Total visitors right now: 100

Click here to check your private inbox.

Welcome to Stand Firm!

Women Bishops in Australia

Thursday, April 24, 2008 • 8:03 pm

The innovation of women in the priesthood, and now women in the episcopate, means we are a church divided, without a common ministry and more significantly, without a common understanding of the word of God.


They’re coming at a pace.

Last year, a church tribunal decided that there was no canonical bar to women becoming bishops (they are already ordained priest in many of our dioceses). Then, a few weeks ago, the bishops met up to agree a protocol to manage the consecration of women and protect the good consciences of those who were in disagreement.

Almost immediately Perth (long a bastion of liberal theology) announced the imminent consecration of Kay Goldsworthy. Conservative groups were dismayed. Here’s what the Anglican Church League had to say:

The ACL notes with sadness the decision of Archbishop Roger Herft and the Perth Diocesan Council to nominate Ms Kay Goldsworthy as an assistant bishop [pdf] within the Diocese of Perth.

While a deeply flawed Appellate Tribunal opinion in 2007 suggested there was no legal impediment to this move (and Archbishop Herft himself sat on that tribunal), it remains at odds with the Bible’s teaching on the appropriate relationship of men and women in and amongst the congregations of God’s people.

This action adds a new level of difficulty to the relationship between the various dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia and raises a series of significant issues of conscience for those committed to living out the teaching of Scripture, rejoicing in that teaching as God’s good word to us. In a time of turmoil within the Anglican Communion we could have hoped for more restraint.

This morning I woke up to the news that Melbourne diocese have taken the same move.

What is shocking about this is that, unlike Perth, Melbourne has a very broad spectrum of views within it. Rather than a move that will alienate other dioceses, this is something that will cause further division. And that in a diocese still in great disagreement over the subject of abortion and the way that a report affirming the gradualist position was presented on their behalf to the Victoria Law Commission. Whether there are protocols or not, this is being rushed in on a denomination which are clearly not all in agreement. Not least, Sydney (which represents nigh on half the Anglicans in Australia) are clearly opposed to the move, and there are many throughout the nation’s Anglicans who are similarly unhappy.

One of the bodies representing them is “Equal but Different” (EBD).

Equal but Different is committed to the historic and Biblical understanding of men and women as individuals created in the image of our loving Creator God, equally fallen in our human nature and equally able to be saved by our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we might honour him and serve each other in relationships of loving male leadership and intelligent, willing female submission in the family and the church.

This applies to single and married women alike in the life of our Christian community, although it has a special relevance to marriage and the raising of children. The church can model for all society the beauty of right relationships, as men and women cooperate within their distinctive roles as God intended.

We realise this is counter-cultural in our feminist society but believe the teaching of the Bible is clear and relevant to our day, despite the passage of time and cultural change.

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood are currently interviewing Claire Smith (one of EBD’s Steering Committee on their blog. Here’s some of the first segment:

In the ACA as it now stands, women can be ordained as priests, and can preach and lead parishes in most dioceses. A recent controversial decision by the ACA Appellate Tribunal has ruled there is no constitutional barrier to women being consecrated as bishops. The appointment of a woman as bishop in Perth is a consequence of this decision.

In dioceses which have not accepted these innovations, however, the ministry of women who have been ordained as priests is not always welcome or recognized, and even within those dioceses where women are ordained, there are individual churches that do not believe women should have identical ministries with men and would resist the appointment of a female priest, and within individual churches, there are people who believe the same.

Acceptance has been far from uniform. At every level from the national church right down to the person in the pew, there are those who have remained faithful to the scriptural teaching of differing ministries for men and women and not departed from this biblical pattern or Anglican tradition.

The innovation of women in the priesthood, and now women in the episcopate, means we are a church divided, without a common ministry and more significantly, without a common understanding of the word of God.

That is, ultimately, why so many of us are up in arms about this. Not only is it a rejection of the word of God, but the way it has been carried out is, to be generous, “through the back door”. The Melbourne decision indicates that sensitivity to those who are opposed can be simply deferred to the existence of “protocols”. These will be a tough few months ahead. What might Australian conservatives learn from the history of TEC? Time will tell.


80 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook
Comments:

I trust commenters will resist the urge to redo the whole debate over Women’s Ordination here. This is, rather, a discussion over how innovations are foisted upon a Province.

[1] Posted by David Ould on 04-24-2008 at 09:35 PM • top

And to contribute to the discussion, a thorough and accurate analysis of how they were foisted can be found here:
http://www.themessenger.com.au/News/20080422.htm

[2] Posted by TACit on 04-24-2008 at 10:09 PM • top

If the bishops would pull their heads of the sand, it’s their job to find the balance between autonomy and interdependence.  But bishops as a genre are ill-equipped to focus on such issues and because of the perceived structural weaknesses, the church is vulnerable to invasion by any innovation that comes down the Pike.  The crisis of division in the Anglican Communion is colossal failed leadership on an international scale. 

Now, before we get to high on our horse, Archbishop Orombi came to Truro not long ago and talked about the mandate of the laity to keep the bishops accountable.  He said if the bishops - no matter which side of the aisle they are on - become unaccountable for their actions, he point blank said we should stop following them.

For all of these issues, be they ones that some of us may agree on, or may they be what most of us may not agree on - still, the underlying issue has to do with authority and revelation.  How do we discern God’s work in our communities today? 

The American Church has taken the political route - using street activism tactics to push through innovations first and then gain acceptance of those innovations later.  What can at first look like a bold step, later looks like a tantrum.  Americans are at risk perhaps more than other nations because we still believe that as Americans we have a direct pipeline into God.  We may not say it in polite company (oh, but so often we do) - but our international friends know this better than we do.  We assume we have God’s favor and work from there.

But pride, as they say, goeth before fall and such boldness can quickly turn into tantrums.  “These boots are meant for walking,” Nancy Sinatra once sang, “And that’s just what they’ll do.  One of these days these boots are going to walk all over you.”

Well, that’s pretty much has been the attitude in practice as the American church has pushed forward with innovations, rather than do the work of theological study and debate and building on consensus.  For some reason, we act as though time seems to be running out but it’s because we are staring at our own timetable, and not God’s.  He keeps His own timetable and is often reluctant to share specifics, lest we slip and fall.  Even in the Garden, Jesus pleaded for His Father to change His timetable and God said no.

What are our alternatives, especially at this late hour?  There are times when I wonder if it is too late.  As someone who believes that “headship” means first (like first in line, like at the head of the line to get on the bus) and not “chief” (as in “boss”), I have no problems with men or women being called by God to serve in any capacity in the Church.  For me the problem is that the clerical ranks are filled with those who are unequipped for ministry and it would behoove the church no end if they would just go out and work at the Post Office for five years before they even dream of taking a church.

Be that as it may, I also recognize that the way the Episcopal Church walked into this ministry was a travesty.  Even today we can see what a mess it has made of the clerical orders for in fact - at least here in Virginia - if you are an ordained evangelical woman you are a pariah, an outcast, and if you show up for the annual “women clergy” breakfast at Diocesan Council you are glared at until you back out of the room and go to Starbucks instead.  At least they’ll smile at you there.

So would I be willing to stand down?  Well, that’s a good question.  Within the tares there is wheat and should we throw away the wheat to get at the tares?  I am not confident that is the way to go either. 

Be that as it may, the point still remains - how we get to a destination is sometimes more important than the actual arrival, wonderful as that may be, will be.  Over and over again in literature, we see the journey as the focus of so many stories - from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Kerouac’s One the Road.  Journey builds or breaks character - and so how we get there is very important. 

But character is also built on the point of destination.  You can have a fine and robust journey, but what is the point if it leads you over a cliff?

The Anglican Communion is breaking apart because there is no consensus on the journey.  We are not even in agreement on the destination.  For much of the West the journey leads to Self, not Jesus. Th e word “Christ” as been redefined as “Self.” And so what road we get on, though paved with the best of intentions, can lead us far from where we ought to go and directly to where we want to go, often with disastrous results.

This is true no matter what our core theology is.  This has more to do with character then if we have all our theological ducks in order.  We can say all the right things and still end up in the Slough of Despond.  We can do all the wrong things, and yet find ourselves at the feet of Jesus.  King David is a prime example - having screwed up in more ways than one, God looked at his heart.  And the heart is the one thing we do not have the privilege to know - about our friends or about our foes, and sometimes even about ourselves.

There are times when I believe that what needs to be done is a Project of Repentance - that the Anglican Communion enter into a signficant period of Repentance.  And perhaps the best way to see that happen is not to wait for some pronouncement from Lambeth - or even GAFCON - but at the local level, where local communities lay down their arms, call a truce and enter into a year, five-year, ten-year period of repentance.  Perhaps to the next Lambeth.  This is the sort of thing that would be painful and difficult, a time of admitting that we are wrong, that we have followed our own way - even with the best of intentions - but the evidence shows (as a judge of Jewish faith could see for himself in Virginia) that we have gone our own way and have failed.  No one escapes that judgment, and I mean no one.

Then we plead for the mercy of Jesus and wait for Him. 

Now how do we write a resolution about that?  I’m not sure that can be done.  I think this is a time of pleading for the Lord to pour out His Spirit on us wretched sinners whom He loves so much, not because we’ve earned it or deserve it or we’ve been victims, or we’ve had our feelings hurt, or we’ve been betrayed, or we are just - as the PB describes it - upset.  We get real, we throw off our toxic garments and we pray to be clothed in joy.  But until the time comes, we put down our arms, we think about others needs and not our own, and we ask the Lord to provide for what we need - and not what we want. 

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come, Holy Spirit.  Come, Holy Spirit.

bb

[3] Posted by BabyBlue on 04-24-2008 at 10:42 PM • top

David,
(Off topic)According to the NCLS average Sunday attendance of Anglicans in Australia is 177,000 (2001). Sydney attendence is 54,000 (2004). How does this work out as “nigh on half”? Or have you more up to date figures?

[4] Posted by obadiahslope on 04-25-2008 at 12:37 AM • top

thanks BB.
We obviously disagree on the question of WO, but you recognise the bigger issue here of forcing a major innovation on those that are not yet in agreement.

In that respect, the recent move by Australian bishops is no better than TEC’s insistence on their innovations.

[5] Posted by David Ould on 04-25-2008 at 01:11 AM • top

Obadiah. thanks for the question. I’m sure I answered it a while ago on another thread. Let me go check.

[6] Posted by David Ould on 04-25-2008 at 01:12 AM • top

Ladies and Gentleman,
Greetings in Our Lord.  The following article was posted by Ruth Gledhill in The London Times.  I just read it and I think everyone here needs to read it.  The sickening soap involving TECWW, Gene Robinson and Canterbury aka As The Stomach Turns, is getting even more darker.  In the article, Robinson states he will be attending Lambeth Conference, even though hes not invited.
Pax,
+Stonewall
————————————————————————————-
The openly gay US bishop at the heart of the Anglican Church’s schismatic row over sex is to “marry” his partner in June and attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference in Canterbury this summer, despite not being invited.

The Right Rev Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, has pointedly not been asked by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend the conference in his official capacity as an Anglican bishop.

But Bishop Robinson, who will also be in Britain next week to launch his new book, In the Eye of the Storm, to be serialised from next Monday by The Times, is planning to attend the conference anyway. He was elected as a bishop by the Episcopal Church of the US in 2003. He will also take part in a series of public events to highlight what his supporters regard as homophobic discrimination throughout the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Robinson’s decision to be in England in July and August throughout the three weeks of the ten-yearly conference will put paid to any hopes that Dr Williams had of keeping away the issue of gay sex. The last event, in 1998, was dominated by the debate. This time, Dr Williams, who is in charge of the conference as the “primus inter pares” of the Anglican Communion, has scheduled an “official” agenda with the focus on Bible study, prayer and discussion.

A homosexual bishop claims the Church of England would come close to dimise if it was forced to manage without gay clergy

Bishop Robinson’s decision to be active on the “outside” of the conference will add to the pressures on the Archbishop, who is struggling to keep his church united in line with the Gospel imperative of “one Church”.

As Lambeth approaches, bishops in the Church of England are becoming increasingly concerned that divisions over homosexuality seriously afflicting the US church could be about to cross the Atlantic.

About 200 refusenik bishops opposed to the liberal agenda are understood to be going to a “rival” Lambeth – the Global Anglican Future Conference or “Gafcon”, organised by conservative evangelical Anglicans in Jordan and Israel in June. Insiders say that it is not a question of “when” the schism within the Anglican Communion will take place. They claim it has already happened.

On Saturday the Rt Rev Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, said that the Lambeth Conference was likely to be controversial. He said it was “regrettable” that many bishops would be attending Gafcon instead of Lambeth and criticised those who wanted some superior authority to punish those who are “perceived as having deviant theological outlooks”.

“Once we get into the need for legislation, or tribunals, monitoring or punishments, we lose the meaning of communion,” he said. More than 800 bishops and their spouses have been invited to the Lambeth conference, but so far barely more than 600 have accepted.

Bishop Robinson is regarded by liberal Episcopalians as a champion against long-term injustice in the Christian Church. He told a conference in the US last year: “I always wanted to be a June bride.” He said that he will enter a legal union with his partner Mark Andrew in June. New Hampshire authorised such unions from January.

There is speculation that Bishop Robinson and Mr Andrew will take the opportunity of the Lambeth Conference to “honeymoon” in England. But Mr Andrew dislikes the media spotlight and may prefer to stay away.

