8/13/2006

Dr Wright ,wrong again.

The Church Times, concerning the invitational meeting called by Bishop Wimberly of Texas to which the bishops of Durham and Winchester are going as envoys of the Archbishop of Canterbury reported this (report covered by Thinking Anglicans):

“Dr Wright said on Tuesday that the group consisted of those who wanted to hold to as broad a base of Episcopalianism under the Windsor and Communion rubrics as they could, and who needed to be taught some Anglican and biblical theological pathways by which they could do so. “They need to be encouraged to extend their left arms as far as they can in one direction and their right arms in another to prevent what could otherwise be multiple fracturing and break-up,” he said. “The Bishop of Winchester and I want to see ECUSA refreshed, renewed, and full of vigour.”

The suppositions that these bishops “needed to be taught some Anglican and biblical theological pathways” is an interesting one. Arrogant, but interesting.

Bishop Wright of Durham has meddled in Episcopal Church affairs already, having produced a critique of the proposed resolutions of the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion just hours before General Convention began. He has been a strict “constructionist” regarding the force of the Windsor Report, contending that compliance is what is required, not response. Bishop Wright of Durham can often be very right indeed, but not always. In this case he is about to find himself in trouble.

When The Right Reverend Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, spoke to the March 2006 meeting of the House of Bishops concerning the Windsor Report and the Special Committee’s preliminary report his response was considered by many to be arrogant and misplaced. Exeter was sent by Canterbury, and if that is the style of engagement then we can look forward to more of the same efforts to teach “some Anglican and biblical theological pathways.” If these are the teachers, perhaps one question to ask is if the Church of England, itself on the edge of break up or breakdown, is in any position to teach anything.

Bishop Wimberly’s invitation is to those who agree want to be “compliant” with Windsor and thus qualify for full inclusion in the imaginary (or perhaps visionary) scheme the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed in his reflections. This so called two-tiered approach makes some Churches, and perhaps some Dioceses, “constituent members” of the Communion and others not. It will be a mess if it is done on less than a Provincial level. It will be a mess even then.

The envoys of the Archbishop and the self selecting bishops who are compliant will have a fine time. Having declared they are compliant in order to get in the door, they will be taught a variety of things, and if they are indeed compliant they will hear and obey the envoys.

And who gave these envoys any power at all? They represent a prince of the church who has no more power here than any foreign bishop. But there will be no way for these bishops to learn than other in the school of hard knocks. That school has its beginning training session in Texas.

42 comments:

  1. From reading your blog (which is interesting) i get the impression that you have no regard or respect for Anglicianism. Of course to call one self an anglican is to adhere to the 39 articles (despite the episcopal church placing them as historical documents). How then would you describe the espicopal church? Simply a protestant church? Or a progressive christian church?

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  2. Andy, you're quite wrong.

    Rather than posting a detailed explanation of why in this comments section, I point to a response by MadPriest in which he details the erroneous nature of your comment:

    http://revjph.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-i-learned-to-stop-worryingand-love.html#links

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  3. Andy, do you believe that "General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes"?

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  4. Thank you for the link - I have left a comment there in response to the post.

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  5. David Huff14/8/06 9:40 AM

    Great googly-moogly. I thought we had to worry about foreign bishops invading from the so-called "Global South." Looks like the biggest offenders these days are +++Canterbury, +++York, and their envoys.

    And does +Wright ever stay in his own diocese and, one would hope, mind his own business ?

    If this is the future of the AC, count me out.

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  6. Just to respond to Anonymous' comment about councils. While the statement 'General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes' is steeped in historic context - that Princes had a major role within church government and theology (a legacy of Constantine) at the time it was written - There is something to be said for the idea of councils. Nicaea, 325 formulated the first part of the Creed; Constantinople, 381, formulated the second part of the creed, defining the divinity of the Holy Spirit; Ephesus, Asia Minor 431 defined Christ as the Incarnate Word of God and Mary as Theotokos; Chalcedon 451 defined Christ as Perfect God and perfect man in One person - plus Constantinople II 553, Constantinople III 680 & Nicaea 787 (I think that is all of the major ecumencial councils from memory). Councils called together the five patriarchs of the church (i.e. the heads of the various parts of the church) to discuss doctrine. Of course the General Convention can be seen as a 'council' of some sort - but I wonder what would happen if ALL the heads of the church were to meet together. That would be interesting (or maybe frightening for some)!

