A Pesky Detail the “Religious Left” Overlooks on the Mission of the Church

In an excellent piece on the divide between the Remain-supporting clergy and the Leave-leaning laity of the Church of England, Giles Fraser makes this observation:

The job of the church is not to be a faintly Left-wing lobbying group for a slightly more redistributive tax policy or a more European focused Brexit deal. The job of the church is to point to this “other country”, God’s kingdom, and to set family, church and nation under its domain.

Religious left people love to decry “Christian nationalism” amongst their opponents, but they’re blind to the fact that they’re more often than not shilling for another form of nationalism (in this case the Procrustean and undemocratic EU, something Fraser explains elsewhere) and not for the true internationalism that the Christian Church as a whole was meant to have by its Founder.

Adopting that true internationalism will force people across the board in Christianity to abandon their pet secular goals, but that will be for the better, too.

My Response to Fleming Rutledge (@flemingrut) on Stewardship

In the run-up to Advent, the eminent Episcopal theologian Fleming Rutledge has posted an interesting piece entitled “Jesus’ Parable of the Money in Trust.”  It’s an interesting and informative piece, informative not only in its Biblical exegesis but also (doubtless unintentionally) about the Episcopal Church itself, and the changes wrought from the days when multi-generational Episcopalians (as I started out to be) gathered to worship “Gawd” on Sundays.

First the key takeaway: Rutledge is entirely correct to call out laity and clergy alike on the confusion wrought by the word “talent”:

As you can see, the master does not give out what we call “talents,” as in “gifts and talents.” The master gives out money. It’s unfortunate that the English word “talent,” meaning natural ability, is the same as the word for the gold coin in the original parable. As soon as we start talking about “talents,” we’re going to lose sight of the point altogether. We need to get “talents” out of our minds. This parable is about money. There’s this little slogan that Episcopalians use during stewardship season; I’m sure you’ve heard it—“time, talents, and treasure.” I don’t know who invented that, but in my perspective of the wider church, it’s done more harm than good. Putting time, talents, and treasure together distracts our attention from the real issue, which is money. For one thing, we don’t use the word “treasure” when we talk about money. Having those three “t”s sounds clever and quaint, but it also sounds irrelevant. It makes it too easy for us to avoid the issue of money. The slogan is ineffective because it lets people off the hook. If we can divert attention to time and talents, which aren’t very threatening, we don’t have to think about what really makes us nervous, namely, giving up some of our money. Over the years, various new titles for the parable have been proposed to correct the misunderstanding about “talents.” The best one is “The Parable of the Money in Trust.”[3] That we can understand.

Anyone with a decent classical education will spot this: the talent was a measure of the weight of gold in the Greco-Roman world, not a human attribute.  Having just marched through several books of Livy, the number of talents paraded in triumph becomes mind-boggling after a while.  Rutledge is right: in the narrative of the talents, we’re talking about money.

I think, however, that the biggest change that’s taken place is not in the correction of our understanding of what Our Lord was talking about when he referred to “talents” (and I would interpret the parable a little more broadly than she does, for reasons I will discuss.)  What’s changed more than anything else is the way Americans in general and Episcopalians in particular look at money, and that, IMHO, is what has made it possible for Rutledge to set forth the thesis she has done.

Particularly as a product of a multi-generational Episcopal background (on my paternal grandmother’s side) Episcopalians saw themselves as the keepers of a nice, aesthetically pleasing, old-money religion free from the intrusions of tasteless nouveaux-riches making a statement and getting away with it.  From a religious standpoint, Episcopalians were free from fulminations  before the offering of money-grubbing rednecks across the tracks.  Ironically, that was a major attraction for people like my mother, who was trying to escape (with mixed success) her dogmatic Baptistic past, not only about the money but about everything else.  Ironically the Episcopal Church gave cover to the many upwardly mobile people after World War II who wanted the supremely respectable form of Christianity without having to fight the uphill battle of changing the churches they were raised in.  The Episcopal Church’s greatest growth period was from the end of World War II to the mid-1960’s, a growth fuelled in part by that desire, and it’s been a bumpy ride downward ever since.

