Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Strife is O'er, the Battle Won? Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh Convention, November 6, 2010

Deja vu all over again; yes, dear readers, I'm back for what I sincerely hope will be a final stab at convention journalism, God - and my wife's doctoral defense - willing. Last month for Pittsburgh TEC, this month for Pittsburgh ACNA. Please don't ask why - a form of masochism, I suspect.

Once again out at St. Stephen's, Sewickley, for the second full convention of the new dispensation (I confess to missing last night's dinner and primatial address). Following Morning Prayer, we commenced with a Mission Minute from Bishop Todd Hunter addressing his first convention (a fact which led Archbishop Duncan to remark: "Just imagine being a bishop and never having to do a convention"). Addressing the subject of doing church for the sake of others - a necessary corrective, in his words, for those like himself raised in a conservative evangelical milieu - he spoke of the baby steps necessary for the sort of new church plants he has birthed. "Evangelize the influential," he told us, "and take care of the poor."

The admission of five new parishes followed, those being All Saints Anglican in Springfield, Missouri; Epiphany Anglican in Ligonier, Pennsylvania; Jonah's Call in the East End of Pittsburgh; St. John the Evangelist in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, and St. Matthew's Anglican in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Three of the parishes (Ligonier, Oakmont and Johnstown) reflect the coalescing of ACNA members who belonged to non-realigning congregations.

Diocesan elections then took place, all by voice vote (since there were only enough candidates to fill the vacancies) except for the election of delegates to the provincial assembly. Representation is based upon ASA, with two delegates guaranteed in each order and one extra for every 1,000 of ASA. The top clergy and the top two lay delegates also serve on the provincial council. Currently - given our reported ASA of just over 4,000 - we are entitled to six delegates in each order.

We proceeded to Resolution One - the adoption of the voluntary diocesan tithe (otherwise known as the "godly share"). Although it will take time to implement fully, it is believed that its achievement at all levels of the Church should allow ACNA to function without serious restraint. Stephen Noll - just returned from Uganda Christian University - encouraged parishes also to consider tithing in respect of both mission and outreach. Archbishop Duncan noted that while congregations have the freedom to construct their budgets as they wish, he doesn't know any that don't give at least ten percent and many give away as much as they retain. The resolution passed unanimously, the Archbishop calling it "a great moment in our history."

Further news was then provided of the diocese's financial state, which at the beginning of 2010 was still unclear. A positive cash flow has been maintained all year and diocesan expenses have been kept under control, even as support both from parishes and individuals has increased. By the end of the year we should have a balanced budget. Compensation for the Bishop and Canon to the Ordinary have been restored to 2008 levels. The convention also adopted Resolution Two, allowing for a fifteen-month audit to cover both 2009 and 2010.

A second mission minute was provided by Ben Wilson of Church of the Ascension, attesting to efficacy of Happening. "A spiritual roller-coaster on every end of the spectrum," it offers teenagers living in an uncertain world and studying in high schools of ever-increasing size, a community where they are loved and respected and their voices are allowed to be heard, a place where the love of God is revealed and not merely talked about.

Canon Missioner May Hays spoke of her continued fascination with spiritual fruitfulness and, referring to the passage from John 15 read the previous evening, urged the bearing of fruit that will last. The lack of fruitfulness of her early years in Pittsburgh has given way to pruning and new first fruits, but these should be sprouts not snowdrops. She hoped there would be many more manifestations of the fruits of the spirit in the coming year, noting that while many parishes had in the past struck her merely as "nice," they were now brimming with "exuberant joy."

The Chancellor introduced Resolution Three, protecting non-compensated diocesan officers from personal liability, provided they refrained from "self dealing, willful misconduct or recklessness," an ecclesiastical echo of Pennsylvania's Good Samaritan law. Advance indemnification against legal expenses will be provided and the rules cannot be retroactively altered. This is intended to protect against a "buckshot approach" to litigation. The Chancellor also noted the November 9 date for the hearing of the appeal and that an answer could be expected in the spring. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the resolution passed, as did Resolution Four, a minor modification to the terms of the Growth Fund.

Another mission minute from Andrea Zimmerman dealt with Side by Side, a ministry to unmarried mothers at a time when 40 percent of children in the US are born to one-parent families. It offers among other things, one-on-one mentoring, monthly educational workshops and referral to other professionals and has served 80 mothers and 130 children over the past year. A replication workshop will be held at St. Stephen's next February.

After the "Year in the Life of the Diocese" presentation, another mission minute was provided by the Biblical Literacy Taskforce, working in conjunction with Scripture Union and now boasting 4,000 participating Bible readers. It also offers Bible 101 to parishes, a one-hour orientation to more effective habits of Bible-reading.

The New Church Developer spoke to the highlight of her last year, namely the recruitment of 100 intercessors to pray for church planting and multiplication. These, she said, are the real champions of the church planting movement.

At this point we came to Resolution Five - Creation of District 7 (the Upper Midwest). As is already known, Pittsburgh has ceased to be a purely territorial entity, now including parishes from Raleigh to San Jose. The latest group of parishes requesting admission, however, are modeled on the East African lay catechist model (also known as the greenhouse movement). In answer to my question as to why they are not associating with the Diocese of Quincy, Archbishop Duncan opined that they are not yet ready to associate with more conventional dioceses and we "don't want to mess them up too soon" by forcing them to do so. Pittsburgh is better placed to accommodate the diverse sort of ecclesiastical DNA involved.

