Category Archives: Anglican Corner

Once the religion of snobs, now not quite one religion at all.

Evangelicals Took Over the Church of England? So What?

An eye-opener, indeed:

Fifty years later there’s good reason for evangelicals to believe Stott’s argument ultimately won the day. For instance, unlike his more liberal predecessor, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is a charismatic evangelical (and a member of Holy Trinity Brompton before he was ordained), and his counterpart in York, John Sentamu, comes from an evangelical background too. As Rev Dr Ian Paul, who sits on the Archbishops’ Council notes, while previous generations of evangelicals ignored senior establishment posts, today’s evangelicals are taking them on, so when it comes to its senior leadership, “the Church of England is more evangelical than it’s ever been”. According to Dr Paul, the growth of the Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and New Wine networks is further evidence that evangelicals are having a strong impact on the Church. And the trend looks set to continue. Evangelicals now account for 70 per cent of ordinands entering training. A generation ago, the figure was just 30 per cent.

On the other hand…based on the last Welby-directed Primates’ meeting, it should be obvious that what’s being “evangelised” isn’t the Gospel.

There’s no question that the language and methodology of evangelicalism has affected just about all of Christianity, including the Episcopalians (who used to think such things were in bad taste) and #straightouttairondale Roman Catholicism.  But what’s the good news?  That we can live in like fashion to those whose first purpose is to get laid, high or drunk?

One thing that would simplify things or everyone is to make a clean separation of civil marriage from marriage in the church.  That has its problems but it would take some of the pressure from churches to make their idea of marriage conform with that of the state’s.

Stripped of a real Biblical ethic, “evangelicalism” is simply another b-school method of filling pews and offering plates.  God’s church deserves better, but getting that isn’t easy these days.

Healy Willan’s Missa de Sancta Maria Magdelena

It was the “standard” rendition of the Holy Communion when I grew up at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, and the paid youth choir did a proper job of it.  This rendition comes from St. John’s Cathedral in Detroit.

It remains one of the most moving “masses” (that term didn’t sit well with many Episcopalians) I have ever heard, and remains a favourite.

Note that the priest is ad orientem, which can get people into trouble in some places.

The Strange Consequence of Luther’s Concept of Justification

Bossuet, in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, I, 7, gets to the point:

Justification is that grace which, remitting to us our sins, at the same time renders us agreeable to God. Till then, it had been believed that what wrought this effect proceeded indeed from God, but yet necessarily existed in man; and that to be justified,—namely, for a sinner to be made just, it was necessary he should have this justice in him; as to be learned and virtuous, one must have in him learning and virtue. But Luther had not followed so simple an idea. He would have it, that what justifies us and renders us agreeable to God was nothing in us; but we were justified because God imputed to us the justice of Jesus Christ, as if it were our own, and because by faith we could indeed appropriate it to ourselves.

The defect in the Lutheran concept of justification is that it is unnecessary to internalise God’s grace as long as our name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Growing up Episcopalian, I saw too much of the result of that kind of thing: people whose lives had little evidence of alteration by the Gospel, even though the New Testament demands such a transformation.  The Roman Catholic concept of “Christ alive in us” (the concept set to music at the start of this album) is better, although it’s wrapped in a defective ecclesiology and obscured by the Roman Catholic concept of merit.

What we’re really after is to make that internalisation the centrepiece of Christian life, and from that standpoint the Reformation is either the first step or the greatest obstacle.

Justification by Litigation Doesn’t Work, Either

Certainly didn’t for the Episcopal Church in their “recovery” of the San Joaquin diocese:

What would you say of a trustee who spent $6.8 million of his trust fund’s money to recover just $1 million? Is that a healthy example of how a fiduciary should carry out his duties?

You probably already guessed before I tell you: the trustee in question is the Episcopal Church (USA); the trust fund is ECUSA’s endowment (some $366 million as of the end of 2016); the $6.8 million was loaned by ECUSA’s Executive Council to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin to keep it propped up during its ten-year lawsuit to “recover church properties”; and the $1 million is all that the Diocese of San Joaquin is now able to repay after having been handed more than 25 properties by the crazy California courts.