In any case, the hegemony of the “old money culture” has been swept away, not only by the social upheavals of the 1960’s but also by the Boomers’ stunning volte-face in the wake of that decade towards a “get rich” mentality.  Today we have people who have accumulated enormous sums of money in a short period of time being lionised as the moral guides of our society, additionally able with their new-found wealth to spread money-favouring patronage.  Their self-image as the moral guides of society is undeserved,  but in these United States, we’re obsessed with the money because that’s what it’s become about.

In this way, the traditional Episcopal paradigm about money, Biblical or not, has been blown away for good.  That demise is accentuated by the simple fact that, as the Episcopal Church has declined, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have risen.  Especially with the latter, generous stewardship is not only encouraged, it’s expected.  It’s a revelation to many traditional Episcopalians, but churches which expect a great deal from their congregants fiscally also expect much–and generally get it–with other aspects of their congregants’ lives.  The “time, talent and treasure” triple of traditional Episcopalianism is  package deal: you get one, you get the rest.

This is one place where the Episcopal Church’s elevated demographics have worked against it: in general, the higher the income level and wealth, the smaller portion of it goes to any kind of charitable work, church or otherwise.  (I’m excluding the business of foundations, which aren’t Biblical either and are a source of patronage.)  And that goes for the rest of the contribution, too.  For all it’s social justice striving of the last half century, the Episcopal Church has not quite figured out how to transform the preferential option for the poor into the preferential option of the poor.  Had it done so, it would have also changed the commitment level of its congregants, too.

It’s interesting that Rutledge notes the following:

Affluent churches have a particular challenge in this regard. Building up large endowments is a hedge against an uncertain future. An endowment needs wise, shrewd management, that’s for sure. But it is human nature to be overly cautious in this regard. We don’t typically look for ways to give away money. Consequently, we’re likely to be uneasy about Jesus’ message. Instead of recognizing it as our charter of freedom, we feel it as a threat. So we cling to what we have and we don’t risk anything. The more comfortable we get in our churches, the more likely we are to hang on to our money, so that it just goes round and round in a tight little circle.

As the Episcopal Church’s membership has declined, its reliance on endowed money has increased, with the occasional looting of the endowments.  Rutledge’s call for better money stewardship amongst the parishioners can be seen as a response to that reality.  If the rest of the church world can get along without over-reliance on endowments, why can’t we?  It’s a serious question, but until the Episcopal Church figures out how to attract new people with a new level of commitment, that question will go unanswered.

And the biggest danger of emphasising the money aspect of this parable is that some will take it as reducing Christianity to giving in the offering plate.  I don’t think that’s Rutledge’s intent.  That reduction is the biggest fault of prosperity teaching: it reduces our relationship with God to a money transaction, and that’s patently false.  As noted earlier, the Christian’s commitment to God is a total one.  Although this parable is about money it’s also about more.

I think that Rutledge has given us a valuable contribution to the understanding of this parable.  But I also think that this understanding does not need to be taken out of context in the current climate in the US about it being “all about the money.”  It isn’t.  It includes that, but it’s much more, and the sooner we all recognise that fact, the better.

The Solution Jesus Offered for the Wealthy Wasn’t Philanthropy

Elizabeth Kolbert at the New Yorker has written an interesting article about philanthropy, “then and now.”  “Then” was during the Gilded Age at the end of the Nineteenth century and the beginning of the Twentieth.  “Now” is the age of the Silicon Valley magnates.  In both cases, the recipients of the wealth are a) burdened with guilt over their success vs. everyone else’s failure, b) highly convinced over their moral goodness (the newer ones, unfettered by Christianity’s exhortation for humility, are more obnoxiously self-righteous than their Gilded Age predecessors,) and c) desirous to try to fix the problems of the age.

As someone whose ancestors were part of the Gilded Age (albeit not on the level of a Carnegie or a Vanderbilt) I can take a long view on this issue.  I’ll say from the start that my Gilded Age ancestors and relatives were not, AFAIK, much on philanthropy.  That wasn’t a part of our family idea; the idea of “give back” came much later (unless you count our years in Washington.)