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  8. Bill Carroll14/8/06 10:33 AM

    The most offensive thing about this is the presumption that the Episcopal Church needs to be reinvigorated. We have never been stronger. This conflict is like the confict in an alchoholic family, when one member gets sober or starts asserting personal boundaries. It is also, as several have pointed out, like the conflict in a family when one member comes out of the closet. When the Church of England becomes capable of honest speech about the lives and ministries of its gay and lesbian members, and of listening to these members instead of trying to silence them and collaborating in their oppression, then they can give us advise about how to be reinvigorated. For our part, reinvigoration would mean an even more radical break with the powers that corrupt and destroy God's creatures, including sexism and homophobia, as well as classism and economic privilege. We are far from full inclusion ourselves. This intervention is a sign that senior leadership in the C of E, as well as some bishops in the U.S., cannot free themselves of a colonial paradigm. These bishops are free to meet with whomever they choose, but this is a profound insult to the collegiality of the House of Bishops. These matters were dealt with, for good or ill, by the General Convention. The way to dissent with integrity was modelled by the statement of conscience issued by Bishop Chane and others, which points out the flawed and manipulative process that led to B033, but pledges loyalty to "this great Church." Having a separate meeting of "Windsor Bishops" starts to look too much like an effort to associate with the Anglican Communion on some other basis than one's role as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. It is kind of like being "Network-Lite." The Episcopal Church has already made a response to Windsor. We are willing to work on our relationships, but unwilling to simply submit to ultimatums. These bishops should respect that this is our response and stop trying to subvert the legitimate process.

    Critics point to declining numbers as a sign of weakness. I believe this is a sign that we are moving past Christendom and that this offers us the opportunity for greater faithfulness. Churches can always be more faithful, and we are far from perfect. We could also show more zeal in sharing the Good News. Adopting an "evangelical" paradigm is not the way to do this. Continuing to proclaim God's universal kingdom, in which there are no outcasts, by word and deed, is. The problem with "evangelicals" today is that they are not evangelical enough.

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  9. Miss Wiggins14/8/06 12:19 PM

    I beg your pardon, did you really say the Episcopal Church has never been stronger?

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  10. I always find it interesting when an appeal is made to the 39 Articles in terms of being the test of authentic Anglicanism and loyal membership in the Communion.

    At the time(s) of the drafting(s) of the various sets of Articles, no such entity as 'the Anglican Communion' was in any way imagined. In fact, the idea of an 'Anglican Communion' is rather late in the history of the churches historically descended from the see of Canterbury.

    And just like Scripture, it seems that people pick and choose which of the various Articles are the litmus test for 'authentic' belonging.

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  11. "This conflict is like the confict in an alchoholic family, when one member gets sober or starts asserting personal boundaries."

    A very accurate analogy, Bill.

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  12. The most offensive thing about this is the presumption that the Episcopal Church needs to be reinvigorated.

    It was that assertion that struck me too. I look with envy at the life and prophetic witness of my Epoiscopal sisters and brothers across "the pond" - oh that some of your bishops could come and reinvigorate the C of E, or just kick a few of them firmly up the..... [thinks it best to stop there].

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  13. I thought we had to worry about foreign bishops invading from the so-called "Global South." Looks like the biggest offenders these days are +++Canterbury, +++York, and their envoys.

    And does +Wright ever stay in his own diocese and, one would hope, mind his own business ?


    There was a time when the US was "cared for" by English bishops at a distance - please feel free to make up the episcopal visitation time they owe to the US by keeping these ones, with our thanks and blessing! We won't need them back.......

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  14. Bill Carroll14/8/06 2:08 PM

    Yes, I said it. I guess it depends on what one means by strong. By some measures we are weaker, but these aren't Christian measures.If by stronger, we mean more faithful and more alive in the Holy Spirit, I think it is true. We are experiencing conflict because we have been faithful to what God requires of us. Much of the weakness we experience is an experience of the believer's cross. I also acknowledged how weak we are, still highly imperfect and deeply flawed. I think that many of those who think of this as a crisis are looking for us to regain lost cultural influence, which will never happen. We have moved into a post-Christendom period. Many of our congregations and dioceses are alive and doing God's work joyfully.

