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Archive for January, 2008

Advent to Lambeth

A Response to the Archbishop of Canterbury‘s Advent Letter

Accepting his invitation to the Lambeth Conference, says the Archbishop in his Advent Letter, must be taken as implying willingness to work with those aspects of the Conference’s agenda that relate to implementing the recommendations of Windsor, including the development of a Covenant.

The language is so cautious that one does not really know what, in the end, it means. What is a “willingness to work with” certain agenda items? Would it include a willingness to consider those items, but with a view to substantially prolonging the discussion of them? If not, it is not clear that the Canadian bishops can, in good faith, accept their Lambeth invitations. The current position of our Church has been stated quite unambiguously by the Council of General Synod, namely that the development of a Covenant must be a process undertaken with the utmost careful deliberation and consultation, and that the timetable that has been proposed is very much too short:

…the timeframe proposed is impossibly short for us to engage in the adequate process of discernment and affirmation that our polity requires. The Covenant is an extremely important proposal, with longterm implications for all Anglicans, and we will need to take more time to prepare a response that truly speaks for the Anglican Church of Canada.

And this need for time and care in the development of a covenant was recognized by the Windsor Report itself, when it saw the covenant as being developed through a

long-term process, in an educative context, … considered for real debate and agreement on its adoption as a solemn witness to communion. (¶118)

To our minds this passage of the Windsor Report is not recommending a ten-month process; it is recommending something much more like a ten-year process.

Our present disagreements are deep; they are the result of not listening to one another for many decades. The most shocking allegation of the Windsor Report was that the Church in North America had sprung to its honoring of homosexual partnerships without having done the theological work to back it up. But this work has been a central engagement of Anglican theology in North America for three if not four decades. The thing is that the rest of the church did not read that work; we did our theology but no one else bothered to read it. Only in this way can the surprise of the rest of the Communion at Gene Robinson’s consecration be explained; to us, at the time, it seemed a perfectly natural development. That is why our disagreements can only be resolved “in an educative context” – there are four decades of education to catch up on, and that cannot be accomplished in ten months.

We understand the urge to hurry this matter up. For one thing, persons of good will are enormously anxious to put this divisive row behind us and to get on with the work of the Church. For another, those who are anxious to break up the Communion must have certain anxieties about how long the process can be bankrolled. The motives for hurry are strong, on both sides. But hurry is precisely what might do us in.

As the Archbishop points out in the Advent letter;

“The debates about sexuality, significant as they may be, are symptoms of our confusion about these basic principles of recognition. It is too easy to make the debate a standoff between those who are ‘for’ and those who are ‘against’ the welcoming of homosexual people in the Church. “

Given this understanding, a rush to solution of what he calls the “current crisis” without a full discussion about how that solution will address other issues in the life of the Communion could cause far deeper and longer lasting issues from which we might not be able to extricate ourselves. We have already seen in Canada those who make the ‘claim to orthodoxy’ speak of possibly re-visiting the role of women in the ordained ministry and the official forms of liturgy in use by the church. Lambeth must develop a solution to the ‘current crisis’ in such a way that the outcome of other issues in the life of the church are not pre-determined.

The Covenant will be, as it is currently conceived, at base, an instrument of exclusion. The Archbishop’s letter insists that “our identity as Anglicans is not something without boundaries”. The Covenant is understood as a device for setting those boundaries. And of course it is clear that what is on everyone’s mind is whether liberalism about homosexual partnerships is inside or outside those boundaries. But what else, that is not yet on the horizon, will be outside those boundaries? There are those who want to devise a Covenant that all the provinces can sign; there are those who want to devise a Covenant that some provinces cannot sign. In these conditions it really does seem that rushing to devise a Covenant is misguided. The Covenant, if one is needed at all, should emerge from a long period of education, education in one another’s theology. We need to become acquaintances, maybe even friends, once again, before we try to say what it is that binds us.

We need to learn to think in centuries, or at least in decades. As things stand we are thinking in months; we risk being bedevilled by hurry. The Archbishop thought of his Advent Letter as being about advent to Lambeth; let it be so, but let it be advent to Lambeth 2018.

