Monthly Archives: September 2007

Bishop Bauerschmidt's response to the House of Bishop's meeting

Diocese of Tennessee shieldBishop Bauerschmidt’s response to the House of Bishop’s meeting in New Orleans has now been posted as a PDF on the Diocesan website. You can access it all here.

Here’s a selection:

The House of Bishops has now given its response, one that went much further than I thought possible for the House to provide the clarifications requested by the Primates’ Meeting. The clarifications concern the requested assurances on the blessing of same-sex unions and on the consecration to the episcopate of persons living in a partnered same-sex union sought by the 2004 Windsor Report. The issue before the Episcopal Church is to provide the assurances requested by the Report that will allow the common life of the Anglican Communion to continue. I believe that the principal question is no longer just whether the Episcopal Church desires to continue to walk with the Communion, but whether the Communion itself has the will to continue together. There is much here at stake that goes beyond the Episcopal Church.

{read it all}

The space we need…

Since the House of Bishop’s meeting in New Orleans is now over, I’ve posted the revised text of St. Francis Church’s consensus response to several questions presented to the Diocese by Bishop Bauerschmidt. During the revision process this post was password protected, but I’ve removed that feature now because I think some of what we said is applicable now in the days after the House of Bishop’s meeting. In particular, I wanted to point out this section:

Each of the requests mentioned above (the requests of the primates) have been made of the Episcopal Church by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in order to accomplish one very important goal: to achieve the space necessary to mend the broken relationships of trust and mutual affection upon which our communion has been built.

The first step in this process of reconciliation is that the offending party—in this case the Episcopal Church—must come not only to a place of realization and repentance, but also a place where real action can be taken to right previous grievances. It is not just that the Episcopal Church pursued a direction that the majority of the Anglican Communion has indicated it cannot follow; it is that this direction has been pursued despite repeated requests, pleadings and warnings not to do so.

{read it all}

I believe this meeting of the House of Bishops was a crucial point in providing the sort of space needed for healing and a relief from the psychic stress which many in our congregations find themselves under. I recall that the Bishops heard a presentation on how unhealthy it is for clergy to minister in such ambiguous circumstances, but it’s not just or even primarily clergy that suffer from the fissures and stresses in our common life. So, at the end of the day, how well did the House of Bishops, at least from what we’ve seen so far, address this need?

For myself, I’d say they’ve provided slight relief if any. At the moment it looks like this was an affirmation of the status quo, though the coming days may reveal that to be an incorrect assessment. The statement at least seems to clarify what was meant by B033, and indicates that it’s reach extends to any candidate for ordination to the episcopate who is a non-celibate homosexual. At the same time, the statement relies on the direction of General Convention in the future, and rests upon the limited distinction between authorized public rites of same sex blessings vs. blessings that are conducted as pastoral acts. In other words, in those places where they are already going on, they will continue, no rite will be approved, but even blessings that are technically “public” will be considered private because they don’t have an authorized public rite to use. We shall see.

House of Bishop's statement sows confusion.

I just saw these two headlines juxtaposed on a Google news serach for “Anglican.” This is from the BBC:

Leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States have agreed to halt the ordination of gay clergy to prevent a split in the Anglican Church. The Church will also no longer approve prayers to bless same-sex couples.

Many African Anglicans threatened to leave the worldwide Anglican Communion after the ordination of the first openly gay bishop four years ago.

The American Church was told to meet the conditions by 30 September or lose membership of the communion.

US bishops made the decision after a six-day meeting in New Orleans.

The meeting was attended in part by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who urged the Episcopal Church to make concessions for the sake of unity.

The Episcopal Church is the American wing of the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members worldwide.

Plea for unity

The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, says the agreement will help defuse the crisis triggered by the US Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003.

{read it all}

And this is from the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 25 — Bishops of the Episcopal Church on Tuesday rejected demands by leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion to roll back the church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, increasing the possibility of fracture within the communion and the Episcopal Church itself.

After nearly a week of talks at their semiannual meeting in New Orleans, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution that defied a directive by the Anglican Communion’s regional leaders, or primates, to change several church policies regarding the place of gay men and lesbians in their church. But the bishops also expressed a desire to remain part of the communion, and they appeared to be trying to stake out a middle ground that would allow them to do so.

