30.1.14

Plain?

It is proving interesting reading responses to the College of Bishops' reflections on the Pilling Report. GAFCON have released their response this morning and they are concerned and cannot 'commend the proposal by the College of Bishops that these ‘facilitated conversations' should be introduced across the Communion. This is to project the particular problems of the Church of England onto the Communion as a whole. As with ‘Continuing Indaba’, without a clear understanding of biblical authority and interpretation, such dialogue only spreads confusion and opens the door to a false gospel because the Scriptures no longer function in any meaningful way as a test of what is true and false.'

At NEAC 5 the then Archbishop of Canterbury reminded his people that “the global horizon of the Church matters because churches without this are always in danger of slowly surrendering to the culture around them and losing sight of their calling to challenge that culture.”

GAFCON are concerned about 'the particular problems of the Church of England [being projected] onto the Communion as a whole.' This is an interesting reflection and I hope that any facilitated conversations are able to keep hold of that 'global horizon.' 



GAFCON seems to be asking the right questions. What they pose in response, though, might not be adequate for the promotion of unity. They respond with the Jerusalem Declaration. Voting in favour of the Jerusalem Declaration requires something beyond acceptance of the scriptures, creeds and historic formularies that hold Anglicans together.

Chris Sugden seeks to reassure us regarding the Jerusalem Declaration, 'The leaders who called GAFCON ... decided to take action and define what Anglicanism was...
every effort was made to ensure that the stress on those distinctives was not a source of divisiveness by showing that they were actually at the heart of Anglican orthodoxy.'

This seems somewhat persuasive but really there are questions to be raised over that word 'define.' GAFCON is claiming substantial authority itself to define who is authentically Anglican. GAFCON is not one of the four instruments of the Communion. 

Tom Wright in 'Further Thoughts on GAFCON and Related Matters' supposes,
'...the GAFCON leaders would want us to express the various questions that naturally come to mind as we contemplate what they have said to us. Just as they wouldn’t want anyone to swallow uncritically the latest pronouncement from Canterbury or York, so clearly they wouldn’t want us merely to glance at their document, see that it’s ‘all about the gospel’, and then conclude that we must sign up without thinking through what’s being said and why.'
  • A number of questions have to be asked of GAFCON:
  • What authority does it have, and how will its authority be implemented? 
  • It is a fellowship, what do they mean by this? 
  • Who is to be included in this fellowship and how are decisions made about which Anglicans are ‘upholding orthodox faith and practice’ (Article 11 of the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’), and which Anglicans are not (Article 13)? 
  • Who decides, within the fellowship (as in Article 12) which matters are ‘secondary’ and which are primary, and by what means? This is pertinent to me as an ordained woman. 

THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION AND SOME THOUGHTS:
1. We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things. 
(I rejoice, too)

2. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. 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.

(Plain? We all filter God's Word through a human brain, bringing our own presuppositions to bear. Who gets to decide which interpretation corresponds with a plain reading? There is too much assumption here. The question of what constitutes a plain reading seems to be at the heart of all the debates. Our problem is that the consensus they imagine to be there is not.)

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

(Okay - teaching is probably required here. Some will profess faith without ever having really scrutinised quite why they are Anglican Christians.)

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. 

(This is compatible with the ordinal, of course, and what ordained Anglicans have committed to.) 

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

(I gladly proclaim this too. There could be other Anglicans who nuance what happened at the cross with a different vocabulary. GAFCON might have to be careful to avoid disqualifying those who simply do not share this vocabulary.) 

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

(Yes we are to proclaim the gospel afresh in each generation without losing its historical moorings).

7. We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders. 

(The classic Anglican Ordinal. Does this mean that there is room for the proposed consecration of women to the Episcopate?)

8. We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married. 

(Does the inclusion of this thinking here mean that for GAFCON, issues in human sexuality is a primary issue? Does subscription here become part of that 'minimum entry requirement?')

9. We gladly accept the Great Commission of the risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, to seek those who do not know Christ and to baptise, teach and bring new believers to maturity. 

(Yes: Mt 28:18-20)

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

(Yes)

11. We are committed to the unity of all those who know and love Christ and to building authentic ecumenical relationships. We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration. 

(These two sentences seem to contradict each other, so I'm a little confused here. 'Of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith' - it now seems to become self-authenticating. Who decides?)

12. We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us. 

(I'm not quite convinced that this diversity is actually celebrated. What are those secondary issues? Are your adiaphora those of the rest of the communion?)

13. We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

(This seems rather theologically arrogant in its tone. Who and how do you decide?)

14. We rejoice at the prospect of Jesus’ coming again in glory, and while we await this final event of history, we praise him for the way he builds up his church through his Spirit by miraculously changing lives.
 
(I rejoice too).

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.