The grandees of both floods of wealth used foundational philanthropy for just that purpose: to “give back” and make society better.  There are several critiques to that method.

The first is the Marxist critique that the wealthy have exploited the surplus value of their workers and thus are always the problem.  That haunted my relationship with the Episcopal Church, and was one reason I took my leave from same.  Many “do-gooders” of the day thought they could solve the problems of the world through personal charitable work, but there’s more to it than that.

The second–and one which occupies much of Kolbert’s article–is the drain on the Treasury caused by the tax-exempt status of charitable giving and foundations.  Again, anyone with the long view of the Internal Revenue Code knows that provisions come and provisions go.  This could be changed; what’s sad is that, when it does get changed, it will be due to the government’s bankruptcy and desperate need for revenue.  This also speaks to another Marxist critique, i.e., that private charity is merely a sop and unnecessary when the ideal state comes, which is why private charity was routinely outlawed in Marxist-Leninist states.  (Tell that to people who wait for FEMA after a natural disaster…)

The third actually came out of the Gilded Age:

William Jewett Tucker, a professor of religion who would later become the president of Dartmouth, was no less horrified. What the “Gospel (of Wealth)” advocated, Tucker wrote, was “a vast system of patronage,” and nothing could “in the final issue create a more hopeless social condition.” To assume that “wealth is the inevitable possession of the few” was to evade the essential issue: “The ethical question of today centres, I am sure, in the distribution rather than in the redistribution of wealth.”

That applies as much to today as it did then.  Yes, these foundations create enormous patronage, patronage that can even transcend race, as the article shows.  Moreover Tucker put his finger on the key: the distribution of wealth.  The growth of this new “Gilded Age” has come with growing income and wealth inequality in a society which should be really good at creating large amounts of wealth for a large number of people, when in fact a few are the primary beneficiaries.  Today we have many campaigns for rights for all kinds of people funded in part by many of these foundations but growing income inequality.  I personally think we’re seeing a shell game, intentional or not.

But Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ had an entirely different answer for the rich young ruler of his day, and one which those in ours would do well to consider:

And a man came up to Jesus, and said: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain Immortal life?” “Why ask me about goodness?” answered Jesus. “There is but One who is good. If you want to enter the Life, keep the commandments.” “What commandments?” asked the man. “These,” answered Jesus:–“‘Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not say what is false about others. Honor thy father and thy mother.’ And ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thou dost thyself.” “I have observed all these,” said the young man. “What is still wanting in me?” “If you wish to be perfect,” answered Jesus, “go and sell your property, and give to the poor, and you shall have wealth in Heaven; then come and follow me.” On hearing these words, the young man went away distressed, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22 TCNT)

The best thing that those who achieve success in this life–and especially their descendants–can do is to impart their method of success (and that’s not easy for most entrepreneurs, because most can’t verbalise it) to others and then get out of the way and leave it to those whom they taught.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want When You’re the State Church

That was certainly the case with Peter Ball, whom John Major appointed to the see of Gloucester, much to then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s horror:

LORD CAREY has expressed his horror that the former Prime Minister John Major was persuaded by a senior aide to choose Peter Ball over another candidate for the see of Gloucester against the wishes of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC — now the Crown Nominations Commission).

That’s basically the deal with a state church: the church gets the privileges of official status but must submit to the state’s will.  I’ve noted this problem before (and so did Bossuet, who preached at the court of Louis XIV,) but it hasn’t stopped many in North American Anglicanism from pining for communion with Canterbury, even as the drift in the culture was reflected in the attitude of the state.

I think now that the consequences of this signal weakness are apparent to just about everyone, as was evidence as the recent GAFCON meeting.  Better late than never.

As far Ball’s appointment being recommended by Sir Robin Catford, recalling this is impossible to resist:

That could be applied to a large number of Anglican and Episcopal prelates and clergy as well…

My Review of Duane Alexander Miller’s Two Stories of Everything for Global Missology

Recently Duane Alexander Miller, a long-time friend of this blog, wrote Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityMy review of this excellent book is here at Global MIssology.

