Order of Companionable Priest by Gordon Banks

from the sharetheguide website

brilliant idea – an order of companionable priests! that is, an authorised group of priests who walk alongside fresh expressions and emerging church communities whilst they evolve their own sacramental ministries – allowing those developments to take the time required for them to be genuine and indigenous!

while you there checking out Gordon’s great suggestion, have a look at the share the guide website.  it’s the UK fresh expressions network space where great ideas are shared.

‘Trends and directions in Contemporary Theology: Anglican Theology’ by Ian Markham

(in Expository Times, 122 (5) 209-217)

Cute and useful little article!  (However, it does not include consideration of non-western thinkers and movements and is overly focused on the US.) Markham identifies 5 streams of contemporary anglican theology:

1. liberal

eg. Richard Holloway; John Shelby Spong

2. conservative

perhaps the largest group;  eg. Philip Jenkins, James Packer, Philip Turner, Ephraim Radner,

3. mystical – including the ‘radical orthodoxy’ movement

“The battle between liberals and conservatives is being fought out in the battleground of the Anglican Communion.  much of this theology is being expressed in communiques, statements, and most recently in ‘pastoral letters’.  However, more nuanced Anglican theologies are emerging in the academy, of which the most influential are using the language of ‘mystical theology’ and ‘radical orthodoxy’… [and are] … a response to postmodernism – our sensitivity that we cannot simply ‘argue’for the truth.” (p.213)

eg. mystical feminist theology – Sarah Coakley;  radical orthodoxy – John Milbank, Graham Ward, Catherine Pickstock

4. eccelisology & culture

“This group shares a relatively conservative doctrinal emphasis..[with an understanding that]… faith depends on revelation… [which is ultimately]… the disclosure of God in the Eternal Word made flesh – the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.  There is also agreement that the Christian community is central.  Faith is learning the language that enables one to participate in the Church.  The difference with Radical Orthodoxy is the possibility of dialogue across disciplines.” (p.214)

eg. Katherine Tanner, Daniel W, Hardy, David Ford, Martyn Percy, Esther Reed, Keith Ward,

5. Rowan Williams – in a category all on his own!

Three major themes to William’s work – (i) the centrality of the Christian community, with a particular interest in the way language functions in the discourse of faith;  (ii) the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity; (iii) the centrality of  Scripture, in which he encourages a ‘literal’ reading of scripture which draws us into a conversation – with God, ourselves, and our critical faculties.

“Williams is setting out an agenda for Anglican theology.  It is one that learns from conservative theologians the importance of authority and limits to pluralism.  It recognizes as foundational the conviction that God is revealed in Christ and discovered in Scripture.  It learns from the liberals the need to recognize that God is always bigger than the boxes in which we insist on confining God.  This Rowan Williams’ inspired Anglican Theology recognizes the centrality of prayer and appreciates the insights of Radical Orthodoxy.  It is happy to share an appropriate emphasis on recognizing that God is disclosing Christ to us in a vast array of cultural discoveries.  It is also a theology that gently takes issue with the extremes in each group.  To the conservatives, they need to think carefully at precisely what point a fellow Christian is no longer struggling in Christ to discern the truth of God’s Word; to the liberal, he has no time for the theologies that fail to recognize the achievement of the creeds, to the advocate of Radical Orthodoxy, he worries about an inability to engage; and to the sociological interfaith, ecclesiological movement, he insists on a strong sense of Christian identity within the Church.  This mixture of both learning from these conversation partners and yet taking issue with them is producing a distinctly Anglican approach to theology.”  (p.217)

 

Anglicanism, Post-Modernity and a Habitat for Giftedness by Scott Cowdell

In Bruce Kaye (ed)  ‘Wonderful and Confessedly Strange’:  Australian Essays in Anglican Ecclesiology (ATF Press; South Australia, 2006)


At the close of a week full time in the library at St. Mark’s Canberra, I am full of excitement:  about God;  about living life with Jesus;  and, relevent to this post, about the new relational pathways that Emerging Church opens up.  My Anglican Emerging friends come from all strands of the inherited church – evangelical; charismatic; catholic; liberal; etc.  – but somehow we are meeting in this emerging new space where new paradigms are possible.  Is it possible that the connections were there all along, but it is not until we are willing to let go of the past that we see the Spirit in each other?

