Fulcrum Additions

Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God 40 years on

1 [2640] Thursday 1 February 2007 - 03:47pm

For me God is about communication and this is in and within symbolic religious practice that is a kind of material offering and spiritual gift that then informs service into the world. There is no supernaturalism involved in this whatsover, but rather in a mixing of poststructuralism and social anthropology. ...Christianity I see as a series of inheritances and resources for our religious pathway.

Honest to God should not be seen alone. It goes back to Essays and Reviews of 1860, and arguably goes on to Don Cupitt's Honest to God and Sea of Faith in 1980 and 1984. This is still an Anglican bywater for continental theology and American theology.

Whilst Robinson was really more in the Tillich and ultimate questions area, and of the metaphor of depth, we should not forget the secular city area which is far more Barth and Bonhoeffer, of the God who is so non-cultural and transcendent that it too virtually disappears from on high. The secular city is much busier than those hanging around asking ultimate questions. Both the ultimate questions side and the transcendance side lead on to forms of postmodern theology, and postmodern theology has developed into very liberal and non-objective conserving forms of theology.

My former Church, the Unitarian, does not do theology very much now, but a real insight into individualism and modernism that was bound to become postmodern, because it is the mirror image of Karl Barth, was provided by James Martineau. Ignorance about him is a loss, because in his work on theology and liturgy is a taste of where Anglican liberalism is now arriving, and it is all there in the late nineteenth century. Also he was there about Church and Sect before Troeltsch and Weber. He had a number of friends in Broad Church Anglicanism at the time, and this all adds to the historical background of the essays that have affected the Anglican Church.

Three Cheers for Fulcrum!

2 [2641] Thursday 1 February 2007 - 03:52pm

I don't know how long I shall be around given that I'm not evangelical by many definitions, but one attraction has been the civility here, as well as being the place of conversation between the Goddards. I quite like Thinking Anlgicans but each thread is a cul-de-sac and then the points get repeated down another as Anglican news adjusts. Faithspace is not bad as a more general place that also tries to be its own community. Behaviour in Anglican Mainstream is, well, poor in comparison. Two of its big posters left Faithspace after their continuously fierce comments caused some damage.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

3 [2642] Thursday 1 February 2007 - 04:03pm

There is a possibility of a forcing the issue in Tanzania, but at the moment everything is futurology. Including this: if there is a Covenant that would satisfy the Global South and such as reform and friends, it simply would not be acceptable to the Americans, Canadians, Scottish and Welsh to name but four. As has been stated here, they would not accept a second class status. They would have their own, and inclusive Covenant for a different communion. The Church of England would shatter, parish by parish. The Covenant proposal is a huge error, as is raising the importance of the Anglican communion. When things are spinning, you find the least means of binding, not the strong sticking plaster. A Covenant that could satisfy much of the Church of England would not satisfy Reform and friends, and Global South, and so they would have their own. So one Covenant leads to two or three, and that is how a split could take place. It is futurology, of course. Imagine: an Evangelical Covenant of the Anglican Church, the Covenant (Canterbury) of the Anglican Communion, the Covenant of the Episcopal Churches...

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

4 [2670] Friday 2 February 2007 - 08:43pm

... on Friday 2 February 2007 - 02:09 pm gave three options.

[No,] Pluralists do not say that different religions come from the same divine well. They say, rather, that they are as of separate languages, and contain their own view of divinity or otherwise within each package. There is not a crossover between them. Nor is there a neutral space between them. Of course languages are porous, and there are also dialects within each, but to come up with a combination of two is to come up with another.

John Hick comes up with "the Real" that is ultimate above all religions, but this can do violence to specific religions underneath, say non-theistic Buddhism or trinitarian Christianity, and if he ever describes "the real" and its qualities then it begins to look like another religion not a higher state.

This combining of pluralistic perspectives is a form of universalism - not in the Christian sense but in the all inclusive sense. But then it ceases to be pluralistic and becomes a unity - as in Fowler's rather articifial stages of faith.

My view is that each person lives within their own religious faith, and each has a conversation with others. It may be that then your own religious faith grows a new accent as a result, becomes a sub-package even. I myself am very sympathetic to Western Buddhism and have a Western Buddhist view of transience and non-attachment, and this is part of my approach to Christianity. I do not seek everlasting or eternal anything, and regard it as harmful attachment.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

5 [2671] Friday 2 February 2007 - 09:03pm

I come here as the place where this debate is taking place; I am pretty much of the liberal and even radical-liberal tag. I have a background in Unitarianism though I am an active communicant Anglican and I do not feel marginal in the church where I am active.

The supremacy of scripture argument puzzles me; for example, I don't see the doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture. It might be embryonic, but it could have gone in several directions and did. Nor should Greek culture of a particular kind be the defining guide of doctrines. The Reformation was important, but went in all different directions, and we have had centuries now of biblical criticism that killed off higher inspiration and the Bible as a book of predictive magic. What we have, from my viewpoint, is a series of inheritances and resources, all of them partial and relative, whether creeds, articles, Bible, criticism, Paul or whatever. Recently I have done some work on to my website about a survival Jewish-Christian group which believes Jesus (or Yeshua) is the messiah and who fulfilled the Law in advance, and rejects Paul. It is a very refreshing other view and remains an insight into primitive messianic belief that was once a core of attaching the label Messiah to Jesus after his death.

For me, Anglicanism has a kind of de jure and de facto set of identities: legal and actual, and the actual has been informed by a series of essays in books that have been intellectual markers and at the same time reflected belief in a wider constituency, both inside and outside the Churches. Pluralism and secularisation together are important, and all Churches today either go with this combination, negotiate with it, defend from it or attack it (radicals, liberals, traditonalists and conversionists): and the sociology of knowledge (secularisation, pluralism) affects the sociology of religion and affects theology. Relativity is important, and we have to deal with it. As for the church institutions, they have roughly stayed the same whilst the arguments have moved on, and now the divisions are within denominations (including Anglican) rather than reflecting denominational noticeboards.