There are several ways of explaining why the Episcopal Church has spent around USD40,000,000 to recover its property in this millennium of struggle that is the Anglican Revolt.

One way is to note that much of TEC’s “pastiche” is rooted in its historic properties (like this one) and that it needed them to “keep up the day” or keep its “brand.” But that puts the lie to a whole generation of social justice warriors such as this who wanted to break the church out of the “phony” suburbs and make it both relevant and reaching out to people beyond TEC’s elevated demographic.  (Face it, though: the course of the left since the 1960’s has been to backtrack from a real economic justice agenda, and we have the income inequality to show for it.)

Another is to say that TEC needed these properties to forward its “evangelistic” efforts.  And it’s true that property on the ground is useful in this endeavour.  But TEC hasn’t had a really good plan for growth since it appealed to the upwardly mobile in the 1950’s, and to say otherwise is to be  in denial, which certainly has motivated many to do foolish things.  The lack of practical growth plan is, from an economic standpoint, the key problem with its scorched earth litigation strategy: we got the property back, now what?  And how do we pay for it?

Yet another is to note the blind hatred that TEC’s left has exhibited towards those who didn’t agree with the pansexual agenda actively promoted in the church.  That was very much in evidence during the years Katherine Jefferts-Schori was Presiding Bishop, and say what you will, she was more up front about that than her male predecessors and successor.  But that kind of hatred doesn’t become people who a) come from a supposedly “nice” religion and b) profess and call themselves Christians.

And this last point goes hand in hand with the American tendency to put way too much confidence in litigation and its successful outcome.  Americans are drilled in the absolute rightness of their legal system and the “rule of law” that supposedly goes with it.  Winning a lawsuit not only brings victory to the issue at hand; it also morally vindicates the successful plaintiff, and moral vindication is what life is all about in these United States.  The best way to describe this mentality is childlike, but that doesn’t stop people from pursuing a lot of stupid litigation.  (That masks much of the élite table tilting that has gone on with Episcopal property litigation, but that’s part of the game too, I suppose.)

It’s not a pretty picture.  The main result will be the sell-off of properties to pay the lawyers and other expenses, and that can bite back, as Jon Bruno will tell you.  As we approach the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, we can argue about justification by faith vs. works (not a really good dichotomy) but we can be sure that litigation doesn’t justify anyone.

Was Augustine Really the Worst for Christian Theology?

One of the real shockers of recent American Christianity was the conversion of Hank Hannegraff, the “Bible Answer Man,” to Greek Orthodoxy.  That was upsetting to many who had followed his Bible answers for many years, but it was especially upsetting to the Reformed types, who basically acted like he had left Christianity.  (That sounds like what Sunni Muslims sound like when describing Shi’a Islam, but I digress…)  I thought that violent of a reaction strange.  Didn’t the Greeks work out the divinity of Christ against the Arians while the West basically watched?  Didn’t they define the two natures of Christ at Chalcedon?  Aren’t the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds of Eastern origin?

Some light on that kind of panic comes from Alexander Viet Griswold Allen’s book The Continuity of Christian Thought: A Study of Modern Theology in Light of its History.  (I’ll bet that Frank Griswold, Sufi Rumi’s disciple and former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, is a relative, but I haven’t checked it out.)  Allen is today mostly forgotten, but the Anglican world would do well to remember him, both for his good points and his bad ones.

Allen’s basic premise is that Augustine and his theology, with is focus on original sin and depravity, predestination, the eternal state of the blessed and damned, and the role the church in all of this was the finishing touch in making Latin Christianity what it was, which was much different from Greek Christianity.  Today, of course, Reformed types back pedal Augustine’s role in the formation of their idea. But such is somewhere between ignorant and duplicitous, and most of then know it: as this blog points out:

I actually believe that the contrary is true; what Augustine actually taught is being ignored and with the resurgence of Calvinism (an offshoot of Augustinianism) needs to be studied carefully. If you don’t think that’s true I invite you to look for books critical of Augustine. The only ones I have found were originally published no later than 1914.