This week the Rev Giles Fraser, a London vicar and long-time supporter of Bishop Robinson and Mr Andrew, will issue an official invitation to him to preach at his church in the Southwark diocese

[7] Posted by BishopOfSaintJames on 04-25-2008 at 02:22 AM • top

David Ould, I disagree strenuously that “equal but different” is in fact that.  I’m also not sure that posting an anti-women’s ordination article with a comment telling people not to disagree makes any sense.

Respecting your comment, however, I’ll offer this.  I am not knowledgeable about Anglicans in Australia.  But I read your post above, and I notice this:  (1) an appropriate church tribunal decides that there’s no bar to WO; (2) bishops meet to decide how it should be done; and (3) dioceses decide to do it.  Where are you contending that the procedural train went off the rails?

And I hope the answer is not simply that there needs to be complete consensus.  That’s a recipe for never doing anything at all controversial.

[8] Posted by DavidH on 04-25-2008 at 04:34 AM • top

That’s a recipe for never doing anything at all controversial.

And what’s so bad about that? (at least with regard to doctrine rather than ceremony)

[9] Posted by Boring Bloke on 04-25-2008 at 04:49 AM • top

DavidH, if you read carefully I told noone they may not agree - merely that we don’t want to have a rehashing of the same old debate.

As for your specific comment, your first observation is incomplete. The question of whether women could be consecrated as bishops was sent to the tribunal in order to circumvent the General Synod. Supporters knew very well that they couldn’t get the motion through General Synod.

The tribunal then issued advice - an opinion at best.

The issue that I raised was the following-through of advocates of women’s consecration, knowing full well that it was not the mind of Australian Anglicans as a whole. No-one is arguing for a complete consensus - just a little sensitivity to those that might charitably be called the “weaker brother”.

Interestingly enough, the question of Lay Administration of the Lord’s Supper gets raised here regularly yet you will note that Sydney has deliberately chosen not to legislate for it and has ensured that its parishes do not carry it out. That is a great example of such charity of action towards those that do not agree - even when there is no biblical reason not to proceed. It’s a shame that proponents of women’s consecration could not take the same line.

[10] Posted by David Ould on 04-25-2008 at 04:51 AM • top

David Ould, I disagree strenuously that “equal but different” is in fact that.

Sorry, you disagree that they’re what? Equal? Different? or both?

[11] Posted by David Ould on 04-25-2008 at 05:13 AM • top

I agree that there is a big difference between the underlying subject matter of the innovation AND the process by which it is addressed. 

Quite frankly, many in the AC appear to have taken a “deal with it” and “go ahead and leave - we’re going to do it anyway” attitude on this issue.  Not exactly compliant with Pauls advice to the Corinthians re: eating meat sacrificed to idols.

Such an approach is pretty telling - check the fruit.

wink

[12] Posted by tired on 04-25-2008 at 05:35 AM • top

Two points:

First, those who accept female priests should not object to women bishops. If you believe that what Scripture says doesn’t prohibit the ordination of women to be deacons or priests, then there’s nothing in it which prohibits their ordination to the episcopate as well. And if you’re content to reject Tradition’s forbidding of ordaining women to the diaconate (as opposed to lay deaconesses) or priesthood, then why worry about the episcopal level either? The fact is that, based on either Scripture or Tradition, a “half-way” mark of ordaining women to only one or two of the clerical orders is simply theologically incoherent. Those who don’t object to female priests have no business making waves over female bishops.

Second: what is revealed here isn’t really about WO. It’s about two mutually incompatible approaches to the authority of the Church vs the authority of self & culture—two, ultimately, mutually incompatible faiths.

One is the “hyper-Protestant” or “minimalist” approach. It holds that if something isn’t explicitly forbidden by the bare words of Scripture as reinterpreted by our modern culture - well, then it’s okay. Thus the approval of female clergy, of lay administration of communion, etc.

Of course, the inherent problem with this is that the “truth” of Scripture is reduced to whatever the “modern reinterpretation” (or dis-interpretation) may be. This is why the arguments for everything from rejecting the divinity of Christ, to the approval of homosexual interaction, and even to modern Eco-gnosis are all exactly parallel to each other. All reject the past teaching and practice of the Church; all turn to a tangential or novel “interpretation” of Scripture divorced from its context, etc. The differences are ultimately not over what Scripture says, but over what each particular individual or culture claims it means.

Different groups may well be completely sincere and piously convinced about the propriety of their own interpretation of Scripture’s minimalist mandates… but that’s just it, it’s their interpretation. The pro-divorce-and-remarriage party, the pro-WO party, the pro-homosexualism party, the pro-salvation-through-environmental party all share the same hermenutic and the same “minimalist” approach to Scripture… they simply have different interpretations of what the “meaning” and “minimalism” of that Scripture is.

The other, mutually incompatible, approach is the “catholic” or “orthodox” one. This accepts Scripture’s own view of itself in the context of the Church. Thus, while Scripture is the ultimate authority, the apostolic Tradition—as preserved in the teaching, preaching and practice of the Fathers, and above all in the Creeds and Councils of the undivided Church—serve as the “normative” interpretation of that Scripture. This Tradition, rather than self or culture, is the chief “interpreter” of Scripture and model of Church life and practice.

It was in precisely this way that the Arian heresy was resisted and rejected—the people listened to the novel interpretations of Scripture and responded “this is not how the Church has always understood Scripture. This is not the apostolic faith.” In the same way the condemnation of icons—the iconoclast heresy—was rejected. And it is in this same way that the orthodox and catholic reject ordination of women, the blessing of homosexual liasons, the replacement of salvation with environmentalism, etc.

So while it’s certainly understandable that those in the ACA may be upset by the underhanded and back-door way that the female episcopacy has been snuck in (just as those in PEcUSA, 30 years ago, might have been upset at the illegal and anti-institutional way the ordination of women was foisted upon that jurisdiction), the fact remains that this practice isn’t creating or causing new divisions… it is, rather, revealing divisions which are already there.

Unfortunately, as with the homosexualist heresy, the “social justice” and “civil rights” interpretation and interest will get the majority of attention and comment, with people going back and forth over WO or canonical policies or jurisdictional implications or whatever… while the real issue—i.e. this theological difference and the two incompatible ideas of the Church and of the authority of Scripture—will be largely ignored.

pax,
LP

[13] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 06:14 AM • top

#13—LP, you’ve always been eloquent on this topic, but I think both points in this post sum up the “lay of the land” quite well.

[14] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 06:32 AM • top

L.P. you wrote “

Unfortunately, as with the homosexualist heresy, the “social justice” and “civil rights” interpretation and interest will get the majority of attention and comment, with people going back and forth over WO or canonical policies or jurisdictional implications or whatever… while the real issue—i.e. this theological difference and the two incompatible ideas of the Church and of the authority of Scripture—will be largely ignored.

  I am wondering if, instead, it is a different interpretation of scripture and a different ecclesiology flowing from it.  Although we talk here a great deal about Dar-es-Salaam and what it said, I wonder whatever happened to the promised hermeneutics project.

[15] Posted by EmilyH on 04-25-2008 at 06:59 AM • top

For some of us, WO simply isn’t as important an issue as SSBs because there is no passage in scripture that outright forbids it.  The “sacerdotal priesthood” is not scriptural, it’s a tradition that is largely confined to the “high church” Anglicans.  And if you wish to force the sacerdotal priesthood on us low church Anglicans, you’re doing the exact same thing as the revisionists.

Innovations can’t simply be foisted on people against their will.  The orthodox in New Westminster may not have to celebrate SSBs, but they didn’t choose to be part of a rogue diocese in impaired relations with most of the global communion.  That decision was forced upon them by others.  And the alternate oversight proposals are a joke.

[16] Posted by st. anonymous on 04-25-2008 at 07:26 AM • top

The “sacerdotal priesthood” is not scriptural, it’s a tradition that is largely confined to the “high church” Anglicans.

And to the first 1500+ years of Christian history and to the majority of Christians since then as well, including many Anglicans. Check out the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch, some of our earliest sub-apostolic records of the teaching and practice of the apostles and their disciples, to see how the early Church understood the episcopacy.

This is exactly what I mean about the two incompatible ideas of the authority of Scripture and the Church—thanks for the example! You object to the “sacerdotal priesthood” because it’s “not scriptural”—or, rather, because it isn’t in accord with Scripture as you and other angloprotestants interpret it. And perhaps an interpretive case can be made that Scripture could possibly be read that way.

But the clear & unambiguous teaching and practice of the apostolic & patristic church supports an interpretation of Scripture (and an understanding of the Church) which supports a “sacerdotal” priesthood and a “monarchical” (as opposed, e.g., to the Lutherans’ “democratic”) episcopacy. Which means, for those who accept the normative authority of Tradition’s teaching and practice, it’s the “sacerdotal priesthood” interpretation of Scripture which is given credence.

As I said, you could debate about different possible interpretations or contortions of Scriptural passages taken out of historical context, ignoring the teaching and practice of apostolic Tradition, and considered in a vacuum. And, doing so, perhaps you could come up with a way of arguing that a rejection of the traditional understanding of the priesthood is nevertheless possibly compatible with Scripture. Sure. I never suggested otherwise.

My point, rather, was to indicate the fundamental disagreement over the nature of Scriptural authority and interpretation—and over the nature and authority of the Church—a point which your response helps illustrate. A rejection of the sacerdotal priesthood—like the rejection of Christ’s divinity, the toleration of divorce and remarriage, the acceptance of WO, the acceptance of homosexual unions, etc—are all simply manifestations of this basic difference over whether or not the Tradition of apostolic teaching and practice has more authority than individual interpretation or contemporary culture.

pax,
LP

[17] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 07:50 AM • top

For some of us, WO simply isn’t as important an issue as SSBs because there is no passage in scripture that outright forbids it.  The “sacerdotal priesthood” is not scriptural, it’s a tradition that is largely confined to the “high church” Anglicans.  And if you wish to force the sacerdotal priesthood on us low church Anglicans, you’re doing the exact same thing as the revisionists.

I agree with your basic premise, but you seem to have everything the wrong way round.
Equally we low church Anglicans have no right to force a non-sacerdotal priesthood onto the high church Anglicans; unless it can be proved that scripture expressly forbids that view. And neither do those low church Anglicans who believe “there is no passage in scripture that outright forbids it” have the right to impose their view on those like myself who say “scripture outright forbids it.” (Unfortunately, I can’t discuss details without swimming into forbidden waters and have the authorities do something extremely unpleasant to me). This particular innovation is forcing one view on everybody in the diocese. If one cannot accept a woman presbyter, one can always drive to the next parish. It is harder to travel to the next diocese. Which is why this in particular needs the complete consensus of all those involved. Theologically, there is no difference between the two. Practically, there is every difference.

[18] Posted by Boring Bloke on 04-25-2008 at 07:53 AM • top

B.B., until now low and high church have coexisted despite these different interpretations.  My concern is that as the revisionists become increasingly radicalized, the orthodox opposition will also become excessively hard-line in response.  Low church, evangelical Anglicans have a strong Biblical orientation which is a much-needed corrective to the anti-scriptural drift of revisionism.  In fact, from what I’ve seen the schism-causing innovations have been coming in large part from the high church tradition, which has begun to emphasize the Eucharist instead of scripture—probably because the former is more touchy-feely and “experiential”.  The most radical revisionists at our local seminary (including feminist and GLBT activists) were invariably into “bells and smells”. 

I have seen revisionists argue that “we’re a Eucharistic church, not a Biblical church.”  So anything high church is starting to set off warning bells for me.  In brief: don’t tell me (like L.P.)that I “must” believe in sacerdotal ministry, and I won’t tell you that you “must” do things the low church way.  Deal?

[19] Posted by st. anonymous on 04-25-2008 at 08:22 AM • top

St. Anonymous—your ‘enmity’ is becoming more feisty.

First off - I think everyone needs to be more Biblical and remove the plank from our own eye. Sacramental people have held onto ritual too tightly and not quickly root out the revisionist. Yet, in love of Scripture many evangelical Anglicans don’t seem to take it that seriously, from my own experience where strong stances on one subject but very “loosey goosey” of others parts. I think we all can share in the blame.

Second - I think we need to separate out form of worship from theological bent. Post VC2 Catholicism should prove that. You can be a low church Anglo-catholic (not common, but when high church is liberal, you make do). It is also possible to be a 1662 Evangelical as well. I understand if you were mugged by man in a red shirt that you can be traumatized such that men in red shirts “set off warning bells for” you, but while there can be sympathy, there is a duty to not hold all men in red shirts guilty for actions of one.

[20] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 08:50 AM • top

#19, st. anonymous. As a high churchman I do agree with you about the appeal of ritual to the theologically challenged. However, while the ritual, pomp and glitz of anglo-catholicism may appeal to the loony left, the theology that is the real basis of the High Church does not.

I assure you, I’m quite content at a barebones service with really strong preaching. I’m not at all content at a chanted services with incense, candles, fancy garments, a bell, and heretical teaching.

They like the drama that the ritual approach provides but they eschew the principles that make the drama possible. They like that they get to look Christian. An Integrity high mass looks much like a Christian high mass. But they don’t have to actually follow any of those picky rules about loving their neighbour and loving and obeying God.

