Friday, August 31, 2007

Trust and the Trussed

Look at the following passages from these Baptismal rites

DOST thou believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth? And in Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son our Lord? And that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary; that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; that he went down into hell, and also did rise again the third day; that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; and from thence shall come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead?
And dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholick Church; the Communion of Saints; the Remission of sins; the Resurrection of the flesh; and everlasting life after death?
Answer. All this I stedfastly believe.

(Book of Common Prayer 1662)

Priest. Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth?
Sponsors. I do.
Priest. Dost thou believe in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son our Lord, who was born and hath suffered for us?
Sponsors. I do.
Priest. Dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic church, the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the flesh, and life everlasting?
Sponsors. I do.

(From the English Ritual)
Do you believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist?
All I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again?
All I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world?
All I believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
All This is our faith. We believe and trust in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(Common Worship Alternative Profession of Faith to be used when there are "strong pastoral reasons")

In case you were wondering, the usual profession of Faith in Common Worship is the Apostles' Creed in full, very similar to the English Ritual. However, this alternative version was the only version presented in the Alternative Service Book which was replaced by Common Worship.

Notice that in the Alternative provision the nature of the Baptismal question is different from the standard texts. It introduces this notion of trust. Between the BCP and Common Worship, all catechumens were required to declare their trust in God as well as their belief.

The word trust is a translation of the Latin fiducia which has the sense of confidence, hope, security and assurance. We can find the word in several passages:

II Kings xviii.19
dixitque ad eos Rabsaces loquimini Ezechiae haec dicit rex magnus rex Assyriorum quae est ista fiducia qua niteris

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Speak ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?

Acts iv.29
et nunc Domine respice in minas eorum et da servis tuis cum omni fiducia loqui verbum tuum

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

II Corinthians iii.12
habentes igitur talem spem multa fiducia utimur

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: (AV)
Having therefore such hope, we use much confidence (Douay-Rheims)

I John v.14
et haec est fiducia quam habemus ad eum quia quodcumque petierimus secundum voluntatem eius audit nos

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us

I hope this gives an adequate sense of the the word trust. How is it different from faith and belief? If fiducia is equivalently translated by trust and confidence then we notice that confidence means literally "with-faith"-ness - it quantifies an action. We act in faith, work in faith, operate in faith. We can believe in God, but it is possible not to trust Him. Perhaps we can see this in Deist belief in which the believer believes in God's existence but does not expect Him to act in support. There is belief - fides - but not trust - fiducia.

Fiducia means that we work in hope that God will support our actions that are begun in Faith. We humans rely on His provision.

Now here is where the idea of fiducia influences the nature of our belief, and in particular our ecclesiology.

Let's take a typically contraversial issue that illustrates our differences of fiducia - Papal Infallibility.

This doctrine states:

(From the First Vatican Council,)
we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when:

  1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
  2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
  3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,

he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

So here it is, the issue that separates the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox, the Old Catholic Church and the Anglican Continuum, and it is all a matter of fiducia.

Catholics believe happily in the infallibility of the Church and in the inerrancy of Scripture. This means that they feel that they can rely that the teaching that they receive from the Church, and her interpretation of Holy Scripture. It means that they have this wonderful umbrella that allows them to walk the tightrope of life so that they have a good chance of getting from one end to the other safely.

But can we say the same thing about the Pope as teacher? Suppose that the Pope issues an infallible statement. Then the whole Roman Catholic Church is bound to receive that statement - there is no choice. There is no choice because in putting one's trust in the Pope's Infallibility means that we rely that the Pope's statement must be true regardless of what it is. It means that a good Roman Catholic is prepared to take a risk in the authority of the Pope in the same way that any other Christian is prepared to take a risk in believing in the existence of God.

A Roman Catholic cannot know that an Infallible statement is true, just as she cannot know that God exists, but rather that her accepting that God exists means (for her) that the Pope's Infallible statement is indeed true.

However for the other Catholics (Eastern, Old and Anglo-) there is no such confidence in the Pope. There is a lack of trust that the Holy Father has any unique supremacy over any other validly consecrated Apostolic Catholic Archbishop beyond a primus inter pares. Such trust in the Holy Father is not a dogmatic necessity for these Christians.

However, the lack of trust means a freedom to choose - the Holy Father's teaching or not. If we are true to one's Christian Faith, then we will need to weigh up the Pope's statement against the precepts of the Church, and, for an Anglican, this means Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Yet, if the Pope has issued a Infallible statement that he has personally weighed against these precepts then it is likely to be true in non-papal eyes.

For example, the only two statements that Roman Catholic theologians agree are examples of Infallibility are the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and Assumption of Our Lady (1950). Many Anglicans accept these, though only on the level of pious opinion - they are not necessary dogma that need to be taught.

If not accepting Papal Infallibility means the acquisition of a choice of either agreeing or disagreeing with the Holy Father, does this consitute a private judgment? Suppose then that one chooses to accept as dogma whatever the Pope says Infallibly. How is this different from accepting the Pope as possessing Infallibility under the prescribed conditions? Is that still private judgment?