Allen himself outlines the difference between Greek and Latin Christianity as follows:

The Greek theology was based upon that tradition or interpretation of the life and teaching of Christ which at a very early date had found its highest expression in the Fourth Gospel; while the Latin theology followed another tradition preserved by what are called the synoptical writers in the first three gospels.  The fundamental principle in Greek theology, underlying every position which it assumed, was the doctrine of the divine immanence–the presence of God in nature, in humanity, in the process of human history; in Latin thought may be everywhere discerned the working of another principle, sometimes known as Deism, according to which God is conceived as apart from the world, localized at a vast distance in the infinitude of space.  By Greek thinkers the incarnation was regarded as the completion and the crown of a spiritual process in the history of man, dating from the creation; and by Latin writers as the remedy for a catastrophe, by which humanity had been severed from its affiliation with God.

The last point is crucial, because in converting to Orthodoxy Hannegraff had (whether he realised it or not) inverted his whole idea of man’s relationship with God from the Augustinian/Reformed concept.  Little wonder the latter thought he had left the faith.

Allen’s solution to this problem was to shift back to a more Greek (sometimes called Athanasian) idea, and the road he chose was through Schliermacher.  Unfortunately for Allen and those who thought like him, this sunny concept of life and Christianity received a cruel blow in the trenches of World War I.  Also, its open endedness is a setup for passing outside of Christianity of any kind, something that liberal Episcopalians were blind to and which facilitated another catastrophe, namely the crisis of the 1960’s and beyond and the exodus from the church that followed.

Allen himself admits that Augustinian/Reformed types put a lot of starch in their shirts:

Once more in the history of Christianity, in our own age, an ecclesiastical reaction has been and still is in progress, which is based on the same principle that inspired Augustine and Loyola.  To the mind of a writer like De Maistre, seeking to impose again on the modern world the authority of an infallible pope as the highest expression of the will of God, the theology of Aquinas, even though illustrated with the brilliancy of Bossuet’s genius, seemed like shuffling, vacillating weakness.  Carlyle, who at heart remained as he had been born, a sturdy Calvinist, presents in literature the spectacle of one who finds no institution that responds to his ideal: everywhere appears weakness, disorder and confusion, accompanied with shallow talk about liberty; he bewails the absence of the “strong man” upon whose portrait in history he gazed with fascinated vision, whose coming he invoked as the one crying need of the time.

We see such attitudes coming back into fashion in #straightouttairondale Catholicism and the resurgence of the Reformed types.  But is this dichotomy which Allen describes all we have to choose from?  The answer is no.

Allen suggests an old antithesis, namely that God is either imminent or transcendent.  That was put in front of me growing up Episcopalian.  But it’s a false dichotomy, especially for someone who was converted in this way.  The simple truth–one I discovered in Aquinas–is that the omnipresent God is not created and we are.  That, in turn set up the compelling reason that God himself should enter his creation as a man and win our salvation, because his uncreated goodness is enough and our created goodness isn’t.  We don’t need total depravity for us to need God, we just need to lack the resources to get to God, which we do.

Allen rightly observes that, with the Augustinian/Reformed idea of absolute predestination, Jesus Christ is in many ways unnecessary, as long as God wills it.  (If that sounds Islāmic, it should.)  Some people who inherited the separation of the Reformation have tried to fix that problem, most prominently John Wesley, starting as he did with Anglicanism’s loophole, to say nothing of this.

To answer the original question, “Was Augustine the worst for Christian theology,” the answer is no.  He has his faults but he has his strong points as well.  In the same vein, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses on the door, we need to recognise that the Reformation is in itself not a completed work.  It was not the end of making the Church right but only the beginning.