In this short article, Scott describes how it is possible to embrace both individualism – the uniqueness of our own journey – and a commitment to tradition and community.  Holding those two things in tension is key for understanding Paul’s theology of spiritual giftedness in the emerging church.  We bypass the nihilistic, narcissistic tendencies of consumer individualism when we commit to the adventure with others.  In that context we discover that knowing who we are in ourselves and in relationship, seeing the impact of the best of who we are on others, is a thrilling experience of church and humanity.

In this quote here, Scott talks about ‘worship’, which could be misunderstood.  He has in mind the shared spiritual experience where all of our being comes together in relationship with God and each other.  I think that he is encapsulating something Emerging Christians have also been trying to say – but in Anglican language!

“Worship is the primary context of faith formation and empowerment for mission… This connection between church and world, sacred and secular, is an Anglican instinct rooted in an incarnational vision of the church… It is in this tradition of worship, faith and practice interwoven in a commitment to the life of the world, that Anglicanism understands ‘gifts’ for ministry in individual Christians.  This ‘habitat’ of Christian formation elicits and develops ‘giftedness’.”

The Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie by Richard Hooker

It’s been fun to dip into the sixteenth century English reformation!  I’m reading the bits on ministry which have been useful to contextualize how Anglican models of ministry have evolved both ‘Catholic’ and ‘Reformed’.  The fun part is the quaint cultural dissonances coming from the 16th century language such as “publike prayer” and “the sumptuousness of Churches”.  And then there is this fabulous quote which would disqualify me from ministry altogether!

“a moderate and dispassionate temperament, something between fullness and emptiness, has always been thought and found – all things considered – to be the safest and happiest course for everyone, even for kings and princes.”

God’s Next Big Thing: Discovering the Future Church by Scott Cowdell

(John Garrett Publishing; Melbourne, 2004)

Scott Cowdell will supervise my guided reading project, starting next week, which was the original motivation for reading this book -what a blessing!  Great writing, sharp intellect and deeply spiritual reflections engaging both head and heart – I am so excited about the academic year which is about to start!!!

God’s Next Big Thing is divided into two parts.  The first global/Australian cultural analysis is locating the church in the post-modern era and was particularly exciting for me with it’s strong critique of capitalist modes of being as a core driver of western culture’s evolution.  Cowdell favours a definition of post-modernity as an hyper-extension of the modern era which draws this out more clearly.  I still think postmodernism is a new epoch of western culture, but I valued being able to chart it’s economic heritage.

Included in part one is a fabulous chapter on the emerging church where, as a high-churchman, Cowdell argues for an emerging church that is mystical, mature and militant (by which he means prophetic engagement with the wider world).  I particularly appreciated his depiction of the immature church that is so prevalent today – insecure, defensive with an addictive & co-dependent personality.  It reinforced my own image of the Western Church being in denial about it’s midlife crisis.  Mostly however, it was just so exciting to read a Christian from a different ‘tradition’ to my own, reaching the same conclusions by a different path.  Surely a sign that God is in this ‘next big thing’.

The second part of the book is devoted to suggestions for the way forward in which he addresses liturgy; the lay vocation of the Church; and organised religion (rejecting institutionalism and managerialism in the Church).  Whilst I don’t share Cowdell’s passion for the defined Liturgical Movement tradition from which he comes, I do share his conclusions on the need for depth, mystery and beauty in our worship as a balm to the postmodern soul.  I also agree with his theology of the laity as having a ‘vocation’ that is ‘serving at an alter in the world’ – called to be disciples  in whatever life situation they find themselves, as opposed to devoting their service to the maintenance of religion.  His discussion of lay presidency is insightful in this regard.  His discussion on sexuality is really interesting!

The Future of the Parish System: Shaping the Church of England for the 21st Century by Steven Croft (ed)

(Church House Publishing; UK, 2006)

This is a book (and a post) primarily relevant to Anglicans reforming the Anglican Church.  It’s a book that I would recommend to Bishops, Archdeacons, Area Deans and Theological Educators wanting to grapple with the challenges of a ‘mixed economy’ church.  The UK context does not always directly translate to Australia but in terms of institutional reform I found it incredibly helpful, practical and inspiring!  The very structure of the book:  context – theology – ways forward, offer a helpful framework for unpacking institutional questions in pursuit of a post-Christendom Anglicanism.  Below are some selected highlights based on what was most relevant to me. I suggest you browse for what  interests you, happy to take questions if you wanna know more without reading the book yourself!