Looking at the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Continuum, we see the demise of fiducia. Anglicans are ceasing to trust that their bishops will teach the faith properly. In place of trust, we see suspicion between ECUSA and AMiA, members of the ACC cannot put their trust in the communion of FiF.

Yet trust is what holds the Church together. Each member of the Church needs to take a risk in trusting every other member to be a Christian and needs to take a risk that the doctrine that they receive is true. Contrariwise, it is necessary for every Christian to ensure that they are trustworthy and that means working to stay in a good and healthy relationship with God.
Private Judgment is not an option for Christians, at least not a good option, since it assumes that one's own understanding is best for discerning the Will of God in our lives, effectively setting the individual up to be one's own Pope. In every Christian, there has to be some trust in the Infallibility of the Church which is akin to committing oneself to her, that one may sink or swim with the Church in the Faith that she holds. If we are going to be suspicious of each other's belief then how does this bind Christians together? Trust means risk. It's the same risk that is involved in love, and love is what builds the Church up.

How reliable are you? How reliable is your Church?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ructions in the Lab.

It has been said that History is the Laboratory of Theology - and I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten who said it!

One of the questions that Sandra McColl asked on the Continuum was "has the Anglican Experiment failed?" which is why I think the above quote is relevant. So why should I, a non-historian and semi-reluctant member of the C of E, consider the question of failure of Anglicanism.

First of all, we must ascertain really what that phrase "Anglican Experiment" means in order to understand if and where it has failed. I think that its clear that this refers to answering the question of "is it possible to tread a middle way between Rome and Protestantism?" However does this question really mean anything?

It is painfully clear that Anglicanism is separate from Rome - it is an issue that has recently been shoved down Anglican throats, first by His Holiness' affirmation of the Catholic Church subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church, and more recently and personally by recent ex-Anglican Tiber-swimmers who reinforce their decision by attacking their erstwhile home.

As Fr. Hart says, the term "Protestant" is used in a meaningless way usually as a term to mean "not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox". However, some would argue that to say that Anglicanism is Protestant is erroneous in that Anglicanism exists in the same manner as the Eastern Orthodox Church. If "Protestant" means the churches that broke away from Rome at the Reformation, well that again makes life unclear about Anglicanism which a) was not initially set up as a rival church to the Holy See b) was separated from Rome for political and not doctrinal reasons and c) has always had groups within it which have looked to Rome for guidance and influnce. That is significant.

Another aspect of Anglicanism was recently crystallised for me by Young Fogey, namely the idea of Tolerant Conservatism defined as "Charity and discretion about people’s failings while at the same time not making excuses for those vices either." This has served the Anglican Church well as a defining aspect of identity. Thus the hope of a tolerantly conservative Anglicanism is that Protestants might have a home under its wing but find that they have to respect the Traditional teaching of the Catholic Faith.

Th trouble is, was the Anglican Church deliberately set up to be the famous via media? The answer is no. Was the Anglican Church deliberately set up to espouse tolerant conservatism? Initially, no, but the idea must have arrived within the Church soon after with Elizabeth I's reluctance to "make windows into men's souls". That she had respect unto the Roman Catholics is evident in the way that she treated some of the composers of the time such as Tallis and Byrd who clung to their catholicism. Of course the tide of public affection was certainly anti-Catholic by the close of Elizabeth's reign, but, as Eamonn Duffy explains in the Stripping of the Altars the people were deeply reluctant to break from Rome.

Can we then really talk of Anglicanism as an experiment to tread the via media? I don't really believe we can - it was not set up to be so. It exists as a strange accident of history. If we have to talk of the Anglican experiment, then it is my opinion that it has failed for the simple reason that it is ideally a fully Catholic body that has a need for reunion with the Holy See and the Eastern Orthodox Churches- Rome first because it broke most recently from Rome. It has failed in reality since it has failed to stand up to the test of time in which the right to private judgment has torn it into rapidly divergent sections. As I say however, it is not clear that we can attribute this raison d'etre to the Anglican Church - if it were an experiment, then we should have set it up to be so more carefully.

As for tolerant conservatism, well, that is still there, even in the Continuum where many critics say that it has evaporated. In mainstream Anglicanism, tolerant conservatism has just been replaced with unequivocal acceptance. To tolerate means to put up with, not to accept as being consonant which seems is the modern ethos. Protestants and Roman Catholics are more than welcome into Anglican communities and should be made to feel part, however the Protestants should realise that the Anglican Church teaches the authority of Scripture, Tradition and subordinate Reason, and the Roman Catholics should realise that Anglicanism has an indefinable identity independent from the Vatican in the same way as Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem.

Again if we try to see Anglicanism as being an experiment in tolerant conservatism, then we should have set up the experiment better. As I said above, with tolerant conservatism being replaced with unequivocal acceptance, the Anglican Church falls to bits. However, it isn't over yet. Things are happening that may surprise us all. Let's not leave God out of the equation - after all isn't He the definition of perfect Tolerant Conservatism?

I'll end with the words to a song by William Byrd commenting on the Reformation. Do they say anything to us about the existence of the Anglican Church?