    The restoration of Appalachian ministry funding, the commitment to the MDG's, the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the commitment to the rights of immigrants, the signs that we are not going to capitulate on our commitment to lgbtq Christians (despite the tragedy of B033), all of these point to a very strong Church. We continue to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and without apology, in word and deed.

    As a social institution we may be weaker, as a Church we are stronger than ever.

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  15. Mark, you wrote:

    'perhaps one question to ask is if the Church of England, itself on the edge of break up or breakdown, is in any position to teach anything.'

    I have to question this. Although there's a fair amount of disagreement, and even some acrimony, I'm not sure that describing the church situation here as 'on the edge of break up or breakdown' is quite accurate.

    There's lots of hot-headedness. There's even some pressure from individual parishes and congregations for a stricter sort of definition of who is 'in' and who is not, in terms of Christian identity. (For various reasons, I don't think that's going to happen.)

    But to say that the CofE is at the edge of falling apart is a little premature, I think--at least from where I sit, anyway.

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  16. Gee - agents of a foreign prince with no power here! So why do you care what he or anyone else thinks? TEC has made it clear it has discerned a new teaching of the HS and its actions at GC 2003 were prophetic. Stop whining about the consequences you were told would flow from your actions and "live into" your new reality! You have chosen to be a denomination, separate and apart from the church catholic. Embrace the new truth you have discovered.

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  17. TEC does not need to be reinvigorated. It needs to be resurrected.

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  18. Bill Carroll said: This intervention is a sign that senior leadership in the C of E, as well as some bishops in the U.S., cannot free themselves of a colonial paradigm.

    That is the project for all of us. Let those who need to hang on to power over others go; let the rest of us strive for justice and compassion in community.

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  19. Widening Gyre14/8/06 5:05 PM

    Bill Carroll wrote: "We continue to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and without apology, in word and deed."

    Well, to paraphrase old what's his name, you know, the NY Senator's husband, "I guess it all depends on what you mean by the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

    Bill, I can appreciate your zeal and enthusiasm for the current direction TEC is headed, but I think your arguments might be stronger if you toned back on the use of hyperbole.

    Just a thought.

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  20. Actually, N.T. Wright is usually correct on many things, and appears to be quite correct again. The Episcopal Church does need invigoration, and we are blessed to be in a communion where we may learn from bishops outside our provincial boundaries. We have learned from Tutu. We have learned from the Anglicans of Sudan, who keep the faith despite murder, rape and oppression. We have learned from England, again and again. What baffles me, frankly, is the strange isolationism and arrogance of American Episcopalians who presume that we do NOT need to learn and be reproached from time to time by friends from abroad. N.T. Wright has as much wright to speak to us as we do to him. So does the Bishop of Exeter. It's a small world friends, and a catholic church. The real agenda that is most worrisome, apart from the right-wing power politics clearly at large in many quarters, is the left-wing power politics at play among radical provincialists who seem to think we are autonomous. We're not. We're not self-ruling friends. We're to be ruled by Christ. And in His body -- the other members have as much to do with us as we do with them.

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  21. I propose a moratorium on the use of +Durham's surname as a pun on "right."

    Cliches are a plague that diminsh us all. Stop the madness.

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  22. fatherjones, I think you have a point about learning from bishops outside the normal jurisdictional patterns.

    But there is a difference: Archbishop Tutu and the Sudanese Christians were teaching and leading by example. Their witness is one people can admire because it is a genuine expression of gospel living in their particular circumstances. It calls the rest of us to figure out what gospel living in our own situations might entail.

    It is not the arrogance of 'We'll show those d@mn liberal Yankees a thing or two'.

    I agree--there is much to be learned from Anglican Christians in other parts of the world. But there are better and worse people from whom to learn, and there are better and worse ways of doing the teaching.

    As always, discernment on all sides is called for.