One issue and another will cause the cracking, and eventually a crack will produce a break. When an institution is spinning, and the forces are outwards, the worst thing you can do is try to hold it together in a firmer form, because that increases the pressure and causes deepr divisions and even shattering. If the Covenant is broad enough to take in a broad sweep of Anglicanism it simply will not satisfy the demand for a Covenant. If the Covenant satisfies the demands generated for it, it will exclude some. But if it excludes the Americans and Canadians it will also likely draw to them the sympathy of the Scottish and Welsh, and they will not be able anyway to accept a restrictive Covenant. They are likely to have their own Communion, not accepting second best. So one Covenant will lead to more: and if the Church of England, divided as it is into parties, is more split and covers so much territory, it will likely have various parts adhering to this Covenant or that Covenant. I would not be surprised if one parish adheres to one Covenant and another deown the road to another - and so on - even if the body as a whole is a shell that remains established.

The splitting point is interesting. Traditionalist Catholics have already gone off into their own semi-autonomous huddle, and it is not the liberals and radical liberals who will divide. They have a long history of including who they have disagreed with, and giving symbolic interpretations to liturgical texts. It is the evangelicals who have the painful splitting to do, as seen with N. T. Wright's attack on the Reform and friends' Covenant that was rushed out. The problem would be who to go with, the liberals where there will be more openness, but perhaps too much, or the (let's say) fundamentalists where there would be evangelicalism but they would want an end to the leeway that has disappointed them for so long. Now if the open evangelicals go with the liberals, then given the liberal catholic strain then what will happen is a Church of England with a narrower but redefined and more liberal core. If the evangelicals go with the fundamentalists, then the parties will have split (liberal catholicsm is basically a symbolic practice framework for open Christian views). What seems doomed is the such wide breadth of the Church of England in the pluralistic setting around it, and the old Broad Church function has broken down. It lost its job: Affirming Catholicsm is just one more party among parties.

For me, there is no issue about homosexuality: relationships are complex and what they are - and if the New Testament is to be used as a reference then it seems to me to be about faithfulness. The context of Paul's commentary is idolatry and it's about faithfulness. But this has become the predicament issue. The Anglican Communion should be less, not more important, and raising its importance tries to stretch Anglicanism even wider. It can't, and this is a mistake. It is a mistake of Rowan Williams to raise the importance of the Anglican Communion and then try to have a Covenant to stitch it together - especially when he is on record recently as saying the Creeds can't do it because of historical and cultural interpretations. Well if the Creeds can't do it, and the Thirty-nine Articles definitely can't, a Covenant won't. It is from the Anlgican Communion that the Church of England is likely to shatter and it might be a good idea to put in some forward planning.

The interesting point about the dialogues between the Goddards is whether they decide they have more in common, or have to split.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

6 [2678] Saturday 3 February 2007 - 03:44pm

The Church of England has found ecumenism to be rather difficult. It loses groups. It lost the Puritans, and it lost the Methodists. But the Methodists relaxed its traditionalisms when it came back together again and so did the URC when its Scottish sourced Presbyterianism united with most congregationalism. Every ecumenical coming together undermines defensive traditionalisms.

It could be that the Anligcan Communion, over-raised in importance, produces the means for such a division, especially if a Covenant sticking plaster makes the split all the more likely. There'll just be other Covenants for the excluded, who will gather together.

You might like to look at my piece just finished about the history of the Broad Church and parallel views and interaction with Unitarians. It exists as background to current developments. It is an extended book review; important too is the Oxford Movement and its impact.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

7 [2687] Saturday 3 February 2007 - 09:29pm

http://www.change.freeuk.com/learning/relthink/yesrads.html is my piece that offers background changes today.

I'll rewrite something that for some reason was not put on to the board here.

Of ....'s options I'd add that pluralists do not say that different religions come from the same divine well. Instead see them as separate languages, and each with a contained construction of divinity or otherwise within. They cannot be judged from a neutral space between them. Of course languages are porous, and there are also dialects within each, and introducing a large element of another language into one is to produce a heavy dialect.

John Hick comes up with "the Real" that is ultimate above all religions, but this can do violence to specific religions underneath, say non-theistic Buddhism or trinitarian Christianity, and if he ever describes "the real" and its qualities then it begins to look like another religion not a higher state.

This combining of pluralistic perspectives is a form of universalism - as in Fowler's rather articifial stages of faith at the highest stage where unity is found between what others separate. His stages of faith are biased towards liberal Protestant Christianity; comparing concrete and abstract is siliar to education theory.

Within a faith package can be many varieties. I myself am very sympathetic to Western Buddhism and have a Western Buddhist view of transience and non-attachment, and this is part of my approach to Christianity. I do not seek everlasting or eternal anything, and regard it as harmful attachment. I also understand my faith from social anthropology and sociology, particularly Mauss's view of The Gift and the connection between sociology of religion and theology.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

8 [2692] Sunday 4 February 2007 - 04:25pm

Mention has been made of Oliver O'Donovan. Looking at his article about interesting article here about liberalism


to me, situational ethics is a liberal ethical view and does not suggest a laid down "The moral imperative" and that ethics have been approached as critically as say doctrine.

The problem is that people confuse role with method. One of my criticisms of Yesterday's Radicals by Dennis G. Wigmore-Beddoes is that the Broad Church Anglicans were as much a response to the Oxford Movement (as the Oxford Movement was to the Broad Church) and that the Broad Church began a role as mediator in a bureaucratic sense, able to reach between the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics. That was different from those counted as Broad Church who were theologically liberal or radical and who were thinking either in parallel with, or just behind, Unitarians, and had some interaction or crossing over with them. They were boundary markers.