I think one of the reasons why the anglo-catholics have been the first to leave the Episcopal Church in this generation is that we are very tired of being confused with heretics and blasphemers.

Speaking for myself, there is little difference between a black mass and an open invitation Mass. To have either in a church is an abomination. Strong words, I know, but those are my true feelings. In some ways, I’d rather the black mass, as with that there is no pretense that they are worshipping the same God as us.

As for trying to get you to amend your theology. Well, let’s just say that both evangelicals and anglo-catholics believe that their way is the correct way. If you wish, we can celebrate the fact that we agree who God is (Creator and Lord of All), what He has done for us (Died for us, rose again and has redeemed us from our sin) and what we ought to be doing in response to that (the whole loving and obeying thing mentioned supra). To my mind that’s what is truly important. We very much do have the Creeds in their plain meaning in common.

Bad theology can be contagious. Get inoculated!

[21] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-25-2008 at 08:56 AM • top

In brief: don’t tell me (like L.P.)that I “must” believe in sacerdotal ministry, and I won’t tell you that you “must” do things the low church way.  Deal?

Actually, I’m low church myself. Please feel free to tell me I must do things the low church way. In fact, if you force me to wave incense around, I would probably choke from the fumes. And I partially agree with you about the origins of liberalism, but only in part. They seem to have taken the worst parts of the low church movement, and the worst parts of the high church movement, and moulded them together into something bad. It’s wrong to blame either side of the age-old divide.

But what I was trying to say was that the subject that must not be named is not a low church/high church thing, as both you and LP seem to have implied. In fact, given that I have the reformers on my side, I consider my version of the low church to be even lower than your version of the low church. It is possible to reject the sacerdotal ministry and still be opposed to women in the presbytery. And I know some who accept both the sacerdotal ministry and women in the priesthood (even though it utterly shocked me when I happened to be in the neighbourhood and visited their church).

As for a deal? In general terms, it depends. If both sides agree that scripture says nothing on the issue, fine. If one side firmly holds that scripture speaks plainly, forcefully and without exception on the issue, and cannot be persuaded otherwise, no way.

[22] Posted by Boring Bloke on 04-25-2008 at 08:56 AM • top

Hosea 6:6, thanks for the voice of reason. Let’s not sow enmity amongst ourselves.

[23] Posted by oscewicee on 04-25-2008 at 09:03 AM • top

I too love the high church liturgy for its beauty and solemnity.  I went through a “high” phase myself back in college. It’s only in recent years I’ve gravitated back towards my low church roots, mainly because of the rise of revisionism. 

For me the ideal church would combine the low church emphasis on scripture and the Creeds with the dignity and grace of the high tradition.  But you can’t always get what you want…

[24] Posted by st. anonymous on 04-25-2008 at 09:20 AM • top

In brief: don’t tell me (like L.P.)that I “must” believe in sacerdotal ministry, and I won’t tell you that you “must” do things the low church way.

.

First, let’s put aside the high-church vs low-church liturgical issues. As you point out, the heretics can always do a “smells and bells” service—in fact, this is a frequent tactic of revisionists… package your innovation in a conservative wrapping to slip it in. So, yes, we have high-church angloapostates.

.

Second, let’s correct your implication that those who value Tradition do so at the expense of Scripture. Not at all. Rather, they recognize that Tradition—the teaching and practice of the apostles and their disciples under the guidance of the Holy Spirit—is the best guide to faithful understanding and obedience to Scripture.

Indeed, respect for Tradition is motivated in part by a desire to be as genuinely faithful to Scripture as possible. After all, it’s very easy to fall prey to facile interpretations which distort—even unwittingly—the true meaning of Scripture due to personal preferences or blindnesses, cultural prejudices, false assumptions, etc. Indeed, this is exactly what, no doubt, some of the revisionists (i.e. that portion which actually genuinely believe that Scripture means what they claim it does) have done.

The Tradition of the early church—in addition to showing what the teaching and practice of Christianity was in a time when the apostolic preaching (and composition of the Scriptures) wasn’t at so distant a remove—guards against these relativistic and subjectivist tendencies inherent in the individualistic or culturally-biased approach. This is how we see that things like the sacerdotal priesthood and the condemnation of abortion and the impossibility of ordaining women—although arguably (with various degrees of persuasiveness) not explicit or unambiguously deduced from Scripture in a vacuum—are nevertheless its true meaning. And the anglocatholic wishes to remain obedient to the objective meaning of Scripture, not to subjective modern interpretations.

.

Third, apostates mouthing pious-seeming excuses and frauds to cover their apostasy—such as “we’re a Eucharistic church, not a Biblical one”—is in no way comparable (as you imply) to the catholic and orthodox respect for apostolic Tradition. This is perhaps clearest as they attempt to justify practices condemned by Scripture and Tradition alike. So if the high-church angloapostates have made you “wary” of Tradition so it sets of warning bells for you, then not only have you learned the wrong lessons, but you’ve actually been deceived (albeit in an ‘inverse’ way) by their attempt to cloak their apostasy and anti-Christianity in traditional Christian forms. Rather than accepting the false apostasy along with the true practices, you’ve thrown out the true practices along with the apostasy. The idea is to keep the baby and toss the bathwater—not to keep both or to discard both.

.

Finally, as to:

My concern is that as the revisionists become increasingly radicalized, the orthodox opposition will also become excessively hard-line in response

here I actually agree with you.

But these days what passes for and is called “orthodox opposition” within PEcUSA is really angloprotestantism—as the genuine anglocatholics left PEcUSA years ago. And I think you’re quite right that that “conservative” (I won’t say “orthodox”) opposition has become increasingly hard-line… including in rejecting catholic and apostolic belief and practices. You yourself speak of your increasing “warning bells”.

So whereas before there could be a coexistence of anglocatholic and angloprotestant - the anglocatholics not forcing “catholic” practices or devotions on anyone (as they continue not to do—I have never seen an anglocatholic parish force anyone, for example, to say the rosary)—and the angloprotestants not anathametizing or excluding the catholics… now, increasingly, the “radicalized” angloprotestants are actively rejecting catholic beliefs and practices.

.

Again, all this is what I mean about the fundamental divides over theology, ecclesiology, Scriptural authority and identity which make it—IMHO—inevitable that Anglicanism (if it survives at all) will consolidate into three bodies:
* Angloapostate (PEcUSA)
* Angloprotestant (CANA etc)
* Anglocatholic (Continuing churches)

Whatever the latter two may have in common—including their rejection and abhorence of the first—their differences are over exactly those things where there needs to be agreement to form the basis of a coherent jurisdiction.

.

pax,
LP

[25] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 09:30 AM • top

#25 LP

I’d disagree with “* Anglocatholic (Continuing churches).” I think catholicity has two elements, one is connection with the wider Church across time (Tradition) but also desire to connect with the wider Church militant. So in pulling away to hold onto one, the Continuing Churches (except APA) are not demonstrating the other. Here the evangelicals seem to be doing a better job.

[26] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 09:51 AM • top

So in pulling away to hold onto one, the Continuing Churches (except APA) are not demonstrating the other.

Patience, my child, patience. grin

Remember how long it took the church, splintered by the Arian controversy, to pull back together. The first few decades of the Continuing movement—under a variety of internal and external stresses—certainly have failed to prioritize catholic unity.

Nevertheless, groups like the APA (which I believe is a splinter of a splinter of a splinter of the original movement) which now are making common cause with protestant groups aren’t ipso facto catholic either, just because they’re involved in various pan-jurisdictional affiliations and associations.

The fragmentation and reconsolidation of the Anglican world isn’t going to happen overnight or even over one or two decades, despite the Amercian McDonald’s-mentality which wants everything done quickly.

When I project 3 “centers of gravity” for the inheritors of today’s Anglican mess, I’m looking forward to what I expect will be the case in a century, not next week.

Of course, within a century the angloapostates may have disappeared, the anglocatholics may have all given up and gone to Rome or Orthodoxy, and the angloprotestants may have spiraled into more and more fractures or simply joined up with other jurisdictions as the “liturgical” wing of a pan-protestant affiliation among those expelled from their home bodies by each group’s apostates.

But if all three strains survive, then they’ll survive as separate entities—though there will have to be yet more splintering and subsequent consolidation to get there.

pax,
LP

[27] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 09:57 AM • top

The failure to observe due process, make proper distinctions and demonstrate loving respect for differences of belief and practice is neither high nor low-church. It ain’t church at all. It is, however, to misappropriate a favorite film title “the way of the West.”

I fear we have a long way to go in healing the cracks in our communion worldwide. The old alchemists had a process for refining alchemical gold (not the same as the stuff jewelers use) which was “solve et coagula.” I’m not recommending alchemy or any related activity, simply using it as a metaphor for a process. I am noting that I believe that we are still early in the “solve” portion of the process of healing. “Solve” meaning, as I take it, separate, dissolve; “coagula” meaning basically to join or mix together.

[28] Posted by ears2hear on 04-25-2008 at 11:47 AM • top

But if all three strains survive, then they’ll survive as separate entities—though there will have to be yet more splintering and subsequent consolidation to get there.

I believe that Anglo-Caths and Anglo-Prots can be consolodated, provided that they agree on WOECUSA will probably merge with some other apostate group into a smells & bells flavor of Unitarianism, which I wouldn’t even classify as a center-of-gravity in its own right. 

Hundred years?  You think it’ll be that soon?  wink

Then there’ll be some shifting back and forth - rightward, folks will figure that the Deborah solution was a desperate solution in a time without men;  leftward, probably the usual suspects.  Another hundred years after that, one (or both) groups might dry up.

But we (we-now, we-100 years from now, and we-200 years from now) really need to have our ducks in a row regarding our reason-for-being, and focus on reliance on God.

[29] Posted by J Eppinga on 04-25-2008 at 04:21 PM • top

Moot—I see three strains as well occurring some decades out—at the very best, three strains [although I think it quite likely, as I’ve said for three years, that there could simply be dozens of non-unified strains].


1) Those Anglo-Catholics for whom WO is a salvific issue in one organization—essentially Continuing churches.  It would be nice to someday see them all together, but who knows.

2) Those Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals for whom WO is not a salvific issue, but who are divided on the matter, as well as other issues.  It also would be nice to see these folks together as well, but who knows [it won’t be WO that divides them but hosts of other more foundational issues, which I’ve recounted before.]

and 3) The TECans remaining in TEC, who will be just fine and ever declining, but okay with it.

Of course, it’s easy to make predictions.  Maybe some of us will be around in several decades to either eat crow or say “I told you so!”  ; > )

[30] Posted by Sarah on 04-25-2008 at 04:29 PM • top

I believe that Anglo-Caths and Anglo-Prots can be consolodated, provided that they agree on WO.

The thing is, genuine anglocatholics agree with the Orthodox, the Romans, and the first 1900 years of Christianity that women can’t be ordained. Not shouldn’t; can’t. This means that from their perspective, any jurisdiction with “women priests” is practicing lay eucharists and any jurisdiction with “women bishops” has laity performing ordinations and confirmations.

But, since anglocatholics agree with the Orthodox, the Romans, and the 1500 years of Christianity before the Reformation (and much of it thereafter, including Anglicanism… at least until the present day), they believe that laity cannot offer the eucharist and that the apostolic succession is passed from the apostles through the tactile succession of bishop-to-bishop in consecrations, not by laity, and that ordination of deacons and priests are done by bishops, not by laity.

Thus, genuine anglocatholics believe that jurisdictions with female priests and bishops do not offer valid eucharists and do not preserve the apostolic succession. Sure, some of those jurisdictions may share a commitment to the apostolic succession and shun lay administration of the Eucharist—but, regardless of their intent, they are practicing it anyway because they have, in objective fact, laity offering the Eucharists (even if they are called “female priests”) and laity performing ordinations and consecrations (even if they are called “female bishops”).

And because the apostolic succession and the sacraments are absolutely essential to any orthodox or catholic concept of what the Church is, genuine anglocatholics cannot be in a jurisdiction with female clergy—not so much because of the ordination issue per se, but because of its ramification on the more significant issues of sacraments and apostolic succession. On the objective fact of what’s going on in such a jurisdiction - regardless of whether that jurisdiction itself believes that to be the case or not.

Accordingly, unless you’re imagining a large group of angloprotestants (sort of like the AMiA) coming to realize, after reflection upon and study of Scripture and Tradition, that WO is impossible—which, I suppose, is a viable possibility—OR unless you’re imagining a large group of anglocatholics giving up their obedience to Tradition and/or their understanding of the sacraments and the apostolic succession—in which case they really are no longer catholics of any stripe (anglo-, Roman or Orthodox)—I’m not sure how you envision such a “consolidation” occurring.

Angloprotestants becoming “low church” anglocatholics, sure; Anglocatholics becoming “high church” angloprotestants, sure. But theologically I think the two are mutually incompatible. Not on issues such as Trinitarian theology or sexual ethics, but on issues such as the definition of the Church, the authority of Tradition, and the nature of the sacraments and the priesthood. And you do sort of need agreement on those things too if you’re going to form a coherent jurisdiction.

pax,
LP

[31] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 04:42 PM • top

This will continue where Christian people refuse to acknowledge catholic orders and deny the natural separation of males and females when it comes to blood shed. The Eucharist is about the blood shed by Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. (Unless you are a Baptist or other group that rejects the sacramental idea.) From time immemorial, male priests only have sacrificed animals. You can’t have women bishops, because there are no women priests. It is an ontological impossibility.