Ah silly Soul how are thy thoughts confounded
betwixt two loves, that far unlikely are?
Lust's love is blind, and by no reason bounded.
Heaven's love is clear, and fair beyond compare.
No wonder though this love light not thy mind,
whilst looking through false love thine eyes are blind.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Anglicanism fit for Catholic [sic] Communion?

I found this book review of A Tactful God. Gregory Dix: Priest, Monk and Scholar, by Simon Bailey. I've not read the book (Heavens, I have a backlog of at least half a book case!) but given the Papalism of Dom Gregory Dix, there is a question that needs to be asked - Is Anglicanism fit for communion with the Holy See (hence the [sic] in the title)?

I see four issues that are related with the central question.

  • Desire: Does Anglicanism want to be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Necessity: Why should Anglicanism be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Change: What does Anglicanism need to do to be in communion with the Holy See?

  • Reciprocation: Why should the Holy See want to be in communion with Anglicanism?

Now, of course, the big problem with me posting these questions here is that I'm really not learned enough to answer them properly. I can only offer my take as a common or garden uneducated member of the laity. I'll try and perhaps if a better educated reader will comment and correct, that will be all to the good.

At the heart of all these questions is the reality that Anglicanism is fragmented into factions. If you ask whether Anglicans hold to any specific doctrine the answer will always be that there will be some that do, and some that don't and some that will question whether what doctrine that means in the first place - even the basic Christian beliefs are open to variety. There are priests who do not believe in the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection of the Lord, even God as a sentient and intelligent being. There are priests in the Anglican Church who hold to doctrines as diverse as The Rapture and Transubstantiation - there may even be priests who hold to both! Young Fogey has some insights into the various churchmanships that exist in the Anglican Communion.

This makes the questions much harder to answer, because really we need first to ask the question: what is Anglicanism? Here's one answer citing Archbishop Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church. I suppose the only real answer to this is that Anglicanism is the church in communion with or continuing the historical traditions of the Church of England. Even then I'm not happy with this because there are those who call themselves Anglican who really are not, and those who are refused to be recognised as Anglican even though they are. It's a pickle.

That's not to say that Anglicanism is peculiar in that it has members who claim to be Anglican and do not hold to the teaching of their church. After all, there are Roman Catholics who object to the teaching of the Holy See about contraception, those who refuse to leave Amnesty International on the grounds that AI is pro-abortion. And it is not just the Roman Catholics, but it is true all over the place that people are exercising private judgment, rather than follow the tenets of their religion.

What is peculiar is that Anglicanism has elected people of radically different theologies into positions of influence and teaching. Who else would have Bishops as diverse in thought as John Shelby Spong, Richard Chartres, David Silk, David Jenkins, George Carey? Could these Bishops sit down and agree on what constitutes the Christian Faith? Personally I have my doubts. Could this be done with the Sacred College of Cardinals? Well, in principal yes, at least Papal Infallibility means that there is a determinable point of unity, even if other members of the Church cannot agree to tht doctrine. In practice, well, it's more likely than in the Anglican Case.

However, if we accept that proper Anglicanism is actually contained within the Anglo-Catholic wing, then we have a better chance of some agreement of unity. Many would disagree with this on the grounds that they believe that Anglo-Catholics are not representative of the Anglican Communion. What marks proper Anglo-Catholicism out from Anglo-Protestantism and Anglo-Liberalism, is that Anglo-Catholicism has always sought out the Traditions of the Church and striven to be faithful to that Tradition, and that is Anglo-Catholicism's saving - it is more consistent to Christian doctrine than any other group in the Anglican Communion, and by rights has the true ownership of the label Anglicanism. Sit down Archbishop Haverland, Archbishop Hepworth, and the PEVs of the Church of England, to discuss the Christian Faith and there is likely to a greater concensus.

So I can only answer the questions in respect of the Anglo-Catholic Church, i.e. those who who hold to the Traditions of the Catholic Church. In this respect, I cannot describe "Affirming Catholics" as being Catholic since they have attempted to uphold erroneous teaching by moving the goalposts and redefined what "Catholic" means. The line has to be drawn somewhere, and I am sure that the true Anglican Church is actually much smaller than people think it to be.

Does Anglicanism want to be in Communion with the Holy See? I suspect that all Anglo-Catholics do want to be in Communion with Rome from the point of view of the Holy Mass, it is the circumstances of how that Communion is to be understood which are questionable. That the Holy See does not recognise Anglicanism as being a proper church is the first sticking point. Actually, who could really blame the Holy See? If His Holiness has looked in detail at the Anglican Communion then he's probably terribly confused as to what's going on. If he sees the AffCaths and their ridiculous warping of Catholicism, and the Evangelicals and their outright rejection of the Authority of the Church, then he's not going to regard seriously a little body of Traditional Anglicans, some inside and some outside the Anglican Communion claiming Catholicity in separation from Rome. That's if he has had the time. I don't relish the job of any Papal inquisitor into the state of Anglicanism.