What is changing is that the Broad Church role no longer works. It no longer works since traditionalist Anglo-Catholicism went off into its own corner so that the Anglican triad became a dyad with all liberals at one end. The Open Evangelicals cannot perform the same role because the other charismatic-evangelicals are not interested in contact with liberals, and the liberal inclusive attitude is irrelevant to them. It is why a split happens right inside the Open Evangelical position.

There is a sense now, in Church circles, that a theological account that stands up on its own terms that happens to be consistent with being a mediator between extremes is becoming very difficult. Liberal to radical theology stands in its own space.

I'd agree with Oliver O'Donovan that liberalism is not an over all. It does have a reaching out ethic - treating them as if like us even though they stay as them. It is, religiously, about conversation not evangelising. I evangelise no one; I have a conversation and they might change me.

Where the liberal stance is over all and inclusive is in the decision of the state to end discrimination. This is not about prescribing a victim status, but cutting the link between recognising particular experience, as Oliver O'Donovan identifies, and having that as an excuse for discrimination. Civil partnership in some ways recognises the difference, as it is not marriage, yet confers all the same rights as marriage, as it should, and why public services should not be able to take a discriminatory view about two people in a civil partnership compared with two in a marriage. Though I'd have marriage and civil partnership available to all. I also encourage all faithful relationships and think they can be given full and equal symbolic recognition within Christianity.

Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God 40 years on

9 [2693] Sunday 4 February 2007 - 04:36pm

Interesting. I was saying to a chap in church today that I've given up on all these spatial metaphors, whether height or depth and so on. rather, just as each religion or approach constructs its God or non-God within the structure of its symbolic language, so that the God is within the symbolic construction. This relates to liturgy and the terms used in discussing the meaning of the faith.

I'm poststructuralist, which means I relativise the structures, and that they are indeed relative through time. I was saying to him that we don't go around in the world today saying I wish God would make it rain or invoke God as some sort of explanation for what we regard practically, but is used as a kind of projection, an other, and then out there as a way of asking whether what we do we should be doing - a reflection and pause. He said a mystery (and leave it at that). We were both responding to Don Cupitt's short piece in The Guardian.

Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God 40 years on

10 [2696] Sunday 4 February 2007 - 11:51pm

I am saying that God is a linguistic construct, but that the God still works within it. It might be merely a linguistic construct, but then everything else may be too.

People then say, well is not science about something outside signs and symbols, like we will all know about it when the big lump of rock crashes into the earth and the whole human species disappears. It is not then about words is it. But this is a misunderstanding, because each kind of knowledge has a method in the symbol system. So science has falsifiability that tests things many times, and these tests lie inside paradigms that shift as the tests change and alter and a better explanation alters the paradigm. There is still stuff that is stuff, the problem comes in explaining it and making it meaningful. It is the objective-subjective division that is dropped, not the stuff or stuff.

There is no falsifiability for religion, no test mechanism. So it is like art. We might have standards invented for art, but no one can say one painting is better - more satisfying - than another for anyone. But on the other hand, whilst that is so subjective, the basis on which we talk about preferences is, before we think, mediated through collective language and symbols. There is never raw experience that is meaningful, and it is expression that makes meaning. The God is usually some sort of colelctive conversation that has an ethical value built into it.

There is no vantage point other than the within point.

That there are spatial values in the Bible is of nothing - there is not a higher inspiration that gives the Bible privileged status. There has never been a higher criticism method, and criticism has to be specific - history, form, tradition, redaction - and that's because these are the ways texts are written. These ways apply to any text, and the Bible is read as any other text. Of course it is an inherited resource, and has these defining constructions in it (to which are applied history, form, tradition, redaction) but that is it - the book is an open one. Plus, it does not represent the variety of Christianities at the time, so it is an incomplete book. Nor does it represent the tradition as was formed after the Bible, it is at best proto-orthodox as Bart Ehrman calls much of its material. But the content could have gone in various directions, it's just that the proto-orthodox and orthodox chose what they chose, and excluded much else.

The point about the liberal-radical position is that it does not stop the critical approach: there is no point where it rests, or there should not be. Some liberals do circulate around certain doctrinal roundabouts, and there is the conserving liturgical argument because of the repetitive, regular pathway that liturgical material provides. But there is no doctrinal support that is solid - it is all construction, every last bit. Even Jesus himself (Yshua, let's call the hard to find historical character) was an endtime charismatic preacher, healer and teacher that picked up the culture of his day, about whom beliefs and people also represented the language of the day, from which and whom communities grew in a stream of inheritances. Historically there are no primary documents except that of the early Churches via a succession of copies. There is no privileged way back, and perhaps it doesn't matter.

Sometimes when I read the difference between evangelical and liberal, that the liberal position is highly moderated and reserved, that in fact the liberal position when also radical goes into territory that even the open evangelical would find quite scary. In this poststructuralist approach, the deconstruction goes on and on.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