What I Learned About Approaching God From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

I’ve not done much posting re the Anglican Communion these days.  That’s because, to be honest, it’s not an improving story.  Predictably the Church of England is going the way of its Episcopal counterpart, having learned nothing from their experience.  The orthodox Anglicans have appointed a former tank commander to lead the charge; they’re going to need one, and they don’t need to proliferate purple shirts the way they have done in North America either.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Field Marshal von Rosenberg’s panzers have scored a breakthrough in the land of Dylann Roof by getting back much of the property of the Diocese of South Carolina.  In some ways it’s an unexpected result, but in some ways not.  Although it’s hard to prove, in an era where the elites’ main goal in life is to get laid, high or drunk (and to restrict the rest of the population to the same goals) it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s a great deal of judicial table-tilting going on.

In any case I want to focus on something more important: how do we approach God?  And more specifically, how do you explain this to a kid?  My education, in part, came from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was in use at the time at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.  It’s an example of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi:” the law of prayer is the law of belief and the law of living.  It’s one reason (beyond “we’ve always done it this way”) why the prayer book wars of the 1970’s were so bitterly fought.

Important note: for those who don’t like the 1928 Book because you think it’s got too much of an Anglo-Catholic drift, the part I plan to discuss is nearly identical, with one important difference, to that in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  The section in question comes from the Holy Communion.

After the offering (which was taken up at Bethesda in seriously large silver trays) we pray for the whole state of Christ’s church, needed more now than then.  After this (and here the 1928 Book skips the lengthy Exhortation,)  the following is said:

¶ Then shall the Priest say to those who come to receive the Holy Communion,

YE who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

¶ Then shall this General Confession be made, by the Priest and all those who are minded to receive the Holy Communion, humbly kneeling.

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ Then shall the Priest (the Bishop if he be present) stand up, and turning to the People, say,

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I think it’s fair to say that any celebration of the Lord’s Supper–whether it features Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology or not–should have a point where those who are about to partake repent of their sins.  I’ve seen ones that don’t and it’s not pretty.  The reason for that comes from 1 Corinthians 11 and I won’t go into detail about it here.

The text above, however, makes several assumptions:

  • We are sinners.   For me, that wasn’t a hard concept to grasp as a kid.
  • Repenting of them is a good thing, and possible.
  • Once we repent, we live a “new life.”  That’s contrary to what’s usually taught in Evangelical churches, i.e., that the only point in this journey when you get a new life is when you’re initially saved.  What it means is that, as Christians, we sin, but we repent of them and come back into a relationship with God.
  • We need to confess our sins to God.  As an aside, I myself must confess that I had too much fun with the General Confession while writing The Ten Weeks.
  • Pardon comes after repentance.  The last prayer exposes one of the many ambiguities of Anglicanism: does the priest have the power to forgive sins?  The answer is, frankly, equivocal, but as a kid I came from a family with a decidedly anti-clerical streak, so I didn’t leave the granting of forgiveness to our priest, but sought it from God himself.

¶ Then shall the Priest say,

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.

COME unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  St. Matt. xi. 28.
So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  St. John iii. 16.

    Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  1 Tim. i. 15.

    Hear also what Saint John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins.  1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

Now comes the good part: the Scriptural backup to all this.

COME unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  St. Matt. xi. 28.

Growing up in an environment which was a Protestant version of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, this was a relief.  “Come to me, all you who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly-minded, and ‘you shall find rest for your souls’; For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 TCNT)  I always found God’s demands far easier to fulfil than man’s, not only because God was more consistent, but because he gives the strength to carry them out.

So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  St. John iii. 16.

This well-known scripture needs little comment.

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  1 Tim. i. 15.

See earlier comments.

