Friday, 14 August 2009

The Great Emergence - and Anglican issues!

I have recently been reading Phyllis Tickle on the Great Emergence. Two things struck me. The first was that she says that about every 500 years there is a shift in Christianity, and that one of the first signs of this is a breakdown in authority. Just prior to the reformation there were 3 Popes, so from a situation where people knew who was in charge now there was a choice. What struck me forcibly was the analogy with the current times in Anglicanism, where cetainly among some there is a desire for a strong authority, when in fact Anglicanism could almost be defined as not having an authority.

The other strand that I noted was a restatement of the old believe- behave- belong or belong-behave-believe. What was added to this was an explanation of the accompanying approach to people who want to join. In the old style there were lots of rules, and if you kept the rules you could belong. In the new approach there is a centre towards which people are drawn - but to which they don't have to sign up before belonging.

This is not perhaps quite the problem in Anglicanism at present but I can see many similarities. If we take the battle over homosexuality in Anglicanism then it is largely between those who think it is wrong and those who think it is right. What doesn't get much publicity is the approach that says that it doesn't matter! To be fair, if you are going to have an authorised ministry then it does matter, but this might explain why, although there are many to whom this does matter, there are a large number of people to whom it doesn't matter at all. Of course in some sense the "it doesn't matter"s are by default on the side of change, as they cannot see what the problem is in the first place!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Archbishops letter

Following the American General Convention the Archbishop of Caterbury has written that:

    9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. ...

My concern about this statement is that it seems to imply that only those who fully live the Gospel are allowed to have a representative function in the Church. Now call me picky, but I don't think any of us achieve that. I know of one priest who says that churches should have a big banner over the door - sinners only - and I believe that that applies to the priests too. I also liked the story of the priest who was asked whether he was a Christian and he said "I'm trying to be". Having googled this I know that there are a large body of people who will say that being a Christian is about grace - fine - so what makes people ineligible for a representative role?

Or is this something to do with hypocrisy? Many of our other sins are hidden and known only to us. If someone is living in such a union, but hides the fact, does that make them fit for a representative function? I would argue not and that the action of the Americans is at least honest about where they stand in a way that the CofE isn't.

For me a large part of being a priest is about an openness and honesty about who I am - hiding away parts of myself for fear of what others might think or say is to me denying God - and yet I find myself doing it. But at least I confess it and don't make a policy out of it.


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