14 [2718] Wednesday 7 February 2007 - 02:35am

A lot of people have been telling Rowan Williams what to do, one being Tom Wright - the problem being that when Rowan Williams wrote for the Jubilee Group he had a different view of gay people than the intention of his apparent actions, or inactions. He is supporting unity of the Church by expecting its division. However, recent indications must be that the Nigerians will not be following a Windsor method but a structural one - they have already invaded a territory of another Anglican province and will act on their terms. It is not the case that there will be pruning and grafting back, but creating two varieties of species. The Americans are proud of their Church and its history from Scottish Episcopalianism, and if it is cut off it will seek links with the Scots, the Welsh, and will get support from many parts of England. The grafting will not be with the plant it left, but another variety will grow. I doubt that the Covenant will make any difference to the Nigerians, but if there is one there will be more than one. And as for doctrinal indifferentism - well doctrine is already compromised, more symbolic, and moving. The insights of universities and even theological colleges are not going to disappear into duplicity. The horse has bolted already. Yet still "orthodox" people on an older understanding can welcome the full role of gay people in ministry and Church as nowhere is this ruled out. The Americans are just being more honest, more generous, more ethical, and this has to be compared with Nigerians who'd see gay people put in prison for just meeting and offer no resistance to this coming law. If this is the basis of unity - with the Nigerian Church - then ethics here are back to front. Well let it happen because there is also ecumenical potential from the American Church with a greater clarity after the Tanzanian meeting. Except the English Church will be all over the place, parish by parish looking in all directions. Tome Wright might make a lot of noise, but in the end the evangelicals have to decide whether to go with the narrow minded of Reform and company, or at least those who welcome debate and difference among the liberals. Recent bishops' proposals to smother two General Synod motions are not going to smother the tendencies in England as in the communion. Reform will become more congregational anyway, and so will everyone else - there could well be a CAEU soon or like it.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

15 [2729] Wednesday 7 February 2007 - 11:01pm

I suspect that neither Reform and friends nor Nigeria and friends can [see below - can't] wait long enough for this Covenant. The meeting in Tanzania may show this.

Your [Fulcrum's] Graham Kings is right about the danger of a 'cleaving-apart' in the whole Anglican Communion. The structural invasion of Nigeria already is doing this, but so would recognising some American bishops within TEC as some sort of recognised college. If that could be the basis of - later - recognising a Covenant and the other not, then so it can happen in any province. Splits everywhere.

It is up to whole provinces to decide to opt in to this Covenant, isn't it? This TEC within a TEC is a bad precedent, a non-starter: perhaps we'd better just accept that the disaster of a Covenant will just lead to other Covenants of a different Anglican communion and indeed realignment. The strategy is wrong from the beginning.

Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God 40 years on

16 [2730] Wednesday 7 February 2007 - 11:11pm

I don't have a standard for my reflections. I follow the view of William James (philosopher, used in psychology) where I just express. By expressing you make reality, or (some sort of) sense. Make of it what you will - that's it. Turning my thoughts into a poem was a good idea in this spirit.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

17 [2735] Thursday 8 February 2007 - 11:41am

I should have written - *can't* wait long enough for the Covenant. My point is that Nigeria and friends will act anyway.

As for the Jensen [Reform activist] interceptor, and the reference to tennis: you know, we have had three hundred years now of theology and biblical work, and this should not be reflected in the churches? Of course it is, and yet done with little alteration in any liturgies. The idea that some are playing tennis while others play football is ridiculous. How come Puritanism is acceptable and a little liberalism is not? The main alteration in the US is extending inclusivivity to gay people in ministry, unmentioned by Jesus, creeds or articles. They won't be the only ones.

Homosexuality, Scripture and Church

18 [2747] Friday 9 February 2007 - 01:39am

Evangelicals now, meeting evangelicals of yesteryear, would be regarded then as liberals; indeed, some charismatic-evangelicals would strike evangelicals of the nineteenth century as light in doctrine and too gassy regarding personal relationships. - very liberal.

Doubts about Doubt: Honest to God 40 years on

19 [2748] Friday 9 February 2007 - 02:00am

The structural matter is plain observation, a Church that removes its geographical limitations and goes into another province. I notice that its after Synod statement, preparing for Tanzania, that it refers to CANA as Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) rather than a claim that these parishes in Virginia are still in the Anglican Communion (Church of Nigeria).

The basis of the affirming one thing and challenging another is pain. The people who simply wish to associate or indeed make a pairing relationship that is positive to themselves and harms no one else is going to face a Church of Nigeria supported law that would imprison them for simply meeting.

I go further and say that gay marriage or civil alternative allows a public statement that affirms the stability of these relationships and this helps the functioning stability of society, just as marriage does. In other words, if we allow people to come together in peace, to affirm one another, and give it recognition, then it allows society to function better and be at greater peace too. So I'm extending my view of pain from an individual basis to a social basis too.

Painful societies are those which fight among their differences, whereas peaceful societies are those which live with and even affirm their differences, as varieties of positive expressions. On this the Americans are being more generous, and inclusive. Ministry should reflect the inclusiveness, so should there be symbolic recognition within the Church.

Yes, there is a connection between my views and romanticism, mysticism and even the Pagan. Romantics are aware of their own constructions: the Transcendentalists combine the Romanticist, expression in literature, the Christian, the Unitarian, the Hindu and the neo-Pagan. I've no problem about association with any of these. Emerson, Thoreau, and Tagore are important people in the development of a wider vision.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

20 [2789] Sunday 11 February 2007 - 04:23pm

...The Episcopal Church in its earliest days was created with a break from the Church of England by acquiring its episcopal linkage from the Scottish Episcopal Church, outside the establishment.

It will find links with Canada, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of England should games be played against it - and don't forget that a Covenant that could satisfy the hotter head elements of the Global South will not be acceptable to these and others. A Covenant is an innovation that does not have to be accepted, and it may well lead to the generation of others one of which could emphasise inclusivity, justice and freedom to spell out more explicitly the breadth of Anglicanism.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

21 [2790] Sunday 11 February 2007 - 04:32pm

I've little to add to the consistent argument that is Giles Goddard's latest letter, in which he finds Andrew Goddard's position unsustainable, other than to note its shows clearity of thought and why justice is central to Giles's position. It shows how a general doctrinal position in action has to follow pastoral realities, one that focuses on affirming who people are and trying to get on in life.
22 [2815] Tuesday 13 February 2007 - 01:20am