However, Anglicanism has always seen itself as part of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which is why many "Anglicans" can be ruled out as being properly Anglican because of their rejection and redefinition of what "Holy", "Catholic" and "Apostolic", and therefore there should be a need within Anglicans to seek Communion with the Holy See. The costs need to be reviewed and weighed - and that's the key.

What would Communion with the Holy See bring to Anglicanism? I can imagine that it would be like blood rushing into a severed arm and breathe a new lease of life into those tired churchgoers who are disheartened by a rapidly secularising world. I do think that it would afford us some safety and a great deal more hope as we see the Church come together. A nearly 500 year old Schism would be at an end.

But at what cost? Well, here the trouble starts. We have the issue of the Mass, which surely won't be too big a problem. Lots of ACs subscribe to Transubstantiation, and I believe I'm right in thinking that the sizeable majority believe in the Real and Worshipful Presence of Christ in the Mass. The big bind is that of authority and Papal Infallibility.

Now this is what separates the Anglo-Catholics from the Anglo-Papalists. Respectable Anglo-Catholics such as Frs Hart and Kirby from The Continuum would certainly not accept unity on the terms of scrapping the Anglican way of doing Church in favour of the Roman Method. Similarly the famous Anglican way of thinking would soon be curtailed by the Roman hierarchy. We can see that in the life of Newman, who although a brilliant thinker and writer was also flawed in some of his reasoning (so was St Augustine, so was St Thomas Aquinas), but was also leant on by the Holy See in view of his writings. This Anglican way of thinking is what we can bring to the Holy See, just as the Celtic view of confession was adopted by the Magisterium. For such Anglo-Catholics, reunion with the Holy See would be seen to be a good thing, but not absolutely necessary.

To an Anglo-Catholic, the separation is painful but bearable, and many would see, for example the rejection of Anglican Orders (despite developments since 1893) as being only problematic for the Holy See. To an Anglo-Papalist, the separation needs to be ended, but only by corporate reunion, not individual secession. For either group, the ball is really in the court of the Holy See, though only the Anglo-Papalists will be fretting about it!

Does this answer the question: is Anglicanism fit for Communion with the Holy See?

With certain provisos, yes. First the Anglo-Catholic Churches must come together as one and speak out as one using that three-fold gift of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. They must proclaim their doctrine of the Real Presence loudly, that although there may be differences in understanding how the Presence is made Real, the basic fact that Our Lord is present grants the same effect of the Eucharist to all who receive it be they Anglican, Orthodox or Roman. Second they must clearly demonstrate that they ar distant and separate from the Protestantism and Liberalism which reject Traditional interpretation, and embrace fallacy in preference to Truth. Third, there should be a cessation of bitterness and snipery that seems so prevalent among Anglo-Catholics - it's forgivable seeing how we've been treated by the Anglican Communion, but unnecessary when we're trying to build up the Church.

I don't see what more we can do. As I said, it is really down to the Holy See to make the next move. We Anglo-Papalists don't want to be separate, but perhaps we're in too much of a minority to have as great an effect. However, even if communion with the Pope is not achieved, I still think that a greater sense of unity in the Continuum and the faithful Remnant in the C of E would be worth struggling for.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Divided we stand.

Sermon preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Swanscombe, on Sunday 19th August 2007 based on St Luke xii.49-56

What is the hardest question to answer?

Are we alone in the Universe?

Is there a way in which
we can truly develop world peace?

Why is it that a toaster actually has a setting
that burns the toast to an inedible cinder?

Why does Goofy stand up
while Pluto remains on all fours
when they’re both dogs?

Difficult questions!

But what is
the most difficult question of them all?


She’s come downstairs
having spent a lot of time on
her make-up,
her dress,
her hair.

She turns to her husband
and utters the killer question:

It’s a horrible question!

A man has to consider a 47,631 possible answers,
and what’s worse is that
there are 47,631 wrong answers.

Yes, every answer
is the wrong answer!

Even too long a pause is the wrong answer!

It invariably means an argument
and a stay at Fido’s Motel.


It’s interesting that
we each have different arguments
with different members of the family.

The killer question “Well?”
does not have the same effect
on a teenager
for whom every grown up
dresses in a style
invariably known as “sad”.

With a teenage son,
you’re more concerned with his appearance,
his multicoloured hair,
those jeans that show
more of his underpants than anything else,
and is that a tattoo on his arm…?

We have different arguments
because we have different relationships
with each member of our family.

What types of argument
have you had with your spouse?

What types of argument
have you had with your children?


The Lord Jesus is fed up.

All He gets is grief and argument.

No matter what he does,
He is attacked, vilified, denounced.

His latest miracle,
driving out a demon from a man,
has seen Him accused
of being the Devil himself.

Who is it causing the trouble?

It’s the fathers of the community
- the scribes and the Pharisees,
men whose job it is to lead and guide the people
in the ways of truth and love
– at least that’s the theory.

Here are a group of educated men
more concerned with their own comfort
and rituals that have lost all meaning,
than the spiritual health of their people.

The Lord Jesus comes
to set the world on fire with the Holy Ghost,
and all that happens is that
the Pharisees try to pour cold water on it all.

Can you not hear Jesus say how distressed He is?

