Radner on Invitations to Lambeth and the New Testament on including rascals.

Dr. Ephraim Radner published a paper on the Anglican Communion Network, Inc site this week titled, "Lambeth Can Be What It Wants To Be." It is classic Radner –detailed, clear in its passions, and (once the brambles are cleared away) helpful. It has provoked considerable ire from the Stand Firm crowd. Matt Kennedy has written a response that is almost as long as the essay itself and yet another essay on possible scenarios. Stand Firm, which I confess I check out every day, is increasingly filled with carping and ill-tempered notices of the supposed foibles of the progressive and or middle of the road folk. Kennedy's comments, however, cut deeper, for he is criticizing not some unworthy dupe who finds The Episcopal Church to be a spiritual gift in his increasing age, but a younger man of some esteem in the realignment crowd. So it has been interesting to watch the reaction from the so called "orthodox" community to Radner's essay .

I am disappointed that there is not more comment from progressives, for Radner is on one level arguing for the presence of everyone at the Lambeth Conference precisely so that the struggles there can be more and more the outward and visible sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work slogging through the minds of the bishops towards some expression of the mind of Christ. Radner is quite right to point out that there are no guarantees that any meeting of bishops will be anything more than just a meeting. What gives councils their authority is not their membership, not their words along, and certainly not the political use to which the words are put, but something more, the acceptance of this or that statement it makes as increasingly informative by the whole church. (Think, for example about how the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has taken on added value over the years.)

Having read the article several times my sense is Radner is on to something we ought all to hear out. I have many more things to say about his essay, but I cannot bear to write them now. (How is that for inverse use of last Sunday's Gospel?)

So, instead, I got to thinking about Scriptural quotations. Radner uses some in his essay. Unlike those used in the Draft Anglican Covenant these are germane and fairly specific to his case.

I wondered, are there Scriptural references that support the notion that everybody ought to be invited to church councils and more specifically to the Lambeth Conference, including the people you consider ecclesial rascals?

Here are several candidates for such entries:

Scriptural reasons for inviting all the Bishops to Lambeth:

Matthew 13: 24 – 30 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' "

Matthew 13:47-50 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Rev 22:11- 12 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy." "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."

Matthew 11:28 - 30 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

The first three of these have to do with Jesus' observation that the end of time is the occasion for separating out the good from the bad. Now, they are mixed together. (This of course cuts many ways – as many as there are oppositional folk.) But the point is, give it a rest: there are no meetings of the pure this side of Paradise.

The fourth is the argument from the burdens we carry. We are burdened down by our own sin and the sins of others. Unfortunately in church circles a lot of emphasis is put on the burden of other's sins. There seem to be some who believe that the burden of our Presiding Bishop is too great to bear, or the burden of our bishops' affirmation of Bishop Robinson's election is too much to bear. So Lambeth gets to be a hard thing to bear as well. Well, maybe this saying of Jesus is suggesting that bishops put their burdens down, leave their luggage at the door, and skip on out light as a feather to meet each other on the mountain top for a meal far sweeter than the weariness of the struggles below.

So…there are some scriptural quotes to the positive… I am sure there are negative ones as well.

What scriptural quotes would you use to support all bishops, active and not retired, who are members of the House of Bishops of their own Province coming to Lambeth. What would you cite against the widest possible invitation?

For purposes of this exercise, only New Testament quotes; and you get three points for those attributed to Jesus, two for Paul and one for everybody else.


  1. Mark, an interesting post. Re. biblical verses, I would include all of the parables of the "lost": The lost coin, the lost sheep, etc. because who determins who is in or out save God?

    Another point: I would be loath to claim Lambeth as a "council" of the church simply because it does not include the fullness of the orders. Granted, historically councils were a gathering of bishops, in today's church no body that is going to have any legislative authority can be with out the other orders of ministry with some parity as the bishops.

  2. A scriptural passage against full inclusion (not that I would use it for that purpose) is Luke 10:10-11, about wiping the dust off your feet.

  3. I don't ever make comments on anything posted on SF. It is a toxic cesspool of anger and juvenile drivel. I do confess to checking it out to see what is happening from their point of view. LOL

  4. On Radner+ What Lambeth is is what Lambeth wants to be…

    Radner is addressing the GS. He is suggesting a theological pretense on which to hang their agenda. It is: A conference can morph into a council. A council can be authoritative and the work of the Holy Spirit. We judge its authenticity, in hindsight, by whether or not it is historically withheld. Therefore, since Lambeth 1998 passed 1.10, if Lambeth 2008 passes 1.10 again, we will know that 1.10 is the work of the Holy Spirit because it is supported by 2008. Interesting theology of the Holy Spirit.? How many do you need? One, two, three conferences, morph councils?