The Simple Solution for the Episcopalians’ BDS Problem

They’re certainly obsessed with it:

I intrude mention of the Episcopal Church here because of my presence at the late convention — where what could have been taken for the third, perhaps second, cousin of old-fashioned anti-Semitism prowled like a ramping and roaring lion, snarling at Israel, clapping its paws for the Palestinians.

Resolution after resolution targeted Israel for its apparently endless failures to bestow full rights on Palestinians in the so-called “occupied” territories. Resolution authors wanted the church, through its investments, to pressure Israeli acquiescence in a pro-Palestinian policy.

I’ve always marvelled at the fundamental contradiction of the Episcopal Church: ever since the 1960’s, it’s been a church obsessed with social justice issues, but at the same time it has an elevated demographic and, on top of that, is well endowed (literally) with trust funds (which it occasionally loots) too keep it going when that demographic disappears (which is it is doing.)  That’s one way they financed the USD40+ million litigation war to preserve their…property.

I don’t have any use for the BDS movement.  But it they want to move on from arguing about investments and be consistent about their “social justice” mission, they need to do what Jesus told them to do: sell all, give to the poor and follow him.

To put it another way, they need to sell all or shut up.

An Update on the St. Andrew’s School Sex Scandal

I’ve covered this matter here and here; it’s generated a fair amount of interest.  Today the school released the following, which I will reproduce in its entirety (with one minor correction):

In late March we shared with you information regarding Bruce Presley, a former board member (1994 – 2000) and part-time instructor at Saint Andrew’s. As we mentioned in that communication, Mr. Presley allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was at the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey) in the 1970s, prior to his time at our school and unbeknownst to us until earlier this year.

Although we had no record or reports that led us to believe that Mr. Presley engaged in inappropriate behavior while he was on our campus, we proactively shared information related to these past allegations out of caution and concern. We also encouraged members of our community to come forward with any knowledge or information related to his behavior or that of others while at our school. To date, we have no reports or evidence to suggest any inappropriate behavior or misconduct involving Mr. Presley while he was at Saint Andrew’s.

As part of this process, however, we received an allegation of past sexual misconduct involving a former member of our faculty, Evans “Dutch” Meinecke. Mr. Meinecke taught at Saint Andrew’s from 1971 – 1983. He passed away in 2006.

Upon learning of this information, we reported the past incident in question to the proper authorities and initiated an internal review in accordance with our policies and procedures. We also enlisted the support of William Shepherd, a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, to further investigate these allegations and any other claims that might surface during the course of his investigation. The investigation found that Mr. Meinecke sexually abused a student while he was employed by our school. We have shared this same information with the schools at which Mr. Meinecke previously taught.

We are grateful that this former student had the courage to come forward. We, the entire Board of Trustees and the school community, are deeply sorry for the harm Mr. Meinecke has caused. We know that nothing can erase the actions of Mr. Meinecke, but we are committed to doing all that we can to support survivors impacted by sexual abuse while at our school.

This is difficult news for our community to hear, but it is impossible for our school and our community to move forward without addressing the past. It is important that we address this openly and honestly. Part of this includes identifying historical incidents, as well as the circumstances that may have led to those incidents, so that we can do everything possible to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

As we have shared with you previously, we consistently review and update our handbooks, policies, and procedures to ensure they are in keeping with current independent and private school best practices. We are also dedicated to providing opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff to participate in educational programming and training sessions that promote health and well-being. Each of these steps continues to make Saint Andrew’s a stronger, safer, and more open community.

Most importantly, we want all of you to know that we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to communicate with us directly if you have any questions or concerns. We also encourage you to be in touch with Susan Schorr, an investigator with the law firm of McLane Middleton, if you have any information, past or present, that you think may be of interest. She can be reached via email at susan.schorr@mclane.com or by phone at 781.904.2715.