Here He is trying to help us
and all we do is fight against Him,
argue with Him,
tell Him to conform to our ways of doing things.

After all,
hasn’t He come to bring Peace to the world?


No, He hasn’t.

Listen to Him.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?

I tell you, not at all,
but rather division.

For from now on five in one house will be divided:
three against two,
and two against three.

Father will be divided against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

How can we call Jesus the King of Peace,
if He comes to divide us?


Just by being present on Earth,
Jesus divides communities and families.
He has always done so,
and He always will.

There will be those who submit to His rule,
obey His commands,
follow His example,
and there will be those who mock Him,
ignore Him,
deliberately misunderstand Him,
sometimes within the same family.

Look at the division that
He’s already caused in Jewish society.

In the Red Corner,
you have the Pharisees and Scribes,
the Jewish lawyers strutting about
like the invincible Giant Haystacks
weighing in at 48 stone and
standing over 7’ high.

In the Blue Corner
you have St Peter and the disciples
rallying behind Jesus
like Kendo Nagasaki
weighing in at 18 stone
and only 6’ 2’’ high.

All we need now is Mick McManus
and Big Daddy
and we have a nice little wrestling tag team
in first century Jerusalem!


There’s another way of looking at this division.

We have the spiritual elders
of the community against
the spiritually younger.

We already have
the fathers divided against the sons,
all split over one man’s words
and actions – Our Lord Jesus.

But to which group does Jesus belong,
the fathers, or the sons?

The elders, or the youngers?


Well, Jesus might not make it
past His 40th birthday
in our sense of the phrase,
but then age is not something
you can ascribe to Him.

He’s older than everyone here.

But He is clearly above such distinctions.

He’s eternal.

And what of His message?

It seems radical
like the views of a young man,
but it’s not new.

He’s preaching the same message
that God the Father has been telling us
right from day one.

It’s the Pharisees
that have made all the changes.

It’s the Pharisees
who have changed
the interpretation of Scripture
to make it justify their own meaningless actions.

They are behaving like the young rebels.


The division that Jesus is talking about
is that of authority.

Either we submit to His authority and that of His Father,
or we submit to the authority of
Worldly fathers who twist and corrupt
the word of God.

Those who submit to Christ,
who do things His way,
who follow the Eternal Teaching
of an Eternal God
- they are the ones who become
the spiritual fathers
worth listening to.

They are divided from the others
because they are faithful to God.

They are holy and as we know,
‘holy’ means set apart for God.

That’s how we can tell
whether what we’re taught
is really from the Lord.

Any teaching from God
must have the flavour of Eternity in it
– it must be Holy.


Jesus divides us,
even families,
into those who follow Him
and those who don’t.

Are there divisions in our family, our Church?

What does this mean?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yet another good reason why I shouldn't be given a pen!

Sorry, John!

Clarification of terms?

With all the turbulence that's afflicting the Anglican Church at the moment, it's easy to get confused. Here's a glossary to help you understand what's what, with a tip of the biretta to the Young Fogey!

What is the shape of the Church?

One of the great fashions which the C of E is following is the idea of a Mission-Shaped church. This is a push to try and present the Christian Church to the unchurched via various initiatives such as "Fresh Expressions" - seeing the Christian Faith anew.

According to the Rev'd Mr. Paul Bayes in Mission-shaped Parish: Traditional Church in a changing world, a missionary church is

  • focussed on the Trinity
    Worship lies at the heart of a missionary church, and to love and know God as Father, Son and Spirit is the chief inspiration and primary purpose;
  • incarnational
    It seeks to shape itself in relation to the culture in which it is located or to whom it is called;
  • transformational
    It exists for the transformation of the community that it serves through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit;
  • a maker of disciples
    It is active in calling people to faith in Jesus Christ.
    It encourages the gifting and vocation of all the people of God, and invests in the development of leaders. It is concerned for the transformation of individuals, as well as for the transformation of communities;
  • relational
    It is characterised by welcome and hospitality. Its ethos and style are open to change when new members join.

(Bayes and Sledge Mission-shaped Parish: Traditional Church in a changing world p6)

How valid are the points made here?

Well, look at the idea of mission in the Scripture. Who in the Scripture can be described as being "sent"? Just looking for the conjugations of the verb mitto, mittere, missus in the Vulgate will surely help us consider the true meaning of "mission" and we will be able to weigh up these points using this idea.

Judging by the majority of the verses there seem to be two main senses in which people are "sent" in Holy Scripture. They are either sent by God to proclaim His Will, the Good News, or they are sent to prison by men (in the Acts of the Apostles) or by God (in the Apocalypse in the sense of the Abyss).

In the first sense, God sends out messengers, angels of His word,. We read that Christ sends out his apostles (the Greek word apostello is translated mitto in Latin) to make disciples of all nations. But notice, that St Paul says in I Cor xii.29 "Are all Apostles?" This shows that there is something very particular in how mission is to take place and, because of its connection with the Apostles here, mission should be something inherently episcopal. It is not a calling for everyone in the sense that everyone is to be a version of SS Peter and Paul.

