets the Canadians and the Americans. He forgets the Irish and the Scots and the Welsh. He forgets most Australians and the New Zealanders. He forgets the Brazilians, the Mexicans and even the South Africans. None of these, and a great many of the English, will not put up with this. He forgets Synods and actual Churches.

This is all the wrong way around. The separatists and homophobes of Africa are being enticed, and a minority of a population are being excluded on the basis of building this Castle in the sky.

But let's just imagine for a moment that Fulcrum has the ear of the strategy, rather than just agreeing with anything this Archbishop does (or like Tom Wright, imagining being close to the centre of activity while he gets everything wrong). Let's just suppose that this is the way forward.

Well then, if the Americans and Canadians have got any sense, in their private anger and public silence, they will do what should be done. Get out. Get out before it is too late. Make it easy for them. And then watch and see who really wants the Castle in the sky, or who instead actually wants to build bridges across the Atlantic - real bridges worth having.

Who would want to be in a Communion that could reabsorb GAFCON on at least some of its terms? Not many. It might help stop a division through Fulcrum, between Conservative and Open strains, but it won't be much of a Communion left and it definitely would not be worth the effort of dodging the bigotry.

And then there is Ephraim Radner. He is less fawning in response but is most definitely of the same school.

He mentions the press in more detail and its various declarations, including the non-revelation of an Archbishop's double-think towards gay inclusion, yet blanketed by his assertion of:

the Archbishop's long-known support of yesteryear for a positive consideration of gay inclusion (a support he has since significantly modified in a traditionalist direction).

That was according to Tom Wright's letter: not according to Rowan Williams's own account at the same time. And, in any case, the double-think goes so much further, as evidenced when he was tied in knots after being asked simple questions by Richard Dawkins, as shown on Channel 4 on Monday evening (The Genius of Charles Darwin).

So we get to:

a more realistic assessment of the road now opened up after the Lambeth Conference...

First of all, the bishops got on so well with each other and in doing religious things, with the Bible at the centre.


...the Conference "Report" or "Reflections"...stands more as a series of undigested notes, helpful perhaps to the participants in reminding them of things said and shared, but without much coherent direction for the faithful at large.

See, it doesn't look so much like fawning. It may well actually be worse:

But there is little in it [the Conference] to guide and inspire, and one might indeed wonder if the unique opportunity of the Communion's episcopal college actually coming together at a time of undoubted ecclesial crisis had been substantively squandered in favor of a kind of preliminary relational work that should have been both pursued and presumed long before the frenzied and torrid few days of July.

Episcopal College? What's that? When was that set up? Anyway, look - there is criticism too even about the Archbishop when Graham Kings was able to be so positive:

there were those who heard mixed messages in some of his earlier reflections...

However, salvation comes from that same man, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who at the last provided:

a clear vision of accountability for the Communion that was built on a solid ecclesiology. seemed as if he took upon himself only at the end of the Conference the task of articulating a common mind that the Reflections only struggled, haltingly at best, to identify.

It starts to look like a one man show. There were all these bishops, and they all said lots of things in all sorts of directions, and so did Rowan Williams twice. But at the last he managed to do what others were barely capable of achieving: he articulated the Mind of the Communion - probably. This achievement is to be followed up by a pastoral letter.

As well as this there was the Windsor Continuation Group, producing clarity and elements less clear, asserts Ephraim Radner. These drew a majority of support, apparently, from the bishops, though I don't know how he knows this.

The Global South also did their own thing too, cohering with the Windsor Continuation Group and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

(Though I seem to remember Michael Poon writing a somewhat different emphasis.)

So what is the conclusion?

First, there is no desire to separate (though not according to Graham Kings, for whom the media-guided Americans went away angry in private and silent in public). Ephraim Radner waxes lyrical about this lack of desire to separate in a way I wouldn't want to repeat (I'm English and I am modest). The bishops further embraced a form of obedience, apparently, again he waxing lyrical about this in all sorts of glossy Christian terminology.