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  23. Bill Carroll15/8/06 7:09 AM

    How is it hyperbole? I think I was quite careful to admit that we are a deeply flawed institution. At the same time, we have Good News to share and are doing so faithfully. Jesus Christ continues to change lives in the Episcopal Church. Moreover, the Church continues to bear witness to his name before the powers of this age. The stance on the human rights of immigrants is but one example of this. I gave some others. I don't think it is hyperbole to celebrate what God is doing in our midst.

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  24. Widening Gyre15/8/06 10:04 AM

    Bill,

    I think your second post explaining what you meant by a strong church was helpful. I'm still not so sure reasonable people couldn't disagree with your comment that TEC has never been stronger, though. It does raise interesting ideas about what a church is supposed to do. I think we would both agree that to the extent the local parishes are rebuilding a sense of community and fellowship by "doing" the work of Christ they are getting stronger. I'm just not quite yet willing to agree with your assessent of the national church. There is still a lot of work left to be done in our local (non-network, quite liberal) diocese repairing the wounds from the past three years. Not to mention figuring out a way to deal with a ballooning deficit budget!

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  25. My fear is that this is not really about liturgy or theology, but about power. +Wimberly gave a lovely sermon recently at an installation. Lovely until the slightly menacing statement, "The Church is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship." (With the unstated, "And don't you little parishioners forget it. Trust an obey.") That's when it struck me that the machinations at the macro level of the church and its various communions is about power.

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  26. Wendy writes: "It is not the arrogance of 'We'll show those d@mn liberal Yankees a thing or two'."

    While I think Nigeria is an example of this kind of arrogance -- I ABSOLUTELY reject that Canterbury, Durham or Exeter are in any way displaying this sort of attitude.

    To be incapable of seeing the difference is what astounds me.

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  28. The real problem is +Wimberly, who pompously proclaims himself "the most senior" bishop in the HofB. I think he would love to birth a parallel office to that of the PB, an honor he didn't achieve by election, if memory serves, nine years ago. A hopeless mediocrity, +Texas hopes to carry water for ++Rowan and the esteemed visiting bishops, with a reward in the new Anglican Communion, whatever that may become.

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  29. BillCarroll16/8/06 7:35 PM

    All bishops are equal, because all people are equal. Hierarchical thinking is at the root of our present problems. If our episcopal impulses run counter to our baptismal ecclesiology, we should choose the latter every time.

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  30. Bill Carroll stated "All bishops are equal, because all people are equal. Hierarchical thinking is at the root of our present problems. If our episcopal impulses run counter to our baptismal ecclesiology, we should choose the latter every time." Interesting notion, though I doubt any would consider such an idea Anglican let alone biblical. Even in our supposed "democratic" church we call our bishops "chief priests and pastor" and make them take an oath to defend the faith. Let's face it, democracy is absolutely contrary to the Kingdom to which we call the world.

    Peace,
    JB

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  31. obadiahslope17/8/06 1:01 AM

    Wendy said
    "Wright is the top-selling author at SPCK, and is reported to have threatened them that he'll pull out if they publish the work of any author with whom he disagrees. "
    Can we have a citation or a link to back this assertion up please?

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  33. the group consisted of those who wanted to hold to as broad a base of Episcopalianism under the Windsor and Communion rubrics as they could, and who needed to be taught some Anglican and biblical theological pathways by which they could do so

    I can think of some Anglican and biblical theological pathways I'd like to teach +Durham and +Winchester that might enable them to hold a broader base of Episcopalianism, too...

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  34. obadiahslope17/8/06 9:01 AM

    Wendy, The SPCK faces financial difficulty according to the Church Times http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/80256FA1003E05C1/httpPublicPages/75EEF05CD99DCD588025715D0052F289?opendocument
    So a simpler explanation to the difficulty some authors might have getting published with SPCK is that the organisation has to be extra careful about spending money these days. This may mean a "name" author like Wright is favoured by the economic situation.
    I hold no particular brief for Bishop Wright. But it seems to me that your attack on him crosses the boundaries of libel. I think Mark should think carefully about whether he wants to publish it.

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  35. Obadiahslope, 'libel' is a very strong word. And I don't think I've crossed that line. But it does seem odd that authors who have previously published with SPCK, and are now finding themselves rejected, are ones who don't fit a certain conservative evangelical profile. SPCK used to be more comprehensive than that.