But is the sense too narrow? As the Body of Christ must we not emulate the sense in which Christ Himself was sent? The Lord Himself tells us through Isaiah and from His own lips in St Luke iv. 18-21:

18 πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπ' ἐμέ οὗ εἵνεκεν ἔχρισέν με εὐαγγελίσασθαι πτωχοῖς ἀπέσταλκέν με κηρύξαι αἰχμαλώτοις ἄφεσιν καὶ τυφλοῖς ἀνάβλεψιν ἀποστεῖλαι τεθραυσμένους ἐν ἀφέσει 19 κηρύξαι ἐνιαυτὸν κυρίου δεκτόν
20 καὶ πτύξας τὸ βιβλίον ἀποδοὺς τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ ἐκάθισεν καὶ πάντων οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦσαν ἀτενίζοντες αὐτῷ
21 ἤρξατο δὲ λέγειν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι σήμερον πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶν ὑμῶν

18 Spiritus Domini super me propter quod unxit me evangelizare pauperibus misit me
19 praedicare captivis remissionem et caecis visum dimittere confractos in remissionem praedicare annum Domini acceptum et diem retributionis
20 et cum plicuisset librum reddidit ministro et sedit et omnium in synagoga oculi erant intendentes in eum
21 coepit autem dicere ad illos quia hodie impleta est haec scriptura in auribus vestris

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

So this is why the Lord was sent, and expresses the nature of the mission of the Church.

So how does the apostolic mission differ from the ecclesiastical mission?

Well, the nature of apostolic mission is that it travels widely. Look at SS Peter and Paul, the apostles par excellence, who go out to tell the world about the Kingdom of God. The communities they establish are not as wide ranging with respect to the distance they travel, but their endurance at keeping the message alive in their surrounds despite persecutions and temptations is certainly the crux of their ministry. The letters of St Paul to the Churches point to matters of living in the community according to the rule of life that following the teaching of Christ establishes.

In the letter to the Colossians, St Paul talks at length about the nature of apostleship, and therein lies an interesting direction. Apostles come from Christian communities, just as the first 12 Apostles formed the original nucleus of a community around the Christ, they were sent out to form new communities which, like the seminal picture of an atomic chain reaction, demonstrate, increase in size and number sending out holy apostles to the world.

So here then is the pattern for the mission-shaped church. It must be an apostle-making machine - each parish edifying its members in the true Christian way so that every so often, some of them will be best prepared to hear the call of God and go out into the world with the message.

However, times have indeed changed, and now parishes are diverse in membership with each person going where they feel the worship best suits them. There is no discernable boundary between the Christian and no Christian community. Christians gather for Mass, and then, at the Ite, missa est they are back out into the world again outside the community.

This, perhaps, is where the truly mission-shape church resides - in the vocation of the laity. Christians go out into the secular world carrying within them the Christ. By living the Christian life visibly, they proclaim the message to the world and then they return to Mass bringing their life outside the church with them and present that world to God as part of the sacrifice of the Mass. It's interesting that the word parish comes from the Greek for that which is outside the church. This points again to the ministry of the laity.

Let's look at the marks of a mission shaped church again and see if we can make conclusions.

a missionary church is

  • focussed on the Trinity
    Worship lies at the heart of a missionary church, and to love and know God as Father, Son and Spirit is the chief inspiration and primary purpose;

Well this makes sense, for the church to be building up the ministry of the laity, the laity need to to come to God bringing who they are to Him, but unified in their focus on Him so that they can present as one humanity the needs of humanity and receive from Him the Divine Assistance expressed primarily in the grace of the Sacraments and the blessings the engender.

  • incarnational
    It seeks to shape itself in relation to the culture in which it is located or to whom it is called;

This is not a very clear statement. Certainly the local parish is made up of a certain demographic and there will be regional variations. However there must be some visible way in which the church in one parish is substantially the same as in another. Speaking in an aristotelian sense, we need to be sure what the accidents of the Church are. There needs to be a way in which a traveller can walk into any parish church and know that they are in the same place as the church back home.

This also goes for the traveller in time! Change for the sake of change (i.e. society is changing so the church must too) is not acceptable. If St Gregory of Nyssa were to walk into our church, it is clear that he wouldn't recognise the shape of the liturgy, but he should be able to understand the essence of it, where it has come from and that it is truly saying the same as when he was saying Mass in the 4th Century. If we are doing this then we can be sure that the children who come after us will be worshipping God in the same way and receive the same Sacraments fully as every other Christian in all of history.

Secondly, if the church finds itself in a particular culture which is not expressly Christian in its understanding - a gambling culture, a red-light district et c. then the church has to express the Christian values that do not change. This will mean coming up against the sin inherent in society, and visibly so. The Church must not be seen to capitulate to any behaviour or belief that contradicts the Eternal message, and will impede the journey of the sinful soul toward salvation. It will in this instant cease to be a proper church and embody the idea of ecclesial community with which the Holy See regards the Anglican Church.

