Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A RESPONSE TO YET ANOTHER BREAKAWAY THREAT -THIS TIME ST MARK'S TUNBRIDGE WELLS


A RESPONSE TO YET ANOTHER BREAKAWAY THREAT -THIS TIME ST MARK'S TuNBRIDGE WELLS
A personal critique of the  Jerusalem Declaration by Wyn Beynon. I believe that the Jerusalem Declaration is a description of a faith which does not have the heart of Orthodoxy, indeed it is a product of modernity imposing its ego on the history of our faith. My own comments are in blue italics and I have taken, where appropriate, the “Anglican values” from the Pilgrim Course and placed alongside the comments in red italics. They speak for themselves and offer, I suggest, a gentler and more loving declaration of what our Anglican heritage really is. GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration is at best not good enough, at worst a hard hearted exclusivist creed to which I could not subscribe.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, have met in the land of Jesus’ birth. We express our loyalty as disciples to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. We joyfully embrace his command to proclaim the reality of his kingdom which he first announced in this land. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of salvation, liberation and transformation for all. In light of the above, we agree to chart a way forward together that promotes and protects the biblical gospel and mission to the world, solemnly declaring the following tenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity. That’s quite some claim, What follows are thetenets of orthodoxy which underpin our Anglican identity”. Anglicanism has shied away from making big doctrinal statements. That’s an historical fact. Its doctrines are stored in its liturgy, not in statements like this. Indeed there is nothing like this declaration in historical Anglicanism, no not even the Lambeth Chicago Quadrilateral of 1888. But let’s see how they do…...

1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things. Ok, no problem so far.

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. Ok, that’s what I signed up to at my ordination and at each new ministry. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading. Now we get to some difficulties…. the Bible’s “plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading ”. I have a meaning for those words. But it would, I suspect, not be the meaning of the authors of this document. I would understand them to be referring to engaging with the received canon’s text, aware that we have no originals, and robustly interacting with it, aware of the range of interpretations and meanings that the Church has worked with as it has sought a consensus that has never been found. Reason, tradition and experience would all jostle with the text in the dance of the Holy Spirit. It is troubling that the most classic Anglican approach of “Scripture, Tradition and Reason” does not appear in the declaration.

PILGRIM

1 The importance of reading and engaging with the whole of Scripture in both Old and New Testaments

2 The valuing and balancing of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience in all reflection on faith and understanding
3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I assume the third creed is that of Athanasius, together with the Nicene-Constantinople Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. The Athanasian Creed has never had the same meaning to the Orthodox as it has in the West (and even in the West it does not seem to have been authoritative in the way the first two are) and it’s long been unpopular in Anglicanism. It was a Latin, rather than Greek document. The Preface to the Assent speaks of the historic creeds but doesn’t define what they are… I would place Athanasius with the first two only with great care.

PILGRIM
3 The teaching of the whole and historic Christian faith as summarized in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds



4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. This is just astonishing. The Preface to the Assent simply reminds us that the 39 Articles bear witness to the historic faith and the minister promises to be loyal to this inheritance of faith. The preface, to me, suggests an ongoing process of “proclaiming afresh in each generation”. So, no the 39 Articles are not a touchstone of true doctrine. I don’t think they were ever meant to be understood in that way. Cranmer’s doctrine was evolving up until his execution.

5. We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture. I don’t think they mean the BCP is the only liturgy to be used, though this could be read in that way. I also wonder they really believe in “ex opere operato” when it comes to Holy Baptism? Or the real presence in the Holy Communion as opposed to  memorialism?

PILGRIM
4 Valuing especially the sacraments given by Jesus of the Eucharist and Baptism

5 The joys of liturgical worship inviting the participation of the whole people of God in the praise of his
glory
10 A recognition of the importance of local culture in a global context for interpreting Scripture, discipleship and missio
n
7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders. Do they really? I wonder if they have quite thought that one through….. Dispensers of grace?