{read it all}

So… who is correct?

And why was Bishop Wolf of RI the only Bishop to vote against the measure. (update: I’ve seen some rumors that the “no” vote may not have been +Wolf, but another Bishop… who knows.)

Update: more news is coming out (slowly) about other Bishops who opposed the statement. It will take a while to work this out, I’m sure. I look forward to hearing our Bishop’s thoughts, though I wouldn’t begrudge him a desire for a break after that meeting!

Among things that pass away…

Yesterday morning, as I presided over worship at St. Francis, I was struck by the appropriateness of the Collect for Proper 20 to our current predicament in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It is one of God’s graces to us that his Word and Holy Spirit speak to us again and again in new and amazing ways from our study of scripture, our prayer lives and the support of fellow Christians. I’m sure this prayer has been a comfort to many people in many different circumstances–but for me this past Lord’s day, it provided a sense of peace and calm in the midst of the storm. I share it with you now, in the hopes that it will inspire you during your own trials:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

So there you have it…

Unity Cannot be Created, it can only be Recognized.

Over the years of conflict in the Episcopal Church, we have often heard the statement that “what unites us is greater than what divides us.” If that is the case, then our unity is a foregone conclusion. If it is not, then our institutional unity is a lie. Carl Braaten, in the book Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism says this about unity, and I think it’s something important for our Bishops and the rest of us, to keep in mind:

Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism

Bishop James Pike I hope we won’t let any feelings of negativity toward Bishop Pike to hinder our appreciation for what Braaten says. was once attacked by certain conservative Anglo-Catholics For not regarding episcopal succession as essential for the validity of ministry and sacraments. He quipped back that while Episcopalians have apostolic succession, other churches seem to be having apostolic success. To have apostolic success, it would seem that emphasis on evangelical truth must take priority over ecclesiastical unity, as important as unity is. A reunited church of the future that subordinates the truth of the gospel to the unity of the church would only set the stage for a new rupture as severe as the Reformation schism. Christian faith seeks unity in the truth of Christ and refuses to be indiscriminately joined with those who seek unity merely for the sake of convenience and who have become indifferent to the question of truth. The unity of the church is something that must derive from unity in truth. A visible continuity in the structure of the church is not sufficient compensation for any lack of unity in the gospel of Christ. Community can only be founded on unity of faith. [...] Consequently, in a certain sense we cannot create unity, we can only recognize it. How do we do that? We don’t do it by looking at each other but by looking toward the gospel. If it is the same gospel we see, then the church is already one. Carl Braaten, Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism, 32

If this goes in one direction, i.e. seeing the same gospel leads to unity in fact, then isn’t it safe to assume that not seeing the same gospel leads to disunion in fact? So…what gospel are we looking toward in the Episcopal Church?

Dusty Historical Quote of the Day

From the Rt. Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft, sermon on the Church:

RavenscroftWe cannot help it, my brethren, if persons whose conduct is a scandal to all Christian profession, will call themselves Episcopalians: The discipline of the Church can be applied only to those who are known and received as communicants; and by those, compared with any other denomination, we fear not to be tested; yet with us, whatever may be the case with other professions, we know and confess, that much of the old leaven has to be purged out; and this we will do, if God permit.1


  1. The Works of the Rt. Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft: His sermons and controversial tracts, p 101-102 []

Discipline and the Church

[Update: Bishop Howe of Central Florida has proposed a resolution that is similar to Ephraim Radner's. The only problem is that reappraisers in the church are already poo pooing it because they think it forces the liberal Bishops to make an admission of some wrong-doing, or that it is simply unfair to ask them to absent themselves from the councils of the Communion without the reasserters doing the same.]

I have been following the developments at the House of Bishop’s meeting with some interest over the past several days, as have many within the Anglican/Episcopal fold. I have been encouraged to a small degree by a letter released by the “Windsor Bishops”that might serve as the basis for a resolution for our current conflicts. I say I’ve been encouraged only to a small degree because, while I appreciated the statement and seeing that both our current and retired Bishops of Tennessee had signed it, I haven’t seen anything to indicated that this proposal or anything substantive has really been taken up by the Bishops in their meeting. Every press conference I’ve seen has been discouraging–more ambiguity, more unease, more discouragement for people struggling to stay within the Episcopal Church as it currently exists.