  • transformational
    It exists for the transformation of the community that it serves through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit;
  • a maker of disciples
    It is active in calling people to faith in Jesus Christ.
    It encourages the gifting and vocation of all the people of God, and invests in the development of leaders. It is concerned for the transformation of individuals, as well as for the transformation of communities;

These go together in the ministry of the laity. If church folk learn to worship and understand the orthodox doctrines of the church; if they know what sin is; if they know that they are the Temples of the Holy Ghost and understand this in themselves; if they trust in God's continued presence in their lives, his equipping with grace from the Sacraments; if they know their limitations and understand that they need to learn and to grow in prayer and worship and shape their lives around their prayer and worship, then, only then, will they transform their communities, and that transformation will be as unconscious as their own transformation, because they will be living a naturally Christian life.

  • relational
    It is characterised by welcome and hospitality. Its ethos and style are open to change when new members join.

No. The church does not need to change ethos or style when new members join. It might need to change times of Masses or add new Offices during the week, but the whole point is that the new folk understand that they are to grow and become part of the Christian life and that means a deliberate act of submission to Him. This is why the presence of Christ is utterly necessary in every Christian community. The Benedictines do not change the Rule everytime a new novice signs up. To keep changing means being blown by the winds of fashion and that is why the C of E is in the trouble it's in. The process of welcome means insinuating people in, helping them to adapt to the Church and seeing its relevance in their lives. Like the Benedictine novice, new folk must see what they need to change in order to get closer to God, that way they can be assured of complete stability.

However the notion of welcome is vital. The Benedictines are always hospitable and kind and loving, it's part of the Rule! In fact it's necessarily part of every rule. We cannot be Christian if we are not prepared to be hospitable. We've just read the mission of the Church in St Luke iv.18-21, and it's precisely this mission of which the laity must play their part.

So what should the C of E be doing in order to promote the idea of mission?

Well, in my opinion, they should scrap the whole idea of doing things differently, of adding new and innovative services. They should stop pandering to what society wants from the church which too often is just a salve for the guilty conscience (such as Midnight Mass), or a nominal celebration (as most people see Holy Baptism).

Then they need to cement the Doctrine of the Anglican Church which at the moment is far too broad. (And you know where this little Anglo-Papalist would go for the cement!) The clergy need to be examined to ensure that they are compliant with the four marks of the Church and understand what they mean in the same way. Their interpretations need to be weighed against the Authority of the Church (Scripture, Tradition, Reason). Then, when the clergy are fully grounded in the faith. Then they should go back to making each Mass as excellent as it can be. That the people are catechised in an orthodox manner so that they emerge fully equipped to live Christin lives and fulful their vocation of the laity.

Impossible? Well, let's pray for it!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Making a saint out of a new man,

Today is the feast of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. I've always been very positively disposed to Newman whose intellect and hard work has done much to transform both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism in England.

Unfortunately, the Holy See does not yet recognise Newman as a saint. From the Anglican point of view there is no process of canonisation, though most Anglicans do not feel that it is necessary and that the simple process of veneration makes him a saint already.

From my point of view, I should like to see Newman formally canonised. It would give some formal recognition of his achievements in getting the Church on both sides of the Tiber to think more carefully about what it is to be Catholic, and also to recognise his triumph over vilification, slander and derision that he suffered most of his life (and in some circles even now).

The Birmingham Oratory has a page dedicated to the Cause of Cardinal Newman. Even though the Holy See may not recognise me as being truly Catholic, still I join my voice to theirs!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Edge of Reason

The BBC do occasionally show some decent programmes. Last night BBC4 showed a rather interesting programme called Dangerous Knowledge, documenting the lives of four great scientists: three mathematicians and a physicist, namely Cantor, Boltzmann, Goedel and Turing.

I've mentioned before the incompleteness theorems of Goedel, that for any logical system based on a finite number of axioms there will always be statements that cannot be proved true or false from within that system. Indeed there are true statements that are unprovable, unreachable by the methods of reason and logic.

Now one might think "okay, let's just avoid those statements," but then there's another little problem which Turing developed. While working on Computers, Computation and Computability, he managed to show that we cannot know which statements are ultimately provable or will turn out to be unprovable. This is known as the Halting Problem.

What does this mean? It means that, rationally speaking, there exists truth which cannot be proved true by human reasoning and that we will not know what that truth is through direct reasoning. Reason has reasoned its own edges.

This means that reasoning looks like a little island in a sea of unknowing - integral and consistent in the centre, but ragged and tatty at its edges with islands of truth separate from the main body effectively an infinite distance away.

Turing himself sought to reach these islands of truth by intuition. However modern Science rejects intuition as unempirical and therefore unscientific. In so doing, it maroons human thought to an island which they call scientific truth.

So, if God is unempirical, and I am intuitively aware of God (for want of a better phrase) am I necessarily wrong?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A nice clean brain! - Do you want one?

Just how does brainwashing work? Essentially the idea is to reverse someone's thinking on a particular issue by some kind of careful persuasion and manipulation. You don't really need the techniques of Torquemada to get someone to recant and convert.

You can start off by getting the intended convert under the guise of "playing fair" to list the good things about your position and then, some time later the things that are bad with his position. This can be done with the free will of the subject and the process can be continued with minute increments until he is indeed truly converted.