PART ONE:   UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT

Interesting choice here – reflections from an historian, a psychologist and a sociologist!

chapter 1:  ‘Many rooms in my Father’s house:  The changing identity of the English parish church’ by Martyn Percy

Tracks the impact of cultural secularization.  Really interesting comment on the politics of secularisation:

“Another problem with secularization is that, after sociologists and the media; those who believe in this thesis most passionately are the churches themselves.  Many, if not most, have bought the idea that modernity leads to the gradual and incremental loss of faith.  Correspondingly, various interest groups emerge, hoping to make some capital out of the perceived crisis.  Liberals propose stripping the faith to its bare essentials in order to make religion more credible.  Evangelicals also strip the faith to its essentials, and promote ‘the basics’ of religion through courses like Alpha.  But most Christians (though it is never easy to say who these people are, nor exactly what their faith consists of) who are in the middle ground are rather bewildered by these approaches to faith and society.  For in their day-to-day Christian existence, no matter how intense or nominal, they do not encounter a ‘secular’ world at all, but, rather, one in which spirituality, religion and questions of faith remain public and widespread.  In short, they do not believe in the modern ‘disease’ of secularization, and consequently, they are unpersuaded by those groups that seek to promote their panaceas.” (pp.6-7)

chapter 2:  ‘On the analyst’s couch:  Psychological perspectives on congregations and clergy’ by Sara Savage

Psychological positives of the parish system:

  • sacred space ‘owned’ by attenders and non-attenders alike
  • woven into the fabric of life
  • encourages social stability
  • cultural richness and complexity
  • suited to privacy-loving English culture
  • checks and balances

Psychological negatives of the parish system:

  • clergy carry the bulk of the burden of maintaining the system
  • hierarchy
  • norm of niceness/conflict avoidance
  • difficult people (particularly narcissistic personalities) are attracted to the parish system
  • unpredictable variety and disunity
  • unconscious processes
  • clergy and lay pastors vulnerable to the difficulties of ‘duel role relationships’
  • clergy vulnerable to role conflict, role overload and role ambiguity.

chapter 3:  ‘From obligation to consumption:  Understanding the patterns of religion in Northern Europe by Grace Davie

Davie has become well known for introducing the concept of ‘vicarious religion’ which she argues operates broadly across Northern Europe, particularly in the Nordic countries.  Religion can operate vicariously by:

  • “Churches and church leaders perform ritual on behalf of others (for example, at the time of a birth, a marriage, a divorce even, and above all at the time of a death)…
  • Church leaders and churchgoers believe on behalf of others… Church leaders should not doubt in public…
  • Church leaders and churchgoers embody moral codes on behalf of others.  Religious professionals are expected to maintain moral standards in their private as well as public lives…
  • …churches can offer space for the vicarious debate of unresolved issues in modern societies.  the current debate about homosexuality in the Anglican Communion offers a good example.  Without such an explanation, it would be harder to discover why the secular press pays such close attention to the discussion about senior appointments in a supposedly marginal institution.”  (pp. 36-37)

PART TWO:  THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES

chapter 4:  ‘Theological resources for re-examining church’ by Rowan Williams

“the substance of the Church’s life is the lived encounter with Jesus in the company of unexpected and unchosen others, and that the historical actuality of this always involves structures by which believers try to keep themselves alert and responsible to the act of God.” (p.56)

chapter 5:  ‘Focusing church life on a theology of mission’ by Graham Cray

A missionary church is:

  • focused on the Trinity
  • incarnational
  • transformational
  • one that makes disciples
  • relational

chapter 6:  ‘Serving, sustaining, connecting:  Patterns of ministry in the mixed economy Church’ by Steven Croft

application of his earlier threefold patterns of ministry (bishops, presbyters, deacons) to mixed economy models.