    And yet, I think that the English bishops who are going to Texas are really not going to teach anybody anything. They're going to confirm existing biases, and it's going to be one big pep rally for those who want the kind of exclusive, hard-boundaried church which has only been a mythic construct in the Church of England's history.

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  36. Bill Carroll17/8/06 3:01 PM

    The Bible is quite clear about the equality of all the baptized and that Christian leaders are the servants of the faithful and indeed of the world. Hierarchical models of episcopacy are contrary to Scripture. Anglicanism has at different points in history and in different cultures embraced this unbiblical model. In the Episcopal Church, the model of authority is more democratic than most, though it varies widely from diocese to diocese.

    A denial of baptismal equality seems heretical to me, though I'm against all forms of inquisition favored by the neo-puritans. All Christians are directly empowered by the Holy Spirit to represent Christ in word and deed. The authority of office, like the authority of Scripture, is provisional and contingent. Ultimate authority belongs to God alone. Anglicanism has been good, at least in principle, of admitting the priority of conscience to all other forms of authority.

    I fully admit that what I am suggesting may be at odds with what Anglicans have practiced and do practice. Where offered a choice between being "Anglican" and being "Christian" I'd choose the latter every time. Jesus is Lord.

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  37. Interesting notion, though I doubt any would consider such an idea Anglican let alone biblical.

    Geez, JB, hyperbole much? (i.e., I agree w/ Bill C---or, not being a "Prince of the Church", do my considerations simply not matter?)

    Let's face it, democracy is absolutely contrary to the Kingdom to which we call the world.

    Au contraire. There is a direct connection between "all are one in Christ" and "E Pluribus Unum". Democracy ain't perfect (per Winston Churchill, "just better than any other" form of government)...

    ...but it's cure is MORE democracy, not less (the democratic principle that even permanent minorities, like LGBT people, ought to be respected and protected).

    It's "The World" which teaches "Paradise is dictatorship, with [your favorite dictator (person/group/ideology) here] in charge": that's nuthin' like the Reign of God!

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  38. Wendy,

    Bashing Tom Wright, and particularly ascribing such negative motives to him, simply is unacceptable. The nastiness of such commentating reminds me of a leftist version of what I can't stand about icky David Virtue's website.

    Greg Jones+

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  39. Bill & JC:

    No, it's not hyperbole. It is simply how we identify ourselves to the world--I am sure I don't have to remind you of the meaning of episcopos. Bishops, priests and deacons are simply in our DNA. Maybe we should change our name to the brethren of . . . if that is the way we wish to govern, but to claim to be Apostolic and untrusting of bishops seems very disingenuous. Of course, set against the hierarchy of "lording it over one another" is Christ's example and teaching us to serve Christ in one another. Our leaders are called to lead by serving, not lording. The priesthood of all believers, however, is not something that is realized until His coming again, when all our wills have been conformed to His.

    As to yur claim, JC, that it simply better than all other forms of government, you might want to think back on your poly sci days. When one rules for the good of all (monarchy), that has often been viewed as the best form of government. Democracr does not fall nearly so far when it is corrupted, but neither does it rise to the heights of many others.

    As to your claim, Bill, that the Anglican church has always been good about admitting the priority of conscience. Yes and no. We can each bring up examples of the church's acceptance of conscientious objections and the steamrolling of those objectionists (?)--lol. Where we (both sides) part is when people claim the the authority of the Bible is provisional (and my side authoritative). The Anglican Church, since it was first articulated by Hooker, has always maintained the priority of Scripture against all else except the sacraments.

    Peace,
    JB

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  41. obadiahslope18/8/06 8:17 PM

    Wendy,
    It is one thing to lament the loss of diversity in a publishing list (of a company in serious financial difficulty).
    It is another thing to accuse an author of threatening to leave a publisher of they publish books that disagree with his.
    Especially if you do so without providing any evidence he said this.

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  42. I have bowed to the will of the 'majority' and deleted posts a felt were unfair and offensive.

    Suffice it to say that SPCK is managing its financial difficulties by rejecting manuscripts by authors it fears may offend its cash cow. Everyone is capable of drawing his or her own conclusions.

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