John Thorp
Rae Fletcher +

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The Widening Circle: A Declaration of Principles

We are faithful members of the Anglican Church of Canada who have come together with a common goal: to affirm and reclaim the traditions of our branch of Christianity. Since its beginning, Anglicanism has proclaimed the essentials of the Christian faith, while being open to many theological interpretations and cultural expressions of those essentials.

We are concerned that this orthodox, comprehensive, and catholic approach is being undermined by those seeking to impose their narrow theology on the church, to be enforced by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

We represent the many backgrounds, views and perspectives that are included within the Anglican Church of Canada. In this diversity, we are a microcosm of Anglicanism itself. Together, we make the following affirmations.

General Principles:

  1. We are followers of Jesus Christ, continually living into the promises made at our baptism day by day.
  2. We celebrate the inclusive heritage of Anglicanism, in which is contained many characteristics considered mutually exclusive in other Christian churches and denominations. These characteristics include Reformed and Catholic elements, as well as so-called liberal, conservative, and broad expressions of faith and belief. This inclusivity forms a church which represents both a via media, or “middle path,” as well as a union of opposites.
  3. We recognize that the Anglican Communion is formed by a diversity of cultures and subcultures; people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, languages, and other characteristics, represented within both the worldwide Communion and each of its provinces. This reality is not a problem to be managed, but a gift in which we rejoice.
  4. We believe that Anglicanism must sensitively and faithfully express its unity through its diversity. Insistence on uniformity in non-essential matters undermines the unity and integrity of the Anglican Communion; and offends against our understanding of the Christian faith.
  5. We uphold the autonomy of The Anglican Church of Canada within the Anglican Communion, and the sole responsibility of our synods and councils to decide matters of doctrine and discipline, based on the authority of scripture, informed by the witness of tradition, and the insights of reason.
  6. We affirm that our baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being begins with affirming the full equality of all those in our church, neighbourhoods, country, and in the world. No Christian should be denied pastoral care, sacraments or sacramental rites, or any other benefit of the church because of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, language, or culture.

(Psalm 122; Luke 4:16-27; 10:25-37; John 17:20-21; Acts 2:5-12; 37-47; Acts 9:2; Romans 12:1; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 12:12-14; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 3:14—4:6; Philippians 4:8-9; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 3:8-9; Articles XIX; XXIII; XXXIV; Book of Common Prayer, pp. 717-21; Book of Alternative Services, p 158-59; 331-32)

Scripture

  1. We affirm that holy scripture is the word of God and contains all things necessary to salvation, while rejecting the notion that all things in Scripture are necessary to salvation or that everything in scripture should be translated into doctrine. Anything which cannot be proven by Scripture is not necessary to salvation.
  2. We commit ourselves to the ongoing task of interpreting scripture on a personal, parochial, diocesan, national, and global level, which is essential to our responsibility in developing doctrine, liturgy, and models of church governance. We recognize that as our cultural, scientific, and historical knowledge grows; this study will result in a maturing of our understanding of God, ourselves, and others.

(Nehemiah 8:2, 8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 14:15, 25; 16:12-13; Romans 15:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Articles VI, VII, VIII; Book of Common Prayer, p. 97)

Faith and Doctrine

  1. We affirm that every Christian has the right, through baptism, to judge questions of faith, and to contribute to ongoing dialogue within communities of faith and in the councils of the church. The free exercise of this responsibility is necessary in order to maintain the integrity, constancy, and truth of the faith.
  2. We believe that holy scripture, the ecumenical creeds, and the liturgical formularies of the Anglican Church of Canada are the foundational documents from which Anglican doctrine is developed. We further affirm the secondary importance of other sources, including some of the resolutions of the first four ecumenical councils[1]; the historic formularies (The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion being the most prominent), and the works of established Anglican figures.[2]
  3. We commend the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as expressing the fundamental doctrinal ingredients of Anglican unity.[3]
  4. We endorse the historic Anglican principle of lex orandi—lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief); that is to say, that our doctrinal convictions are expressed in, and emerge from our common life of worship, in which both laity and clergy participate equally.
  5. We uphold the autonomy of the provinces of the Anglican Communion to adjudicate, elaborate, and specify questions of doctrine as they emerge in their unique cultural contexts from time-to-time. We expect these doctrinal decisions to be reached by synods or other established councils of the church, in the form of canon law and authorised liturgies.
  6. We appeal to the councils of the church to make canonical provision for those of differing ethical, theological, or liturgical conscience in controversial matters; and we commend the right of parishes and clergy to exercise freedom of conscience in matters of belief and practice, as permitted by canon law and authorised liturgies.