[32] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-25-2008 at 04:45 PM • top

The fact of the matter is, the Church of Jesus Christ has been the ‘continuing’ church since the day of Pentecost. Innovations of different kinds flooded into the church while the apostles were still very much alive, so to refer to the relative antiquity of church tradition to bolster the high church, anglo-cath position is meaningless. Indeed, the model clearly given us in Holy Scripture guards us against such false conclusions. Scripture, since it is complete, interprets itself, and - with the guidance of the Holy Spirit moving upon individual believers, as well as upon gifted teachers in every age - is what gives Christians proper understanding of Scripture.

[33] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 05:07 PM • top

Scripture, since it is complete, interprets itself, and - with the guidance of the Holy Spirit moving upon individual believers, as well as upon gifted teachers in every age - is what gives Christians proper understanding of Scripture.

From which flow one of two possibilities:

Either every believer is entitled to come with his or her own personal interpretation (or interpretations) of Scripture, claim that those interpretations are given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and hold to that ideosyncratic belief regardless of what it is, be it shared by thousands or only by themself. This is the approach used by all modern revisionists, who only differ in which particular ideosyncratic interpretation they advocate. You’ll recognize this kind of thought in PEcUSA’s claim to be moved by the “spirit” and, under that guidance, to be doing a “new thing” which touches the “essential meaning” of Scripture.

The other possibility is to recognize that the Holy Spirit speaks more clearly to many people than to isolated individuals, and more clearly to the whole Church than to just one believer. This is what we call Tradition. The whole patristic practice of gathering leaders from the whole Church in Ecumenical Council to examine the issues of the day is based on this understanding—that the Holy Spirit will speak clearly to the whole Church. Thus the anglocatholic—and Orthodox and Roman (and even many of the Reformers themselves, from whose ideas many of their disciples have drifted very very far away)—respect for and obedience to Tradition.

Of course, this latter point is predicated, in part, upon trust in Christ’s own promise - recorded in Scripture - that the Holy Spirit would be sent to lead His Church into all truth. I expect from the tenor of your comment that you don’t believe that particular passage, else you wouldn’t be quite so dismissive of normative apostolic teaching and practice nor quite so quick to trust personal and ideosyncratic interpretations over the norms of the universal and undivided Church.

As folks have observed elsewhere—and my comments above about anglocatholic vs angloprotestant are, in a sense, indicating a “particular case” of this phenomenon—when your starting points and world-views are sufficiently divergent, seeking common ground on issues based on those wildly diverging starting points and assumptions is really a rather futile exercise. I imagine you and I would find just this sort of divergence at work if we attempted to discuss the Church, the authority of Tradition, and the nature of the divine and God-breathed Scriptures.

pax,
LP

[34] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 05:25 PM • top

Actually Bob K., that is one of the innovations to Church that Protestants have regretfully introduced, the “I don’t need the rest of you” mentality that is actually against what the Scriptures teach. In such a willingness to divide or judge, I’ve found an interjection of lone ranger Christianity, I think it’s interesting that Jesus waited until Thomas was in the room to appear and did not do it individually. So while upholding an idea of a high view of Scripture, pronouncing “anglo-cath position is meaningless” you actually violate the same Book, with serious emphasis on the corporate (John 17, Act 4 etc.). Thus one begins to ponder how much of this wonderful Book some Protestants know since it’s often read merely on the personal level while rejecting the very prayer of our Lord for the apostles.

[35] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 05:27 PM • top

Or LP, the third option. That in fact, there is a very wide range of agreement by Christians in many different denominations, which have a slightly different emphises. So that I can feel quite at home amongst quite a number of Baptist, Assembly of God, Calvary Chapel, many Independent Bible churches, and other fundementalist churches whose adherents total many millions and who would probably agree with anglo-caths upon most issues, with the exception of the angol-cath error- that a certain group of teachers - who were NOT inspired scripture writers - are the measure of what the scripture means, no questions asked, for all believers for all time. This is Christian gnostism.
I will gladly put the Scriptural Understanding of the Calvary Chapel denomination- which began in 1965- over that of the so-called continuing churches because they have a better understanding and better grasp of Holy Scripture, a greater understanding of it since they allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves and interpret themselves, and they believe - quite correctly-that Scripture speaks plainly most of the time to key and basic issues, and doesnt need to hang their hats on a group of self annointed super-apostles to tell them what the scriptures mean. In fact, this is clearly pointed out by the Apostle John: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:26-27)

You write “The other possibility is to recognize that the Holy Spirit speaks more clearly to many people than to isolated individuals, and more clearly to
the whole Church than to just one believer. This is what we call Tradition.” OK. What tradition - or more specifically, WHOSE tradition? Romes? Canturburys? Or the very accurate understanding that I see from Bible-believing churches such as the ones listed below, who would reject the innovations of some “continuing church”, not on the basis of another tradition, but because it so seriously violates scripture?
So the chioce then, is not only between the two options that you give - namely, accept OUR traditions or fall into chaos and misunderstanding. This is the hallmark of the cults, not Christianity.

[36] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 05:51 PM • top

I meant, “the ones listed *above*.”

[37] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 05:53 PM • top

Calvary Chapel denomination…
Bob, does this denomination have priests?

[38] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-25-2008 at 05:57 PM • top

St Anonymous, No one is trying to force the priesthood on you. And there is only one priesthood. The plan of salvation involves the priesthood, so it isn’t a good idea to discard it or to minimize the significance of this very ancient religious office. It wasn’t invented by Roman Catholics or Anglo-Catholics or even the early church. It is unique to the Afro-Asiatic peoples. The “sacerdotal” priesthood is the priesthood of Melchizedek, and the only priesthood known to the Apostles and Jesus our Lord.

[39] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-25-2008 at 06:05 PM • top

#38 No Alice, it does not.

[40] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 06:11 PM • top

Congregationalist can divide in themselves VERY easily (except Calvary Chapel which uses the “Moses model”), in fact often you’ll find that they’ll have animosity to ones that are the closest “kin.” While there can be agreement on Christ being the way to salvation, just about everything else (including what color of the carpet) can be a point to divide the congregation. Ironically, this is preached against in Scripture, in fact, catholicity at the heart of the Lord is pretty easy to prove via the Bible.

[41] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 06:12 PM • top

Hosea, this is a HUMAN problem, not a congregationalist problem. Look at whats happening in the Church of Augustine. 95% of the time, the orthodox- be that high or low church- complain that the modern innovations of the western church are due to the fact they they are *at variance with the Scriptures*. If you are familiar with anything I’ve posted here, I say the exact same thing, and passionately; so here. Scripture is the rule against which ANY tradition is to be judged. The Word of God is eternal, forever established in the heavens, and will endure forever. That is about as ancient an authority as you are going to get.

[42] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 06:21 PM • top

I can’t help but notice the irony, on An Apology for the Middle Way Between Two Extremes the issue ‘If belief in the Nicene Creed is not “essential” to being a member of a Christian church.’ Now the advantage of tradition of the vast majority of the saints is that all of these struggles have been answered by Bible believing Christians in the first councils. There are many cults that flourish based purely on Scripture—the buttress to Scripture that traditions of Bible scholars give and that keeping in line with breath of Christianity militant is check on errant thinking about Scriptures. Even a Baptist who is drawing from Charles Spurgeon is doing just that.

[43] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 06:28 PM • top

Accordingly, unless you’re imagining a large group of angloprotestants (sort of like the AMiA) coming to realize, after reflection upon and study of Scripture and Tradition, that WO is impossible—which, I suppose, is a viable possibility—OR unless you’re imagining a large group of anglocatholics giving up their obedience to Tradition and/or their understanding of the sacraments and the apostolic succession—in which case they really are no longer catholics of any stripe (anglo-, Roman or Orthodox)—I’m not sure how you envision such a “consolidation” occurring.

I think you may have just answered your own objection.  wink

Angloprotestants becoming “low church” anglocatholics, sure; Anglocatholics becoming “high church” angloprotestants, sure. But theologically I think the two are mutually incompatible. Not on issues such as Trinitarian theology or sexual ethics, but on issues such as the definition of the Church, the authority of Tradition, and the nature of the sacraments and the priesthood. And you do sort of need agreement on those things too if you’re going to form a coherent jurisdiction.

I’ve made no secret about my Reformed persuasion, yet I really can’t think of one way that a pastoral scheme for (e.g.,) baptism and admittance to the Table would have to look different for orthodox Anglo-Caths vs orthodox Anglo-Protestants.

[44] Posted by J Eppinga on 04-25-2008 at 06:37 PM • top

I will gladly put the Scriptural Understanding of the Calvary Chapel denomination- which began in 1965- over that of the so-called continuing churches because they have a better understanding and better grasp of Holy Scripture, a greater understanding of it since they allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves and interpret themselves, and they believe - quite correctly-that Scripture speaks plainly most of the time to key and basic issues, and doesnt need to hang their hats on a group of self annointed super-apostles to tell them what the scriptures mean.

Once again, you’ve fallen into the false belief (no doubt that you’ve heard preached at that Calvary Chapel) that catholic and orthodox believers ignore the plain sense of Scripture in favor of some contrary Tradition.

This is, of course, wrong. Tradition neither replaces nor contradicts Scripture. Rather, it provides a normative interpretation of Scripture in those places where Scripture, read with Scripture (and not in isolated soundbytes as more Protestant groups like to do—reading one passage in a way that conflicts with another passage) is ambiguous. Scripture itself works this way—look at all the places where Paul abbreviates his comments, saying that he’ll explain and teach more fully in person. Additionally, Tradition shows how the apostles and their disciples taught that the Christian life was to be lived out.

The other mistake you make is to conflate “Tradition” with “tradition”—i.e. the teaching and practice of the undivided apostolic and patristic Church, the Ecumenical Councils and the Creeds which is capital-T Tradition with various habits, customs and mores, changing from place to place and time to time which are human lower-case-t “tradition.” Thus we learn from Tradition that abortion is sinful, that the Church is to be led by bishops (though, of course, that’s clear from Scripture too), and so forth. The “traditions” of what color altar cloth you use on the third sunday of Advent or which Sundays you’re going to have coffee hour are another matter entirely.

But most significantly - and most revealing - your statement shows that not only are you setting your “Calvary Church” beliefs against anglocatholics (or, at any rate, the largely prejudiced and erroneous misconception of anglocatholics you apparently have), but against the understanding, teaching and practice of the apostles, the Early church, the saints, the martyrs, the medieval mystics and teachers, the Anglican reformers… really more or less everybody except your select group of acceptable Protestants. Which is a perfect example of what I described above—the prioritizing of the ideosyncratic interpretation of Scripture by a small group of individuals over that of the Church universal.

You say “Scripture says X”. The apostles, the saints, the martyrs, the Creeds the Councils say “No, Scripture says Y”. How do we select between them? Well, knowing the fallibility of individuals and trusting in the promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles and their disciples, I accept the Tradition of the Church as a more reliable guide to understanding Scripture—to discerning its true meaning when there are ambiguities or questions. You, on the contrary, prefer the authority of the Calvary Church.

As I said, when fundamental beliefs, assumptions and world-views are so completely incompatible, it’s not very sensible to attempt to have a profitable exchange over “logically subsequent” issues.

pax,
LP

[45] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 06:44 PM • top

“There are many cults that flourish based purely on Scripture—the buttress to Scripture that traditions of Bible scholars give and that keeping in line with breath of Christianity militant is check on errant thinking about Scriptures. Even a Baptist who is drawing from Charles Spurgeon is doing just that.”

I would say two things - first, cults almost NEVER base themselves purely on scripture. The Mormons believe that the Bible, ONLY in conjunction with the Book of Mormon [plus some other publications of theirs, the names of which don’t come to me at this moment] teaches the truth. The Jehovahs Witnesses have always said that the Bible ONLY IN THE LIGHT OF the various and sundry publications that have come out of and do proceed from the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in Brooklyn, N.Y., give the only true understanding of Scripture [the NWT Bible only, of course].
The Moonies are very fond of the Bible-just so long as you understand that the “Divine Principle” completes the canon of scripture, and supersedes the Old and New Testaments.

The insistence that “our tradition is necessary in order to have the right interpretation of Scripture”, because God the Holy Spirit quickening and guiding the blood washed, born again believers’ understanding of the sacred Scripture and giving teachers in every century the gift for illuminating [and not adding new innovations to] the Word Of God, is wholly insufficient; even though that is the way put forth from the pages of Holy Scripture itself - is the hallmark of every cult.

[46] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 06:46 PM • top

Bob K.—One could just be a cult of personality. Checking ones understanding of Scripture in the light of the godly saints before and with those today is wise and help keep one from error.

[47] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 07:00 PM • top

You say “Scripture says X”. The apostles, the saints, the martyrs, the Creeds the Councils say “No, Scripture says Y”.

Actually, we say “Scripture says X”  Then you say “Scripture can’t say X because Tradition says Y, and Scripture must conform to Tradition. So even though Scripture might appear to say X, it doesn’t say X.”  Then we ask “Tell us what Tradition is” and you say something useful like the “Fullness of the Church.” 