That’s not to say that absolutely nothing is happening. There have been several proposals presented for possible ways forward. The most notable are those presented by the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, a member of the Anglican Communion Institute and a member of the Covenant Design group.

Both Harmon and Radner suggest that there may be a way forward for the Anglican Communion if Bishops of the Episcopal church voluntarily absent themselves from the deliberations of the communion. (you can see a note of comparison between the suggestions by Matt Kennedy on Stand Firm).

In Harmon’s scenario, the entire House of Bishops would voluntarily exclude themselves from the deliberations of the Anglican Communion, thereby representing our corporate responsibility for the current conflict and resulting loss of trust (this is not an us/them issue). This suggestion has much to commend it, and I think it bears a similar motivation to the reflection/thought experiment I wrote entitled “A Proposal for Repentance: what would it look like?” where I was, at least in part, inspired by Dr. Harmon’s statement at Plano, that we are all under judgment and in need of repentance. Here’s what “Bishop Theophilus Fictitious” suggested then (March of 2006), particularly relating to how repentance might be given liturgical and sacramental expression:

And so, friends, what is it that we must do. I have spoken of repentance, but what would it look like for us, for our church, to repent in these latter days where repentance has all but been forgotten, within the church as without?

I reiterate that this is a repentance of the whole church, not just of those who voted to approve the titular Bishop of New Hampshire. Nor is it only for those who have consented to or actively went forward with either same sex unions or the ordination of sexually active homosexuals. This is a time of repentance for us all, for our failures, for our neglect of Christ and his message, for our failure to serve Christ, to serve others, to set our face and stay the course.

As such, I want to suggest that, from a period determined (either Advent or Lent, depending on the time of year), we as the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA, determine and state that we will hereby abstain from either partaking in or celebrating ALL sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, except in cases of extreme illness or imminent death.

We do this recognizing that the Eucharist is not a gift of grace only, but a gift of judgment and discernment for the people of God. Just as the Lord warned the Israelites while in the wilderness to maintain the appropriate boundaries lest he “break out against them,” so too does the Eucharist have boundaries, established by our Lord, evidenced in the fate of Judas, explained by St. Paul, that those who eat and drink unworthily eat and drink judgment or damnation upon themselves. Not only will we as Bishops abstain from the sacraments, but we heartily encourage all our Priests to abstain as well (except in those cases where pastoral necessity may require. i.e. baptism, marriage, moments of death and funerals), and to explain such abstention, its reasons and symbolism to their parishioners. We will compel no one outside the house of Bishops to maintain this abstention, but we recommend that it be a sign of repentance for the whole Episcopal Church.

We will maintain this abstention from communion as a sign of our unworthiness and repentance and as a sign of the communion which has been shattered with our fellow Christians around the world. At the designated time (Appropriately Easter or The Nativity of our Lord), a select foreign Bishop appointed either by ballot at the Primates meeting or selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will admit one designated Bishop of the Episcopal Church back into the Communion through a Eucharistic service of repentance and reconciliation.

That Episcopal Bishop will then, the following Sunday or major feast, admit another ECUSA Bishop back into communion, the order (beyond the first who will be picked by the primates) having been designated by ballot in the House of Bishops. Each Sunday or major feast following, those Bishops who have been readmitted to communion will do the same for another ECUSA Bishop, the number growing exponentially.

{read it all}

Kendall’s suggestion, which I think is a good one, is this:

“For myself, I will consider those in New Orleans serious when they consider offering the Anglican Communion something like this statement:

We realize we have caused huge damage to the whole Anglican Communion and therefore, we, as a body, voluntarily withdraw from coming to Lambeth 2008.

Now please note this means ALL the TEC Bishops. No exceptions. It would allow Dr. Williams to get nearly all (perhaps actually all?) the rest of the Communion to Lambeth, and it would show a sense of corporate responsibility for the wrong.