(Job 28:20-28; Proverbs 8; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 8:1-8; 12:1-2; 13:8-10; 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 8:1-3; 12:27—13:13; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:1-2; 1 John 4:7-16; Articles XIX, XX, XXIX, XXIV; The Solemn Declaration, BCP p. viii; Book of Alternative Services, pp. 7-13)

The Anglican Communion

  1. We affirm and celebrate the Anglican Communion as a voluntary association of autonomous national and regional provinces, brought together through our shared history and character, and held together in bonds of mutual affection.
  2. We appreciate the historic place of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a symbol of unity, while affirming that his juridical authority is restricted to that primatial See.
  3. We recognise the role of the Lambeth Conference and the international Primates’ meetings as occasions for our episcopal and primatial leaders to engage in mutual reflection; but we reject any notion that such voluntary gatherings should exercise juridical authority. We oppose any attempt to make these bodies into legislative agencies of the Communion; and request that their members cease the formulation of resolutions. Such resolutions have become devices of unwelcome interference in the autonomous juridical bodies of the church.
  4. We commend the work of the Anglican Consultative Council as a genuine tool of dialogue and goodwill between the provinces of the Communion and celebrate it as the only symbol of unity representing all four orders of the church. We insist that it be free of primatial interference.
  5. We reaffirm the integrity of diocesan and national boundaries and condemn any cross provincial interference as offensive to the nature of the church.

(John 13:34-35; Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 14:26, 33, 39-40; Ephesians 2:17-22; Philippians 2:12-15; 1 Peter 2:1-5; 5:1-2; Articles XX, XXIII, XXXIV, XXXVII)

Gay and Lesbian Anglicans

  1. We welcome the resolutions of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada affirming the full equality of gays and lesbians, and the “integrity and sanctity” of their intimate relationships.[4] We believe that this affirmation must be translated into concrete acts of contrition for past wrongs, and full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.
  2. We call on the House of Bishops to lift the moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions.
  3. We call on bishops whose diocesan synods have voted in favour of the blessing of same-sex unions, to assent to these resolutions, applying provisions to protect the consciences of those who dissent.
  4. We ask the Anglican Church of Canada, on national and diocesan levels, to affirm the civil marriages of all gay and lesbian members of our church, laity and clergy, by permitting such civil unions to be blessed according to the authorised rite in Occasional Services.
  5. We call on the House of Bishops to clarify that section of their 1997 Statement on Human Sexuality, stating that clergy who are not married should undertake “a commitment to remain chaste,”[5] by indicating that this encompasses marriage as defined in both canon and/or civil law.

(Matthew 5:23-24; Acts 10:34-35; Romans 12:2, 9-18; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; 17-20; Galatians 2:6-14; James 2:1, 8-13; Article XXXIV)

A Restoration

In obedience to God, we recognise the work of the Holy Spirit in the ongoing life of our shared faith in Jesus Christ as we journey together in understanding the truth.

Anglicanism takes the incarnation seriously. Christ is the exemplar of the sanctity which subsists in all creation; and is the guarantor of its liberation and renewal. In affirming Jesus Christ, The Widening Circle affirms the presence of God in a changing world, and the free gift of sanctification available to all God’s children.


[1] Nicea (325 CE), Constantinople (381 CE), Ephesus (431 CE), and Chalcedon (451 CE)

[2] Examples include Lancelot Andrewes, John Cosin, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, John Jewel, Matthew Parker, and Jeremy Taylor.

[3] The four points of the Quadrilateral are: The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation; the creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ and Nicene), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith; the dominical sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; and the historic episcopate, locally adapted.

[4] Resolution A134, passed by the 2004 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. See also, especially, Resolution A130 of the 2001 General Synod; and Resolutions A186 and A189 of the 2007 General Synod.

[5] “Human Sexuality: A Statement by the Anglican Bishops of Canada—1997”

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