Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Gauntlet is Thrown Down.

The Statement on the Global Anglican Future has been released at the close of the Global Anglican Futures Conference. Some of its highlights:

…we grieve for the spiritual decline in the most economically developed nations, where the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society and churches are compromised and enfeebled in their witness…. To meet these challenges will require Christians to work together to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway. It will entail the planting of new churches among unreached peoples and also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches.

The first fact is the acceptance and promotion within the provinces of the Anglican Communion of a different ‘gospel’ (cf. Galatians 1:6-8) which is contrary to the apostolic gospel.

The second fact is the declaration by provincial bodies in the Global South that they are out of communion with bishops and churches that promote this false gospel.

The third fact is the manifest failure of the Communion Instruments to exercise discipline in the face of overt heterodoxy. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in proclaiming this false gospel, have consistently defied the 1998 Lambeth statement of biblical moral principle (Resolution 1.10). Despite numerous meetings and reports to and from the ‘Instruments of Unity,’ no effective action has been taken, and the bishops of these unrepentant churches are welcomed to Lambeth 2008.

Published as a part of it is the Jerusalem Declaration. Some of its points:

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.

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.

…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.

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.

We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

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.

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.

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.

So, in all of this is the gauntlet thrown down. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are “compromised and enfeebled,” “proclaiming this false gospel.” “The unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman” is, in the Jerusalem Declaration, elevated to equity with Scripture, Creeds, the threefold ministry, and the historical Anglican Formularies.

All of this, then, justifies not only “the planting of new churches among unreached peoples [but] also committed action to restore authentic Christianity to compromised churches;” for “we reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed.” So, incursions across provincial lines are valid responses to the failures of American and Canadian bishops (and surely others soon enough) to “uphold orthodox faith and practice.”

Well, we in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have some sense of having experienced this before. The Global Anglican Future Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration are remarkably reminiscent of the Affirmation of St. Louis, in intent and consequence, if not literally in language. The Affirmation of St. Louis has been the distinctive formative statement of “continuing Anglican” bodies in North America, including some who are now part of the Common Cause movement.

And having seen it before, we can predict what it will mean, at least here. It will provide justification for those who chose to leave the Episcopal Church, and especially those who have left in all but name long ago and now find a new body more congenial. Some will leave, if not nearly as many as the separatists hope. New bodies will coalesce and splinter and coalesce again over time, until new bodies reach some level of stability. They are not likely, however, to ever grow dramatically from what they are now.

There are differences, of course. The connections with foreign bishops will add a certain panache, at least for a while. However, such connections will not make the new bodies more attractive than they already were for their doctrinal positions; and time will tell just how ready American and Canadian Christians are to live with very different models of authority from other cultures.

In any case, and once again, the gauntlet is thrown down. This new movement, led by its primates, exists to challenge the existing relationships and structures of the Anglican Communion, from Canterbury on out. While it begins its work with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, it can hardly stop there. It can only come soon to the British Isles; and one wonders what the approach will be to other conservative Anglican provinces that choose to remain with Canterbury instead of joining the movement.

It seems a long time ago that I described Archbishop Williams’ efforts to maintain the Communion as “cowboy poker,” won by those who stayed longest at the table (here and here). Well, clearly some have made a decision. They have attended GAFCON, and have disparaged the Lambeth Conference that they will not attend. They have determined that some are acceptable and some are not, and have stated their standards. Some will certainly back away from this; but just as certainly some will chart their course by this map. Are you watching, Archbishop Williams? These have chosen to walk away.


Ann said...

This document is so Evangelical - wonder what Iker and Schofield are thinking?

Marshall Scott said...

I certainly agree. As one clear example, it was the Anglo-catholics among us that were quickest to embrace the liturgical renewal that resulted in the 1979 Prayer Book. At the same time, on their issues of choice (especially ordination of women) they may feel opportunities to be left alone in a way they didn't feel within the Episcopal Church. I think those opportunities will prove illusory - these guys will prove, I think, as activist as they come - but I can't say I'm surprised at the self-delusion.

Ecgbert said...

It's Protestant all right.

As a catholic I haven't got a dog in this fight.

Obviously Anglo-Catholicism has no more of a future with this than it does in Episcopalianism (none).

The big difference between this and St Louis is not only the catholic/Protestant divide but this is backed by a lot of sitting Anglican bishops.

St Louis was hung to dry by the Anglican bishops including the many Episcopal ones at the time who objected to women's ordination. St Louis really thought they'd be asked to replace the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion. (Not the same as trying to shut the Episcopalians down.) But nobody had their back. Not so now with this.

When a few years ago I saw two sitting Anglican bishops (Ross Davies and Maternus Kapinga) and several Continuing ones co-consecrate bishops and concelebrate I thought I saw history made: the Anglican Communion really didn't mean anything any more.

That said...

... on their own Protestant terms what the Gafconners are doing makes sense.

These issues are communion-sunderers.

I don't think a few conservative Christians quitting the Episcopalians to worship God in peace can nor would close your churches nor unleash a pogrom against gays (I'm for neither) like the hysterical online voices of the Episcopal left would like one to think. (American law guarantees neither would happen.)

The only big things that would get hurt in this split, whichever side Lambeth eventually comes down on, are the liberals' massive senses of pride ('I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as other men... like that fundamentalist over there') and entitlement: upper-middle-class snobs who like good production values in liturgy and modernist theology.

If membership in the Anglican Communion worked by majority vote, expulsion of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada would make sense.

Which wouldn't shut them down nor affect most of their members in any way.

Certainly as a libertarian I defend their right to exist. If some people in central California want to be Episcopalians and keep their buildings they can go right ahead.

What offends me about your liberals isn't that they're wrong on Controversial Issues™ but that their hatred of bourgeois conservative Christianity means they're anti-religious freedom for them (or 'Why don't those backward pew-sitters shut up and listen to their moral superiors?').

Marshall Scott said...

Goodness, Young Jon: tell me how you really feel!

Point taken about the Affirmation of St. Louis. And, as you say, I acknowledged that the connection with provinces abroad does make a difference. I still don't think the new entity of which the Common Cause Partnership becomes a new province will be in communion with Canterbury, Archbishop Jensen's statements notwithstanding.

I also agree that the decisions of the GAFCON folks (is "Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans" going to catch on, I wonder?) are logical, following the premises they present. Obviously, I think some of the premises are fallacious; but I don't fault the logic, nor do I question that they believe what they say.

I think we should avoid all around the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both sides have expressed more than their share of triumphalism; and both have a group of humble sinners to try to stand with and support. By the same token, which of our "backward pew sitters" should we attend to and which ignore? There is a certain sense of "I don't really understand how one can remain a biblical literalist" among most Episcopalians; but there have been many voices continuing, "but we need and want them in the Episcopal Church." On the other hand, "pew sitters" who are women, "pew sitters" who are GLBT, have long been told by "moral superiors" not only to "shut up and listen," but also to lie about their experiences of Christ. No, I think we're all so sufficiently justified and also sinners on these issues that that parable and that accusation needs to be set aside.

I recognize that the Episcopal Church does not fall within your parameters for "catholic and orthodox;" we've discussed that before. That said, the Anglican Communion has held the meaning we have attributed to it from below. Whether there was a consensus on that prior to 1998, there was little after and it appears there is none now.