All of us here at Saint Andrew’s thank you for your continued support. Our greatest responsibility is and always will be the safety, security, and well-being of our entire school community.

Best regards,

Ethan Shapiro
Interim Head of School
Saint Andrew’s School

Steve Shapiro
Board Chair on Behalf Of
Saint Andrew’s School Board of Trustees

More on the Reformation and Anglicanism

My response to the Rev. Thomas Reeves’ ideas on this subject has in turn received a response from him.  That response is too extensive for a “comment box” type of response so I am devoting a post to the topic.  I’ll quote parts of his response, but for brevity’s sake they’ll be short, but you can read everything he has to say on the subject.

One thing that probably separates our perspective is that Reeves has never had the thrill of being Roman Catholic.  That will change your perspective on a wide variety of subjects; it certainly has in my case.  Any discussion of Patristic Christianity and its place in the faith will sooner or later involve the Roman Catholic Church; it’s too important of a topic to ignore.

So we proceed:

I would submit that those at the Council of Nicea 325 (and the later confirming Council of Constantinople of 387) actually had agreement on multiple CORE AREAS that had little to nothing to do with the later scholastic theologies or developments argued or thrown to the side by most following the Reformers.

I agree that the fourth century fathers and councils are a nice place to start.  That doesn’t address the “stopping point” issue.  We’re not talking about “scholastic theologies” but things such as the Nestorian and Monophysite controversies and councils such as Chalcedon.  The natures of Jesus Christ and his relationship with the creation he came to redeem may seem an arcane business, but the resurgence of Islam has brought the subject back into prominence.  It can be argued that Islam is Nestorianism brought to its logical conclusion.  Stopping at Constantinople I cuts these issues out of the loop.  And that, of course, doesn’t address the issue of the icons in Nicaea II…

Nor would they have understood the word “catholic” as “everyone across space and time” and/or “everyone across the world” who has asked Jesus into their heart and/or who has made up their own definition of what church and salvation is.

Anglicans have traditionally interpreted the Creed’s “holy Catholic church” as including themselves.  The RCC would disagree with that, many of the Orthodox would too.  Be careful how you draw boundaries; you might find yourself on the wrong side.

They also believed that salvation/conversion through Christ was Covenental, Sacramental, AND personal. These realities can NEVER be cleanly separated in Holy Scripture or in any of the early church fathers. Whatever mysteries and complexities there are in understanding these theologies, they most certainly inform the statement of the bishops for: “a baptism for the forgiveness of sins”.

That’s the tricky part: as currently structured, Christianity has made “sacramental and personal” “sacramental or personal.”  Most of the Apostolic churches have a built-in allergy for enthusiasm and a high-level of commitment among their parishioners.  The Roman Catholic Church is a prime example of this.  The RCC relies too heavily on its role as the dispenser of grace via the sacraments to bind the faithful to it, rather than developing its member’s spiritual lives individually or as a community.  You can see this in some of its Eucharistic theology (which is still the best out there) and especially in its view of baptism.  The result is that the RCC has bled members and opened the door for things such as covenant communities to fill the void.  This is sad for a church with a rich a spiritual heritage and some of the most Christlike people who have ever walked on the face of the earth, but for many parishes and parishioners that’s reality.

Pietism (and, thus, the Wesley brothers) walks away from these central Christian doctrines, negates the realities of us all having informing traditions, and turns salvation into a personal decision removed from a grounding and communal salvation…and thus, a coherence with the Historic Church of Christ.

Probably the best way to respond to this is to recount the story of one of my church members, the Rt. Rev. Brian Barnett.  His brother fought in the Battle of Britain (an awesome thing in itself) and he decided to follow his footsteps in the RAF.  Before he was shipped out, his future wife invited him to a meeting where he got saved. So when he arrived at his first duty post he went to the chaplain and, offering his services to help, said he had gotten saved recently.  The Anglican chaplain responded glumly, “You’ll get over it.”