In the end I am left with two unshakable conclusions:  1) The RCC is by definition always right, and 2) whatever the RCC teaches now is by definition what it has always taught - historical evidence to the contrary be hanged.  I am absolutely convinced that RC doctrine could be modeled by a Markov process with a time constant of perhaps 100 years.

carl

[48] Posted by carl on 04-25-2008 at 07:04 PM • top

Hi Sarah,

Of course, it’s easy to make predictions.  Maybe some of us will be around in several decades to either eat crow or say “I told you so!” ; >

Of course we’ll be around in 200 years!  ...Just different digs.  wink 

I suspect though that for the Church Triumphant, the eating and dishing out of crow would become rather old, rather quickly.  Maybe they put up with it from “the new guys” for a while, then clue them in at some point.  wink

...I could be wrong, though.  :D

[49] Posted by J Eppinga on 04-25-2008 at 07:17 PM • top

“But most significantly - and most revealing - your statement shows that not only are you setting your “Calvary Church” beliefs against anglocatholics (or, at any rate, the largely prejudiced and erroneous misconception of anglocatholics you apparently have), but against the understanding, teaching and practice of the apostles, the Early church, the saints, the martyrs, the medieval mystics and teachers, the Anglican reformers… really more or less everybody except your select group of acceptable Protestants.”                              LP, I draw a very SHARP distinction between the Apostles and everyone one else on ANYONES list. You’re attempts to automatically link, as having equal authority with the apostles, “the Early church, the saints, the martyrs, the medieval mystics and teachers, the Anglican reformers” is exactly what I have been talking about. Despite everything that you said, you still bear witness, from your own words, that tradition is on equal footing with scripture [as long as its the “right” tradition, which just so happens to be ours].

“The saints”. Every Christian, from every age, who has been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ and sealed with His Holy Spirit is, according to scripture, a saint. There is no class of such super-saints indicated anywhere in scripture; this is false tradition. Martyrs? There have been martyrs in every age, and there are martyrs who have given their lives for what they believe who have nothing to do with the Rome or Canterbury. I hate to tell you this, but some martyrs are not more equal than others-the same goes for “saints”. You’re statement, once again, is an appeal to Christian gnosticism.
Further, I NEVER got my understanding of the evil of abortion from tradition. I got my understanding of the evils of abortion from SCRIPT U R E (Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128:1-4; Psalm 139:13-16: Jeremiah 1:4-5; Luke 1:39-44; the distinction of heathen worship [Ashteroth and Molech] of pagan gods with the Scriptural witness and worship of the One True God]).
“...the prioritizing of the ideosyncratic interpretation of Scripture by a small group of individuals over that of the Church universal.” The “church universal” is the body of born again, saved by faith individuals, which make up the body of Jesus Christ, and which hold to Him as their head - NOT some top heavy, hierarchical system which claims itself to be so. Paul, in his letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, takes great pains to establish this, and he does so very clearly. John, in his first epistle, does very much the same.
The fact that you miss the boat entirely is saying that I prefer the authority of the Calvary Chapel church over your gnostic system & super apostles. What I “prefer” is a church which holds the Bible to be the Word of God, and will consider ANY claim, made by ANY man or even a heavenly angel (Galatians 1:8-9)against a careful examination of the only Word of God. If it squares up, fine. If it doesn’t, it is disregarded. Paul makes that very clear, as does Christ (Mark 7:1-13), and Luke also commended this method of determining truth (Acts 17:10-11).

[50] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 07:32 PM • top

Coming late into the conversation:  I want to emphasis the point that there are many a Protestant that considers a female ordained ministry un-Scriptual, even those “lower” than Calvin.

[51] Posted by AndrewA on 04-25-2008 at 07:33 PM • top

That various forms of unchastity are fine is a Christian tradition that goes back to First Century Corinth. In this case Tradition has had no difficulty in understanding the Apostolic teaching to the contrary. That doesn’t mean that Tradition had and has no blind-spots in other areas.

I have concluded after many years of study that the Lord clearly rejects torture, and therefore rejects every state, culture and church that unrepentantly uses torture, and that this could have been concluded from Scripture long ago. It took the Christian sensitivity of the English Puritans to understand this. Tradition as a whole thought it perfectly fine. This is perhaps the most extreme example of the principle that Tradition old or new must take second place to Scripture whenever there is conflict between them. Ecclesia semper reformanda.

A basic question which always must be asked when we interrogate the Scripture is simply this: is this matter a Scriptural subject at all? Very plainly, chastity/unchastity, kindness/cruelty are such subjects.

[52] Posted by Dr. Priscilla Turner on 04-25-2008 at 08:49 PM • top

I have read all the criticisms of the inevitable divsions amongst the conservatives who have left the church. I am not convinced we are as doomed as some say. I believe in a united anglicanism on the otherside of this mess. However, I do see <a >evidence</a>
of separate agendas.

[53] Posted by ACNApriest on 04-25-2008 at 08:52 PM • top

Bob K.—Well then, I’d urge you to put down your sword and actually take an honest look at many of those you’ve seemed to prejudge falsely. You might discover what you say you want is actually in the fabric of many you accuse otherwise.

[54] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 04-25-2008 at 09:10 PM • top

commoncausepriest—I think it depends on when the conservatives left the church.

The Continuing churches don’t wish to be “united” with those who left post 2000.  Your comment might—and I mean *might* —apply to those who left post 2000, but I’m awfully unsure of that as well—although in the case of those who left after 2000 it won’t be WO that keeps them divided, I think.

[55] Posted by Sarah on 04-25-2008 at 09:16 PM • top

sarah, I was thinking of those who have left post 2000.  I think the continuing anglicans have a different set of issues.  I am convinced that if the latest exodus fails it will be simply a matter of power grabs and an unwillingness to give up pieces of the little kingdoms we have created.

http://commoncause.wordpress.com

[56] Posted by ACNApriest on 04-25-2008 at 09:24 PM • top

LP

I enjoy reading what you have to say.  It does seem as if your interchange with Bob K is doomed to go nowhere.  As you said, the fundamental beliefs and assumptions are too different.  He is firm in his because he believes they are true and from God and you can respect him for this.  And, no making anyone eat crow in the Church Triumphant!

But I wonder if, believing as you do, you still think there is a place in Anglicanism for such beliefs?  It hardly seems possible any more to believe that the C of E is “the Catholic Church in England.”  And to have those beliefs but to belong to a small group not in communion with either of the possible candidates for the continuation of the undivided church seems almost a contradiction in terms. 

You speak positively of the Anglican reformers.  If they are in accord with the traditions held by the current possible representatives of the undivided church, then you could join one of them.  If they are not…they must be wrong.  Or both living representatives of the undivided church must be wrong…and therefore, there is no Church, in the Catholic sense. 

But I expect you have heard this argument before. 
Its just that it seems that no one can speak so movingly of the undivided church and tradition and apostolicity and the sacerdotal priesthood as Anglo Catholics. I learned about all these things first from an Anglo Catholic.  But when they do so I can hardly contain myself from pushing them on to what seems to me the obvious conclusion.

Ah well. 
God bless,
Susan Peterson
PS Please forgive me, protestants here, for this private address to LP. I’ll stop now, I promise.

[57] Posted by eulogos on 04-25-2008 at 09:25 PM • top

Bob -

You obviously care little about what I - or any anglocatholic - actually thinks, and are only interested in presenting your rote speeches against this fictitous “enemy” you’ve been programmed to believe that all anglocatholics, Orthodox, Romans… well, heck, 99% of Christians world wide are.

The, to put it bluntly, nonsense you’re describing and calling “catholic” doesn’t match any anglocatholic, Orthodox, or even Roman catholic I’ve met. I’m tempted to suspect that you need to continue to believe in these straw men to justify your Calvary Church beliefs and your rejection of traditional Christianity—especially when (as in the rejection of the priesthood which you’ve given as one of your beliefs) they fly in the face of Scripture too—but that may be uncharitable of me, and perhaps you are simply stating what you piously and honestly (though I believe mistakenly) to be the case.

So, in interests of that charitable assumption, let me try to explain more clearly what “Tradition” actually means to catholic and orthodox Christians.

.

If you’d read what I actually wrote, you’d have noticed that I never equated the patristic or medieval saints and theologians with the apostles, nor did I ever give Tradition priority over Scripture (even though, of course, it’s only through Tradition that we know what books actually are Scripture… but that’s a separate discussion.)

Rather what I actually said is that Tradition serves as the authoritative guide to understanding Scripture when the sense of Scripture isn’t plain. Not because it’s equal to or replaces Scripture, nor because it contradicts it, but rather because, when Scripture is unclear, it—not our own imaginations or cultural prejudices—is our “first recourse” in attempting to discern the proper understanding of God’s holy word.

For example, Scripture clearly says that to remarry after being divorced from a Christian spouse is adultery. No ambiguity about it. Those who ignore that text—and there are a surprising number of “sola Scriptura” Protestant types who do—have substituted some modern cultural norm or pandering to personal desires over the plain text of Scripture.

By contrast, where there is some genuine ambiguity in Scripture, Tradition helps us elucidate the proper meaning. For example, some claim that the issue of women’s ordination is ambiguous in Scripture. I’m convinced it isn’t at all ambiguous, but let’s allow - for the sake of argument - that some may honestly believe it to be so. Well, how do we resolve this difference? Bang each other over the heads with Scripture verses, each of which we claim say exactly and only what we think they say—each of us claiming that the “Holy Spirit has made it plain to me” (which, I take it, would be your approach)? No—we look to Tradition, where it’s clearly and expressly said that that Church only has authority to ordain men to the clerical orders. Oh, wait, I forgot—you congregation has tossed out 1 Tim 3 and Titus and all the other places where bishops and deacons are mentioned in Scripture as how Christ and His apostles intended the Church to be organized… bad example.

Well, take your abortion passages. The first 2 are irrelevant to the issue of abortion, as they speak only of children. Perhaps you cited them from memory and got the reference wrong. (If not, drop a note to the website from which you pulled them as proof texts so they can correct them.) The latter 3 are more relevant, as they actually do speak about someone before their birth—and I happen to agree with you that these are strong indications that a foetus is a person. However, the pro-abortionist will argue that in all 3 cases, we have someone who actually survived being “known” before they were born, indicating God’s foreknowledge of their post-partum personhood. Personally, I think that’s a load of hooey—but some people take that tact. Well, once again, in case of ambiguity we can turn to Tradition, which clearly shows what the proper interpretation of that authoritative Scripture is: i.e. abortion is murder.

That’s how Tradition helps elucidate Scripture.

.

(continued in next post to prevent an overly-long single entry…)

[58] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 09:59 PM • top

(... continued from previous post)


Your concluding list of quotes, intended (I take it) to denigrate and “debunk” Tradition, is defective.

The Mark passage refers to the practices of the Pharisees in “adding to” and “replacing” Old Testament law with differing traditions. Thus it is irrelevant on two counts: first, it’s about the contemporary Jews, not Christians. Secondly, because we’re talking here about the apostolic Tradition which helps exegete Scripture, it is not parallel to Pharisetical laws which replace it. (Which, from the clear words of the passage, is exactly what Jesus was talking about and condemning them for.)

No doubt you like this passage because, in some English translations, it uses the word “tradition” and so you can then try to say that it must mean that Jesus condemns all traditions.

Unfortunately for your interpretation, the exact same word is use by the apostles to COMMEND Christians for holding fast to the “tradition” of apostolic teaching:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 2 Thes 2:15

You’ll notice, I hope, that Paul himself says that Christians are to hold fast to the traditions which are received by WORD OR EPISTLE—that is to say, hold to that one Truth communicated both by the Tradition which is the teaching and practice of the apostles and by the Scripture which is their written writings. Scripture here, as in so many other places in the New Testament, understands itself to be organically linked to and inseparable from that apostolic Tradition which teaches the same truth.

For your edification on “tradition”, see also 1 Cor 11:2 and 2 Thes 3:6 where the same word (paradosis in the Greek) appears, as well as the verb form (paradidomi) which Luke uses to describe the purpose of his Gospel: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” (Here, in fact, we see that the apostolic Tradition, recorded in preaching and practice of the eye witnesses, forms the basis of the subsequent writing of the Gospel of Luke.) Likewise (inter alia) Jude: “and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” In fact, it is from this Greek verb - paradidomi - that we get the English word “tradition”, which derives from the Latin cognate to paradidomi, i.e. “tradidi”

This Biblical teaching about “tradition”—which Luke records, which Paul and Jude exhort believer to hold fast to - shows how your Galatians passage is also irrelevant. “Tradition”, as used by the orthodox and catholic, refers to a transmission of the same Truth which is recorded in Scripture. As Paul writes (quoted above) “hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”. The one Truth, preserved in both Tradition and Scripture. This is, in fact, precisely why where Scripture is ambiguous, the catholic and orthodox believer knows that he or she may safely look to Tradition for clarification, for they both preserve and communicate the same truth. It is contradicting this truth - not for properly perceiving and obeying it Tradition as well as Scripture - which Paul, in your Gal 1 passage, condemns.

Finally, in your Acts passage, you cite a comparison of the Thessolonikian Jews who heard Paul’s preaching and rejected it with the Berean Jews who heard and accepted it. Presumably, you find this relevant because the Berean Jews, hearing Paul’s teaching about Christ, turned to Scripture—here meaning the Old Testament—to see if it was congruent. And, obviously, they are praised because, hearing the Gospel, they discerned it fulfilled the Scriptures. (One thinks immediately of the lessons on the road to Emmaus.) Presumably you think this passage relevant because you use it justify the individual examination and rejection of Tradition in favor of an ideosyncratic individual interpretation of various Scriptural passage. (Though, I must say, I’ve not been too impressed by your use and understanding of Scripture so far.)