Yes, I know it is not perfect. I also know that it would only be PART of a solution and that there are many other questions which would have to be addressed. I also know it would only happen by divine intervention.

But only things LIKE THIS will really get us anywhere given the degree of damage, alienation, confusion and struggle.”

{HT Stand firm, T1:9}

In comparison, Dr, Radner suggests that only those Bishops who are unwilling or unready to accede to the requests of the Communion should voluntarily withdraw from the life of the communion, while those Bishop’s and Dioceses that are so commited would continue to participate:

My own hope, in light of this limited sense of the Archbishop’s desires, would be this: that the “Windsor Bishops” resolution be voted upon, and that, following that vote, there be an agreement worked out by which those who cannot, in good conscience (and here Abp. Anis’ plea provides a concrete possibility of direciton), abide by the acknowledged teaching and discipline of the Communion, by which they will temporarily withdraw from the Communion’s formal councils for an undetermined time (5 to 10 years was the suggestion of Prof. Grieb at the last House of Bishops’ meeting, a suggestion greeted with much appreciation); and during this time, those dioceses committed to the Communion’s teaching and discipline will move forward with the Communion’s life, and those congregations and clergy in dissenting TEC dioceses will be put under the oversight of Communion dioceses. When this is done, a formal request will be made to the Primates that those providing extra-geogrphaical oversight give up that role, and fold their congregations back into the Communion-linked dioceses and oversight of American bishops. TEC will not cease to exist (though, as with the Communion, not all will participate in its formal life); it will, rather, exist in a state of partition.

Like Matt Kennedy, I find much to commend in both of these ideas. I would be ecstatic to see either one put into place, though I think Radner’s may be less confusing to many orthodox who may not quite understand why their fellowship with the global communion should be so limited.

For myself, I would not only be encouraged to see such a step taken because I think it would provide the best way for the Anglican Communion to not only survive, but thrive, but I would also be encouraged because it would in effect, be a sort of self-imposed discipline that would allow time and space not only for the Communion to heal, but for TEC to re-learn what it means to be Church. What do I mean by that? Lately I’ve been thinking about discipline in the Church; the following is a summary of some of my thoughts. I hope they may be valuable as a starting point for discussion.

Where there is no discipline, there is no Church.

That may be a shocking statement to some, but it is a true one nonetheless. Consider first what discipline means. We think of discipline primarily in terms of punishment, and perhaps that betrays another example of the impoverishment of our language and thought. Consider: to be termed a “disciplinarian” is tantamount to being accused of being totalitarian or abusive. But discipline is not primarily about punishment, though punishment may be one of the acceptable tools to enforce discipline. “Discipline,” like the term “disciple” comes from the Latin word for “instruction,” and a person who lives a “disciplined” life is one who strives to set the bounds of their conduct by a particular teaching–their “discipline.” There is no getting away from discipline in the Church because there is no getting away from discipleship. Our Lord gave us the Great Commission saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”(Matt. 28:19). As Christians we can no more reject discipline and discipleship than we can reject baptism–they require each other, and we are bound to them both by the Word of God, incarnate and written.

The question then, is whether the Anglican Communion in general and the Episcopal Church in particular can truly claim to be part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church when we find it impossible to exercise even the most basic discipline in our common life, save that “discipline” which protects the letter of the law with not even a nod to its spirit. The truth, as hard as it is to stomach, is that if the Anglican Communion cannot find a way to discipline itself, if TEC continues on it’s way without any check, then the Anglican Communion will in effect, as a body, give up any claim to be a functional Church–instead, we will simply be playing dress up, and pretending–”having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that TEC has already taken that step–we rejected any notion that we are fully or truly a part of the Church by affirming not just “local option” for the blessing of same-sex unions, but “local option” in the ordaining of non-celibate homosexuals to the priesthood. This point was made quite forcefully in another context, by theologians of the ELCA, our sister church, who stated in regard to their own denomination’s (since affirmed) drift toward local option:

By using the language of “this approach” (8) instead of “this change in policy” the Task Force advocates that the ELCA should “trust congregations, synods, candidacy committees, and bishops to discern the Holy Spirit’s gifts for ministry among the baptized and make judgments appropriate to each situation” (8). In the New Testament, however, the criterion for the discernment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is a broadly based, ecclesial determination and not an individual, local preference. If the Report before us were to be implemented, the ELCA, as a national church body, would abdicate its theological and moral constitutional responsibility by relegating the decisions for which it alone is responsible to regional and local components. Far beyond transforming the polity of the ELCA into a congregational one, such an action would so fatally extend the boundaries of diversity in matters of doctrinal and ethical substance that this church would no longer be an effective collaborator either in the communio of the Lutheran World Federation or in the multiple dimensions of ecumenical dialogue. The proposed shift of matters of such enormous import from the national to the local levels will have two adverse consequences: 1. structural dissolution of the ELCA as it currently exists, and; 2. creation of intense division and disunity at the local level, thus effectively undermining “ways to live together faithfully in the midst of our disagreements” (5).

{read it all}

In effect, the allowance of local option means that TEC (and now the ELCA) have ceased to be churches in the fullest sense of the word, and have in fact–though in most cases without understanding the ramifications–taken the first practical steps toward dissolution of their ecclesial bodies. Such “solutions” to the disagreements we are experiencing do nothing but provide for further alienation and mistrust and put into practical and theological form the ideological dissonance that has existed for sometime between the various factions within these institutions. The fragmentation that we have seen over the past several years in The Episcopal Church has brought home the reality of this theological bomb.

The ambiguity and anxiety that people feel within the Episcopal Church is the result of the fact that they are actually paying attention to what is going on. People feel a distinct lack of direction and leadership because the institution that our forbears created to further the cause of the Gospel within the bounds of the Anglican tradition is breaking down and nothing new has yet emerged to take it’s place.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?

While this transition is certainly painful and is causing more stress now than any ecclesial conflict in recent memory, I don’t believe that makes it a “bad” thing. In fact, I believe it is the nature of human institutions to pass away–they, like the individuals who organize and support them–are dust and ashes. As an Anglican, I do not believe the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is co-terminus with any man made institution–institutions are created to further the cause of the Gospel–when they cease to do that in any meaningful way they need to be renewed or, when the spiritual gangrene is widespread, they simply need to die and be replaced.

Does this mean I am in favor of starting a new Church? Well–frankly, I don’t know that such is even a possible option. Either one is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church or one is not. I don’t agree with the logic that says “because you (or your congregation) exists within he Episcopal Church and the institution of which you are a part is dying, you must ‘come out’ in order to be part of the Church.” If faithful Christians are part of the Body of Christ, and it’s into the whole Church that we’re incorporated in baptism, then there’s no reason to say that because the brick and morter institution, the money-sharing once-was-missional-denomination is dying, that the gatherings of the faithful associated with it are also dying (though certainly many are). That is not to say that there aren’t practical reasons that congregations have encountered which have led them to exit the institutional structures of TEC in order to fulfill their ministries in as faithful a way as they can.

If not death, then what is the alternative for those gatherings of the faithful that find themselves in stagnant or dying denominations?

As I consider the landscape of our current conflicts I have to wonder how much of them are shaped by a form of “American exceptionalism.” Sectarianism is, along with various forms of gnosticism, a besetting heresy in American Christianity. How often have faithful Christians sought to create holy communities by coming out of sick denominations only to succumb to the same sickness themselves in a generation or two–if not less. Such a view of the struggles of Churches fails to consider the fact that there have been moments of spiritual renewal as well as malaise in many denominations.

Indeed, there is something to be said for the faithfulness that stands and speaks truth to power rather than that which drives us to excise ourselves from the ailing institution in order to create one wherein “we” are the power. I have many friends who have left the Episcopal Church and either they or their congregations have sought some form of alternative Anglican oversight. I don’t begrudge them their decision in most cases. Indeed, there are many places in our nation where I would doubtless have been forced to make similar decisions. But that has not happened in the Diocese of Tennessee. What has happened is that those of us who feel strongly that we must maintain our communion at the international level, that we must be faithful to scripture and traditional Christian moral teaching–have become more and more irrelevant on the national scene. Thankfully, of course, it is not relevance we seek, but truth. And the truth is that discipline, if it is to mean anything must be imposed with some degree of broad agreement if not unanimity by the instruments that our Communion possesses, and others which it may form. If this does not or cannot happen, then fragmentation will occur as different bodies that can enforce discipline within themselves emerge, and the Anglican Communion will cease to exist in any meaningful way.