Baptists have long been divided into General Baptists and Particular Baptists. In 1806 UK General Baptists found their way to Unitarianism, but they keep re-emerging and I noticed the shorthand was still in use not so long ago. These polarities are the same as the Anglican, the Methodist and so on. I was friendly with a fellow non-realist Baptist when at Luther King House - I was a non-realist Unitarian - and he was tolerated better in his denomination than I was in mine (though later he became a teacher). With a lay student also non-realist we three got on very well. Another Baptist was Pagan, into the chakhras in a way I could not agree, so he was "General", and then there was a non-Christocentric URC trainee who enjoyed the company of my Buddhist orientated Principal. These two were in our company too. It was always a shame that the Anglicans were holiday-time visitors when the rest of us were elsewhere. A recently trained Unitarian minister popped over from time to time, complaining also about limits of tolerance in Unitarianism because he was a trinitarian - my pluralism certainly did include him - and, as it happens, he was in an openly gay stable relationship in the manse of his church as was perfectly acceptable in the denomination.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

24 [2855] Wednesday 14 February 2007 - 09:03pm

I am staggered by ...'s recent posting. It is such "homo"s, as he calls them, to whom he needs to direct his apologies. It is not TEC that needs saving, but this dismissal of people into a labelled class as if they are all the same.

As for the meeting, the idea that there can be a TEC within a TEC, traded for both TECs recognised as in the Communion, would not work. It makes no sense. Nor would a recognised by teh communion TEC inside an unrecognised TEC. All this would be premised on the Nigerians withdrawing their connection from a TEC within a TEC. They won't anyway, given the recently made bishop and connections.

A TEC within the TEC will inevitably mean a Cof E within the C of E.

Given that the Nigerians have made all the running, it must therefore be that the "Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)" - as they call themselves - is the beginning of the end of geographical provinces, geographical dioceses and maybe even geographical parishes.

Then what would be the point a year later of joining a Covenant? Well one may still be presented, if there is any point to it, but it could lead to others saying "We will not join AND we will not be second class."

This morning in church I was chatting with another member of the congregation and I thought we'd end up with a shell called the Church of England and islands of activity where the different religious definitions exist. They would have different Covenant definitions. Later I thought there may be groupings not second class but announcing (on the noticeboards) that they are non-covenant Anglicans, because Anglicanism (they'd say) rejects having covenants.

Perhaps we shall all know by Monday, though no doubt the second HQ (for the Nigerians) will leak and spin as it wishes as part of its strategy of first preplanning, keeping the agenda it wants and getting an outcome of structural change to enforce its view of orthodoxy.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

25 [2876] Friday 16 February 2007 - 01:48am

At this stage the Bishops of Durham (the "good friend" of the Archbishop) and Winchester - even as late as Thursday morning - look a bit like they spoke rather too loudly and keenly too soon with their attacks on TEC. TEC has passed its requirements on two out of three issues, and the other is in a kind of neutral space. It also indicates, I reckon, on the nature of the Covenant, which will surely be pitched at this level and not at some orthodoxy as wished by Reform and friends.

Most of all, as a result of this, TEC needs to do little else (it might discuss what some dioceses are up to regarding same sex blessings) but the Windsor issue of incursions into American space by other provinces has not been tackled at all. Is Akinola then going to about turn? Is he going to stop it and wave goodbye to his bishop in the US? Is CANA going to shut up shop?

I doubt it. And surely now there cannot be a recognised TEC within the unrecognised TEC, or even a bargain or a recognised TEC within the recognised TEC. This proposal that was gathering so much popularity as a structural solution for the medium term is surely dead.

The Covenant might turn out to be a harmless piece of paper, of relevance at Communion level possibly and therefore useless given the stance of Nigeria and those who rather like its basis of action. It is still superseded by structure because Nigeria is on the march, has set up CANA, and if he retreated Akinola would look like the biggest fool going. He did not remove references to communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury for nothng, nor does he use the name "Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)" for nothing either.

We'll see what the Covenant could be like, but it cannot be inconsistent with Windor findings. The theological Conservatives are already dissatisfied with the news of the Windsor findings, they are surely going to be dissatisfied with the Covenant, and it looks like the Archbishop of Nigeria is going to carry on marching. The ball is in his court down at "the" headquarters, as those there have called them.

He may or may not send bishops to Lamberth 2008 - I would suspect he wants his cake and eat it. No doubt his HQ are having to look at their strategy. I doubt that it is to get out of the USA.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

26 [2888] Friday 16 February 2007 - 05:47pm

The problem is that whilst there are indeed constraints here, there has been nothing regarding the other side of the coin, the incursions into the United States, and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is hardly likely to cut contacts. Plus the conservative reaction has been hostile, and there is likely to be more flaking off by some of them. The issue will be the Covenant taking over the job of Windsor (to maintain the constraint) but it will create its own difficulties of being inadequate for many if the Covenant is consistent with the report. Unless Nigeria stops its imperialism, the other side - the inclusiveness in terms of same sex blessings and other faithful relationships in priests and bishops - will resume.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

27 [2916] Sunday 18 February 2007 - 03:23pm

These things are yet to be decided, but if the sub-group has given TEc 2 out of 3 and 1 is neutral, this is no basis on which to set up a college of bishops inside TEC, a TEC within a TEC. TEC is already recognised as legitimate and in communion. The primates would have to overturn the report of the sub-group, and the Global South didn't have the votes before never mind now that they have reportedly split (evidenced by the eucharist boycott).

The conservatives really do have to recognise that their wish list is over, and that Tom Wright got it wrong. He did not quite know his "friend" the Archbishop as he thought, did he? Nizir-Ali and Scott-Joynt are somewhere else entirely.

The continuing issue is what Akinola and other insurgents into TEC's geographical space are going to do. Indications are they will not abandon their congregations - and I bet they shall carry on as before. These are the people threatening the communion now. Maybe they shall redefine the communion, as already along the lines of "Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)". That will make two communions. The issue now is whether he is prepared to carry on or retreat.