Did Paul make up what he taught, or foist something upon the Old Testament which wasn’t really there? Of course not. He preached the self-same Truth that was always already present in it, and if the Berean Jews needed his preaching to help them perceive that, what they were perceiving ultimately wasn’t the invention of Paul but the eternal truth of the Scriptures themselves.

This is the case with Christian Tradition—the kind described and commended by Luke, by Paul, by Jude. I.e. the kind of Tradition that Scripture itself enjoins and praises.

For, like the Berean Jews, Christians, upon hearing the apostolic teaching and practice preserved in Tradition, turn to Scripture to evaluate and understand it. Thus, for example, when Tradition tells us that the Church is to be organized episcopally, or that abortion is murder, or that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood, we turn to Scripture to judge if this is true. And, as with the Berean Jews, we find that it is so - Scripture gives directions on appointing bishops and deacons; Scripture tells us (as in some of the passage you yourself cite) that a foetus is a person; Scripture tells us that women are not to have authority over men in a liturgical, worshiping context.

Those who hear the self-same truth of Scripture as preserved in apostolic Tradition, and then turn to the Scripures to invent some interpretation to unnecessarily reject, rather than testing it by Scripture and, where it is compatible, accept it (as the Berean Jews accepted Paul’s preaching) are more accurately likened to the Thessolonikian Jews whom Luke, in Acts, condemns. I’m afraid your analogy shows that it is the catholics (who obey both Scripture and Tradition) rather than the protestants (who distort Scripture in order to reject Tradition) who are the “good guys” of the analogy.

.

No, I’m afraid this “straw man” catholic you’ve created, one who imports some alien “tradition” to replace Scripture, is a pleasant fiction—one who has nothing to do with what catholics (anglo, Orthodox or Roman) actually believe but one who is, I’m sure, a comforting misconception to you in rejecting and belittling them.

All catholics, of whatever stripe, hold the authority of Scripture first and foremost and turn to Tradition simply to better understand the Truth perserved in Scripture (just as the Berean Jews needed the help of Paul’s preaching to understand what Scripture had always truly meant)—who turn to Tradition to illuminate and hold fast to that same Truth handed down to them in Scripture… just as Scripture itself enjoins them to do.

And it is because of my own respect to and desire to be obedient to Scripture, and my recognition - as Scripture itself has taught me - that my own interpretations are subject to, and less authoritative than, the norms of both Scripture and apostolic Tradition - that I cannot help but suspect that much of what you’ve been taught to believe isn’t the clear sense of Scripture at all, but is merely some ideosyncratic interpretation which sets itself against both Scripture and Tradition; which sets itself against the faith once handed down to the saints… just as the Thessolonikian jews set themselves against the self-same truth of Jesus Christ the Messiah and Son of God, presented both in the Old Testament and in Paul’s preaching.

.

I know that the prioritizing of “personal interpretation” is very attractive—indeed seductively so. After all, it makes each individual mind the measure and arbitrator of truth. What a power trip to get to be the one who decides what Scripture “really says”!

Heck, even the Roman Catholics only have one infallible pope (and he only exercises that power after painstakingly careful consultation with Scripture, Tradition, and his fellow bishops)—but in a splinter Protestant group, everybody gets to be the pope, and pronounce that their own interpretations are the infallible revelation of the Holy Spirit… regardless of what anyone else, or the Creeds or the Councils or the Church as a whole might have to say to the contrary.

But, then again, Scripture warned us this would happen. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

.

Anyway, like I said before, when there are differences on such a fundamental level, debating over issues on a “higher” or “logically subsequent” level is foolish, as there’s been no common ground established from which to proceed.

But I write all the above in the hope that, just possibly, you’ll read and consider it to gain a better understanding of what is actually meant by “Tradition”, of how catholics (anglo, Orthodox or Roman) understand it to relate to Scripture… and how this pious obedience to the both the preaching and writing of the apostles, and their disciples who preserved them in practice and in text, is the Christian fidelity to the Christian faith commanded and commended by Scripture itself.

.

pax,
LP

[59] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 09:59 PM • top

Hosea, LP, at this time I will let you have the last word, not because refutations are not possible, but that there is enough posted here that anyone reading honestly and objectively can make their own conclusions.

[60] Posted by Bob K. on 04-25-2008 at 10:14 PM • top

But I wonder if, believing as you do, you still think there is a place in Anglicanism for such beliefs?  It hardly seems possible any more to believe that the C of E is “the Catholic Church in England.”

It’s a fair question, S.P.

First off, I agree with you that one can’t be a “catholic” who accepts the patristic teaching (and the Creeds and the Councils) and still remain in PEcUSA or several other Anglican jurisdictions. This is why—when I first got a sense of the state of the Episcopal church—I left it over 15 years ago for the Continuing church. It was obvious to anyone who cared to look and consider intelligently, even that long ago, that PEcUSA was doomed and apostate.

Now, your question presupposes that it’s impossible to care for Tradition - to preserve fidelity to the faith as handed down to us from the early Church—and still be Anglican. While I think it’s impossible to do that and be Episcopalian, I don’t think it’s impossible to do it and be Anglican. In fact, the reason I attend Continuing church parishes is precisely because I think it is possible to be a faithful orthodox and catholic Christian there, as I don’t believe one can be in PEcUSA.

.

This isn’t to say that all is well in the Continuum. Indeed, the failures - at least so far - of the anglocatholics of the Continuing church movement to stay united and jurisdictionally coherent is a terrible failure on their part, one which has grossly hampered their ability to witness, evangelize, and expand. Perhaps that’s just the nature of the beast in the first generation or two of a “break away” movement though… I dunno.

But for all their problems, the difficulties and struggles and limitations of the Continuing churches pale to insignificance in comparison with those of PEcUSA. I may be disappointed and frustrated by how its bishops haven’t been able to move in as much coherent and fraternal unity as I might wish. But at least I can trust that they’re all committed to preserving Christian faith and practice… something I couldn’t say of nearly all PEcUSA bishops.

.

Also, I believe that anglocatholicism is good. I think that it—at its best—preserves the ideal balance between catholic and orthodox fidelity to Scripture and Tradition, while holding on to a Reformed willingness not to “dogmatize” those beliefs and practices (many of them laudable and acceptable and much to be encouraged) which aren’t mandated by Scripture, the Creeds, or the Ecumenical Councils. Nor has it added to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition, as I believe the Romans have with their doctrines of papal supremacy—innovations rejected by the Eastern Orthodox long before they were rejected by Protestants.

So as long as there’s a place where one can be orthodox, catholic and Anglican, that’s where you’ll find me… and I’m still hopeful that, over the course of the next decades, such a place (most likely with the Continuing church jurisdictions at its heart) will consolidate and emerge.

.

Should that fail to happen—should the “anglocatholic” member of the 3 “centers of gravity” I described above—fail to emerge or survive, then it’s either Orthodoxy or Rome for me I guess. I do not believe one can remain faithful to Tradition—to the normative understanding of Scripture, the Church and the sacraments handed down to us from apostolic times—and be a Protestant… not even a conservative Lutheran (who, for their many admirable traits, have nonetheless abandoned the patristic teaching about the episcopacy).

But that’s a concern and a decision for if and when it is forced on me—for now, as an orthodox and catholic Anglican, I am blessed to be able to find both true faith and valid sacraments in the parishes of the Continuing church jurisdictions.

.

pax,
LP

[61] Posted by LP on 04-25-2008 at 10:18 PM • top

#52: “...the Christian sensitivity of the English Puritans….”  Huh? Do you mean like the ones who cut off Charles I’s head?  Those sensitive (new-age…) Puritans?

[62] Posted by TACit on 04-26-2008 at 01:27 AM • top

I don’t mean to be uncharitable, Bob K, but your church doesn’t have priests. Having discarded the ancient office that prefigures Jesus Christ, you seem to be out of your lane on this question.

[63] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-26-2008 at 07:06 AM • top

Priscilla,

It took the Christian sensitivity of the English Puritans to understand this.

These would be the same English Puritans who pressed men to death in interrogation in Massachusetts?

[64] Posted by Ed the Roman on 04-26-2008 at 07:32 AM • top

While I’m really not sure what Priscilla was getting at from a historical perspective, I would ask that we not define all “Puritans” from Oliver Cromwell to Boston Harbor as one consitent body in behavior and belief.

From the Wiki (not authoritative, but a good summary)

Originally used to describe a third-century sect of strictly legalistic heretics, the word “Puritan” is now applied unevenly to a number of Protestant churches from the late 16th century to the present. Puritans did not originally use the term for themselves. It was a term of abuse that first surfaced in the 1560s. “Precisemen” and “Precisions” were other early antagonistic terms for Puritans who preferred to call themselves “the godly.” The word “Puritan” thus always referred to a type of religious belief, rather than a particular religious sect. To reflect that the term encompasses a variety of ecclesiastical bodies and theological positions, scholars today increasingly prefer to use the term as a common noun or adjective: “puritan” rather than “Puritan.

The single theological momentum most consistently self-centered by the term “Puritan” was Reformed or Calvinist and led to the founding of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Congregationalist churches; In the United States, the church and religious culture of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony formed the basis of post-colonial American Congregationalism, specifically the Congregational Church proper. The term Puritan was used by the group itself mainly in the 16th century, though it seems to have been used often and, in its earliest recorded instances, as a term of abuse. By the middle of the 17th century, the group had become so divided that “Puritan” was most often used by opponents and detractors of the group, rather than by the practitioners themselves. As Patrick Collinson has noted, well before the founding of the New England settlement, “Puritanism had no content beyond what was attributed to it by its opponents.” The practitioners knew themselves as members of particular churches or movements, and not by the simple term.

[65] Posted by AndrewA on 04-26-2008 at 07:40 AM • top

Alice: I don’t know what “out of your lane” means; regardless, The Word of God in the Book of Hebrews plainly states that the priests who prefigured Christ were the Levitical priests. Jesus Christ, the high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, replaced this order of priests, and is now the Christians high priest. The offices that remain for the Churches of Christ are the offices of Overseer/Elder; Paul makes this plain in his pastoral epistles. The only other priesthood mentioned for the believer under the New Testament is the priesthood of all believers, as we have access to the throne of God through the shed blood and complete and perfect mediatorial work of our High priest, Jesus Christ.
(Why did you think that you were being “uncharitable”?)

[66] Posted by Bob K. on 04-26-2008 at 08:28 AM • top

Rather what I actually said is that Tradition serves as the authoritative guide to understanding Scripture when the sense of Scripture isn’t plain.

Or even when the sense of Scripture is completely plain.  As in (for example) “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Well, except for Mary, of course. 

But to answer this question in light of Tradition, you would have to be able to state the content of Tradition.  And since it is supposed to be the unwritten teaching of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles, you would have to tell me what they said beyond the words recorded in Scripture.  And then you would have to establish provenance.  And then you would have to explain why no one ever bothered to write them down. Guides must have content.  Else how can they guide?  What then is the content of Tradition? 

Now as it happens I had this exact same discussion just one week ago.  And I was told repeatedly and forcefully that Tradition cannot be written down - that it is instead embodied in the Church.  If this is the case, then you have said nothing other than the Church is its own norming standard.  If this is not the case and Tradition can in fact be written down, then you should be able to state the content of these teachings which were “handed down” - and establish their provenance.

carl

[67] Posted by carl on 04-26-2008 at 09:39 AM • top

I was reaised in an AngloCatholic parish and am the son of a liberal Democrat mother. I do, however, think for myself. My earliest concept of religion comes from my first Church experience, that is, going to St. Mary the Virgin in NYC at age 3. So incense and bells and chanting and vestments are a must for me. I grew up in the civil rights movement and the peace movement. What bothers me about most conservatives, and some liberals, is that they want everyone to adopt their version of doctrine, ceremonial, or whatever. The lack of respectful dialogue—- on all sides of all issues—- also bothers me.  Yes, I do support WO, I am pro-choice, I see no problem with ordaining gays, but my approach is to pray for those who disagree with me, not force them to support my program. Not everyone comes to the same conclusions I do or at the same pace. I would really like to see all sides of all issues talk to one another respectfully, listen to one another, find common ground, and maybe even compromise sometimes. The continuing war between liberals and conservatives does not enhance the propogation of the Gospel. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the Church focused on Jesus instead of its internal politics?

[68] Posted by DesertDavid on 04-26-2008 at 09:47 AM • top

Jesus Christ, the high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, replaced this order of priests, and is now the Christians high priest.

Here is a good example of what happens when Tradition is ignored in trying to seek the true and authoritative meaning of Scripture, the inspired Word of God… and how the (frankly) egoism of “personal” interpretation—unaided and unchecked by the Church and generations of interpretation, meditation, prayer and understanding—so easily (even if innocently) mistakes and misreads Scripture.

Let’s take a closer look at this issue in Scripture, shall we?

.

Certainly it’s true that Christ’s death achieves the end of the need for blood sacrifice—He is the Lamb who dies for our sins, once for all. Indeed he is both lamb and priest, for He offers Himself of His own free will—though not of the house of Levi, He is nevertheless a priest like Melchisedec. Moreover, because of this, the need for the Levitical priesthood—and for that part of the Old Covenant which Jesus fulfilled and supplanted—is likewise ended. So far so good.

