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Posts Tagged ‘Anglicanism’

Wolves in wolves clothing

The Episcopal Church of the USA versus the Anglican Church of North America as told by Mollie Hemingway of the Wall Street Journal (via Gene Veith).

When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn’t been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she’d rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

The Episcopalian congregations that want to break away are part of a larger movement of Anglicans world-wide who are concerned by the liberalism of the official New York-based Episcopal Church on sexuality and certain basic tenets such as Jesus’ resurrection. Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in “broken” or “impaired” fellowship with the more liberal American church.

In 2009, breakaway Episcopalians in the U.S. and Canada formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now reports 100,000 members in nearly 1,000 congregations. This group has been formally recognized by some Anglican primates outside of the United States.

Bishop Jefferts Schori says this new Anglican group is encroaching on her church’s jurisdiction, and she has authorized dozens of lawsuits “to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the Episcopal Church.” The Episcopal Church has dedicated $22 million to legal actions against departing clergy, congregations and dioceses, according to Allan Haley, a canon lawyer who has represented a diocese in one such case.

Now the Episcopal Church has upped the ante: It has declared that if congregations break away and buy their sanctuaries, they must disaffiliate from any group that professes to be Anglican. . . .

“We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that “no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy” of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.

One wonders what exactly is the “mission strategy” of the ECUSA?  Answers below…

 

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I was reminded by a friend that today the Church of England honours Richard Baxter, that tireless puritan of the 17th century.  He’s mostly known for his book “The Reformed Pastor.”

But how reformational is The Reformed Pastor?

One of the ways of framing the reformation debate is this: the Roman Catholic church had essentially substituted the church for Christ.  Against this the reformers trumpeted Christ alone, etc.  But listen to this excerpt from The Reformed Pastor which my friend read out.  How reformed do you think it is?

‘The ministerial work must be carried on diligently and laboriously, as being of such unspeakable consequence to ourselves and others. We are seeking to uphold the world, to save it from the curse of God, to perfect the creation, to attain the ends of Christ’s death, to save ourselves and others from damnation, to overcome the devil, and demolish his kingdom, to set up the kingdom of Christ, and to attain and help others to the kingdom of glory. And are these works to be done with a careless mind, or a lazy hand? O see, then, that this work be done with all your might!’ (p112)

Altogether now:  AND THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON OUR SHO-O-O-O-O-OULDERS…

Interestingly Baxter quotes Paul on the same page:

“Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

But it seems to me that Paul is speaking about something with a very different feel to Baxter.  Paul’s talking about a completed salvation that has been accomplished upstream which then flows down of its own outgoing nature.  Paul is simply caught up in it.  Like Peter, he cannot help but speak of what he has seen and heard (Acts 3:20).  But it’s not the MUST of one who really ought to speak.  It’s the MUST of someone who can’t help but speak.  And it’s not the saving of the world which Paul attempts.  It’s simply the witness to it.

I know Baxter did a lot of good.  Thank God for him.  But The Reformed Pastor needs a bit more reformation methinks.

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Today was my last official 1662 Book of Common Prayer communion service as curate.  Aside from the prayer of humble access, this is the prayer I really love from the service.  It’s said after receiving communion and saying the Lord’s prayer:

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of thy everlasting kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death and passion of thy dear Son. And we most humbly beseech thee , O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen

What is communion according to this prayer?

1) The Father feeding us with Christ,

2) Assuring us of His favour and goodness towards us, namely…

3) That we are members of Christ, and…

4) We are heirs of the kingdom

5)  All through the death of Christ

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Now what?

1) Please Father, helps us to continue in communion with Christ

3) And that we walk in the good works you’ve prepared for us.

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Glory!

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“You’re lucky I’m Church of England…”

ht Jon Sidnell

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From Stand Firm in Faith

Any number of things madden me about this:

1. If Jesus is a ‘mechanism’ for Schori – she ain’t a sister.  She’s just not.  If Jesus is incidental to the identity of ‘God’ she’s got the wrong god.

2. Apparently Schori looks to fruits of the Spirit in religious teachers to demonstrate their closeness to God.  But then for ‘conservatives’ to insist on the confession of Christ as Lord amounts to works.

3. Her arguments are about the Abrahamic faiths – but just how does the Dali Lama fit into this?  Is he an anonymous Abrahamite?  Just who is the ‘God’ who’s in charge of this ‘salvation’?  Apparently he’s not even as specific as the God of Abraham.  Apparently His identity just isn’t important.

But one other thought:

4.  I believe we Evangelicals are a bit hamstrung when it comes to answering Schori whileever we remain unclear that Jesus just is the God of Abraham.  When our own reasoning also runs along the lines of “Jesus is essential for us, but not for them” our opposition to this teaching will not be as strong as it should be.

Just a thought.

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Given discussion about Lutheran influence on the UK, here’s a Thawsday repost…

John Richardson (whose excellent blog is here) adds his voice to this discussion on Stand Firm in Faith.  He writes about the place of repentance in the communion service.  It chimes with a lot of what I wrote here

I have long felt Anglicanism (specifically Thomas Cranmer) to be good at driving us to our knees in repentance, but not so good at letting us get up again.