    But in a response in a different area to one of Matt Kennedy’s critiques of his research on Nicea and Constantinople, he had the following:

    "What I don’t get is why an overwhelming majority of traditional bishops from around the world should worry about being at a meeting of prayer and counsel, at which a puny handful of marginal dissidents from some confused and tiny Western churches is also present? Let Lambeth 2008 finish what Lambeth 1998 began. Arguments to the effect of “but TEC hasn’t listened and cannot be trusted” are all true! I have made them ad nauseum along with the rest of everyone on this blog. But so what? Nigeria, Uganda, and so on all have the numbers on their side by a long shot. Let us then see the Spirit uphold their witness. " Posted by Ephraim Radner on 06-06-2007 at 05:16 AM

    Here, the argument is reversed. Instead of Lambeth upholding the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is upholding the GS. Why? Because the GS has the numbers. All this proves is that Radner+, Seitz+ and +Akinola can count. What Wm Tighe’s suggests is far more direct. No pretense that what the GS wants is what the Holy Spirit wants. It’s straight out church politics. To the Communion’s conservatives: Get +Akinola to create 500 new bishops. Pack Lambeth and get you want.

    I love democracy but I have problems when a majority, either on the left, TEC, or the right, the GS tyrannizes the minority and can not make room for difference. But, so far, it seems that TEC is more willing to make room for those who disagree. Radner+ is not excluded from the conversation. He’s not unhappy because he has no voice at the table. He’s unhappy because his voice isn’t heard at the decision maker’s table. So TEC, what more are you willing to do to make those on the right feel safe? Can the PV scheme originally proposed by ++Jefferts Schori be resurrected in a manner that might work, both subject to TEC discipline and amenable to the Windsor bishops? As the Executive Council meets next week, will you be patient and really try to hear these folks out? EPfizH

  5. Hi Mark,

    As someone who for the most part is to the left of Radner but to the right of you, I always appreciate it when you engage constructively with Radner's writing. Fr. Jake & I had some mutually enlightening exchanges on the topic of the Lambeth invitations that you might be interested in checking out; you may read them here, here, and here.

    I hope to post something directly on Radner soon.



  6. For the life of me, I can't understand why Fr. Radner is seen as some sort of moderate conservative in this dreadful fracas. Is it just because his language is respectful, or even thoughtful, when he chooses it prudent to appear moderate? True colors come through with "puny handful", "marginal dissidents' and "tiny Western churches." Power seems to be the true goal of his strivings, not real engagement.

  7. I am disappointed that there is not more comment from progressives

    I agree with Ann ... the reason progressives don't post is because we are tired of being vilified as heretical, non-Christian, pagan worshipping, tarot card reading, Anglican imitators.

    You have more grace than I do if you read SF on a daily basis. Sometimes it seems that the so-called "orthodox" will get what they want simply because they are more willing to beat their opposition into submission; and I'm just tired of playing that game. Either come and worship with me, or go away; but quit beating on me.

  8. John D., I'm still wondering why even Radner's ideological opponents always feel compelled to assert that he is "brilliant."

    Frankly, I don't see it. He seems to me more a propagandist than a scholar, and, as you point out, more interested in power than piety.

  9. Mark - I have to admit that in the current phase of this struggle it is clear to me that there are only a few options open to the parties. I find Radner's writing of late to be less than helpful in clarifying what those options really are. What is needed is clear articulations of what people want to see happen in light of what has already happened and why they want it. We are past "thinking it all through," "working out our viewpoints" "considering all our options" together. Radner and ACI offered alot of shelter for people who where not ready to commit to a line of action, and wanted a broad frame work within which to function. The Tanzania PV Scheme was their best shot at "solving" the problem. It was a good effort, but it fell short for all the reasons we already know. The SF crowd and progressives both know this. It is not clear that ACI does or that it has a coherent follow-up offering. If they do, Radner et al. should state plainly what it is. Otherwise, I am not sure why I should spend so much time trying to figure out the point of what he is saying. It feels like he is merely trying to stay on the stage after his his already finished his lines.

  10. Reports are coming in that Ephraim is headed to Wycliffe in Toronto, leaving parish life to be a professor.

  11. On the subject of Radner+ and whether he is "brilliant" or not. Well yes, if you are talking about using/misusing his academic discipline, history to further his interests in the present. And he is good at analyzing the present, his audience, and how to influence it. This most recent effort was an attempt to provide evidence and precedent to the GS to do what Radner believes is in their best interest (and his) in the present: Go to Lambeth, Vote, Win.