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins.  1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

Now things get interesting. I’d be the first one to admit that “propitiation” is a mouthful for a kid, but coming from a family where a large vocabulary was inculcated and used, it wasn’t as extraordinary as one might think.  The simple definition of the word “is an action meant to regain someone’s favour or make up for something you did wrong.”  We see here that, not only did Jesus Christ do this for us, but also that he anticipated that we would get into trouble and provides the means to get out of it.

The whole concept presented here is one where the coming to God is one where it is anticipated that, along the way, we will fall into sin, but that if we turn with repentance back to God he will forgive us and restore us.  It’s entirely separate from the pompous, butt-sitting concept we get from Reformed and Baptist alike that, once we’re in the elect (Reformed) or force our way in (Baptist) we’re done.  And it’s also separate from the more secular “one false move and it’s the abyss” idea that we see all too often in our society.  (That’s something that bothered me in my academic pursuits as a student; one course go wrong and the sequence was finished or thoroughly screwed up.)

These words are indeed of comfort, then and now.

The Church of England Plays the Postmodern Card on Bias Training

Archbishop Cranmer relates the following rather odd exchange at the Church of England synod:

A few other Synod questions relate to the diversity obsession:

Miss Prudence Dailey (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops: Q21 Is the House of Bishops aware of evidence that unconscious bias training is ineffective in increasing the representation or advancement of minority groups within organisations, and may even be counterproductive in that regard?

To which the Bishop of Chelmsford replied:

The question unfortunately misunderstands the nature and purpose of Unconscious Bias training. There has never been any suggestion that this work is designed to increase representation of minority groups. The training addresses the fact that everyone, from whatever social group, is affected in their judgements about others by unconscious factors which can lead to bias. The objective is better and more conscious awareness of one’s self, and better and more conscious decision making which will benefit the Church, as it has demonstrably benefitted many other organisations.

But this begs the question: if Unconscious Bias training doesn’t have as one of its goals increasing representation of “minority” groups, then what’s it good for?  It’s the same sort of shell game we play when we say that we’re against quotas, but…diversity departments do this all the time.

What we’re seeing here is the same thing we saw in the Episcopal Church: the proponents of the LGBT+ agenda gumming their opponents to death with endless postmodern “dialogue” (they won’t shut up long enough to really have a dialogue) until their goal is achieved.  That will generally work in a weak Western organisation like the Church of England; the issue is always when.  The big difference between the two sides of the Atlantic is that the Brits are more patient; we’re always in a hurry to get nowhere fast, so we call in Anthony Kennedy or other lawyerly types to force a solution, with acrimony following.

And as Cranmer points out elsewhere, with all the maudlin pining about the persecution of “minorities” in the West, there’s little concern for the real persecution (with death following in many cases) of Christians in many parts of the world.  But that’s what happens when the people whose goal in life is to get laid, high or drunk get the upper hand: everyone else’s concerns get shoved off the agenda.

You Could Just Stand There and Look Stupid: An Ascension Day Reflection

Today is Ascension Day, when we celebrate Our Lord’s bodily ascension into heaven.  The Acts of the Apostles describe the “aftermath” on earth as follows:

While they were still gazing up into the heavens, as he went, suddenly two men, clothed in white, stood beside them, And said: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the heavens? This very Jesus, who has been taken from you into the heavens, will come in the very way in which you have seen him go into the heavens.” (Act 1:10-11 TCNT)

For some reason, this reminds me of an encounter I had with one of my students.  This student was unique in many ways.   I found out independently that he had a hard life: abandoned by parents, brother in jail, poverty, but that he had given it his best shot in life and was working on his civil engineering degree (which he completed.)  Helping students like this makes teaching worthwhile.

One day he came to see me in my office.  My office is away from most of the College of Engineering and Computer Science in a building with 24-hour card access.  If you don’t have a card, during the day you can ring the doorbell and be admitted.  He did that and got to my office, but then he asked me a serious question: “What would I do if I didn’t know to ring the doorbell to get in?”

“Well, you could just stand there and look stupid,” I replied.

He thought a second and sad, “I could just stand there and look stupid.”  In spite of this inauspicious start, we had a good meeting.