In regard to this, I would point out the contrast between what the Book of Common Prayer says about our preparation to receive Holy Communion and what Luther said. The Exhortation in the BCP says in effect that if we are to receive Communion worthily we must first put ourselves right with God.

Contrast this with Luther. First, he says, “There must be faith to make the reception worthy and acceptable before God, otherwise it is nothing but sham and a mere external show.”

And what is this faith? It is “a firm trust that Christ, the Son of God, stands in our place and has taken all our sins upon his shoulders and that he is the eternal satisfaction for our sin and reconciles us with God the Father.”

But what does this mean for our ‘worthiness’? “This food demands a hungering and longing man, for it delights to enter a hungry soul, which is constantly battling with its sins and eager to be rid of them.”

Therefore those with the right faith are those, “who suffer tribulation, physical or spiritual … spiritually through despair of conscience, outwardly or inwardly, when the devil causes your heart to be weak, timid, and discouraged, so that you do not know how you stand with God, and when he casts your sins into your face.” (emphasis added)

I don’t think the BCP reflects this. Rather, the BCP urges communicants first: “search and examine your own consciences … that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly Feast, in the marriage-garment required by God in holy Scripture, and be received as worthy partakers of that holy Table” and so, “examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments; and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word, or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life” (emphasis added).

The Anglican way is ‘be cleansed, then come’. The Lutheran way is ‘come and be cleansed’.

Here’s a ‘come and be cleansed’ type sermon I preached called Eating with Jesus (listen here).

 

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Dan’s worried about wearing Anglican garb

Don’t worry Dan, there’s a lot of cool clerical wear out there.  I think the guy at the back is Archdeacon or something.

 

Vader is Anglican

 

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I was at a meeting of local Anglican clergy yesterday and got talking to a local minister at the coffee break.  I offered to pour him a brew and he said, “Oh I’ve given up coffee for lent.  You’d better make it half a cup.”

“Oh right.  Shall I make you a tea instead?” I offered, not wanting to lead a brother into sin.

“No, I think it’d be alright to have half a cup.  You see yesterday I allowed myself a coffee for the sake of St Patrick.  But actually it turned out to be a pretty awful brew, so I’ll have half a cup today to make up for it.”

“Oh” I said.

“That probably sounds ridiculous to you” he said…

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I was reflecting today that in the last fortnight I’ve received four pearls of wisdom from four Anglican bishops.  That’s right, I said Anglican bishops.

The first pearl came from retired Bishop John Taylor who spoke at our ordination retreat.  He told the story of a pastoral visit to a very ill woman in hospital.  It represents brilliantly what I think pastoral practice (and good evangelism) boils down to.  Here’s how I remember his re-telling:

I told her God’s grace was for her – even for her.

She said “No, it couldn’t be, you don’t know what I’ve done.”

I told her “Christ said ‘The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do.  I’ve not come to call the righteous but sinner.’ It really is for you.”

She said “No.”

I said “Yes!”… 

…Eventually she received Christ.

 

Brilliant!  The word from beyond comes, contradicts and finally comforts.  It perfectly encapsulates my understanding of ministry.

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The next pearl comes from my Bishop of Chichester in his charge to us priests prior to ordination.   He spoke about public worship:

It is fundamental for biblical faith that God is the subject and not the object of the liturgy.  In [OT] Temple worship, it is God who reveals himself, his presence, his name, his will.  The cultus was not a kind of magical conjuring up of a compliant deity but the place at which by thankful remembrance of what God has done in the past God himself has the opening to disclose himself again, here and now, to renew faith and secure its transmission to the next generation… it is something which lies in God’s own hands…

…Let me finish by trying to draw together a few scattered strands of this charge.  First, I would like you to remember always that true worship is not something we do, but a moment in which God discloses himself to us.  Second, I would like you to remember that both praise of God and thanksgiving for his actual gifts are central to authentic worship and third, I would like you to remember that worship has an important role in reconvincing people of his concrete, actual, historical acts of mercy so that they can become effective witnesses to those who do not believe.  And finally, I would like you to remember that if our worship is genuine, it can be a powerful witness to both those who believe and those who do not yet believe, that God is real and has been among his people.

We do not pull God down (through our faithful preaching, our good music or our sacramental practice).  These things, in God’s good pleasure, are a means of His grace.  The direction of the arrow is DOWN.

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Next pearl was from my area Bishop, Wallace Benn who preached at my ordination.  His passage was John 21:1-19.  He spoke of the importance of feeding the sheep (v15-17) and of the sure expectation of suffering in ministry (v18-19).  But first and foremost he drummed into us the vital importance of ‘maintaining your love relationship with the Lord’ (v15-17).

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Finally, Douglas Milmine – former Bishop of Paraguay – was at my ordination.  He’s been ordained since 1947, been a bishop for 35 years and absolutely brim full of the joy of the Lord.  Just minutes before the ordination service he said to us in the vestry: 

I’ve only one regret in my ministry – that I didn’t save more souls.  That’s the only reason we’re here – saving souls.

 

Go bishops!