PILGRIM7 A recognition that the whole people of God are called to discipleship and ministry each according to their gifts and vocation and to sharing in the governance and leadership of God's people

8 A recognition of the threefold order of deacon, priest and bishop in the ordering of the life of God's Church

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married. The problem here is that the argument has moved from a gospel of grace to a standard of morality. The two cannot sit in the same gospel. Salvation is either grace, or it’s earned by good behaviour. For Christians the life of grace means there are no “standards”. We must live beyond the rules, as Jesus did.

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity. The Great Commission (almost certainly a later addition and not Christ’s own words) can be read as a call to convert everyone… or to found communities in every place to be salt, light and yeast. Two very different conclusions. I go with the latter.

6 A call to engage in God's mission to the whole of creation (as described in the Anglican Communion's five marks of mission)



10. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation, to uphold and advocate justice in society, and to seek relief and empowerment of the poor and needy.

9 A recognition that the outcome of discipleship and mission is community, social and cultural change around the world



11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. The guarded, closed down, nature of this ecclesiology is oozing out of these two sentences.

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. My experience, sadly, is that they seek to tell me what the mind of Christ is, because they already know. Though they might fairly accuse me of the same, I suppose.

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord. The whole declaration, of dubious orthodoxy, completely collapses at this point. A Church that defines itself (if only in part) by those it rejects is not a Church, but a sect. A Church that claims to be purer than others is not a Church at all.

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.
I conclude with this quote from a recent reflection by Richard Rohr OFM. It wasn’t written with the Jerusalem Declaration in mind but it’s a cap that fits it, sadly:

Immature religion creates people who know what they are against, but have a very poor sense of what they are for. They are against sin, always as they narrowly define it; but they are seldom for love or actually for anything except the status quo where they think they are in control. This is indeed “the world” and will never get them very far if they are trapped within it—unless they recognize this same world as pervaded with heaven. For me, this is the genius of the Gospel. The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.

Richard Rohr OFM

Monday, 29 August 2016

THE ROUNDABOUT

Once upon a time there was road. 

It was a well built road with a pavement.
People walked along alone or in groups.
Oddly there were no cars, just walkers on the pavement.
But they liked the road.
In one place there was roundabout complete with lights
and chevron signs, and direction signs, and speed limits, and cats eyes, and white lines.
It was magnificent.
And groups would love to get to the roundabout. 

There were people there who were experts about the roundabout.
They would talk knowledgeably about the lamp standards and bulbs,
about the ironworks and drains,
about the camber and the meaning of all the lines and signs. 

They would walk round and round the roundabout
and eventually the roundabout began to look worn. 

But there lots of people maintaining the roundabout,
and more and more people became roundabout experts.

Just now and then someone would look further up the road and walk away, exploring further on.
It had no tarmac
and they made the road by walking* 

But most of the people at the roundabout, if they noticed at all,
just could not understand why anyone would want to walk further down the road 

and leave the roundabout behind.


Wyn Beynon (c) 2014

* We make the road by Walking is a title of a great resource by Brian Maclaren


Thursday, 25 August 2016

GRUMPY MULE


So Jesus is walking down this street thinking, “I’d love a coffee”. He remembers that there are several faithful Christians in the area so he goes up to one address he remembers (after checking it on his iPhone) and knocks.

The man opens the door and is overwhelmed. “My Lord, and my God” he says, even though his name wasn't Thomas, and he invites Jesus in. “My Lord, please, come and sit in here”, he says, showing Jesus into the front room. It’s neat and tidy, and he offers Jesus a comfy seat, carefully, smoothing out the antimacassar as he does so.


This chap is Anglo Catholic, just back from Walsingham, and so, not surprisingly, he has a decent coffee maker and he says to Jesus, “My Lord, please wait a moment and I’ll bring in some refreshments”.


Off he goes to the kitchen and gets the filter machine working, then thinks, “I’ll just whip up some fresh scones, oh and I’ll pop out and get some fresh cream and some jam from the Tesco express in the next street.” "Oh, and perhaps I'll phone round and and ask some of the neighbours to join us."


After 20 minutes Jesus gets bored of waiting, and realises that the chap he came to see isn’t even there. Still longing for a coffee he slips out the front door and goes down the street, having checked the iPhone for an address again.