Now I’m sure you would apply your extended speech on Wesleyanism to this situation.  But the truth is that the chaplain’s response was pastoral laziness.  It’s much easier to have people content to go through the motions every Sunday rather than to deal with the problems caused by enthusiasm.  Barnett for his part ended up first a pastor and official in the Elim Church in the UK, then an Administrative Bishop in the Church of God on this side of the Atlantic.  When we look at the bishops who are allowing the Church of England to fade away (lead by Justin Welby) it begs the question: what would be the case if the CoE encouraged more serious people?

Wesley never intended to leave the Church of England; that didn’t take place until after his death, and only after a lifetime of stonewalling.  Neither did Barnett (he actually started out in a very secular home, CoE could have picked him up) nor I intend to leave the Episcopal Church.  When I compared the lives of those around me with the challenge that came out of the Gospel read every Sunday, the question kept coming up: what difference is the Gospel making?  When they decided that same Gospel and Scriptures weren’t enough, I realised I had had all the fun I could stand.

A few years back I ran a series on the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.  I would encourage you to add him to your reading list.  If the Apostolic churches, who have institutional descent from the church of St. Cyril, were up to his level, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.  The real goal is to not to denigrate people but to rise to the occasion and for at least one of these churches to have this on a consistent basis and not just as a “special parish” or two.

When that takes place, we can have sacramental and personal at the same time, which is God’s intent.

 

My Dialogue with an ACNA Priest re the Reformation and Anglicanism

Not too long ago I reviewed a book entitled Was Jesus an Evangelical? by the Rev. Thomas Reeves, an ACNA priest in Roanoke, VA.  He’s come back with some interesting points (most of which are in his book, in more detail) and he’s given me the opportunity to post then and comment.  We’ll start here:

While it may sound reductionistic, this is one reason that I am convinced that an honest look a the Nicene Fathers and what they believed (in a shared, core way) about the church, the sacraments, conversion, etc. could help us to cut through the divisions that have occurred in Anglicanism since the Reformation.

One way of looking at Anglicanism is that it is an attempt to restore a Patristically based Christianity.  There are those who would object to this characterisation but I think there’s enough evidence that at least some important people in the early years of the Church of England desired to do just that.  The retention of the episcopacy and the liturgy make that desire evident.

The problem with this was pointed out by Bossuet in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches: where do you stop?  The Roman Catholic Church claims continuity both in its institution and in its carrying forth of tradition.  Protestants say that somewhere in there the church excessively erred from the Scriptures.  Bossuet’s question is valid: where do you draw the line?

Let’s take the example of Vigilantius, a priest in fourth-century Gaul.  The main thrust of his writings (as best as we can tell) was as follows:

  1. Devotions to the relics of martyrs is superstitious.  Also, offering prayers to saints and martyrs, was unnecessary since they were with God, and pagan.
  2. The observance of all-night vigils was unacceptable.
  3. The ascetic ideals of fasting, monastic withdrawal and virginity were not necessary for Christianity, and that included a celibate clergy.
  4. He proposed ending sending alms to Jerusalem and the monks who lived there.

Vigilantius was savaged for these ideas by Jerome in a fashion that anticipated the online abuse we see today.  For its part the Church of England pretty much went along with Vigilantius on all of these.  But Jerome was not only a Father of the Church but a Doctor.  So where do we stop?  We also have the case of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which commended the veneration of icons and relics, and is held to be on par with the other six (including Nicaea.)

If the Reformation was truly only a response to the abuses of the Medieval Church (in ethics, practice, and theology), then the unity of the Patristic theology  behind the creeds should be a reasonable starting place for discussions among Anglican thinkers. However, I believe that the Reformation in the end became the wholesale rejection of Western Catholicity.  The Creeds just became historic documents that Protestants reinterpreted out of their original contexts.

I think you’re basically right about this.  One enduring problem in the Anglican/Episcopal world is that the creeds (Apostles’ or Nicene) are recited but many of the ministers–and laity too–who recite them don’t believe them!

Of course, my belief is that the Reformation had much more to do with societal and cultural changes desired by the populous who wanted more say and freedom and the Reformation was swallowed up very quickly by Pietism which then became rampant sectarianism. Thus, the Reformation quickly devolved into an over-reaction which essentially cherry-picked the theology of the creeds according to “whatever groups” Reformational,  limited, and desired theological assumptions.