Now this method has actually been used and to great effect specifically in the Korean War, in which Chinese captors managed to brainwash with this very technique (called hsi nao) their American PoWs. Americans were shocked to see their freed comrades (pardon the pun!) proclaim freely their support for the Communist manifesto.

The power of this technique lies in the fact that the subject has generated the new viewpoint by himself, and, because it comes naturally from within the subject, it is most convincing. That the subject is apparently making up his own mind imprints the desired belief system more deeply than a set of thumbscrews and a quarter turn on the rack.

So now this begs a lot of questions. Is organised religion of any kind a brainwashing outfit? Is brainwashing always undesirable? Can you tell if you're being brainwashed, and if so can you stop it? Can you think of any more?

These are not easy questions. It may seem that brainwashing could be sometimes desirable. Wouldn't it be great if all those terrorists who fight in what they believe to be the name of Islam were brainwashed into a more pacific demeanour? Wouldn't it be good to perform hsi nao in our prisons and gaols, so that the inmates are rehabilitated into society?

Again, we are faced with discerning whether the ends justify the means. To some extent this is the content of Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, the brainwashing of a convicted felon in order that they might conform to the Rule of Law. From a Christian viewpoint, the human soul must always be free to say 'yes' and 'no' to any invitation, even if saying 'yes' means saying 'yes' to sin and saying 'no' means saying 'no' to God and Salvation.

So here's the bind. As Christians are we meant to be converting people? Should we be gently persuading our families and friends to forsake whatever beliefs that they might have in order for them to embrace the Christian message and bring them Eternal Salvation? This is certainly a deep part of Christian history, and there is no church, community, denomination or sect that has not tried to convert people. We are certainly called to "make disciples of all nations", "to proclaim good news to the captives" but the history of Christianity shames us with its tales of coercion and crusade.

Yet as Christians, we know that we are right to believe in God as Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity. This is our faith, and to admit to any contradictory doctrine takes us out of the Christian faith and into heterodoxy. Surely then, because our belief is right, we have a duty to show everybody the Truth by any means possible!

Again, the end doesn not justify the means. At every level of Christian belief comes Love. No matter who the human being is and before any debate, any proclamation of the Message, any teaching of the Faith takes place, there must be Love. Crucially, as I Cor xiii tells us, Love does not insist on its own way, even if that way is right! The Beloved must always be free to walk away, to say no, to reject the teaching. This is the crucial difference when it comes to recognising brainwashing. Brainwashing requires a certain level of captivity. The American Soldiers were PoWs; they were not free to go back to their families, to the familiarity of their own lives. In their captivity they were unable to escape the gentle yet constant persuasion that Communism was best. If, by our preaching the Christian message we are in any way restricting the freedom of another, then we are in transgression of the Commandment to love our neighbour as ourself. Indeed, St Francis of Assisi tells us to preach the gospel continuously, using words if we have to!

Religion is being attacked by the likes of Richard Dawkins on the grounds that it brainwashes the people into naive unreasonable thinking, that it betrays the legacy of the Enlightenment. Essentially what he is saying is that Atheistic Rationalism is the truth and that we should all be following this gospel. Fair enough, that is precisely what every religion does. At this level, Dawkins is the prophet of Atheistic Rationalism, an High-Priest of Scientific Realism, and despite any objection he might make, this is what he is, because he is fulfilling precisely the same role in his religion as the Bishop Wright of Durham, Pope Benedict, or Archbishop Haverland are playing in Christianity.

However, Dawkins calls for religious schools to be closed, every religion to be scrapped, or shown up for the intellectual foolishness he claims it to be. He seeks to remove the freedom of people to believe and follow other forms of religion, denies them the idea of worship. This to me smacks of a desire to brainwash. I believe that Moslems are wrong and so does every Christian (take note Dr. Redding), however I cannot demand that they stop practising their religion on the grounds that I disagree with it. Only God can do that, and He will in His own good time.

It is Dawkins (and not necessarily the entirety of the Scientific community) who seeks to brainwash, and he, and Derren Brown do so by playing on the intellectual pride of their audience. They seek to put across the idea that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to believe in God, and that true intellectuals, like Pierre Simon de Laplace, have no need of that hypothesis. The idea is that the audience member thinks "well I am intelligent, so I had better discard my belief in God." This is why perhaps I was rattled by Derren Brown's Tricks of the Mind because it played upon my intellectual pride and arrogance.

As a Christian, I trust St Paul. I don't have to trust St Paul, but it is consistent with my belief that I do trust him. He tells me that it is better to be a fool for Christ, than intelligent in the eyes of the World. If I am wrong, then I shall die a fool and be nothing for ever after. If I'm right, then who is truly foolish and eternally so?

We need freedom of thought in order to know that we are loved. This means being aware of our choices and how free we are to make them. Brainwashing can only occur if we give up our freedom to think. There is nothing wrong with asking questions of God. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, and God does not depise a Science which is asking honest questions. What we must be doing is ensuring that our belief is well-founded.

Is your belief well-founded? How can you demonstrate that you've not been brainwashed?