Every time I read the passage in Acts I cited above, I always think to myself, “You know, those two men were certainly angels, otherwise they would have said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking stupid up into the heavens?'”  Our Lord had just given them instructions as to what they were supposed to be doing:

So, when the Apostles had met together, they asked Jesus this question–“Master, is this the time when you intend to re-establish the Kingdom for Israel?” His answer was: “It is not for you to know times or hours, for the Father has reserved these for his own decision; But you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit shall have descended upon you, and shall be witnesses for me not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Act 1:6-8 TCNT)

But they just stood there looking upward until the angel gave them the reality check they needed.

Two thousand years have passed, and many Christians, mesmerized by whatever “spiritual happening” is going on around them, or what’s trendy in the church.  But Our Lord not only gave us a mission; he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to accomplish that mission.

Our Lord’s messengers were too polite to tell the disciples to quit looking stupid and get on with their task.  But, polite or not, it’s the truth: the mission has not changed, and is still out there for Christians to accomplish it.

Women’s Ordination: The ACNA’s Trickiest Minefield

…and they’ve stepped into it with their report on the subject, visible here.

The image opponents of WO dread the most: Navy Chaplain Jerry McNabb saluting his female superior at his retirement.

The ACNA came into the world with considerable baggage, some of which was due to the way they had to “patch together” the institution from several provincial efforts.  That was one of those things that led Greg Griffith to swim the Tiber, characterising the effort as  having “…the institutional feeling of something held together by duct tape and baling wire.”

But the ACNA also came into the world with two unresolved issues: the Anglo-Catholic vs. Reformed (or Evangelical, or Charismatic, or…) divide and women’s ordination.  The two are related to some degree but are certainly not same.  This report represents trying to “start a conversation” on the subject, and that in the Anglican/Episcopal world is always a dangerous proposition.

The report makes it clear that, for the moment, there is no change in real policy, which leaves the issue as a diocesan option.  And I would confess that I have not gone through its 316 pages myself.  Having said that, I will outline my position on the subject, one which I have discussed before.

In supporting the practice, Lord Carey has referred to Acts 2:

‘It shall come about in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind; your sons and your daughters shall become Prophets, your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams; Yes, even on the slaves–for they are mine–both men and women, I will in those days pour out my Spirit… (Act 2:17-18 TCNT)

That’s a pretty strong statement and a strong case.  If women can get the prophetic gift, why not the rest?  That said, and looking at everything else, for a church to have women’s ordination, two things must be in place.

The first is that the gifts of the spirit must still be operating in the church.  It doesn’t make sense to ordain women based on the prophetic gifts when same have ceased.  That leaves the cessationists out, which takes most of the Reformed types with them.

The second is that the church cannot claim the magisterium, i.e., the ability to authoritatively interpret the Scriptures and establish doctrine.  That leaves out Roman Catholicism and the Anglo-Catholic community, although the latter has its own authority issues.

Protestant churches de jure deny the magisterium, but de facto you’d never know that based on the way many act.  I discussed this issue in my piece Authority and Evangelical Churches.  Beyond that, a church which claims the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit enters into a different concept of authority whether it wants to admit it or not.

With Anglicanism things are a muddle, because, while they retained the episcopal form of government and set forth the Articles of Religion, they denied the magisterium.  I had an interesting discussion on this and other topics on the authority of the church with the “Ugley Vicar,” the late John Richardson.

At this point I think the ACNA is between a rock and a hard place because, while it could go one way, the other, or take its half out of the middle, it embodies so many other contradictions in its borders it’s going to have a hard time doing things consistently one way or the other.  It’s an unenviable position.

There are two other important points that I would like to make.

The first is that WO isn’t a “women’s rights” issue.  The Episcopal Church has discredited the concept by making it one.  There were women ministers in Pentecostal churches long before Robert Appleyard ordained the first ones in what was then PECUSA, but they not only didn’t do it as a women’s rights issue, they were of an entirely different character.