The largest movement to come out of Pietism (with apologies to the Continentals) is Wesleyan Methodism and its progeny, and I don’t think that this has “swallowed up” the Reformation or Reformed Christianity.  In fact, one of the major challenges of Wesleyans (and that includes modern Pentecost) is to keep Reformed theology from making inroads.  The Baptists have the same problem for different reasons.

Some of the problem here is that the creeds don’t cover the issues that resulted in the fracturing you describe.  That includes the nature of the Eucharist, election and perseverance.  The creeds crystallised fairly early before these issues came to the forefront.  In the case of Eucharistic theology, problems came with the Reformation.  For the other two, Augustine’s theology (which anticipated but is not identical to Calvin’s) was accepted (after a fight) in the West but not the East.  The only creedal difference between the two is the filioque clause, which is far less important than Augustinian theology!

I submit Anglo-Catholicism, while important, is still caught up in propping up their own particular sectarianism as the ONLY WAY…

If one looks at the Oxford Movement at the start, one sees an admirable attempt to bring unity between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.  That ran into two large obstacles: the unwillingness of the Church of England to move in that direction, and the unwillingness of Roman Catholicism to move at all.  The latter ultimately inspired people like Newman and Manning to “swim the Tiber.”  Those two immovable objects have bedevilled Anglo-Catholicism ever since.

One the one side, the Anglo-Catholics have had more success outside of England than within.  Part of that may be because they weren’t saddled with “unEnglish and unManly” like they were in the old country, but that’s another post…the 1928 BCP was, in many ways, an Anglo-Catholic triumph.  And it’s not an accident that the first group to bolt the TEC and set up institutional alternatives were the Continuing (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopalians; their boldness inspired the Dennis Canon.  Other provinces (notably the West Indies) were deeply affected by this movement.

On the other hand, frankly I am surprised that the Ordinariate has gotten as far as it has.  I didn’t see that happening.  What I think happened is that the conservative Ordinariate served the purpose of Traditionalist Catholics (like Benedict XVI) in their struggle with the more liberal wing of the church.

That brings us to the greatest fault of Anglo-Catholicism, one they share with the Orthodox, St. Pius X and #straightouttairondale types: the idea that tight liturgical precision is the key to great churches and great church life.  On the Anglican side, we have the church Robin Jordan joined, with the 1928 BCP as the ne plus ultra of Anglican life.  On the Catholic side, the broadest-based liturgy, incorporation elements of Eastern and Western worship alike, is the Novus Ordo Missae, but don’t tell that to the trads, some of whom don’t believe the Mass it celebrates is sacramentally valid.

Anglo-Catholics’ ultimate goal is reunion with Rome, with Rome making concessions.  That’s about as realistic as the unrequited (and declining) desire of many in the ACNA for full communion with Canterbury.  Since both Rome and Canterbury are under shaky leadership these days, the best course for Anglo-Catholics would be to clean up the careerism in their ranks, unite institutionally, and act as a witness to the Gospel as they see it.  Who knows, they just might pick up a #straightouttairondale Catholic or two on the way.

I submit that a future for Anglicanism is not MY theology getting adhered to (or any other sectarian groups particular theology), but a return to OUR theology with clarity regarding what is essential to an Anglican definition or what is not. However, very few seemed interested this discussion.

I think getting agreement to the creeds is the easy part.  But the issues beyond the creeds is where things get tricky.  There are too many people involved whose agendas are driven by purism, nostalgia or both.  They’re justified in being wary of “innovations” (the TEC is enough to cure anyone of that) but they don’t have the theological framework to work through the problems.

This is what so few seem to understand: We don’t have the right to cherry pick the creeds, and it is a reason that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (with all of their own problems) in part has had fewer problems being shaped by the cultures around them in their core theological (and ethical) beliefs. The Patristics gave us a unified set of scriptures and the Creeds. Why do we think we don’t need their grounding as a starting place?

