To be perfectly honest, I was far too busy and stressed (not least by doing my tax return) to pay proper attention to the deluge of data coming from Jerusalem during the conference itself. Similarly, I’ve read through the Statement, and liked what I saw, but I can’t yet see what it is going to mean for us here in England.
In America and Canada, there is clearly a division taking place which will probably end in overlapping jurisdictions, some of which for the time being will be recognised by some parts of the Anglican Communion and others of which will not.
The big problem for me with the Statement is not that it says anything bad, or leaves out anything good, but that all the good things it advocates are already, in theory, governing what we do in England — and yet here we are still in trouble.
So, for example, the Statement reproduces almost verbatim Canon A5 of the Church of England:
We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church [of England] is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. (A5 in italics).
Again, every Anglican minister in England has to make a Declaration of Assent to this understanding of the faith.
So why is it we have so many bishops, priests, deacons and even readers who seem to be coming from somewhere else entirely — some of whom have no idea in particular as to what is in the Thirty-nine Articles, and when they find out are often astonished, not least by the fact that the Preface says they are to be taken in their “plain and full meaning” which comes from their “literal and grammatical sense”?
The Articles are deliberately not meant to provide much room for individual interpretation, so why is individual judgement in matters of faith held up almost as the ‘fortieth Article’?
What this reflects, I’ve suggested before, is an ‘institutionalized dishonesty’ which unfortunately prevails in the Church of England, and which no number of defining ‘statements’ can address. If, as happens constantly, you are able to say that you ‘assent’ to what you palpably don’t believe what sort of institutional mindset does this create? Surely not a healthy one!
It has been said that the Church of England operates a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy with regard to homosexuality. I would suggest that this may be less harmful in the final analysis than its similar ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ with regard to doctrinal convictions. Personally I would far rather work alongside a person whose sexuality was a private matter of some obscurity but who believed in those teachings of the Fathers and the Councils of the Church as are agreeable to Scripture, than someone of whatever ‘sexuality’ who denied those Scripture-based beliefs privately, but didn’t own up to it.
Of course honesty in all areas would be far better still. But when you institutionalize dishonesty about doctrine it really doesn’t matter how ‘open’ you are on issues of sexuality.
John P Richardson
30 June 200