    So, he tried to make his case by asserting, 1. It's ok to sit down with heretics, see I am giving you historical precedents. 2. By asserting that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. Both of these arguments should go over big with the GS.

    What was actually ironic and amusing to watch at Stand Firm was that Wm. Tighe actually challenged him on his precedents on heretics. In fact, they didn't support the argument Radner+ was making but the opposite. Matt Kennedy, whose political agenda now seems to be supporting the "from without" vs. the "from within" crowd, and is therefore moving away from Radner's political agenda, then jumped in. Tighe objected to Radner, not because he didn't like his agenda, but, as a good academic,Tighe was offended by Radner's sloppy scholarship. [An analogy, for theologians... Radner was "proof texting"and Tighe simply couldn't handle it]. Kennedy objected to Radner's+ comments on previous councils and heretics because Radner was using them to support a political agenda in the present that Kennedy has yet to buy into, not because he was misreading/misusing the texts. He, of course didn't say that, but my view is that, if Radner had been arguing what supported Kennedy's agenda and Radner's "facts" weren't supportedy the texts, Kennedy would have responded with dead silence.

    On "brilliant", well, as an historian? I'd have some pretty severe concerns. But as a propagandist? Terriffic!. He knows the hot buttons of his audience and how to play them. He knows what questions to frame in the present and how to "ask" them of the past. [All "historians" have a bias here. To a greater or lesser degree their bias will inform, even dominate, their research.] But he'd be better if his "answers" actually matched the evidence. There will always be people like Tighe around who demand academic integrity for its own sake,--- such a distraction when you're trying to make a point EPfizH

  12. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is
    summarized in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go
    snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better
    watch or you will destroy the whole community. (Gal. 5. 14-15) Submitted by Michael

  13. I agree with nlnh: "brilliant" I am not. Just slogging away like most of us. Ideological "propagandist"? Certainly a person of "prejudice" in the Burkean sense.

    I have already attempted to answer some of the suspicions Anonymous has raised over on StandFirm (yes, things can get rather agressive over there; but agressiveness and even rudeness is not exactly a conservative monopoly on the blogs, friends; Thinking Anglicans has had to intervene on this matter recently with its own cadre of bloggers; “toxic cesspools of juvenile drivel”?). As for the "puny handful of marginal dissidents" comment, get a grip guys: it was a little humorous irony. These are the exact words that our deeply respectful bishops have used about conservatives still a part of TEC (like myself), and on many occasions.

    To repeat my main point: no one should be afraid of going to take counsel for the Church, no matter who is present or who is not. It's not ours to win or lose, just ours to show up and be faithful. There was a time -- in both the early church and late medieval/Reformation periods when showing up could be dangerous to your health, depending on who you were. Poor Hus. We no longer live in such times. And that is a blessing from God to be seized.

  14. Radner repeats that his main point is that everyone should go to Lambeth. Seeing as he is clearly unhappy with TEC, it seems that his audience is mainly conservatives who do not want to "lunch" with heretics etc. Would that that was all he was saying. But he does not stop with his historical reasoning for going.

    Instead he begin his finish with "Even the most pessimistic “conservative” must agree that the numbers are there for traditionalist bishops to do whatever they discern as fitting, if they indeed show up and pursue it."

    And this is what I'm getting at - there is a clear call here for conservatives to not just show up, but to act. To make Lambeth, not what the ABC may have intended by calling Lambeth together, but what they (the majority) want it to be. They can set the agenda. They've got the numbers. They can do whatever they want and it's okay by him? Why? Because they are the majority and "the Holy Spirit controls the course of a gathering of saints; and the saints are eager to work with God." Really? Does he have the same view of how the Holy Spirit works through the majority in TEC? Or does he have an agenda himself that he wants to see realized at Lambeth, and it won't happen unless the GS are there. If so, he should just say what it is he thinks should happen and who needs to be there.

  15. Have we forgotten the Robber Council of Second Ephesus?

  16. Small correction to anonymous' post. I was not tagging onto Dr. Tighe's learned post to augment my "political agenda". In fact, my article in response to Dr. Radner was published far prior to Dr. Tighe's.


  17. I agree with Mark that there is much to garner from Dr. Radner's writing -- even if there are times I wish he were a little more terse! (Yes, a joke, coming from me...)