The authority gained and expressed there is under "Christ's own life" (I've no idea what this is myself so I'm learning all the time here) - this being all about not changing something received in faith from scripture and tradition. (What has this to do with Christ's own life? Is this some sort of convoluted theologising?).

So we stick to excluding people, because the good book and tradition says so, and we are drawn (like gravity?) into unity, into a covenant and it will involve a Covenant.

So really we are replacing fawning with imagination here. The guy has gone for a Christian terminology dance around the park, where all the flowers are pretty and the trees dance and everyone feels just so unified and needs a document to say so... Oh and lots of park keepers in the form of centralising institutions.

It's the "weight of accountability that the moratoria embody". Gosh: the weight, the heaviness, the sheer gravity of it all! It's all Christ and the Church and unity and wonders will never cease.

And the turbulence (that is, presumably, not gravity) is evidence that making changes needs the onus of proof that such changes are right.

Violations of boundaries are equivalent because all should walk as one under the Master (that being Christ, not Rowan Williams).

Oh it sounds like an argument for goosestepping. Let's all look the same, be the same, do the same, respond the same: respond according to the one who moves the least, thinks the least, says the most.

The conference was "closing the circle" unleashed from 1998, and you shouldn't get away with the most basic of blessings while also trying to reach out to the GAFCON splitters.

Yet Ephraim Radner sees some dangers in all these God-backed centralising innovations (these new institutions that are innovations, aren't they?) [listing numbers added]:

  1. the proposed Forum will devolve into the impotence of the past Panel of Reference
  2. the infighting of the Primates will be coupled with their deferral of responsibility on the face of recent criticism
  3. the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and ACC will unite for a Joint Evasion
  4. GAFCON's leadership will turn their backs on the good will and counsel of friends and enshrine their separation in the habit of rejection
  5. the Archbishop himself will insist on others making necessary decisions despite their refusal and the overwhelming demands of the moment
  6. ...churches and bishops and dioceses simply continue to "do what is right in their own eyes"

Could be! And of the latter Churches, Ephraim Radner wants the Pastoral Forum, the Primates, the Joint Standing Committee and the Archbishop

respond relationally, according to the reasonable and Christian parameters that a "communion" embodies and intends

Which means that as there is no effective moratoria, even now, these "relational" institutions should intervene.

And his small Anglican Communon Institute has some recommendations to help.

  • Scripture should be called the Word of God (despite the fact it is words about the Word) and you cannot contradict it (despite the fact it contradicts itself).
  • There should be a Faith and Order Commission with bishops, clergy and laity with ten year memberships chosen by the Lambeth Conference or other representative means. (When was the Lambeth Conference representative? What of and by whom?)
  • The Faith and Order Commission handles disputes, recommending a judgment to the Primates who would give a provisional decision that is finalised by the Lambeth Conference without appeal. (Rule by bishops alone then and by what, a resolution?)
  • And so this goes on, with the Pastoral Forum carrying out the decisions.
  • And if you don't obey, you're out; and you're out until a petition and process for coming back within the Covenant.

There is something he perhaps doesn't get. Even at the Church of England's General Synod this was made clear. A Covenant that intends to exclude will not be accepted. The Churches won't have it.

Something else the Churches won't have either:

Individual dioceses who accept the Covenant apart from their provinces or national churches... free to petition the next Lambeth Conference for recognition of their partnerships as formal covenanting dioceses or provinces.

Ephraim Radner wants it all to happen quickly; of course he does - a "final ceremony" in 2011 or 2012.

Somehow ceremony is not the right word. But there is another suggestion.

Once again: don't wait for this, North America. Get out. Get out as fast as you can. Make it easy for them.

Then let's see what happens. The Covenant will not see the light of day. See then what a real communion looks like, with real hands of friendship across the water.

And be done with the centralising all under the disguise of gushing Christian talk that turns the sun of faith into a sheet of ice.