Politics is a funny business. Conservatives made the mistake of imagining that Rowan Williams had become one of them - he never was. He departed from his own centrist-liberal writings, and left many people puzzled, but some folks allowed their fantasies to get away with them.

Another point too - if the Covenant is consistent with the Sub-group and other statements, it will not be about doctrine at all. The linking of the gay inclusion issue to wider doctrinal concerns is another fantasy with a head of steam all of its own. It will be about processes. Persnally it won't work, because it won't do the job the Global South or doctrinal conservatives wanted. It is going to be other than the creeds, not to bolster them - and if it tried to, and had relevance at diocese and parish level, many will reject this modern innovation.

Conservatives should either recognise when the argument has moved on, or find a different way to address it.
28 [2917] Sunday 18 February 2007 - 03:31pm

I know that not all General Baptists became Unitarian, because they were there after 1806 as well. I also do not equate General Baptists with non-realism - that would be daft. But this chap was, whom I knew. And another was at least semi-Pagan (he believed in the chakhras). And it was being used by Baptists as a code-word for broad minded or liberal.

A side issue likely now to emerge from this Tanzanian meeting is that Anglicanism is indeed more doctrinally diverse than was perhaps realised, and that even the creeds have cultural and historical varied understandings, that there are historic fomularies, that scripture is a resource, that tradition is fluid and reasoning is about method. Doctrine is not-fixable anymore. Tom Wright was wrong about this at the same time as he was wrong about TEC.

anglicans nigrians & human rights of Urnings...

29 [2918] Sunday 18 February 2007 - 03:35pm

All the time we go on about the inner workings of the Churches - the raw issues of threats to the basic well being of gay people and chronic poverty go on. I'm as much a part of this distraction as anyone. Games people play. The institutional issues are important, and people have a right to be concerned with them, but some things are important and other things are desperate.

Covenant for the Anglican Communion

30 [2966] Wednesday 21 February 2007 - 03:48pm

As having a radical-liberal approach to faith, and carefully reading this Covenant, I would make only the slightest tweaks to it. This is perhaps odd, as I am opposed to it, because of how it would be used rather than the substance of it

At what point, for example, in extreme circumstances, would a member Church find itself outside this Covenant? When it couldn't care less? With this Covenant, you can still apply a critical, reasoned approach to all those problem texts and come up with inclusion of gays and lesbians in faithful relationships with both church blessings and inclusion in all levels of ministry. You could, if there is agreement. The Covenant, if it is not doctrinal, does not give the Conservatives what they want from it - there is no point to it from their point of view. Mine is that it makes too much of the Communion, and will be used in a bureaucratic and conserving manner, to impose one culture's reading of faith documents over another's.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

31 [2967] Wednesday 21 February 2007 - 04:08pm

The original Sub-group report to Tanzania was itself, whatever its merits, a fix, but one which did nothing about the power on the ground in the United States - CANA and a Nigerian bishop. So the outcome shifted to that power, thus whereas the Sub-group report took away any basis for a communion recognised TEC within a recognised or unrecognised TEC, the result is a Communion monitored primatial vicar run (a suggestion of the PB from before) almost TEC within a TEC, and intended to be temporary. Nigeria has now to get out, though it will still be there, leaning on the communion as in this meeting.

Will it work? Presumably The Episcoapl Church bishops will be reluctant to act if the Nigerians are still involved, and they still have their bishop, and the Nigerians might not pull back if the bishops do not act. There is a September deadline - which reminds me of Northern Ireland.

The price is high: and giving the communion a role into a group inside a member Church means that others inside other Churches can ask the same - for example, Reform and company inside the Church of England. Secondly it asks The Episcopal Church to freeze a prophetic and inclusive activity until - what - other magical and rural culture approaches to religion catch up, as if a permanent settlement to establish a temporary pause? What's that? Always Anglican Churches as autonomous take initiatives: a communion role is not to slow them down. Where would women's ordination be now with this set up? This is clearly a nonsense being asked of these bishops. Furthermore, they may decide that that only a General Covention can make the decisions asked of its House, and so cannot meet a September deadline. Plus bishops approving or not approving same sex blessings could have little impact on whether they happen.

I suggest that the bishops should reject this imposition. The Episcopal Church has democratic structures, unlike so many, and is very responsive to its make-up, and indeed is likely to reject this outcome. And then it can act with integrity, with a prophetic voice, can include gay and lesbian people in all levels, and be a witness to other Churches (including non-Anglican). And let the "Communion" then reject it, if this is what the "Communion" wants to do.

In Northern Ireland, deadlines have come and gone, and come again, because the prize of agreement towards a permanent peace was worth it, and no agreement is a disaster. This agreement is for something apparently temporary, and no agreement is much better, and therefore this should be rejected.

I am revising my view about this Covenant as proposed. It is so plastic. But if in rejecting this Tanzania instruction The Episcopal Church cannot get into this Covenant, then it might have its own alternative document that proves more attractive and specific for those in agreement with The Episcopal Church.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

32 [2990] Friday 23 February 2007 - 12:59pm

Work in the developing world can happen without the communion, and there is not a balance but two sides pulling on a rope. There is very little argument here by Rowan Williams for a communion at all. Plus Akinola now says Nigeria will leave Canterbury in September if the Anglican Communion does not act - so another threat which hardly means he'll take his tanks off the TEC lawn - and I can just imagine the progress possible if he did walk.

And in talking about gay and lesbian people as the Archbishop does here, why does he not refer to the inhuman legislation supported by Akinola in Nigeria, or is he too frightened in case this primate walks?

Covenant for the Anglican Communion

33 [2992] Friday 23 February 2007 - 01:06pm

Presumably if you are a federal conservative, you have instruments in your own Church and, as regards a communion, if it does not or cannot discipline, then it's good for little and you walk away.