    Seriously, though, I think in the long run the argument over the nature of a council is like the old "proof of prophecy" in Deut 18:22 -- if what the prophet says turns out to happen, he was a prophet; thus the ultimate test of a Council will be the test of time. That's one of the reasons Anglicans were able to hold that even the Scripturally recorded Council of Jerusalem was in error.

    So, going into it, Lambeth really isn't a council in any meaningful sense of the word; though, if its actions are later vindicated, it will be seen, in retrospect, to have been one.

    Interesting, but of little practical use, it seems to me.

  18. As a follow up to my previous, it struck me that the extent to which Lambeth 1998 has been questioned or not received might indicate it wasn't a Council, and had, in fact, erred...

  19. The “practical” element in all this is that one is called to carry through with what one has started (in a conciliar sense) and that one must finish what one as begun. The Primates must do this (that is ACI’s “concrete” hope), Lambeth must do this, and those who have participated in these gatherings must do it. Councils emerge and function insofar as the representatives of the Church in fact are so committed and perseverant. Tobias wonders if opposition to Lambeth ’98 (in certain respects) clouds its authoritative substance (such as people have claimed for it). That’s a good question. All the more reason to meet again and test. Certainly, GC ’03 has (it seems to me) utterly failed to gain any traction, having been dismissed by ecumenical partners, significant parts of TEC (or are they just “marginal dissidents”?), the clear majority of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and so on. Surprises take place at erstwhile councils – from Nicea to Lambeth ’98. Who is to say what would happen in ’08? One can predict, one can hope. But one cannot preempt. I believe that an understanding of this process is eminently relevant to our present circumstances.

    Prof. Tighe, cited above, seems to make the same point. And although I know it is hard for some to stomach reading Stand Firm, if one is going to cite from the thread, a little context would be helpful. Prof. Tighe and I had a rather pleasant exchange, contrary to the note above. His detailed narrative of Nicea, as I pointed out, rather supports my general argument about the emergent character of “council” – what is called “reception”. As for some of the details, I simply take issue with the conclusions he might well draw from certain historians of the period. It is unlikely, as I said, that Arius was actually present as a defendant at a trial, despite what some sources from later would have us believe (they would also have us believe that unanimity at Nicea was relatively secure.) That is because we do in fact happen to know what Constantine thought of the matter, and he was one who wished to avoid placing people like Arius and his supporters in such a position. (A little like Rowan Williams, it seems.) In any case, Arius was not a bishop; and he had many episcopal allies who in fact were at the council and participated openly. What surprised was the fact that most of these supporters backed away when the moment came to make a decision, and sided with the “catholic” position. To be sure, many of these reverted to their Arian views after the council itself. (A little like Lambeth ’98). But the statement was made, however surprising and counter-intuitive given who was there, and it eventually was sustained.

    It is interesting to see how easily discussions slide back into categories of political agenda, from whoever’s side. My “side” is well known. That is not at issue. But I hope that a reflection on the character of what the church does and is called to do in meeting for counsel can, in some small degree, transcend these categories, at least for a moment. This is proving a hard nut to crack, however.

  20. Dr. Radner, your professions of sorrow at how political all of this has become would be much more plausible if you were not on the board of directors of a highly political organization founded to defend the Latin American death squads and now dedicated to dragooning the mainline churches into the far right's "culture war."

    As it is, you sound uncomfortably like Captain Renault, who was shocked, shocked! to learn that there was gambling at Rick's.

  21. Certainly, GC ’03 has (it seems to me) utterly failed to gain any traction, having been dismissed by ecumenical partners, significant parts of TEC (or are they just “marginal dissidents”?), the clear majority of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and so on.


    I wish!

    Seems like the reasserters, near and far, can think of little else!

  22. Tobias and Dr. Radner,

    The discussion about the nature of Council is very helpful to me at least, but begging your pardon in advance for my cursory knowledge of the history. . . but a major, if not the major historical difference, between then and now, it seems to me, is in the political (as in Imperial) pressure applied to bring conclusion to Nicea. Perhaps slightly less significant was that by the conclusion, most of the major figures of the Arian controversy had left the scene.

    I think this is significant, as the Anglican Communion does not appear to me (short of adopting tenuous conspiracy theories, which I am not prepared to at this point) under major political pressure to resolve this conflict one way or another.

    I seriously wonder if, in fact, we are looking for a resolution (a carrot?) without the proverbial (and historical, at least in matters most important in the development of Christian theology) stick.

    Not that I desire such things, mind you, but it gives me cause to wonder.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.