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Tom Wright on GAFCON

This is pause for thought…

 

Central to these questions is the puzzle about the new proposed structure. I am sure the GAFCON organisers are as horrified as I am to see today’s headlines about ‘a new church’. That doesn’t seem to be what they intended. But for that reason it is all the more strange to reflect on 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? (What, for instance, about Eucharistic vestments and practices? What about women priests and bishops?) 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? It is precisely questions like these, within the larger Anglican world, which have proved so problematic in the last five years, and the ‘Declaration’ is actually a strange document which doesn’t help us address them. Many at GAFCON may think the answers will be obvious; in some clear-cut cases they may be. But there will be many other cases where they will not. 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. 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.

In particular, though, 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. Of course, within the larger global context, not least in North America, I can understand the perceived need for something like this. I know how warmly the proposals have already been welcomed by many in America whose situation has been truly dire. But I also know from my own situation 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.’ Sadly, as I suspect many at GAFCON simply didn’t realise, that kind of language has been used, in my personal experience, to attempt to justify various kinds of high-handed activity. It offers a blank cheque to anyone who wants to defy a bishop for whatever reasons, even if the bishop in question is scrupulously orthodox, and then to claim the right to alternative jurisdictional oversight. This cannot be the way forward; nor do I think most of those at GAFCON intended such a thing. That, of course, is the risk when documents are drafted at speed.

Read the whole thing here

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I’m about to be ordained presbyter in the Anglican Church (in about 90 minutes!)  It’s heartening to know I’m joining guys like these

Here’s the final statement of the GAFCON conference.

Some extracts:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world.

Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.

I like this conclusion too:

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

If there’s a bee in our bonnet – it’s that Christ is not being proclaimed clearly and distinctly enough.  Everything else that’s objectionable in these controversies flows from this crucial point.

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Ordination Vows

Right now you can read live blogging of GAFCON and the EMA.  I give you live blogging of the Chichester diocese ordination retreat 2008!  

On Sunday I’m being ordained into the presbyterate. In the Anglican church we’re ordained first as Deacons and then, usually the following year, as Presbyters (or “Priests”).  I’ve been reflecting on my ordination vows – which are weighty indeed.  Here is an extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (this is right at the heart of the Church of England’s doctrinal basis which consists of the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles and the Ordinal). 

The bishop says this: 

“Now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye have in remembrance, into how high a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and Charge ye are called: that is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.
    “Have always therefore printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his Spouse, and his Body. And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any Member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of the Ministry towards the children of God, towards the Spouse and Body of Christ; and see that ye never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until ye have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.
    “Forasmuch then as your Office is both of so great excellency, and of so great difficulty, ye see with how great care and study ye ought to apply yourselves, as well to show yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord, who hath placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be occasion that others offend. Howbeit, ye cannot have a mind and will thereto of yourselves; for that will and ability is given of God alone: therefore ye ought, and have need, to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that ye cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures, and in framing the manners both of yourselves, and of them that specially pertain unto you, according to the rule of the same Scriptures; and for this self-same cause, how ye ought to forsake and set aside, as much as ye may, all worldly cares and studies.
    “We have good hope that ye have well weighed these things with yourselves, long before this time; and that ye have clearly determined, by God’s grace, to give yourselves wholly to this Office, whereunto it hath pleased God to call you: so that, as much as lieth in you, ye will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; and that ye will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Saviour Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that, by daily reading and weighing the Scriptures, ye may wax riper and stronger in your Ministry; and that ye may so endeavour yourselves, from time to time, to sanctify the lives of you and yours, and to fashion them after the Rule and Doctrine of Christ, that ye may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow.”

 

And here are some of the vows we will take regarding the Bible – this time taken from the Common Worship ordination service which we’ll be using…

Bishop: Do you accept the Holy Scriptures as revealing all things necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?

Ordinands: I do so accept them.

Bishop: Will you be diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in all studies that will deepen your faith and fit you to bear witness to the truth of the gospel?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

Bishop: Will you lead Christ’s people in proclaiming his glorious gospel, so that the good news of salvation may be heard in every place?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

Bishop: Will you faithfully minister the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them, so that the people committed to your charge may be defended against error and flourish in the faith?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

 

It’s pause for thought to consider that those bishops about to meet at the Lambeth Conference have at least three times publicly signed up to this understanding of ministry and the bible.  They’ve made vows just like this before God and man – once as Deacon, once as Priest, once as Bishop.  Anglicans may not always live true to their calling – but this missional, gospel-centred, word-based ministry is the essence of true Anglicanism.

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I flew a kite here for the notion of confession following our taking of communion.  It wasn’t enthusiastically embraced!

I was reminded on Sunday of how brilliant Thomas Cranmer’s ‘Prayer of humble access’ is.  In the Anglican church, this is what we pray before receiving communion.  Isn’t it great?

We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Now if the supper was explained to people ‘On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread…’.  And people said this prayer, haven’t we been sufficiently prepared?  Then, following my appropriation of Christ’s grace, then I formally confess my sins – and let’s take some time about it, let’s mourn our sin and hate it.  But don’t we confess best when humbled by grace?

(Even if you object to this, thought I’d share the prayer – good huh?)

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