This time he gets a proper welcome. “Oh Jesus, my Lord,” says the woman, “Come in, come in, and have a coffee.” Now, she is an Evangelical, just back from Spring Harvest. So she knows that what Jesus really wants is to sit in the kitchen with everybody else. And Jesus is really pleased to be sitting at a cosy kitchen table ~ especially when he sees the espresso is on. “Please Lord, let me serve you,” says, the woman. “And let me share this wonderful moment with my friends and neighbours.”


Before Jesus can say “Talitha cumi” she is off out the back door, down the side of the house and thumping on all the neighbours’ doors. “Come and see,“ she says, “Come and meet Jesus, he’ s in my kitchen”. Soon there’s an excited group of people going up and down the street all thrilled that Jesus is in her kitchen, and getting all the neighbours to come and see.


Meanwhile Jesus, who is nothing if not polite, is waiting for his espresso.


After half an hour he can see that the coffee is stewing in the pot. He slips out the back door and down a side alley in to the next street. His iPhone confirms that there is another Christian there, and soon he’s knocking on the door. This guy is just as ecstatic as the previous man and woman. “Hey, Jesus,” he says,”Wow…..come on in, you've got to meet some of the folks in the road.”


Now this guy is a theologically astute liberal, into every form of justice movement, inclusion situation and radical cause, and just back from Greenbelt. Soon there are loads of people gathering outside the front door to meet Jesus and they start discussing the wrongs and woes of society and there are buzz groups forming and petitions being drawn up.


Quietly, without anyone noticing, Jesus, who is, by now, simply gagging for a coffee, slips away down another alley to the next street.


He thinks to himself, “Stuff the address list in the iPhone, I’ll just knock on the first door I come to.”


It was the home was a member of the BNP, just back from a racist rally. The heavily tattooed man looks at Jesus and says, “*** me, mate, you look *** knackered, wanna a coffee…?”  And it was Grumpy Mule.

Wyn Beynon © 2015

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Church does NOT have a Mission

The Church does NOT have a Mission

The Church
is commissioned  - beginning things together
does transmission - passing on the dynamics of faith, hope and love....
encourages intermissions - space is central

Just "mission" always has a bit missing at the front
which is why it frustrates the Church

The Church is about
admission,  letting others in
submission, serving
remission, forgiving, forgiving and forgiving again
but never just mission

we know about omission - things that we deliberately did not do
we deal with emission - because there's always rubbish
we certainly have the task of  photoemission - we are to be light for the world
sometimes we are concerned with pretermission - the grace of knowing what to leave or let pass
often we have to decommission - allowing things to end, celebrating death as release and completion

but never just mission

we need to learn and teach intromission - the journey inwards, that alone bears good fruit
we are always about manumission - setting free to live
we enable some to receive dismission - especially in peace
we give permission - for each to be themselves, who God meant them to be

but never, never, ever just mission

Wyn Beynon (c)2014

Monday, 8 August 2016

That Was The Church That Was

How the Church of England Lost the English People
Andrew Brown and Linda Woodhead
Bloomsbury
2016

To read a book that tells one's own story written as the story of my family the Church is both an uncomfortable and a liberating experience. As I followed the story of the past half century in the Church of England, as told by Linda and Andrew, I cringed and giggled, felt sad and yet oddly exhilarated. But I already knew the story. It is told accurately, as I remember it, and filled in a few gaps. 

Who am I to write a review of this book? Let me establish my credentials, as I think they will help you understand my point of view. But remember that a point of view is simply a view from a point, and we always need to yoke a hermeneutic of suspicion with a theology of humility. What follows is very personal reaction to the book. I am not an academic, just a bumbling country parson. Who enjoys bumbling along.