A clergy representative from the Upper Midwest then expressed the gratitude of a group of people who since 1993 had been praying for a new province, observing "I've not been to a convention like this in a long time." John Rodgers, who has been closely associated with the greenhouse movement, added the rider that it was a "people movement" that needed freedom to do its own evangelism but still had the necessary checks and balances to secure its Anglican identity. The resolution, naturally passed. "District 7 used to be the City of Pittsburgh," declared the Archbishop cheerfully, "now it's the City of Chicago."

Closely associated with this are two other items of news. One is the already public indication of the admission of Christ Church, Plano, in Texas, something that will boost notional ASA from 4,000 to 6,000-7,000, and provide a very useful financial infusion. Another is that 11-12 congregations in the Chicago area - independent of the greenhouse movement - are likely to petition to join the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the near future. And so, ACNA grows, for now at least.

Don Green of Christian Associates - fresh from attending the TEC convention - now trotted onto the stage, noting that the present ecclesiastical confrontations haven't left ecumenists like him "short on labor opportunities." He offered the very pertinent observation that those from whom ACNA are estranged do not cease to be a part of the Body of Christ and we cannot give up on the ministry of reconciliation. He also spoke movingly of the work of Christian Associates in providing training in care for veterans returning from active service."God bless you as you continue your bold and zealous missionary endeavor," he concluded.

Our postprandial deliberations dealt with changes to the canons relating to implementation of the tithe (Canon XIII and Canon XVI); and second reading of amendments to the Constitution securing parish property indisputably to the parish, with no diocesan or national trust (Article XV) and making the obligation to pay the godly share only "spiritually" binding (Article XI). Whatever else may be said, ACNA has decentralized American Anglicanism in a big way and it is unlikely ever to be able to achieve anything in the future that is not the product of a solid consensus. Whether that will ultimately come to be seen as an albatross remains to be seen, but for now memories of the 'tyranny of the majority' clearly crowd out everything else.

We closed with a courtesy resolution crafted by David Wilson congratulating Tito Zavala - the new Presiding Bishop of The Southern Cone and a long-time associate of Pittsburgh - on his elevation and offering prayerful support to the province that extended "spiritual cover and tremendous support during our time of transition in the forming of the Anglican Church of North America."

And with that, I sincerely hope that this phase of my chronicling is over. It's certainly been a privilege to help trace this turbulent period of American church history.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pittsburgh (TEC) Convention: Day 2 (October 16)

Well there's one characteristic that TEC and ACNA conventions increasingly share - resolutions passed unanimously and with little discussion. No doubt when it comes to drafting a diocesan response to the Anglican Covenant - always assuming that it hasn't become a dead letter by then, there will be more difference of opinion, but for now the mind of both conventions seems - on paper, at least - to be uniform. I can imagine that there are many on both sides for whom this comes as a relief. An endless round of resolutions that pass by identical margins (albeit with clear minority opposition) does little to embody the common will of the Body of Christ, but its absence also leaves comparatively little to report.

Yesterday included an appeal from former Trinity Cathedral dean George Werner reflecting - in a point of personal privilege - on how John F. Kennedy's appeal to discern what one could for one's country had been diluted down by contemporary politicians to the simple "I approve this message." He urged the diocese to continue to grow as a community and assume positive intent as we conduct the bishop search for "if we disintegrate into small groups of like mind no system will save us." No problem with the message, but if the speaker was claiming that he was less of a politician in his day than was (and is) David Wilson, I will eat my hat.

The report of the chancellor - absent because his wife is in hospital with cancer - was delivered by Bishop Price. The hearing of the appeal on the 2005 Stipulation will be on November 9, but the court could take up to seven months to deliberate.

An effective presentation by Bill Green on the work of Calvary Camp which continues to thrive at a time when most dioceses are closing their camps. Certainly a ministry to celebrate.

A resolution passed encouraging parishes to resume giving to the national church. No mandatory language, but a reminder that having committed oneself to stay in TEC that there are responsibilities higher up the chain. Didn't seem that different to discussions about the voluntary tithe in ACNA - interesting at the pre-convention meeting I attended there now appears to be ambiguity about how to relate to a parish that doesn't pay a voluntary tithe (for whatever reason).

The call for an episcopal election process extending over eighteen months, with provision for selection by a nominating committee and by petition, but no candidates from the floor (the circumstances of ++Duncan's election have left certain people gun-shy). Unlike last time, however, the nominating committee will not exercise a veto over a petition candidates, nor - I believe - will their candidates be formally identified during the election process.

Various canonical and constitutional changes of minor importance, apart from Canon XIX revision, incorporating Title IV. Since defeat of the proposal would have brought Title IV into effect immediately, I contented myself with abstaining, merely pointing out to the lay delegates some of the flaws in the legislation that could well affect their clergy - they had better make sure the bishop they choose is going to administer it in a pastoral fashion. Of course, the accepted line is that it can't be defied at a diocesan level - which I don't believe - but only modified at General Convention, which some of our clergy plan to do. I did learn afterwards - which explains a lot - that some of the principle drafters have been coming at the revisions from the perspective of child sex abuse cases, and consequently are more concerned with the reputation of the Church than with clergy due process. The trouble is that the new canons aren't specific to that scenario - even if removal of due process in that one case is desirable - but apply to every issue under the sun. Much better to say that sex abuse cases must automatically be passed to the secular authorities and ecclesiastical judgments follow the resolution of such proceedings.

That's about it really. ACNA's report will follow in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pittsburgh (TEC) Convention: Day 1 (October 15)

A year ago I declared I was done with ecclesiastical journalism and you all breathed a sigh of relief. And here I am back again!