What this means is that calls for leaving the dead to bury their dead in the Episcopal Church are actually not serving the cause of discipline. They may be serving the cause of creating new ecclesiastical entities that can support discipline within themselves–but they are not actually calling anyone who declines to join them to repentance, nor do they seem to be serving the cause of discipline within the broader Anglican Communion. Indeed, the level of fracturing within the American Episcopal Church serves as a testimony not only to the fact that there are orthodox Christians who are seeking to remain faithful members of the Anglican Communion outside the bounds of The Episcopal Church, but also to the lack of ability the Anglican Communion has demonstrated to enact any sort of discipline. In an ironic twist, by departing the Episcopal Church for greener pastures in which they seek to remain part of the larger Communion, folks may simply be bearing witness to the fact that the Anglican Communion itself is unable to function fully as the Church.

The Discipline we can preserve

And yet, these questions of discipline do not make up the whole of the subject. To speak of calling to repentance and institutional correction is to talk about a limited form of discipline within the Church. There is another form of discipline that can be preserved even within an institution that has begun to cast off the designation of Church. This is the form of discipline represented by our worship, the sacraments and our practices of prayer.

Article XIX of the Articles of Religion states that “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

The visible Church of Christ is to be found then, in any congregation where the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are “duly ministered.” This says nothing of jurisdiction, affiliation or the like. And why should it? Anglicans have never claimed to be the entire church, alone. There has always been a recognition that the bounds of the Church and the bounds of the institution were not one and the same. This is something for us to be particularly thankful for, because, as Anglicanism has never claimed to be the entire Church, sufficient unto itself, it has also never claimed that the sacraments belong solely to her. Instead, the sacraments and sacramental acts are God’s gift to the world through the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church which Christ instituted, and which the Holy Spirit preserves and in which all faithful people and congregations may claim membership.

The first Bishop of North Carolina, John Stark Ravenscroft once preached a sermon on the subject of the Church in which he said:

We cannot help it, my brethren, if persons whose conduct is a scandal to all Christian profession, will call themselves Episcopalians: the discipline of the Church can be applied only to those who are known and received as communicants…1

I would go further than the good Bishop and say that we cannot control the beliefs or conduct of anyone who calls themselves by the name of Christ–and yet, as Christians we bear the repercussions of it, regardless of denomination. At the same time, we also bear a responsibility, not only to give glory to Christ, but to offer support and correction to those who claim to be part of the body.

In order to do this, however, we must “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers,” because this is the primary discipline of the Church, and it is only in this form of discipline that any other can find its grounding.

What say you?


  1. The Works of the Rt. Rev. John Stark Ravenscroft: his sermons and controversial tracts, p 101 []

Hauerwas quote of the day

Stan the manThe following quote is from Sanctify Them in the Truth, and the opening paragraph of the essay “In Defense of Cultural Christianity: Reflections on Going to Church.”

One of the most important questions you can ask theologians is where they go to church. For is theologians do not go to church, they may begin to think their theology is more important than the church. Theology can too easily begin to appear as ‘ideas,’ rather than the kind of discourse that must, if it is to be truthful, be embedded in the practices of actual lived communities. That is one reason I do not do ‘systematic theology.’ Systems can be quite beautiful but also easily subject to ideological perversions.

Positively Anglican Anglo-Methodist. Or Anabaptist. Or both? :-p

Web roundup

Some interesting things I’ve been reading from around the web:

From Christianity Today, “Amish Grace and the Rest of Us”:

We often assume that humans have innate needs in the face of violence and injustice. For instance, some who said that the Amish forgave Charles Roberts “too quickly,” assumed that Amish people had denied a basic human need to get even. But perhaps our real human need is to find ways to move beyond tragedy with a sense of healing and hope. What we learn from the Amish, both at Nickel Mines and more generally, is that how we choose to move on from tragic injustice is culturally formed. For the Amish, who bring their own religious resources to bear on injustice, the preferred way to live on with meaning and hope is to offer forgiveness—and offer it quickly. That offer, including the willingness to forgo vengeance, does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong. It does, however, constitute a first step toward a future that is more hopeful, and potentially less violent, than it would otherwise be.