I am a cradle Anglican, but not cradle Church of England. I was baptised in St David's Diocese and trained for ministry and ordained in Llandaff. But I was confirmed by the then Bishop of Buckingham in 1967 and attended a Church of England primary school (64 - 66). I trained as a teacher at a Church Training College  (73-76). I belonged to the Deanery Youth Fellowship. 43 of my 62 years have been spent in England and 29 of my 36 years in ministry have been in 3 diocese of the CofE. I'm a Welsh Anglophile. But I bring to the CofE a Celtic awkwardness and an experience of being in a disestablished Anglican province that helps me, I believe, see the wood for the trees when Church of England folk confuse their tradition with their established status. The two are not the same.And the idea that they are is an illusion, much beloved by some English folk. But ask the Piskies or the Eglwys yng Nghymru folk and they'll tell you British Anglicanism is something  small but perfectly formed that simply doesn't need to be established, if the state or Church doesn't want it. (On the other hand being disestablished doesn't, in itself, solve our problems either!)

When I was about 10 or 11 I was home from school with a rotten cold. I picked up my grandmother's Daily Mirror and read a story about someone who thought Jesus might have been homosexual because he never married. I guess that this was something to with Honest to God, but short of research the Daily Mirrors of the 1960s I don't know for sure! What I do remember is that I simply took it as an idea, without being shocked. I would have been horrified when I was 19 and an anxious evangelical!

In 1968 I remember one Sunday robing for our village choir ( I was 13 or 14, I suppose) and hearing our Vicar getting very excited about the World Council of Churches meeting at Uppsala. I had no idea what it might mean, but it was obviously "a very good thing".

I don't recall any such excitement about the Keele Conference, the year before. Perhaps he had been excited by it, but I doubt it. I remember seeing Frank Lake's "Clinical Theology" on his bookshelf when we sat in his study for Confirmation Class. I was intrigued by title as I took "clinical" to mean "medical". I asked him about it and he explained how useful he's found it in understand pastoral care. This is not an aside, by the way. A few years later I would hear one of my fellow Deanery Youth members denouncing Frank Lane's work as ungodly. It was a VERY evangelical Youth Fellowship in Lollard West Buckinghamshire. 
And at theological college I remember the Chaplain warning us about over-burdening approaches like "Clinical Theology" with being the answer to everything. It would another 20 years before I read it for myself when I studied for my MA. By then it was interesting, but hardly ground shaking.

In 1974 I was in St Paul's Onslow Square (Nationwide Festival of Light, I think) with another Deanery Youth friend who prayed that I might be baptised in the Spirit. I shook like a Quaker and spoke in tongues. I'm still a Charismatic liberal 40 years later! Odd to think Nicky Gumbel wouldn't arrive for another 2 years. I also remember a sermon from the then Vicar at a BCP Holy Communion which included the full Exhortation. I was terrified and didn't take the Sacrament!

At Teacher Training College I was challenged about Christmas, began to understand that evangelicals have a very defective theology of incarnation and rediscovered my identity as a liberal/broad church Anglican!

To cut a boring story short I went to train at St Mike's in Llandaff in 1978 and stayed in Wales until Christmas 1988, and arrived back in Bristol Diocese around about the time that Andrew and Linda's account of the CofE begins. Wales, being a small Church right next door meant we were always very aware of what Big Brother was doing.

I can confirm that my own experience of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, naughties and teens concurs with the story we are told in That was The Church That Was.

I met Donald Coggan at a friend's 25th anniversary of Priesting (30+ years ago!) and we three concelebrated. He was interested in me (unlike some Bishop's I've met!) but very much of his generation, and gave advice. 

Bob Runcie was hugely likable and could perform. When I attended the closure service for my Teacher Training College (Hockerill, Bishops Stortford) he jumped on the stage  at the reception and informally thanking the college for all it had achieved. It sounded good by my young naive ears. It irritated the hell out of the staff.

George Carey interviewed me for a job. I was not impressed.  He awarded me my Lambeth Diploma. I wasn't impressed then either. Let's leave it there.

I've never met Rowan, but heard him a few times. One of my curates was a Rural Dean under him at Monmouth and found his lack of management style a problem. I get that. But I also get Rowan. Perhaps because were born within 20 miles of each other. It's unlikely that it's because I have brilliant mind!