I was reminded recently about Karl Barth's views, that evangelical, with a colourful phrase encapsulating his views applied even to Christianity. Sinful manufactured religion: and the Covenant and all the institutions that keep being dreamt up represent just that. It is sinful manufactured religion: building an Empire on the backs of an excluded group.

When the cards are on the table, that group will not be excluded, nor anyone else that is to be welcomed into the family. It is on such small but hugely principled matters that whole empires can fall, and this one should and will.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Theology Course

Some months back I referred to a theology course I wanted to do. It is still very much under production, but the first ones have been done. Online is a syllabus page that is basically a menu, but they are all individually listed under theologians in the Learning/ Religion area. the resource paper for each and a summary only, the actual course has questions and clarifications, and a task. There will be some piloting of some of these, and this activity will be part of the St Mary's In-Depth Theology Group. The idea is that such a course is accessible to any reasonably intelligent church person, and that such theology should not be the preserve of academia. It may be, however, that I am not the best person to do it, or that this goal is an impossibility, because the material remains at too high a level. Still, without trying we won't know.

The first session just introduces theology and ethics, but then we get to a sort of starting point for modern theology, which is nineteenth century liberalism, where theology took from other emerging academic specialities and understandings, such as history as progress and social science. When you listen today to evangelicals going on about liberals, those who are called liberal usually follow some theology or combination that was set by the modern theologians that was actually anti-liberal. It was not just Karl Barth who was anti-liberal: they all were, but all then accepted biblical criticism and academic knowledge. Things have become so backward that what was not liberal is now counted as liberal: the moderns rejected subsuming theology with culture and produced a protected area for a theological essence.

My own position in this is irrelevant for the course, other than a desire to open up theology: but for the course I just work out the theologies and see how they connect. As it happens, as regards the moderns and before, my own position is probably closest to that of Ernst Troeltsch, who was a liberal in every sense, although mine is updated; of his sociology of religion categories applied to the Churches (and indeed theology) my stance would be that of his oft forgotten 'Mysticism', a post-Enlightenment individualist approach to religious belief in a setting of a voluntary collection of people who come together for religious practice. I'd modify this slightly towards using a pathway liturgy and received tradition, but not much.

Here is the list as it now exists, and is subject to change as it goes along.

  1. Ethics and Doing Theology Today
  2. Mainly Nineteenth Century Theological Liberalism (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Harnack, Troeltsch)
  3. What Became Narrative Theology: Karl Barth (1886-1968)
  4. Towards God and Secular Theology: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
  5. Theological Correlation: Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886-1965)
  6. Demythologising and Keeping a Distinctive Christianity: Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976)
  7. Pragmatism and the Supreme Sacrificial Ethic of Jesus: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
  8. Modern Theologians - Building Blocks
  9. Anglican Controversy: Essays and Reviews
  10. 1938 Church of England Doctrine Commission
  11. Honest to God and Debate - Metaphors and Mixing Bultmann, Tillich and Bonhoeffer
  12. The Myth of God Incarnate - Meanings of Myth
  13. Theology of David Jenkins - using Barth and Bonhoeffer
  14. Traditionalisms from the past (eg Thomist theology, Anselm, Puritans, etc.)
  15. Victorian Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism
  16. Evangelical reactions - National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) 1967 and after; the rise of fundamentalism
  17. Comprehensive: Hans Kung
  18. After the Shoah and a Theology of Suffering: Jurgen Moltmann
  19. Theologies of Liberation with Politics and Radical Education
  20. Eco-Feminist theology: Sallie McFague and Rosemary Radford Ruether
  21. Classics and Conversation: David Tracy
  22. Faiths: John Hick and Exclusivists, Inclusivists, Pluralists and Universalists
  23. Real Absence and Back to Transcendence: Raw, Cold Theology and the Poet
  24. Postmodern Theology: Nihilist Textualism and Radical Orthodoxy
  25. Theological Issues for the Future