As some readers know I was a delegate to both conventions in 2009 and now - as an alternate elevated to deputy - I'm once again functioning in my bifurcated ACNA/TEC guise, rather like something out of Kafka. Last year, even though the sponsor of a resolution that encouraged parish study of the Anglican Covenant (which passed unanimously), I posted nothing on the TEC convention, largely because there wasn't much happening. This year I feel more inclined to offer some commentary.

Many readers will naturally incline to the "Can anything good come out of Nazareth" school of analysis when it comes to a "rump" TEC Diocese. I'm not sure that this holds even in Fort Worth or San Joaquin, but it definitely doesn't hold in Pittsburgh. Treatment of some conservative clergy on the TEC side has been less than charitable, before and after realignment. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now; in the matter of means vs. ends, I dislike it that the means employed for the end of ACNA are less than perfect.

A case in point for the ambiguity of TEC in post-realignment Pittsburgh was the admission of a new parish - All Saints, Bridgeville - to the diocese. All Saints is led by a crusty - but very loveable - bi-vocational lawyer, Dick Pollard (whose wife Susan is active in the ACNA Diocese!). It's rare to see the good Fr. Pollard emotional, but this one of those moments, as he commended all who had made the worshiping community possible (the membership is about one-third refugees from TEC parishes, one-third refugees from ACNA parishes and the rest from non-Anglican backgrounds). "If you do God's work in God's way, people provide," Dick reminded us, "and today we are giving Him the thanks and the praise."

Other news included expressions of good wishes by Bishop Price to contemporaneous TEC conventions in San Joaquin and Quincy, as well as to retired diocesan Alden Hathaway, the adoption of a new district system with just four districts (reflecting the downturn in active parishes) and the news that Trinity School for Ministry had sponsored the evening refreshments!

But perhaps most interesting was Bishop Price's address, which you can see in its entirety here. Pittsburgh is "better off," he declared, than our counterparts in California, Illinois and Texas, for which we must be "eternally grateful" to the rector of Calvary Church (not sure if a little irony had slipped in here). Furthermore, the prompt deposition of Bishop Duncan meant that the Presiding Bishop "did not have to come to Pittsburgh to convene a special convention" (I know she was present at the other gatherings but I didn't realize she actually convened them). Much more to the point, Pittsburgh had "more parishes, clergy and laity who chose to remain loyal to the Episcopal Church . . . representing a wide diversity of thought and action" (now that is true and should not be sneered at).

Some graceful allusions to ACNA followed; ecumenical and cathedral interaction with the new Archbishop (who has "greater visibility and clout on the global scene" than other ACNA bishops) and a "relatively cooperative" approach to turning over diocesan records. Then a reference to the "distrust, fear and suspicion" that "surrounded life in this diocese leading up to the 2008 split." Now I used to be utterly skeptical about such observations and I know there are those quite happy to fight the liberal corner in southwestern Pennsylvania, but I now know some of the "Rob Eatons" of Pittsburgh and how they were treated when they failed to show adequate loyalty to their bishop, so I have to reserve judgment. By the same token, I can also attest - as a historian - that Pittsburgh liberals in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have been fairly efficient machine politicians too.

So the Diocese now needs to look ahead. To an eighteenth month process of selecting a new bishop; to a parish-by-parish study of the Anglican Covenant in preparation for the drafting of a diocesan response (so my resolution has actually produced a response). An insistence that the Diocese of Pittsburgh "must make its own, unique voice heard," for we are listened to by the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church (here, I must admit, my eyebrows rose a trifle).

The appointment of Jay Geisler of St. Stephen's, McKeesport, as Canon for Formation, building relationships with Trinity School for Ministry and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. An inspired choice this - last year, Jay led the Lenten Study at the realigned Church of the Ascension.

"May we thank God for his many blessing upon us, and for the opportunity to work together in this piece of the Kingdom of Heaven called Pittsburgh." No argument here.

Ah well. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

And I have to do this all over again in two weeks!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Romeward Bound

On Wednesday, it was reported that the vestry of our former parish of Mount Calvary, Baltimore has voted to follow All Saints Sisters of the Poor into the Roman Catholic Church, under the auspices of Benedict XVI's Anglicanorum Coetibus. This vote is to be confirmed in an all-parish meeting on October 24.

This was the parish from which my wife and I were married in 2004, a small, spiky (in the Anglo Catholic sense) congregation, with pronounced Romeward leanings and very warm hearts. In the Nineteenth Century, its ritualism earned it a reputation for defiance of episcopal authority, but it retained considerable freedom of action within the Diocese of Maryland, not least, I suspect, because its sizable endowment generated a significant slice of diocesan income.

While I am in one sense happy for them if it brings peace, I find the news revives all the uncertainty that Anglicanorum Coetibus inspired in me when it was first announced, all the more so because the Diocese of Maryland has apparently signified a willingness to negotiate a settlement. That in itself is striking, given the way in which the Presiding Bishop warned the Diocese of Virginia off settling with the CANA churches, but of course Mount Calvary has considerable resources and it won't be setting up an alternative Anglican hierarchy.

At a deeper level, though, is it wise to depart not just as a community, but as an organized parish, complete with all accouterments? As I understand it, Pope Benedict is not inclined to establish an Anglican Rite, merely a more developed form of Anglican Use. Basically, it is a recognition of the value of certain liturgical forms and in no way undermines Leo XIII's declaration in Apostolicae Curae as to the invalid character of Anglican Orders. By departing in this manner - as opposed to accepting ordinariate status as a community of souls - the impact of the change is blunted. What guarantee is there that Mount Calvary will be any less of an enclave after the transition than before, a place to which Anglican converts to Rome can resort to sustain their former identity? Of course, if an Anglican Rite were to be accepted by Rome on the same terms as the Uniate and Oriental Catholic churches this might not matter so much. If it is not, surely it would be far better to accept the costs that come with sacrifice (and which earlier generations of Anglican converts have been obliged to bear).