But the catholic and orthodox believer doesn’t stop there with the ideosyncratic interpretation that Bob K has presented that Christians shouldn’t have priests.

The catholic believer, seeing how such an interpretation would run contrary to the practice of the early Church and 1500+ years of Christian history says “Hm… maybe we need to check this more carefully. Maybe this facile dismissal of priests isn’t what Scriptures actually says. I should look closer.”

.

Upon reading the N.T. in Greek, one quickly finds that the word translated in Hebrews “priest” is “hieros”, which is used in the Gospels and Epistles to refer to the Jewish priesthood and, in a few places, to pagan priests as well, e.g. the “priest” of Jupiter. The term is never used of Christian leadership—the one exception (at least that I find after a quick search in my concordance) is the adjectival form “priestly” used in 1 Pet 2 to refer to all believers.

However, we have descriptions of new leadership, established by the apostles, for the Churches of God. Acts, Phillipians, 1 Timothy and Titus talk of the office of “episcopos”—what we translate as “bishop” or “overseer”. This position was set up by the apostles themselves and established by the command and authority of God the Spirit Himself.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Acts 20:8

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 1 Tim 3:1

Coupled with this leadership office in the apostolic Church is the office of deacon, ‘diaconos’. The word means “servant” or “minister” and is often used in a general way, but at times used for a specific office. (Sort of in the same way we might use the word “chief”—we could talk about the “chief reason” or use the adjective “chiefly” in general ways, but at times we’d speak of a specific office when we said “Indian chief.”)

We see this office of the early Church—given Scriptural and apostolic approval—at a variety of places: e.g. when Paul and Timothy write from the church in Philippi, and thus do it in the name also of that church’s leadership

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.

1 Timothy and Titus get into some details about these orders, established by the apostles and approved by Scripture, giving various “requirements for office” to show which members of the Church may be considered for these leadership roles.

.

The third order of leaders established in the early Church and witnessed by Scripture are “elders”—“presbyters”. As with “deacon”, this word is used in both a general and a specific sense. But there are various occasions where it is clearly an office in the church, e.g. 1 Tim (which also describes the offices of bishop and deacon):

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

In fact, we see that the apostles themselves, as they visited and established Christian communities, set up these offices to lead these new churches. E.g. Titus 1

For this cause left I [Paul] thee [Titus] in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee... For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God… Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

This is a very revealing passage—and one which more or less completely contradicts all those who attempt to claim that the clerical orders of catholic practice are not Scirptural. We see that, in establishing a new church, Paul sends Titus to set up bishops (“episkopoi”) and elders (“presbyteroi”) and (as we see later in this same epistle) deacons (“diakonoi”). We know from this and other Pauline epistles what these 3 orders were—leaders of the community, selected from its members and appointed to administer the churches.

We see here that Titus is to ordain these leaders—and the word used is exactly the same word used when the very first successors to the apostles were selected in Acts 6 to minister to the churches and “serve tables” (i.e. the corporate communion service):

Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

And, indeed, the “doctrine” which these leaders are to believe and preach is that which they received (along with instruction in the organization of the Church) from the apostle’s preaching… not from the Scriptural books, many of which hadn’t even yet been written. It’s the one truth of the apostolic teaching—as preserved in Tradition and Scripture alike—which is the Church’s doctrine. (But that’s a separate discussion.)

.

Anyway, it is from this office and word presbyter—and NOT from the word hieros—that the term and office of “priest” derives. Those who read the New Testament in Greek and who know what the English words actually mean and from where they come quickly see that the passages about “priests” which Bob K uses to say “the Church isn’t to have priests” are the wrong word!. The Church isn’t to have the “hieros” of Levitical law or pagan temples. But it IS to have the priests—“presbyteros”—(and “episkopos” and “diaconos”) which are established by the apostles and commanded by Scripture.

By ignoring Tradition and simply accepting a facile and ideosyncratic personal interpretation of Scripture, Bob K has, as a more careful and informed reading of Scripture demonstrates, flatly misunderstood what it says about priests and Church leadership.

The subject - and its linguistic and historical analysis - can take (and has!) many pages and studies to fully elaborate. (And the question of the order of “presbyter” is actually more complicated than the very abbreviated mention I have space to give it here). But the brief comments above give a rudimentary overview of the key Biblical passages.

.

Thus we quickly see that the “Calvary Church” approach takes a few passages in isolation (and, I expect, in translation), misunderstands them (confusing what it says about the Jewish and Pagan priesthood, “hieros”, with the Christian priesthood, “presbyteros”), and ignores the passages about the “priestly” leadership the apostles themselves set up for the Church (i.e. bishops, priests, and deacons).

The catholic and orthodox Christian, by contrast—aided, if needed, by the “warning bells” set off when someone proposes a teaching or practice which is at odds with the apostolic & patristic Church—looks more closely at Scripture and discovers these errors.

Then, having seen that Scripture commands that the Church be led by bishops, priests and deacons, he turns back to Tradition, i.e. to the historical record of what the early Church did and taught (recorded in texts like the _Didache_ or the _Apostolic Constitutions_) to discover more fully what this apostolic practice was.

Do we have bishops, priests and deacons because the _Didache_ or _Apostolic Constitutions_ say so? No. We have them because that’s what the apostles taught, as is recorded in Scripture. We do it because of Scriptural authority; because it is apostolic preaching; because it’s how Christ’s own disciples, who lived and spoke with him day and night and who were commanded by the Holy Spirit after His ascension, believed He wanted His Church established and organized.

We turn to the Tradition of early Church—the Church which not only didn’t have to read the Scriptures in translation, but which was aided by the memory of the apostle’s own public teaching and explanation!—to help us understand and obey Scripture.

.

So, there you go: a case study between the erroneous and misleading “Calvary Church” approach to Scripture, which claims infallibility for its “personal” interpretations of the “clear” meaning of Scripture (and, in the process, doesn’t get the clear meaning of Scripture—in fact even gets the basic meaning of the words in God’s own Word wrong!) on the one hand… and the catholic and orthodox reading of Scripture, aided by Tradition, which avoids these errors and which is in accord with the teaching and practice of the apostles and their earliest disciples.

.

pax,
LP

[69] Posted by LP on 04-26-2008 at 10:04 AM • top

And I was told repeatedly and forcefully that Tradition cannot be written down - that it is instead embodied in the Church.

I’d have to disagree with your friend on that one—much of Tradition can be and is written down.

You may notice in that rather extended post on the “priest” subject above that I referred to texts like the _Didache_ and the _Apostolic Constitutions_. These are, in fact, Church manuals discussing matters of liturgy, organization etc—what we might call “ecclesiology”. They give further details on the Church’s practice in ordinations, sacraments, worship, etc.

And so they are of use to illuminate Scripture when Scripture gives us only an abbreviated look at the apostle’s teaching. For example, the orders of deacon and bishop are clearly set forth by the apostolic church. But other than 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1, not a lot is said about the exact nature of the offices and its candidates. What are their duties? How are they selected and appointed? Etc. Obviously the apostles had something very clear in mind—indeed, you’ll notice just how similar the 1 Tim and the Titus passages are, suggesting that Paul, in dictating his letter, was summarizing a well known list of qualifications—but they don’t specify.

It’s in cases like this - of both theology and practice - where Tradition comes to our aid. We can turn to these other early records of what the apostolic teaching was - preserved in the traditional practices and preaching of the churches they established - for a fuller explanation of what these Scriptural commandments and regulations mean.

.

You ask:

ou would have to tell me what they said beyond the words recorded in Scripture.  And then you would have to establish provenance.  And then you would have to explain why no one ever bothered to write them down. Guides must have content.  Else how can they guide?

This implies a very common Protestant misconception of Scripture—that it is supposed to be a complete “guide” or “manual” to Church belief and practice. It isn’t.

The epistles and tracts in the New Testament were never intended to be anything of the sort. They were, rather, occasional letters written at specific times to deal with specific issues. More to the point, they never claim to be anything else.

In many of Paul’s epistles he gives only an abbreviated answer and then says that he’ll explain more fully in person when he gets there.

SCRIPTURE ITSELF SEES ITSELF IN THE CONTEXT OF TRADITION.

Put another way, the apostles made no distinction between the Truth which they wrote in their epistles and which they taught in person. It’s the same deposit of faith. And there was no need for them to sit down and compose a multi-paged “manual” or “guide” for how to run the churches… they could do that in person!

You can see that in the Titus 1 passage I quoted above to Bob K—Paul doesn’t sit down to write a manual of how to appoint bishops, presbyters and deacons, nor to write a full-fledged catechesis on Christian teaching. Rather, he leaves Titus behind to ordain those leaders and give them theological instruction. IT’S DONE IN PERSON. And this makes sense in a world where literacy was more limited and there was no printing press or internet.

The world of the New Testament was an oral culture.

You say “if it was important, why didn’t they write it down?” Well, Jesus didn’t write any books!!!. He preached. Are you telling me we don’t need to take any of what He said seriously because He didn’t think it important enough to write down? It sure sounds that way.

.

The reason we have “church manuals” appearing only in the generation after the apostles was that it was only at this point that the Church needed them. Before then, things could be done “in person” as we see Paul and Titus doing. But as the first generation of the apostles died, and as the Church spread further and further, the writing down of apostolic teaching and practice became necessary. And so people wrote up these manuals, not as something new they were inventing, but as the record of the apostolic preaching and commands—and their organization of the Church, its worship, its practices, etc—which they’d been doing since the very first days. Doing and preaching (in fact) even before all of the New Testament was written.

.

So why aren’t these manuals in the New Testament? Because that’s not what the New Testament was intended to be.

Remember, the “books” of the New Testament circulated separately for a while, and were put into differing collections for centuries. Many churches used other texts—like the Epistle of Barnabas, or even the Didache itself—as part of their “holy writings” for generations.

When it became necessary to codify an “official collection” of Scripture however—necessary because of various Gnostic attempts to include 2nd century material which taught very different beliefs and practices—the criteria used to “select” the New testament was to find those writings which (a) had been spread to all the Churches (indicating their antiquity and universality [‘catholicity’]) and which (b) were from the apostolic period. Which means, right off the bat, those writings which come from the period before the church manuals of worship and organization were needed.

There were plenty of writings believed to be apostolic (like the Epistle of Barnabas) but not used everywhere; there were plenty of writings used everywhere (as the Didache probably was) but not considered sufficiently apostolic.

In other words, Tradition itself was the guide in determining which writings were Scripture—i.e. which ones accurately recorded what the Church had always believed and taught and which ones were traditionally used everywhere.

.

The Protestant misconception seems to imply that, with this canonical list in hand, the early Church simply threw away everything else. “Oh, we’ve got the Gospels and Epsistles, so we can ignore our records of everything about Church organization and worship—as well as the works of more careful catechetical instruction—we’ve preserved from apostolic times. Toss out the _Didache_, we don’t use that any more!”

This is, of course, absurd. The early church continued to use, preserve and copy these non-New Testament texts. (Indeed, that’s why we have copies of them today—the Church kept using them!)

If you, an early Church bishop, need a passage to read and preach about in order to present apostolic teaching? You select it from the Scriptures, absolutely.

But if you are trying to find when in the order of service that reading is to be done, or if you need help understanding or explaining that passage, or if you’re trying to organize the catechumen who are receiving instruction, or if you’re doing the hundred of other things which come with preserving apostolic faith and practice, then you don’t just make it up because it’s not in Scripture (which is the Protestant approach), rather you follow the traditions and models which the apostles gave the Church at the same time they wrote their epistles… and you pull the _Didache_ or other church manual off the shelf (well, okay, out of the scroll rack), or read the epistles of Ignatius or Polycarp, or check the exegesis of Irenaeus, to make sure you’re doing it right.

.

The Protestant rejection of Tradition is contrary to Scripture, contrary to history, contrary to common sense, contrary to the apostolic commandment and example… and, I believe, contrary to the desires and intentions of God Himself.

.

pax,
LP

[70] Posted by LP on 04-26-2008 at 10:39 AM • top

Yes, I do support WO, I am pro-choice, I see no problem with ordaining gays… Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the Church focused on Jesus instead of its internal politics?

Jesus said, “if you love Me, keep My commandments.”

The orthodox understand that to approve of homosexuality, to condone abortion, to ordain women, to approve of remarriage after divorce from a Christian marriage—all of these are to disobey Christ; all of these are to disobey the teaching and practice of His apostles and His Church. And so they insist on obedience to Scripture precisely because they are focused on Jesus.

The liberals, heretics and apostates—those who reject Christ’s commands—are (by His own words) not loving Him.

Indeed, I would venture to say that the majority of the liberal wing of PEcUSA don’t care about Jesus at all—they care about environmentalism, or homosexual activism, or “social justice” causes, or any number of other trendy modern preoccupation. Sure, they call it “Christianity” and invoke the name of “Jesus” and wrap it up in traditional language or liturgy or institutions. But it’s not Jesus.

And if you look at what PEcUSA leaders preach—that Jesus wasn’t born of a Virgin; that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God; that Jesus didn’t do miracles; that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead; that Jesus is unable to hear us and that praying is pointless… then you quickly realize that what they’re calling “Jesus” has nothing to do with the real Jesus at all.

Whatever they’re focused on, even if they call it “Jesus”, is something else entirely.

.