I think that Patristic theology is the best place to start, but you need to be aware of the issues that block that other than ignorance.

The first is the “stopping point” issue I mentioned above.

The second is that the Patristic method of allegorising Biblical interpretation is going to be a hard sell in seminaries, which are too centred on the German methods.  (Modern philosophies and theologies, I think, are an obstacle to progress in many ways.)  The ancients had good reason to go that route, and our butting heads with the atheists (who routinely shove back a literalistic interpretation) should tell us something.

The third is that the differences between Patristic and Charismatic views on the church and the move of the Spirit are different.  I don’t think this problem is insoluble; it’s one that has occupied my thoughts (and much space on this blog) for many years.  Frankly modern Pentecost’s greatest enemy is cessational Reformed theology, and Patristic thought goes a long way to address that.

I would love to hear another option to true Christian Unity than getting back to a generally unified theology of those attending Nicea.  With these “gogles” then, we could more clearly start evaluating our numerous mind-numbing amount of ever developing, sectarian, and individualistic streams. It isn’t that there is no place for such streams, but without a clarifying unity regarding core beliefs and practices,

One thing that would mitigate this is an understanding that differences in fundamental belief are more important than mode of worship.  But it’s simply too easy to turn lex orandi, lex credendi into a reductio ad absurdum.  Anglicanism is supposed to be “comprehensive,” but the divisions over the fundamentals has shattered that broad nature.  Putting it back together again–or at least the part which wants to stick with the basics–is a daunting task.

Anglicanism will just continue to be an every fragmenting, self-supporting, sectarian Protestantism. A Christianity that I submit that has little lasting future beyond this century.

And that would be a tragedy of the first magnitude.

A Pleasant Surprise from an old Anglican Commenter

In looking through the links on Anglican Curmudgeon (which have taken the place of StandFirm for an index of Anglican/Episcopal blogs) I noticed something I never thought I’d see: Robin Jordan’s Reshaping the 1928 Prayer Book Services for Mission, in four parts.  That’s because, for a long time, his position on the 1928 BCP ran like this:

From a Reformed perspective the 1928 Book of Common Prayer suffers from a number of serious theological defects. This rules out the use of the 1928 Prayer Book in public worship in an Anglican church that is Reformed in its doctrine. If prayers and liturgical material are used from the 1928 Prayer Book, great care should be taken to see that their doctrine conforms with the biblical-Reformation doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1661 Ordinal.

Anglicans have long recognized how we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. What good does it do to preach one thing when the liturgy that we are using and the worship practices that we have adopted teach another? Both our preaching and our liturgy and worship practices need to convey the same message.

That Reformed stance of his doubtless detonated the long, acrimonious and unedifying exchange on this blog which we had several years back.

Some of the change, however, may be due to the following:

On November 1, 2017, on the Feast of All Saints, Bishop William Millsaps, licensed me as a lay reader in the Diocese of the South in the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC) and placed me in temporary pastoral charge of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Benton, Kentucky. I am pursuing a late life vocation in the EMC.

I have met Bishop Millsaps, know some of his congregation in Monteagle, and have stayed in contact with him over the years.  The Episcopal Missionary Church, although it doesn’t explicitly describe itself as Anglo-Catholic, states the following:

The Book of Common Prayer, 1928 Edition, is the basis for all of our worship. The Prayer Book is a document which is best described as being orthodox in its expressions of the Christian faith, using the liturgies which have been a part of catholic worship for centuries. There is no modern “innovation” in the Prayer Book; it calls upon us to conform ourselves to God’s word, rather than trying to change the church’s teachings to fit mankind’s “desires.

Given my own softening on the subject, I am sympathetic to Robin’s position.  And I am very heartened that the EMC has allowed him this opportunity for ministry.  It’s something that he’s obviously desired for many years, and we all know that “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalms 37:4-5 KJV)  I know the opportunity I had to serve 13 1/2 years in the Lay Ministries Department of the Church of God was a long-desired gift.  Given his long study and experience in church planting, he should do well, and my prayers are with him.