{read it all}

From Covenant-Communion and Fr. Tony Clavier “A New Baptismal Theology?”

Most of the contents of the bishops’ findings should not take up our time. One is reminded of a Dan Brown novel in which a hidden document reveals that everyone has been wrong or ill-informed until now, or at least the Seventies when suddenly and in America new light bursts forth. Indeed there’s not much difference in method here than in that found in the justifications for any of the other “nativist” religious movements which emerged in America in the 19th Century. Golden tablets may seem rather more romantic than the findings of lawyer bishops, who note that entirely new interpretations of Scripture now suddenly burst forth and new concepts of just what a Christian is emerge from a re-appraisal of baptism.

{read it all}

Discussion of the Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul controversey in the PCA and OPC by a Lutheran…some good insights:

Now, imagine you are a TULIP Presbyterianism, and you want baptism to actually do something to the baptized baby. You want baptism to really be a “washing of regeneration” as Paul writes to Titus. And you want the visible communion of Holy Communion today to be in some integral sense part of the future communion of the wedding supper of the Lamb. Now you want these things because the Bible obviously says them. They are expressed in both major themes and concrete proof-texts. Peter Leithart mentions for example 1 Cor. 6:11, Gal. 3:28-29.
Unlike an Augsburg Evangelical or Roman Catholic, however, you don’t have the category of genuine apostasy. (More on this here.) You can’t say: this baptism was indeed a true baptism of the Holy Spirit, but unfortunately as an adult she rejected God’s grace and became an atheist. Or that when he was with us he was truly enjoying today communion with Christ in Holy Communion, but then he began living in adultery and his conscience was seared. As a Reformed, you can only say, they seemed to be Christians but really weren’t.

[Note: I think I would add Armenian/Anglican/Wesleyan to his list of Augsburg Evangelical and RC.]

{read it all}

From Reformed Catholicism, “You have to believe *something* and take a stand…”:

Something happened after the Reformers were gone, something really tragically bad. We all split apart into a thousand perpetually warring sects, each one of us forgetting our common roots as we increasingly narrowed our respective visions of “Truth” so that the word became a simple synonym for “Whatever we think.” Nowadays we can’t even respectfully argue about what the Fathers meant because we’ve all inherited these vast polemical traditions that are purely self-justifying: Augustine is our guy, not yours, you filthy heretics. Nor can we even respectfully argue about what the Reformers meant: If Calvin was here today, he would certainly be a member of the PCA, you Institutes-twisting scum. Lift high the banner of Flacius, and let the very memory of Spener perish from the earth! Away with all cursed heretics!

Contrast this with theological discourse in the catholic Church before the Reformation. In order to become a master of theology you had to write a commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, a work chock full of an astonishingly diverse array of patristic citations–not, I note, citations of post-patristic people whose undies were all in a twist about Some Big Burning Issue that supposedly only they and whatever meager band of followers they had correctly understood. A bit earlier than Lombard, even, Peter Abelard had compiled a book of patristic sentences (Sic et Non) in which he stated that because of the tremendous diversity of the Fathers

All writings belonging to this class are to be read with full freedom to criticize, and with no obligation to accept unquestioningly; otherwise the way would be blocked to all discussion, and posterity be deprived of the excellent intellectual exercise of debating difficult questions of language and presentation.

Now if “this class” contains Augustine, it surely must contain Luther and Calvin!

[Note: a very good post with good insights put humerously.]

{read it all}

I’m off to write a bit about discipline in the Church. Enjoy.

New link in the sidebar: Covenant

compass rose 3I want to direct your attention to a new link in the sidebar under Canterbury. There has been a need for a site in the blogosphere for a while that presents the perspectives of “Communion Conservatives” in the current Anglican Communion conflicts–Covenant may be that voice. It’s a group blog and includes Fr. Will Brown of Whitehall, Fr. Tony Clavier of WVParson Craig Uffman and a slew of others. Keep your eye on this new endeavor.