PART THREE:  WAYS FORWARD

chapter 7:  ‘Doing traditional church really well’ by Robin Gamble

“‘Inherited’ and ’emerging’ belong together, overlapping, interweaving and mutually supporting.  In this loving relationship traditional church is not in fading away mode; she is both older sister and parent to the newly born.  As such she needs to be a generous sister/parent, sharing experience, wisdom and resources while also being open to receive back freshness and youthful vigour.” (p.93)

chapter 8: ‘Good practice is not what it used to be:  Accumulating wisdom for fresh expressions of church’ by Michael Moynagh

Some practical systems and suggestions for developing good practice in an ever changing environment.

chapter 9: ‘Mapping the mixed economy’ by Ann Morisy

Morisy argues that mixed economy expressions of mission can be mapped by the 3 ‘domains’ or perhaps I would say, areas of theological/spiritual experience.  The three domains must needs interact, but perhaps not all in the same missional endeavour.

  • the explicit domain – “God is with us in Jesus”
  • the foundational domain – “a sense of the possibility of God”
  • the vocational or invitational domain – “the human desire to become a better self”

chapter 10: ‘Fresh expressions growing to maturity’ by George Lings

How will maturity be measured in emerging and inherited communities?

chapter 11: ‘Reconfiguring a diocese towards mission’ by Ian Cundy

Some interesting suggestions here, including suggestions for missional leadership by Deaneries.  Cundy spent a sabbatical looking at diverse strategies for mission and ministry that a number of diocese had developed.  The common themes were:

  • “the need to structure the Church to fulfill its God-given mission;
  • to develop and encourage the gifts for ministry of God’s people;
  • to work collaboratively across parochial and denominational boundaries;
  • to promote ministry teams;
  • to face the challenge of changing resources.” (p.153)

chapter 12:  ‘Legal matters – what you need to know’ by John Rees

The important boring stuff that absolutely has to be done if we are to move forward!

Conclusion by Steven Croft

How will the Anglican church hold together in a mixed economy?  “increasingly it is a commitment to a common mission that holds us together” (p.179)  Steven suggests 5 marks of Mission-Shaped Anglicanism:

  1. a commitment to Scripture;
  2. a commitment to the dominical sacraments of baptism and Eucharist;
  3. a commitment to listening to the whole of Christian tradition and seeing that tradition expressed in the historic creeds;
  4. a commitment to the ministry and mission of the whole people of God and to the ordering of ministry through the threefold order of deacons, priests and bishops;
  5. a commitment to the mission of God to the whole of creation and to the whole of our society as defined and described in the Anglican communion’s five marks of mission*.” (p.182)

*The five marks of mission are:  To proclaim the good news of the kingdom; to teach, nurture and baptize new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society; to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the earth.

Tom Frame, A House Divided: The Quest for Unity within Anglicanism

(Acorn Press: Melbourne: 2010)

Love this book or hate it, agree or disagree, you have to give Tom Frame credit for bravely putting his own life on the line – for that is how it feels when you read A House Divided.   I myself am profoundly grateful, for Tom Frame’s book is inviting the reader into a conversation the Australian Anglican Church desperately needs to have.  Most dioceses recognise the need for change and across Australia Bishops are calling Anglicans to renewed prayer and mission.  Many parishes are heeding the call and trying new things and re-engaging with their community.  There is life in local gatherings where Jesus is honoured in all they do.  Institutionally however, it seems a different matter.

Clergy depression and poor health is common.  Bishop’s are burdened with untenable workloads which prevents them from having appropriate knowledge and care of their clergy.  There is mistrust of the Diocese from individual parishes and agencies and Synods have become a political playing field for church parties that most Anglicans do not relate to or care for.  Surely it is time to work out how to do things differently so that the new life in the parishes can flourish.

Tom Frame argues that if the Anglican Church is to growth into the challenges of Mission and Ministry in the twenty-first century, it needs to “re-imagine” it’s Synods, Episcopate and Dioceses and revive it’s intellectual life.  He outlines suggested reforms for each of these in a thoughtful and thought provoking way.  Frame’s particular reforms may end up being a ‘straw man’ but if that is the case, we are still indebted to him for it.  They are real options which deserve consideration, though it is difficult to see enough people willing to concede enough personal power for them to win support.

As a Gen-X Anglican, Frame’s suggestions resonate with my concerns for dismantling the tower of power which the episcopate has come to represent; rescuing spirituality from the grips of institutional religion; and rejecting the narrow approaches to theology which undergirds the evangelical verses liberal dichotomies pulling the worldwide Anglican Communion apart.  If you care about these things, it is worth the time and effort to read A House Divided yourself.