The second is that you cannot separate the issue of women ministers from women bishops.  If the laity must come under the “authority” (see above) of a woman as rector, then the clergy can do the same under a bishop.  Clergy exempting themselves from things like this is about as admirable as Congress exempting itself from the many things it imposes on us.

The ACNA’s “James Pike Moment”

It’s in front of them:

Now, a close associate of the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev. Tory Baucum, the Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia (along with his eighteen-member vestry), has followed along this postmodern Humpty Dumpty trajectory, re-defining “Reconciliation” away from its biblical meaning of unity in Christ and in the truth of the Scriptures. This week, they announced the establishment of a “School of Peace and Reconciliation” based at their church, a parish in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. This is ironic, in that the TEC Bishop of Virginia has participated in law suits against numerous congregations of the ACNA in Virginia. Further “muddying the waters” are the terms of the agreement for this new school, which appear to include having a TEC Bishop resident at Truro Church and, while granting permission to visit Truro for the ACNA Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic (ACNA), who has oversight of Truro Church, neither the Archbishop of the ACNA nor any other bishop may visit the church without TEC approval!

Truro for its part attempts to put an evangelistic face on the thing:

It is the natural outgrowth of Truro’s “ministry of accompaniment,” most visibly expressed in our Alpha and Amore (domestic church) missional communities. To better export Truro’s DNA we are developing an internship program for young people to learn the practices that “make for peace” in spiritually and socially conflicted situations such as prevail in the greater Washington DC region. The situations we will focus on in the early years of the program will include, but are not limited to, ministry among Muslims, immigrants and at-risk-children.

In the greater scheme of things, I don’t see what a partnership with TEC will do to enhance any church’s evangelistic mission.  For openers, it really too small of a slice of the population (and getting smaller all the time.)  Moreover, at one time it had a serious reach to the upper levels of our society, but now the upper reaches are just too secular any more, it’s best to start with something completely different and representing the real Gospel.

It’s no secret that this is a part of Justin Welby’s “reconciliation” initiative.  That should be no recommendation.  It’s the critical moment: the leadership of the ACNA needs to make up its mind that all the agony and money expended on a new “province” in North America was neither in vain nor just an exercise to manufacture more purple shirts.  In the context of the present situation, it’s the ACNA’s leadership’s “James Pike moment,” and we would do well to remember the last one, fifty years ago:

In 1966, a group led by Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Central Archdeanery of South Florida, demanded that Pike be tried for heresy.

John Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, met with Louttit and a small delegation in New York and told them he had polled key figures in the mass media, who had declared unanimously that a heresy trial would severely, disastrously damage the Church’s image.

Most of the bishops agreed. The Bishop of New York expressed the feelings of the majority: “Of all the methods of dealing with Bishop Pike’s views, the very worst is surely a heresy trial! Whatever the result, the good name of the church will be greatly injured.”

Hines asked Louttit and his cohorts to allow an ad hoc committee to address the problem more informally, less visibly. Louttit reluctantly agreed. Members of the committee met, engaged in a great deal of hand-wringing, and came back with a report that said in part:

It is the opinion that this proposed trial would not solve the problem presented to the church by this minister, but in fact would be detrimental to the church’s mission and witness…This heresy trial would be widely viewed as a “throw back” to centuries when the law in church and state sought to repress and penalize unacceptable opinions…it would spread abroad a “repressive image” of the church and suggest to many that we were more concerned with traditional propositions about God than with the faith as the response of the whole man to God.

At Wheeling, West Virginia, the House of Bishops adopted this statement by an overwhelming vote, though they also agreed to “censure” Bishop Pike – a small, dry bone tossed to Christian orthodoxy. In the above passage, two phrases — “acceptable opinions” and “repressive image” – revealed what was really going on.

It’s time to quit worrying about what “everyone thinks” (and that includes Justin Welby) and do the right thing.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Jos 24:15 KJV)