Heck, I can name my pet hedgehog “Jesus”, and invoke it to defend my practice of buggering sheep, and teach that God wants us all to wear ceremonial leather underwear at all times… and if anyone objects I can complain that “oh, but I’m focused on Jesus too.. can’t we just leave aside all this divisive politics and just focus on worshiping together; can’t we just focus on what unites us—which is, after all, the way of the Elizabethian settlement—rather than what divides us?”

But for all those pious-sounding protestations, my hedgehog is not the real Jesus, and my sheep-buggering leather-clad “religion” is not Christianity, regardless of what I call it or what rhetorical protestations I spout off to any passing camera or microphone.

.

So, yes, I agree—wouldn’t it be “a good idea if the Church focused on Jesus”!

The thing is, the liberals, heretics and apostates no longer do this.

Which is precisely why the orthodox object.

.

pax,
LP

[71] Posted by LP on 04-26-2008 at 10:51 AM • top

I can’t support the general concept that, if we’ve done it that way in the past, therefore it’s the only right way going forward. Cultures, technologies, and ideas are always changing. That is a fact of the human condition. Scripture, which is really oral traditions reduced to writing, is without doubt, the Word of God—-to a particular group of people at a particular time and place. We cannot say that God has stopped speaking, that God cannot change God’s mind in light of new conditions. God continues to speak to us today in new ways with new messages. You need only look at the Bible itself to see this is in microcosm. Contrast Jesus’ command of “love your enemies” with the OT concepts of vengeance over one’s foes. Contrast the punishing, judgmental God in Numbers with the loving God of I John.  Modernly, look at how “be fruitful and multiply” is no longer appropriate in a world where the population exceeds its ability feed itself. The point is, God and God’s word are no longer static. The Holy Spirit, which Jesus bequeathed to us when he rose from the dead, is active and living in different ways: contrast the spirit moving over the waters with the spirit descending on Jesus at Baptism and the Spirit at Pentecost.  God operates in so many countless ways. It is so limiting to put God in a box and confine God’s words to stone tablets!

[72] Posted by DesertDavid on 04-26-2008 at 11:28 AM • top

I regard the priesthood as essential to the Church because it entails sacred law, blood sacrifice, and in these last days of the Church, the bloodless Eucharist by which the Risen and Glorified Lord Jesus gives us His Body and Blood. In other words, the priesthood is an essential element of the story of God’s working out of salvation through all time.

Also, the priesthood of the Greeks and Romans is not the same as the priesthood of the Afro-Asiatics, although it is patterned somewhat after the Egyptian priesthood.

My interest in this is somewhat personal as I was once a “priest” in TEC. My grandmother was ordained a Baptist pastor on 1929 in Whittier California. I thought I was following in her footsteps, which shows how poorly I understood catholic orders and the sacraments.

I’m also interested as an anthropologist who has traced the Afro-Asiatic priesthood to before Abraham’s time and researched the distinctions between priests in that context and priests in the Indo-European context and shamans in the Altaic and Uralic contexts.

My interest also stems from over 25 years of studying Genesis. Ths study, while mainly from the disciplines of linguistics and cultural anthropology, includes study of what the Church Fathers have said about Genesis. I’m convinced that a proper understanding of Genesis is fundamental to a proper interpretation of all of Scripture. The ontology of Genesis persuades me of the impossibility of women priests. However it does not exclude women from ministry, just not as priests. For as the order of creation makes clear and as St. Paul teaches, at the least older women should be ministering to younger women.

Here are some essays to consider when thinking about women and the biblical priesthood:

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/primeval-origins-of-priesthood.html

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/priesthood-and-genesis.html

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/shamanic-practice-and-priesthood.html

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/09/males-as-spiritual-leaders-two-patterns.html

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2008/03/tracing-scarlet-cord.html

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/11/linguistic-evidence-for-afro-asiatic.html

[73] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-26-2008 at 12:17 PM • top

Why must we always look back in time to ascertain God’s message? Anglicans look not only to tradition and scripture, they also look to reason and experience.  Does a parish go without Sunday Mass if there is no ordained male to preside? Do we put stone adulterers because Leviticus says we should?  The fact is, gender roles have evolved where women practice law, medicine and other professions. We no longer have a patricarchal society where women were consigned to particular roles based on gender.  The fundamental purpose of Christianity is to make other Christians and to preach and practice Jesus’ message.  Gender discrimination hinders that.

[74] Posted by DesertDavid on 04-26-2008 at 12:33 PM • top

#72, DesertDavid, I find it helpful to take people at their word. When Jesus walked the earth there were any number of cultures with very different values than the Jews. The same applies to the Apostle Paul.

Both the Romans and the Greeks practised a primitive form of eugenics and a rather ruthless form of population control by exposure. The Greeks did not stigmatize homosexual behaviour. In some circles, it was well regarded. The Romans did not favour it, and it was a capital offense in the legions, but in civilian life it was not punished. If you like I can broaden the discussion to the other cultures in the Mediterranean at the time, all of which had some interesting ideas of morality by modern standards.

Nevertheless, neither Jesus nor Paul ever condoned sin. Your ideas as put forward are not especially new, you know. They have been said before. But if God is Truth and that is what we are to believe, then God does not lie. And it is both the height of arrogance and the height of folly to critique God’s judgment about how we are to live our lives.

I commit plenty of sins, I am a sinner. But I am not nor have I ever been proud of them. Nor do I set myself up in a position to judge God.

<a href=“http://billyockham.blogspot.com/”> The Episcopal Church: all of the ritual, none of the theology </a

[75] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 04-26-2008 at 12:35 PM • top

Desert David (#74)- There are 2 types of religions: organic and synthetic. The revisionist religion of TEC, like Mormonism and Scientology, is synthetic. Synthetic religions are fabrications that depend on contemporary values and worldviews. Organic religions develop naturally over long periods of time and develop consistent with their original values and worldviews. Ultimately synthetic religions die out, but organic religions survive because they are systematically, representationally and ontologically integrated wholes.

You state, “We no longer have a patriarchal society where women were consigned to particular roles based on gender. The fundamental purpose of Christianity is to make other Christians and to preach and practice Jesus’ message. Gender discrimination hinders that.”

First, patriarchy is the universal order. No true matriarchy has ever been found. Feminists often point to soft patriarchies as examples of matriarchies, but a true matriarchy requires the following conditions to exist in a society:

• line of descent must be traced through the mothers
• rights of inheritance must be figured through the mothers
• political power must be vested with ruling females
• females must have the final say in deciding matters for the community

It is a matter of fact that, after eighty-five years of ethnographic studies, no matriarchal society has ever been identified by cultural anthropologists.

I agree that discrimination in the work place is wrong.  However, gender roles in the Church are not about discrimination. They reflect the order of God’s creation to model for the world God’s Goodness. So in failing to live according to the roles as the Church has received them, we send a confusing message to the world about God.

[76] Posted by Alice Linsley on 04-26-2008 at 01:13 PM • top

I can’t support the general concept that, if we’ve done it that way in the past, therefore it’s the only right way going forward.

This is a favorite liberal smokescreen for rejecting basic Christian beliefs, ethics, and practices.

Let me point out how its misleading.

.

First, it lumps everything together indiscriminately. It equates statements of theological truth with cultural practices. For example, “God exists” is a statement of objective truth. It doesn’t matter if it was said 2000 years ago or yesterday, just as “2+2=4” was true 2000 years ago and yesterday. Or as “God does not exist” or “2+2=5” is equally wrong 2000 years ago as it is today.

By contrast, there are those things which are simply “cultural”. Should a worship service be conduced in Aramaic (like the earliest days of the Church), or Greek (as in the immediately sub-apostolic times), or in Latin (as the Roman church started in—if I recall correctly—the late 2nd century), or in the local vernacular.

Christianity has always had these two elements. Certainly there are “grey” areas where people can find themselves in genuine disagreement, but there are a large number of things which are clearly the one or the other. For the orthodox Christian, these are found in the plain words of Scripture and the normative standards established by the Creeds and the Ecumenical Councils. Scripture says homosexual activity is sinful; Scripture says murder is wrong. Scripture says and implies, and the Creeds and Councils confirm, that Jesus Christ is God, that there will be a physical resurrection and judgement, that the veneration (not worship/adoration) of icons is acceptable, etc.

Those who attempt to move things from one category to another—who attempt to take the basic revealed truths of Scripture (and, subordinate to it, Creeds and Councils) and make them relative are making about as much sense as those who say “Because we no longer have our worship services in Aramaic, therefore 2+2=5.”

.

Secondly, many liberals, heretics and apostates actually abandon the notion of “objective truth” altogether. Claiming, in effect, that maybe Jesus was God in 1000 A.D. but that He isn’t so today. Or that homosexual activity was sinful in the apostle’s time but isn’t today. Or that abortion, which the Church called murder in the apostolic and patristic period, isn’t murder any more. Or that 2+2=4 in 1st century Palestine but that it equals 6.9 in 21st century America.

You do this yourself when you say “that God cannot change God’s mind.” I’m not sure what god this is you believe in. The true God is “immortal, invisible, only wise… unchanging”, in the words of the well-known hymn. Yes, He may express Himself in different ways at different times, because of the changes in His audience, but it is the same God who speaks the same Truth to all times and all places. His expression of Himself may change; His self does not. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Num 23:19).

This mind-changing “god” of yours may be an interesting gender-undifferentiated mutable natural force. Or whatever. It’s not the Christian God—not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

.

Finally - and this is a favorite one - you compare the Old and New Testament, saying:

Contrast Jesus’ command of “love your enemies” with the OT concepts of vengeance over one’s foes. Contrast the punishing, judgmental God in Numbers with the loving God of I John.

Another favorite version of this is to look to Levitical law, say “oh, well, we don’t condemn people for wearing garments of mixed cloth, as the O.T. does, therefore it’s okay also to ignore the prohibitions of homosexual activity (or adultery, or murder, or whatever) in the N.T.”

Guess what, the O.T. Covenant wasn’t “replaced” on the authority of men because times had changed. Jesus didn’t replace the O.T. law with the new “law of grace” because he was a funky cool dude who decided to update a bunch of culturally-conditioned practices.

The O.T. Covenant was FULFILLED, and because GOD HIMSELF, who made that Covenant, came to fulfill it and establish a New Covenant with His people. The Levitical law wasn’t closed because cultures changed or because man said so, but because God said so.

The Church herself, in obedient recognition of this fact, ruled in the apostolic council of Jerusalem (in a sense the actual first Ecumenical Council) what parts of the O.T. no longer applied (including the bit about the garments). You can read about it in Acts 15. Perhaps you’ll notice, too, that the Levitical laws about sexual morality was one aspect that the apostles expressly stated to remain binding on Christians.

.

If the New Covenant is to be changed or fulfilled or replaced it will be, likewise, because God Himself does so. Not us. And perhaps this indeed will happen on the Last Day, and when there is a new heaven and new earth. Until that time we—just like the first century Jews—have no authority or competence to establish a new Covenant. Only God does.

Of course, if you think there is no God, or that Jesus wasn’t God, then you can, of course, claim that it was really mere society which replaced the Old Covenant with the New and so we can do it again, whenever we feel like it. Or, perhaps, you can claim that your own personal insights and experiences are just as authoritative as Jesus—that you are just as much God incarnate as He is—and so that you have the authority to replace the teaching of Scripture (and, under it, the apostlic Tradition, the Creeds and Councils) with novel interpretations or complete contradictions of your own invention. (In which case, oddly, you have a lot in common with Bob K’s Calvary Church approach above.)

And, frankly, this is - ultimately - what the liberals, heretics and apostates do—they claim they can ignore Scripture and Tradition either because there is no Christian God, merely some amorphous and infinitely changeable impersonal Force, or because they themselves are just as much “God” as Jesus is, or their own interpretations are more valid than that of the apostles and the Church universal down through the ages.

I’m afraid, as an orthodox Christian, I can share neither that athiesm nor that overweening personal arrogance.

.

So, yes, you’ve every right to chose to decide that God is not God, or that what was objectively true yesterday is completely false tomorrow, or that you are as great an authority as Jesus, or that culture—not Scripture or Tradition or even God Himself—establishes truth.

But don’t expect any genuine Christian to follow you. Because whatever that belief of yours is, and whatever sort of traditional phraseology or liturgy or rhetoric you chose to wrap around it, it’s some new religion and some new god… it’s not Christianity.

For my part, being a Christian, I"m not interested in it.

.

pax,
LP

[77] Posted by LP on 04-26-2008 at 02:59 PM • top

Addendum—apologies, I see that I failed to cut/paste properly and so inadvertently misquoted you. I meant to type, in the 2nd point above

You do this yourself when you say “We cannot say… that God cannot change God’s mind.”

I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to misrepresent you, as I did by accidentally leaving out those first three words. I expect most readers will catch that mistake on my part, but I figured I should point it out just in case some didn’t.

pax,
LP

[78] Posted by LP on 04-26-2008 at 03:05 PM • top

<i>Contrast the punishing, judgmental God in Numbers with the loving God of I John.<i>

Marcion, thou art not dead!

[79] Posted by Andrewesman on 04-28-2008 at 02:26 AM • top

Marcion never dies. Yes, those who know no church (or English social) history are doomed to repeat it!

[80] Posted by Dr. Priscilla Turner on 04-28-2008 at 05:41 PM • top

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.


Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere about the crisis in our church. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments that you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm, its board of directors, or its site administrators.