Of course you might be a communion this or that, just that you want a different one. It is quite possible to have two Anglican communions. Let's face it, it might bring in the long list of beakaway Anglican sects into the conservative one, whilst the rest of us can bring in excluded and marginalised people.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

34 [3006] Saturday 24 February 2007 - 04:26pm

The so-called Anglican Mainstream response is wider than Tanzanian concerns, and whereas the Archbishop has spoken about the breadth of the communion as legitimate, they bang on about the more general doctrinal issue, as they see it; and whereas this communion does have to have consensus or majority (with no authority to impose) they contrast that with the message 'once delivered to the saints', plus they imply as has Martyn Minns that the Nigerian/ Global South connection to breakway congregations continues (which is contrary to a decided communion based overseeing). Their message goes as far as setting their sights on more progressive or progressive-including provinces.

Not mentioning the draft Covenant is explained by its consistency with the report of the Sub-group on the Windsor process. That was somewhat overturned so they won't regard this draft Covenant as relevant. They hope either TEC falls into order of goes, and presumably then there can be a different Covenant and not one on the lines of Tom Wright, for example. Theirs would be dogmatic from a selective reading of the Bible on theirs and Nigeria's understanding.

Sorry for them but theological work and insight does impact on belief, and so there will also be different cultural readings of scriptures themselves written in a cultural context. In any case theirs is a Protestant Enlightenment affected (by rejection) phase. The deadline they want to abide by is an impossibility for anything like they want, and it depends whether TEC has had enough and walks, or makes some inclusive message to which Canterbury responds and Nigeria walks. It looks to me like two communions make more sense, and Canterbury could head either of them given its current dance, but in either case the Church of England under Canterbury might splinter into pieces.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

35 [3015] Sunday 25 February 2007 - 12:22am


TEC has every right to say this much and no further, and then leave it to the Anglican Communion to decide. What will not happen is some selective biblical orthodoxy show put on for what is a section of the Church in other provinces. Therefore, if the communion "disciplines" TEC it will leave, if it does not to the beliefs of that other section Nigeria says it will leave, and presumably a few others too. Either that or even more convoluted somersaults and another deadline.

There is no future in a narrow surface reading of the "clobber" texts as they relate to contemporary faithful LGBT relationships, and it produces an unethical Church when it comes to people valuing one another in their relationships and friendships. People come first, and in any case those texts are as cultural as now. The Bible is there for us, not us for the Bible; but even if it was us for the Bible, the New Testament texts are about faithlessness and idolatry in all its forms. But even if they were not, so what - there is much in the Bible to be dismissed, and it is not a rule book but a resource.

The Christian tradition is a broad tradition and has an ongoing and critical relationship to its inherited resources and beliefs, and we are slaves to none of them.

anglicans nigrians & human rights of Urnings...

36 [3017] Sunday 25 February 2007 - 12:32am

[quote] I might be sexually involved with two or more men and it may all feel (and, indeed, be) genuinely loving, respectful, life-enhancing, and the rest but would it be right?

Yes it would, if everyone was honest and no one was jealous and this situation had emerged in an open and honest manner, and was about fulfilment rather than some form of entertainment or spectacle. There are a lot of ifs around polyamorous relationships.

There are many power relationship questions about polygyny in Africa and America, which is why it is frowned upon. One of the realisations of the rapid sexual spread of AIDS in Africa among heterosexuals is the lack of faithfulness among men in particular.

There is still good reason for polyandry in places like Tibet. Having many men in marriage to one woman preserves resources in the mountains and cold valleys, as does having a male in the family go to a monastry. So it is a sensible economic relationship.

Many relationships do reflect economic relationships - as they always have done, even from hunter-gatherer days. The family is a social and economic unit. These days the world needs to consider ways in which we all have fewer children or none at all as a way of producing sensible economics and environmental sustainability.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

37 [3023] Sunday 25 February 2007 - 11:30pm

_it has had as a branch of the C of E_

No, it never was a branch of the C of E. It drew its episcopy from Scotland, deliberately sidelining the C of E. This is why generally now liberal Scotland would be joined in an episcopal communion with its American equivalent named, and could find common purpose with Wales, New Zealand, and South Africa - and potentially shatter England

As for this business about theologians, these quoted (Wright, McGrath and O'Donovan) are not "world class": English theology remains a relative bywater and Anglican theology denominational about its own self-understanding. The only one whom makes it above the level was John Milbank of Cambridge, who produces a conservative-postmodernism of the Church, a kind of premodern content in a postmodern bubble, because contemporary culture is a secular theology, he claims. This gets added as an alternative to the Hans Frei and Lindbeck postliberal strands. In my MA course survey through contemporary theology the main players were generally Americans and Germans, across both Catholics and Protestants, all the way from Conservative realist stances through to liberal-postmodern Christian nihilism (even Don Cupitt is regarded as peculiarly Anglican, and the theologian of this stance is the American Mark C. Wright).

Accepting Evangelicals

38 [3024] Sunday 25 February 2007 - 11:42pm

Yes this is the post-evangelical collection, who have their roots in it, rather like the Nine O'Clock Service developed vastly creative ways of worship and understanding: I call them liberal charismatics because in a way they are free and energetic. They could become quite interesting if they can have a liturgical impact outside the traditional liturgical preferences of liberal Anglo-catholicism and the apparent danger of liturgical nihilism for liberal Anglo-protestantism.

http://www.alternativeworship.org/definitions_definition.html for alternative worship

http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/founding%20members.htm for the usual supects and a few others

Some of these and what they were doing were knocked back by the Sheffield scandal, but there was plenty of interest beyond that scandal.