All that said, we wish them well!

October 25 Update:

Mount Calvary voted on two resolutions today at a special meeting following 10:00 Mass:

1) That Mt. Calvary Church separate itself from The Episcopal Church, and

2) That Mt. Calvary Church seek admission to the Roman Catholic Church as an Anglican Use parish.

Both resolutions passed by majorities of almost 85%.

The ballots were counted by two disinterested outsiders: Dr. Daniel Page (a friend of many parishioners who lives nearby) and Sister Mary Joan of the All Saints' Sisters of the Poor.

The ballots were counted in the presence of the Rev. Scott Slater, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Maryland.

Source: Stand Firm

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alas, How Swift the Moments Fly

If you haven't ever visited NetHymnal it's well worth taking the time. It's a wonderful resource for identifying both popular and obscure hymnody, complete with musical accompaniment. This morning, I located a piece which had peculiar resonance for me.

Alas! how swift the moments fly!
How flash the years along!
Scarce here, yet gone already by,
The burden of a song.
See childhood, youth, and manhood pass,
And age, with furrowed brow;
Time was—Time shall be—drain the glass—
But where in Time is now?

Time is the measure but of change;
No present hour is found;
The past, the future, fill the range
Of Time’s unceasing round.
Where, then is now? In realms above,
With God’s atoning Lamb,
In regions of eternal love,
Where sits enthroned I AM.

Then pilgrim, let thy joys and tears
On Time no longer lean;
But henceforth all thy hopes and fears
From earth’s affections wean:
To God let votive accents rise;
With truth, with virtue, live;
So all the bliss that Time denies
Eternity shall give.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On the English Character

Linklater's wartime novel is a wonderful foray into both the English and Italian psyches (not to mention a truly entertaining read).

Much of what he learnt surprised him. He had always heard that the English were an arrogant, wealthy, and aggressive people; and he was astonished to find that they thought of themselves as very mild and easy-going creatures, chronically hard-up, and habitually deceived or over-ridden by their continental neighbors. They did, however, take pride in their sense of justice, and to Angelo this was quite incomprehensible; for he had often heard of the many millions of Indians, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Basutos, Zulus, Kikuyus, Scots, and Irish whom they held in slavery.

They were curiously heartless, he decided, for although they were far from home, he never saw them weeping and sighing for their distant wives, their deserted lovers, and their half-forgotten children. They wrote, indeed, innumerable letters, but said remarkably little in them. They ate enormously, and were continually making jokes that no adult European could understand: Angelo did his best, but was forced to conclude that their sense of humour, though deceptively robust, was quite elementary. The private soldiers grumbled prodigiously and professed a fearful cynicism about the intentions, practice, and good faith of their Government; yet strangely continued to serve it with zeal and do their duty with alacrity. They appeared to become dirty very easily, for they were always washing themselves. They talked a good deal about fornication, but looked askance at the Americans for their excessive indulgence in it. They all regarded football as a more exacting and therefore more praiseworthy art than making love, and many of them preferred it.

Angelo one day persuaded Simon to speak of English politics. Did Simon, he asked, truly believe in democracy?

'Yes, I think I do.' he answered. 'It doesn't work very well, of course, but what does?'

'Would not the ideal government,' asked Angelo, 'be that of an autocratic ruler who was also a philosopher?'

'Not in England,' said Simon. 'No one would admit that it was ideal, in the first place, and in the second we regard philosophy as a rarefied sort of entertainment, like chess or the more difficult crosswords.'

'You are a Conservative, I suppose?'

'Yes,' said Simon, 'I suppose I am. I have never actually voted, but then I am a member of the Church of England, and except for an occasional wedding I haven't in fact been in church since I left school. The Conservative Party and the Church of England are rather similar in that respect: you can belong to both of them without doing much about it. - I belong to two or three very good clubs, now that I think of it, that I never use though I still pay my subscriptions - But what I do believe in most devoutly is the party system, because when you get tired of the party in power you can always kick it out. You can kick it fairly hard, indeed, throughout its tenure of office. I should say that democracy is really represented by a party with a mind that knows how to act, a tender bottom that tells it when, and a well-shod electorate.'


'But there again I see the unfairness that rules the world!' cried Angelo . . . 'Life is war, and we who are virtuous may well lose every battle but the last one.'

'That,' said Simon's friend with noticeable stiffness, 'is the prerogative of the English.'

'Because you are good?' asked Angelo.

'It is an attractive hypothesis,' said Simon.

'There was a time when we aspired to goodness,' said his friend, 'and the world regarded us as hypocrites. Then we decided to pose as realists; and the world said we were effete.'

'But why do you win your last battles?' asked Angelo.

'We are amateurs,' said Simon's friend with a noisy yawn, 'and the amateur lasts longer than the professional.'

Eric Linklater, Private Angelo (London: Buchan and Enright, 1986; orig. pub. 1946), 90-91, 112-113.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Holy War, Unholy Peace: The Chalcedonian Compromise and the Decline of Christianity in the Middle East

Review: Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years. New York: HarperOne, 2010.

When Philip Jenkins first published The Next Christendom in 2002, it swiftly achieved cult status thanks to its prescient vision of the shifting center of gravity of global Christianity from the industrialized First World to the rapidly expanding nations of the Global South. Eight years on, and after the publication of such works as The New Faces of Christianity (2006) and The Lost History of Christianity (2008), Jenkins has chosen for his subject the narrower canvas of a Fifth Century Christian world menaced from without by the Hunic and Vandal hordes and subverted from within by frenzied doctrinal disputes over the human and divine natures of Christ that pitted the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome against one another. The failure of the theological compromise engineered at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) to reconcile followers of the Monophysite (One Nature) school – centered on Alexandria – to Catholic Christianity set the stage for the withdrawal of members of some of the oldest Christian churches in Syria and Egypt to ultimate eclipse under the suzerainty of an emerging Islamic state that was willing to afford them religious toleration in exchange for political submission. This, as Jenkins soberingly puts it in his penultimate chapter, is “How the Church Lost Half the World.”

Jenkins’ approach concedes the importance of historical contingency. While the vocabulary of the Catholic West has been shaped by the assumption that Chalcedon was a decisive rebuke to the pretensions of Alexandria and the beginning of the inevitable ascendancy of a “Two Nature” understanding of the person of Christ, Jenkins argues that such ascendancy was far from inevitable. Monophysite theology endured throughout the East, even when Chalcedonian-inclined emperors deposed hostile bishops and imposed episcopal overseers more to their liking. Furthermore, the ecclesiastical history of the Fifth Century, as retold by Jenkins, relegates the Roman primacy to a relatively humble position in the struggle, with few occupants of that office – aside from Leo the Great –enjoying the status of the eastern patriarchates. Yet historical contingency goes only so far. “In one sense,” writes Jenkins, “ancient Christians were exactly right to be so passionate about their causes, if not the means by which they pursued them. Far from being philosophical niceties, the central themes in the religious debates really were critical to the definition of Christianity and to the ways in which the faith would develop over the coming centuries. The Christ controversies did, and do, have immense consequences, for culture and politics as much as for religion.” (2-3)

American – and for that matter English – readers will find aspects of the story to have a contemporary ring, a fact to which Jenkins does not fail to allude (15-16). The eclipse of Alexandria and Antioch, he notes, ensured that the church-state alliance promoted by the western Church would become the model for world Christianity, while the Chalcedonian-Monophysite cleavage ensured that Islam would face little resistance in the lands of Christianity’s birth. While the heated nature of theological debate is all too evident today, the lengths to which the protagonists are willing to go in defense of their position are, thankfully, absent. And yet there is a very real irony in discovering that the forerunners of those who today argue for theological pluralism and the free exchange of ideas were more likely to be found within the imperial administration than among ecclesiastical officeholders. For the leaders of the Church, the preservation – at least on paper – of the ideal of an undivided Church left no room for those whose views were, frequently temporarily, in the minority.

The struggle that faced the Fifth Century Church, Jenkins argues, was not over whether Jesus should be considered divine – that had been resolved at Nicaea – but preventing him from becoming “entirely God.” (19) It was, however, a struggle lacking defined processes, and “the councils were marked by name-calling and backstabbing (both figurative and literal), by ruthless plotting and backstairs cabals, and by the pervasive threat of intimidation.” (22) Such debacles as the infamous Second Council of Ephesus of AD 449 (the “Gangster Synod”) offer a less than happy picture of Christian deliberation. The parade of mutual anathemas, depositions and vigilante ‘justice’ which characterize the era from First Nicea (AD 325) to Chalcedon (AD 451) and beyond is far removed from what we often conceive of as the Early Church. Here one arguably finds the second modern-day comparison, since Jenkins argues that the religiously-inspired instability and violence of the period reflect the increasing inability of the state to regulate private violence. While his assertion that violence is no more in the DNA of Islam than it was in Fifth Century Christianity (30) will be controversial, those Monophysite monks who razed pagan temples, assaulted imperial officials and threatened recalcitrant bishops present unhappy testimony to the mood of the times.

Theology, as Jenkins points out, can be a singularly elusive discipline and at times one could be forgiven for thinking that the distinctions served purely as cover for ecclesiastical political maneuvering. And yet the conflict embodied a very real difference in outlook. Between the poles of an Alexandrian church that celebrated the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures of Christ such that the human elements were subsumed in the divine and an Antiochian church that favored notions of the Logos-sax, or the assumption by Christ of a fully human status, lay a grey area that would provide the basis for depositions of patriarchs and bishops. (51-53) Much of the theological language involved subtle distinctions that made misunderstanding and misrepresentation all too easy.

For Alexandria, with its Greek influences and powerful monastic tradition, the age seemed to offer its patriarchs the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Athanasius, who had triumphed over the Arians at Nicea, and propagandize the rest of the Christian world. As the secular Roman world trembled from the onslaughts of the pagans and Arian Christians, Cyril of Alexandria carried the day against Constantinople’s Nestorius (a product of Antioch), for the offense of questioning the title of the Virgin Mary as Theotokos (God-bearer), and with the backing of the Emperor Theodosius II oversaw his deposition at the First Council of Ephesus in AD 431. Eighteen years later, the aforementioned Gangster Synod marked the high tide of the crusade against Antioch by Cyril’s successor Eutyches in a council, which, even by contemporary standards, had more the characteristics of a kangaroo court than a synod of bishops, with critics even prevented from taking notes of the proceedings. (187-192)

The death of Theodosius II in AD 450 paved the way for the Council of Chalcedon and the reversal of Alexandria’s run of success. The new emperor Marcian’s sympathies were with the opponents of Eutyches, as were those of Pope Leo. Chalcedon accepted the condemnation of “Nestorianism” (which did not necessarily correspond with the beliefs of its purported founder) at First Ephesus, but rejected the deliberations of Second Ephesus – and its depositions of those who opposed its teaching – in favor of the “in two natures” formula that later came to inform the wording of the Athanasian Creed. (212-214) As a compromise, however, it represented a distinct shift away from the Alexandrian position and one which many Egyptian Christians profoundly resented. From that date, Egypt would begin a process of steady disassociation, while Antioch – hitherto a bastion of Two-Nature theology – would witness the triumph of the Monophysite party in AD 469. Though the imperial authorities would struggle on for another 200 years, their ability to marry the aims of state and church was increasingly constrained. Quoting the contemporary historian Evagrius on the situation in AD 500, Jenkins strikes a surprisingly familiar note:

the Eastern bishops had no friendly intercourse with those of the West and Africa, nor the latter with those of the East. The evil too became still more monstrous, for neither did the presidents of the eastern churches allow communion among themselves, nor yet those who held the sees of Europe and Africa, much less with those of remote parts. (243)

What lessons, then, can we draw from this narrative? Humility, perhaps, about the inevitability of salvation history. Not that God has no purpose, but that the Church often gropes haphazardly towards divine design. At the same time, however, Chalcedon may be seen as the working out of Divine Providence precisely because at the time it seemed so far from inevitable – a political compromise effected against the reality of Monophysite strength throughout the eastern churches. “Somehow, amazingly, the church preserved its belief that Christ was human as well as God. And today, that belief is the standard, official doctrine for the vast majority of Christian institutions – all Catholic and Orthodox believers as well as virtually all Protestants.” (270)

Jesus Wars packs a great deal into less than 300 pages. It comes well supplied with appendices that provide details on the various councils, doctrinal debates and principal protagonists that are helpful to non-specialist and specialist alike. It has much to teach about the process of theological debate and disagreement and cautionary warnings both to those who glorify consensus and those inclined to view every theological battle as one to be fought to the bitter end. The questions are not new; it is the story of salvation history that is ever-changing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Henry Orombi: A Church of Bishops

Here, in a nutshell, is the orthodox/reasserter/conservative view of Anglican polity firmly articulated. Whether or not one agrees with it, it leaves little room for ambiguity. Either bishops - exercising their office in a collegial fashion - have a definitive role in adjudicating matters of faith and order or they do not, in which case provincial autonomy - as in the Lutheran case - beckons. It doesn't look like there's much prospect of going back, particularly since neither side is inclined to trust the other.

Together with Bishop Mouneer, I am equally concerned, as you know, about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion. It was the Primates in 2003 who requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion that ultimately produced the Windsor Report. It was the Primates who received the Windsor Report at our meeting in Dromantine in 2005. It was the Primates, through our Dromantine Communique, who presented the appropriate “hermeneutic” through which to read the Windsor Report. That “hermeneutic,” however, has been obscured by the leadership at St. Andrew’s House who somehow created something we never envisioned called the “Windsor Process.”

The Windsor Report was not a “process.” It was a Report, commissioned by the Primates and received by the Primates. The Primates made specific and clear requests of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. When TEC, particularly, did not clearly answer our questions, we gave them more time in 2007 to clarify their position.

Suddenly, though, after the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Primates no longer had a role to play in the very process they had begun. The process was mysteriously transferred to the Anglican Consultative Council and, more particularly, to the Joint Standing Committee. The Joint Standing Committee has now evolved into the “Standing Committee.” Some suggest that it is the Standing Committee “of the Anglican Communion.”

There is, however, no “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” The Standing Committee has never been approved in its present form by the Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Conference. Rather, it was adopted by itself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC. The fact that five Primates are included in no way represents our Anglican understanding of the role of Primates as metropolitan bishops of their provinces.

Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar in its governance. The grave crisis before us as a Communion is both a matter of faith as well as order. Matters of faith and order are the domain of Bishops. In a Communion the size of the Anglican Communion, it is unwieldy to think of gathering all the Bishops of the Communion together more frequently than the current pattern of every ten years. That is why the Lambeth Conference in 1998 resolved that the Primates Meeting should be able to “exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.” (Resolution III.6).


Monday, March 22, 2010

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: the East Midlands and Winchester, 1927

The modern diocesan system is completed. The oversized Diocese of Winchester releases its eastern jurisdictions to create the Dioceses of Guildford and Portsmouth. In the East Midlands, both Derby (released from Southwell) and Leicester (released from Peterborough) achieve diocesan status.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: Lancashire, 1926

With the formation of the Diocese of Blackburn, Manchester is reduced to its urban core.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: West Yorkshire, 1920

The Diocese of Bradford departs Ripon, leaving Leeds as the latter's principal urban center.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: the West Midlands, 1918

The Diocese of Coventry succeeds Birmingham as the newest ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the West Midlands.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: East Anglia and South Yorkshire, 1914

Norwich and Ely jointly contribute to the establishment of a diocese to cover Suffolk (St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich), while St. Albans surrenders its jurisdiction in Essex to form the Diocese of Chelmsford. In the north, York releases the last of its urban conurbations to form the Diocese of Sheffield, whose second bishop, Leslie Hunter (1939-1962), would oversee the establishment of the Sheffield Industrial Mission in 1944.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: the West Midlands, 1906

Worcester releases its northern region to form the Diocese of Birmingham, whose first diocesan would be Charles Gore. In later years, more liberal theologians would occupy the throne of the author of Lux Mundi, including Ernest Barnes (1924-1953) and Hugh Montefiore (1977-1987).

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England: Greater London, 1905

Rochester surrenders its western region to create the Diocese of Southwark. Under Mervyn Stockwood (1959-1980), it would acquire a reputation for "South Bank theology," epitomized by Stockwood's appointment of John Robinson as suffragan Bishop of Woolwich.

Diocesan Expansion in the Church of England, 1800-1900

Changes in diocesan boundaries during the nineteenth century. Five of the seven gains were in the Province of York (Southwell was part of the Province of Canterbury during much of this period), reflecting northern industrialization.

Ripon - 1836
Manchester - 1847
St. Albans - 1877
Liverpool - 1880
Newcastle - 1882
Southwell - 1884
Wakefield - 1888

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ecclesiastical Leadership

This is Bishop Bell's verdict on Randall Davidson, which is interesting not least for how it might be said to apply to his most recent successor. While they undoubtedly differ in their view of establishment (separated as they are by a World War and eighty years of change), there is at least food for thought.

There are those who are leaders of a cause on the success of which they stake everything they have: and all their efforts, all their acts are devoted to the achievement of their particular plan or their particular doctrine. Such leaders will drive forward as fast as they can, and will cry aloud to their followers to make haste after them. But there is another kind of leader, who having a charge entrusted to him and a body of people at whose head he is placed, rather seeks to act as interpreter of the best mind that is in them and to give it expression, to discover the communis sensus of the society, and to use all the means in his power to give it the opportunity of expression. Such a leader will guide and will show the way, and he will teach and suggest, but he will not be likely to lift his voice from the housetops, and to cry aloud to the laggards to come on at full speed. He will realize the diversity of human nature, of the material with which he has to deal, and will give it, or lead it to, the best and the highest unity of which he believes it to be capable under the given conditions. Such a man will not be the leader of a forlorn hope. His is the leadership of the Chairman or the Moderator. He will wish to keep the boat even, without endangering the passengers. He prefers peace and agreement before violence and confusion. He runs the risk of misrepresentation, and is unlikely to win great popular applause. but he is not on that account to be dismissed as an unsuitable kind of leader in dangerous and unsettled times.

Source: G. K. A. Bell, Randall Davidson: Archbishop of Canterbury (Oxford University Press, 1935), Vol. II, 1161.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Andrew Goddard on the Civil Partnerships Legislation

It seems so apropos to what I just posted.

Finally, we live in an age in which many are seeking to create a clearer distinction between secular and religious authorities and to limit the role of distinctive faith perspectives in the public square. It is, therefore, an interesting paradox that in a situation where religious bodies are generally acting as a powerful counter-cultural witness by refusing to accept civil partnerships as equivalent to marriage, there are those, both within and outside the church, who are eager to increase the public state-sponsored role of religion when that undermines this stance, increases the influence of a secular agenda for cultural change and heightens tensions and divisions within religious communities as they seek the mind of God on how to respond to same-sex unions in our society.

Plus ca Change? Church Authority Then and Now

Yesterday, I began to read George Bell's massive two-volume (over 1,300 pages) life of Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1904 to 1928. The last of the Victorian archbishops (and the first not to die in office), Davidson presided over a church that fifteen years into his primacy was already seeking to redefine its relationship to the state and repudiate - albeit subtly - the notion that a man or woman was a member of the Church of England solely by virtue of their citizenship. The Enabling Act of 1919, which created the forerunner to today's General Synod, the Church Assembly, established the principle that Parliament was not the prime shaper of the Church's internal life, while the unseemly dispute over Prayer Book revision in Davidson's final year in office further hardened hearts against the principle of establishment, including Davidson's successor at Canterbury, Michael Ramsey (1961-1974), then a candidate for ordination.

In recent years, of course, the state has largely repudiated establishment as a practical concern (while still no doubt desirous of having the state church conform itself to contemporary social mores) The last archbishop to have a genuine conviction about the appropriateness of that relationship was Robert Runcie (1980-1990), who, thanks to his capacity for being at odds with Margaret Thatcher, was wrongly seen as anti-establishment. For George Carey, it was ultimately more important to be building links with the wider Anglican Communion, while the strident pronouncements of Rowan Williams against the secular state's disregard of religious opinion portend an openness to disestablishment that a Primate like Davidson could not have begun to contemplate.

Establishment is, of course, a largely meaningless term in an American setting, but some of the debates that it provoked in the early twentieth century still have resonance for Anglicans today. From 1888-1890, Davidson, then Dean of Windsor and confidant of Archbishop Benson of Canterbury (having been secretary and son-in-law to Benson's predecessor) was much involved in behind-the-scenes maneuverings surrounding the trial of Bishop Edward King, stemming from charges that the latter had been guilty of certain ritual acts and practices that had been judged illegal by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (and for which certain Anglo-Catholic clergyman had been sent to jail after refusing to desist). These included use of the "Eastward Position" when celebrating the Eucharist, singing of the Agnus Dei after the prayer of consecration, employment of lighted candles when unnecessary for illumination and making the sign of the Cross while giving the Absolution and Benediction.

To the contemporary reader, and especially in the wake of liturgical renewal in the mid-twentieth century, such charges appear the height of absurdity (the court over which Benson presided ultimately ruled most of the practices to be legal) but for low churchmen they were not only attempts to introduce catholic liturgical understandings and practices into Anglican worship but were acts of open defiance against properly constituted authority. Davidson himself understood this when he remarked about one of the imprisoned clergy that a display of the "spirit of obedience, and loyalty to his Bishops, as such, even at some sacrifice of what he cared for, would have an immense effect, in the public mind, in favour of the school he represents." (Davidson to E. S. Talbot, June 22, 1888, in Bell, 131) Later, Davidson urged those Anglo-Catholics who questioned the authority of the church courts to make clear their position on authority:

The great central body of the Church, both clergy and laity, is weary of these strifes. Its members, I believe, care comparatively little for any of the points directly raised, and are anxious to have their minds set free for their larger work - the promotion of the social, moral and religious progress of the people of England. And the strife, such as it is, turns less, after all, upon ritual than authority. Once let us secure somewhere an unchallenged jurisdiction, and the ritual problems will be quickly and quietly solved. (Davidson to the Editor of The Times, April 6, 1889, in Bell, 137)

What might be said to be the relevance of this 120 years on, as the crisis of Anglican authority continues to build? On the face of it, Davidson's critiques sound analogous to positions voiced by leaders of the American Episcopal Church about their conservative opponents (and also within the Church of England establishment). The General Convention has spoken and resistance to its pronouncements is nothing more and nothing less than a defiance of duly constituted authority. What ritualism was to the late 19th century, sexuality has been to the late 20th century. Most people want to get on with the pursuit of "social, moral and religious progress."

There is no doubt that the acrimonious exchanges between contending church parties were as bitter in the 1880s as in the 2000s. And yet, Davidson was himself a man of the Anglican establishment in a way that leaders of the Episcopal Church of the 1880s never were. Moreover, he would have been unlikely to look with complacency on the notion of the Church as a pure democracy, making doctrine by legislative fiat. Most of his successors at Canterbury devoted themselves either to constructing an anti-establishment, ecumenical vision of Anglicanism (the ecumenical catholic model of William Temple, Michael Ramsey and Rowan Williams) or to pursuing the development of an evangelistic Anglican Communion (the missionary Anglican model of Geoffrey Fisher, Donald Coggan and George Carey). However, in neither case was any attempt made to fashion some form of canon law that would, however pastorally applied, govern Anglicanism as it developed from a Canterbury-centered concern to a global community. The transition from clerical to democratic leadership - at least in the Global North Anglican churches - may well have had many things to recommend it, but in terms of raising up an authority in which all sides might have confidence it fell lamentably short of the situation prevailing in a more 'authoritarian' era.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing History: The Church of England Today

My apologies to all those who have been dropping by and wonder why there has been no update since November. When I started this blog, I vowed that it would keep to a reasonably scholarly format, which meant either my own research or church news for which I was a primary source in my own right.

With the practical recognition of both an Episcopal and an Anglican jurisdiction in Pittsburgh (not by the leadership of either, as yet, but most of us in the pews are a little more practical), I rather think my reporting stint is suspended (which is not to say other things will not be posted in the future).

Academically, I am presently engaged in helping edit a collection of essays on Catholic lay activism from the 1920s to the 1970s, including a personally authored chapter on the rise of elected lay assemblies at both the parochial and diocesan level. While not necessarily convinced of the virtues of ecclesiastical democracy (the record of mainline American Protestantism in that area is mixed at best), it seems to me a topic worthy of greater exploration.

On a different note – and this is particularly for my English Anglican readers – I am in the preliminary stages of an entirely different project, namely, a history of the Church of England from 1908 to 2008. As the son of a distinguished church historian, Gerald Bonner, it has always struck me how gratifying it would be to cooperate in a work of history. While my father is best known for his work on Augustine of Hippo and Early Christian Northumbria, when he first joined the Theology Department of the University of Durham, he found himself – as the only scholar trained as a historian – responsible for most of the church history surveys. He has also actively participated in such bodies as the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius and known three different Archbishops of Canterbury: Michael Ramsey (in retirement), George Carey (as a student) and Rowan Williams (as a fellow academic). His is a life that began with the Anglo-Catholic revival of the 1920s and has been a witness to so many of the changes and chances of this fleeting Anglican milieu. While my scholarly career has, thus far, tended to focus on modern American history, my study of the changes in the shape of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has inspired me with a new interest in the church in which I was raised.

To date there have been two major synthetic works: Roger Lloyd’s, The Church of England (the final edition of which ran from 1900 to 1965) and Paul Welsby’s, A History of the Church of England, 1945-1980. No tome that I have been able to locate offers analysis of the Runcie and Carey years (and a biography of the latter still remains to be written). It is therefore my father’s and my hope that we can together provide a narrative that shows the passage of the Church of England from the bang of the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908 to the whimper of the Lambeth Conference of 2008. Our proposed schema appears below:

Our World Has Passed Away: The Church of England in a Post-Erastian Era, 1908-2008

Part I: A People’s Church: The Dilemma of Anglican Establishment

1. For All We Have and Are: Randall Davidson’s Church of England, 1908-1918.

2. In Courage Keep Your Heart: The Anglo Catholic Revival, 1918-1928.

3. No Law Except the Sword: The Church in a Totalitarian Era, 1928-1945.

Part II: A Common Fellowship: The Struggle for Ecumenical Comprehensiveness

4. The Ages’ Slow-Bought Gain: Geoffrey Fisher and the Emergence of Global Anglicanism, 1945-1961.

5. Renewed and Re-Renewed: The Catholic Movement’s Last Hurrah, 1961-1975.

Part III: A Setting Sun: The Resurgence of Denominationalism

6. To Face the Naked Days: The Anglican Counterculture in Thatcherite Britain, 1975-1988.

7. The Old Commandments Stand: The New Evangelicals and the Rise of the Global South, 1988-1998.

8. There is But One Task for All: Rowan Williams and the Collapse of the Anglican Consensus, 1998-2008.

I invite any reader with awareness of more obscure sources to which we might ultimately turn to leave a message in the comments section. I do not yet know the timetable for conducting formal research, but any information – from any school of churchmanship – will be warmly welcomed.