I've been fixed by Justin's steely stare at Synod once or twice. It might discomfit a younger person, but it just makes me giggle. He has yet to benefit from a conversation with me.

So I think I am qualified to say that as you read this book  you are hearing it as it was/is.

I would make 7 observations:

1 It's time to forgive Rowan. Yes, liberals did and still do feel he let us down. OK, hands up which in us in ministry hasn't cocked up big time more than  once. I once wrote a snotty letter that literally gave the reader a heart attack and I had to apologise at the hospital bedside. I once left a cross message about a parishioner, intended for a third party, on the poor parishioners answerphone because I didn't check the number. I got divorced and went through the CDM. But I am convinced, after experiencing someone's speech at Synod last November that Rowan was not as well served as he should have been by his staff. Time to forgive, he still has so much to give us all.

2 If the book has any limitations for me it is, as a country vicar, that I sense it written by two folk who are more familiar with urban CofE, albeit small town. Country parishes are different, and they don't quite sound the same. Having said that a book like this has to conform to a word count, and the authors can't say something about everything.

3 Andrew and Linda are not presenting us with a blueprint for renewal. I found the distinction between societal Church and congregational Church absolutely right. It is exactly where the Church of England will hit the buffers. And it's not IF but WHEN. And the very last sentence gets it bang on. It is in the Parishes, where ordinary people, who don't want to be dragooned into being an Army for Jesus, will renew the Anglican tradition in an Episcopalian Church, shot of both the presbyterian evangelicals and, quite likely, the Establishment. The congregation has the point. Buildings, especially rural ones, are key to our future. I know that from my own experience. A falling down church is the best thing you can have in a village. Town... well that may be different. But Bishop John Saxbee got it right when he said you can't understand the CofE unless you understand that it is, at heart, a Rural Church. 

4 For my taste Andrew and Linda were too kind to the language of "following Jesus". I don't follow Jesus. I am in Christ. And so are you. But who preaches that?... me!


5 Voodoo and Episcope. Now we are getting to the rotten core of the CofE. Leadership has replaced oversight. Management has replaced being "mothers and fathers in God" and Green, Spence and Broadbent push us onwards towards a simplified disaster. The Archbishops Council now tells the Synod what to do. And Synod has and continues to vote itself out of power. Synod could be good, but the experience of Andrew and Linda is that it is disappointing. They are probably right. Though it could be changed, but not in this quinqeunnium, of course, and there may not be a next one.

6 In a funny way I think the dis/establishment question might be a distraction in the sense that it is not itself the big question, but follows from how we see the future - episcopal or presbyterian, societal or congregational? Only then can we address the establishment question... or maybe find the state has decided it for us.

7 There's a very important quote from Adrian Hastings on the very last page of notes (p244) I often quote from the beginning of that same chapter  "In Which We Say Goodbye" (A History of English Christianity 1920-2000 (SCM 2001) and I will follow Andrew and Linda in ending with Hastings too. But not before I say a huge "Thank You" to them for this important book. In turns funny and desperately sad, too accurate, cutting and kind, it tells the story, paints the picture, warts and all. It is written in accessible, not technical language. It should be essential reading for anyone interested in the futures of the English Church in general, and the Anglican tradition in particular. Those who will be unhappy with this book might be evangelicals who have only experienced half the story, and who simply do not understand the other half, and also folk who are in denial, longing for a past that never existed. But the rest of us need to say That Was The Church That Was and start the long haul to next Chapter. It may be some time in the writing.

When the Vandals are at the gates, there are three possible responses. One is simply to despair of the kingdom, of any ultimate meaning in the world or in human history; the second is to withdraw into a private, sacral sphere, a closed community, monastic or charismatic, abandoning the struggle for the secular state as irremediably corrupt; the third is to imitate Augustine himself, take a very sombre view but also a very long one, and retain in hope but without much evidence a Christian concern for the redeemability of the totality of things. By the 1980s a great many Christians were succumbing to the first choice, and a great many to the second, but rather few were making ready for the long haul of the genuine Augustinian.

Adrian Hastings:

A History of English Christianity 1920 - 2000

p660