Primates' Meeting in Tanzania February 2007

39 [3037] Monday 26 February 2007 - 09:25pm

Yes it was a gentle approach I made on this subject, and of course they didn't simply go to Scotland but had to, and preferred it otherwise.

(I think, ..., there is no argument in your case, only personal conviction, and no one should resign on that basis. You have no special insight, and your claims can only go as far as yourself.

Well, ..., you attach virtue to upholding something that excludes and puts down conditions in an unnecessary and restrictive manner, so it is open to change. Christianity is not dependent upon any philosophy, realist or otherwise, and should be able to be a resource in different settings. I'm not into upholding anything for the sake of it, but for what happens. Religion is a complex matter, using bits of philosophy, bits of history, rhetoric, reconstruction, insights and inspirations, and is more like art than history or science in total, so it is bound to be seen differently by different groups with their conversations about it, so variation and difference in theology is not surprising.

The interview in Tanzania shows a clash of understandings between an obvious signs and wonders and last days expecting reporter (quite a novelty here) and an Archbishop who pressed on his personal views stonewalls into some representative. As for his speech to Synod, it is clearly pained and stark, and I think makes a weak argument for communion. The better view was expressed by the Bishop of Southwark on the World Service (a limited time link that exists on Thinking Anglicans, I have added some notes) that a more durable solution is a spiritual commonwealth. The argument otherwise is that there is always a break point or everyone may as well join Orthodoxy or, presumably, its breakaway Roman Catholicism.

Accepting Evangelicals

40 [3038] Monday 26 February 2007 - 09:29pm

I suppose the question is whether Accepting Evangelicals are on the road to liberalism, or are they distinctive - in other words is it just one linear road between two fuzzy ends or are there many ways and byways off (or lay-bys)? I've written before of a mainstream triangle, but the defensive traditionalist ends seem to be pretty bust now, whether traditionalist catholic or evangelical, with instead an attacking "conversionist" end and then a heterodox liberal end, for which everyone is somewhere in between.

"Goddard 2 Goddard"

41 [3061] Wednesday 28 February 2007 - 09:39pm

What comes about here in the latest exchange is that Andrew Goddard is not prepared to allow for two integrities regarding the homosexual question as he was regarding ordination of women. It is because there are no contradictory texts. If the Church comes to a doubtful view on what these texts say, then he will look at them again, but their lack of alternative means that, whether or not they are primary in faith, two positions cannot be held - only his. Andrew Goddard's therefore is an attempt at a solid reply that closes the matter down to one option against Giles Goddard's open and rather loose plea for diversity, that plea that says closing this down to one position means a split.

I think this now requires a development in the liberal position which is not there in Giles's plea. There are two parts: the centrality of scripture and the centrality of the Nicene Creed. The second is loosely related to the first.

Scripture is central, but the liberal view is not simply to nitpick at the New Testament having no view on faithful stable homosexual relationships: the argument that Paul's view on homosexual relationships is limited to association with his view on idolatry and faithlessness. The issue must be the cultural relativity of that view of scripture and potentially any view of scripture: that anything called revelation is in and around the text, but not just lifted off the page.

This is the guts of it, and it follows on about the Nicene Creed. I maintain that a purely biblical view does not spell out the doctrine of the Trinity. It is too early, and in some places inconistent. It is why I am puzzled by the literalists, in that they are selective and relative when it suits. But actually my criticism is as much directed at some liberals too.

In what way does the Nicene Creed contain core doctrines that are non-negotiable? For example, is a core doctrine the virginal conception and what about the body rising? I'm quite clear in my own mind that Jesus had two human parents, and my own biblical interpretation is that the empty tomb is a later explanation to add bodily substance to series of stories about resurrection appearances and the body theology that is throughout the New Testament. Now this makes the Nicene Creed unhistorical and unscientific in some places, and therefore as a regulative theological document it works at a different level from history and science - as indeed the package called Christianity must.

More than this, I'm convinced (and by experience of how institutions work) that if there was a split that a liberal Church would treat the Nicene Creed as an historical inheritance and loosen its relationship to core beliefs. Not only would the cultural limitations of the Bible be accepted, so would the historical and cultural problems with the Nicene Creed be recognised. A reformation on one matter leads to reformations on others.

It does look increasingly like Tanzania was a delay with another deadline. Another delay through Covenant negotiations might result with Rowan Williams still pursuing his rather hopeless quest for wide unity. Either TEC walking, or TEC removed or heavily suspended (that gives CANA the self-believed right to organise - it has not gone away), or Nigeria walking (so it can pursue its own view of Anglican Communion, as in its title) will cause the break. Given the Anglican support and participation in the abuse of human rights in Nigeria itself, and the absence of criticism from Canterbury, the liberals in many provinces will look to TEC if it is the one that was pushed. I've no doubt that if Nigeria walks, TEC will be part of the Canterbury Communion. One way or another, either Giles or Andrew Goddard will have to look beyond. With TEC out, it is clear that Giles Goddard will have to look beyond, with Nigeria gone Andrew Goddard will be split, rather as the faultline runs through roughly the Fulcrum position.

Alternatively the Rowan Williams here he stands will be in pieces, and the looser spiritual commonwealth or federations of independent provinces and some bilateral and multilateral arrangements on issues will result.

The effort then to have created this structural unity will then have led to the fractures inside provinces, that the Goddards really will be in two places with different structural loyalties, and once that happens and the reformation kicks in, the gaps will become quite wide.

Faith and Secularism

42 [3062] Wednesday 28 February 2007 - 09:42pm

This business of opposing secularism seems to me to be the old one of creating an enemy to try and identify what you are in yourself. Much in secularisation (a broader and still problematic way of seeing it) is the sacred into the secular, and is full of faith positions among people, and some of the intellectual quests are looking for meaningful beauties of explanation. An institution in some decline starts to paint the outside black in order to appear white - when it isn't.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful