Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Launch of the Chelmsford Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

Today I attended quite a satisfactory meeting to mark the morphing of Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream into the Chelmsford Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
There were about forty clergy and laity in attendance, with apologies from half-a-dozen or more, and we were addressed by the Revd Paul Perkin who has had a key part to play in GAFCON and the emergence of FCA globally. The meeting was chaired by Revd Paul Harcourt from All Saints, Woodford Wells, who has been chairing CAM for some years.
What pleased and impressed me about the meeting was that there was no ‘grand-standing’ — there will be no ‘statements’. Rather, there was just a quiet hope that what has happened in TEC and Canada, and seems to be threatening even in other parts of the UK, will not happen here.
This, however, will be difficult, given that the cathedrals and their associated chairs, the training courses, some of the colleges and much else besides seem to be dominated by theological liberalism, even whilst lip-service is paid at the top of the institution to theological ‘inclusivism’.
Over against this, however, we see an unlikely, but undoubtedly sincere, alliance between evangelical, catholic and charismatic Anglicans who find in one another something they can all refer to as ‘orthodoxy’, even whilst distinctions — and indeed tensions — remain, for example over the consecration of women as bishops.
Even so, in our discussion group we were reminded how divided evangelical Anglicans in particular have become, and how their effectiveness has suffered as a result. I mentioned how, in 1977, the Anglican world seemed to be at the evangelical’s feet. John Stott, Michael Green and David Watson were all in their prime, Riding Lights were revolutionizing the presentation of the gospel inside and outside church, and we had more under-30 year-old candidates studying at St John’s Nottingham than there are now clergy of that age in the entire Church of England.
Thirty years on, many ‘evangelicals’ will hardly talk to one another, and for many of my generation the enthusiasm for, and understanding of the gospel, we held back then has almost entirely disappeared. (John Gladwin, for example, was a contributor to the pre-conference discussion papers, but his evangelical commitment certainly ‘mellowed’ with time.) The ‘empire’ fought back, and we have become quietly institutionalized.
Oddly enough, therefore, one of the encouraging features of the day for me was the sense that we don’t really know what to do and we aren’t sure where we are going. Perhaps this will create the dependence on God that we surely need.
 John Richardson
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  1. Very encouraging to hear. The once viable EFAC-USA is no more and there is nothing linking TEC and non-TEC American Anglican Evangelicals - this might be something to consider.

  2. Revd Richardson said:

    "Over against this, however, we see an unlikely, but undoubtedly sincere, alliance between evangelical, catholic and charismatic Anglicans who find in one another something they can all refer to as ‘orthodoxy’, even whilst distinctions — and indeed tensions — remain, for example over the consecration of women as bishops."

    I'm simple. Aside from WO, not sure how you get charismatics and Anglo-Catholics under the same roof.

    I'm simple. A 1662 BCP man by day and by night. I've got some tensions and I think them legitimate.

  3. So, David, you embrace the compromises and corruptions 1662 introduced into Cranmer's pristine original? ( ;-) )

    Seriously, though, is orthodoxy a discrete category or an ideal to which we aspire? I find amongst (some) charismatics and catholics a recognition of the same God and, yes, the same gospel. Organizations like FCA are a recognition that breadth can exist, provided there are some parameters and, in our case, some common Anglican core. The latter is particularly important in maintaining the breadth, and I think that still needs to be worked out.

  4. I've always seen (maybe wrongly) the FCA as primarily a conservative evangelical grouping, with anglo-catholics tagging along primarily because of their shared views on women's ordination and homosexuality.

    In my experience, the other streams of evangelical anglicanism - open evangelicals and charismatic evangelicals - take a different approach to faith and so there is little interaction between the groups.

    They are distanced from conservatives because they don't take a reformed/calvinist stance, and from both conservatives and anglo-catholics because of their support for women's ordination.

    So other than shared concerns about liberalism and homosexuality, there seems to be little in common between all the parties, and I can't see this alliance lasting or achieving much.

    My own church (open/charismatic evangelical) would be unlikely to get involved with FCA as the vast majority of the players in it are opposed to WO, whereas we have a female curate, and two ladies from our parish are now vicars with their own churches.

  5. Ian, Paul Harcourt made it quite clear yesterday, and stated specifically, that he is in favour of women bishops, so on that count there is no reason why either you or your church could not be involved in FCA.

    I think the key things behind our unity are:

    1. A common Anglican heritage, rooted in the arrival of Christianity on these shores, but focused through the Reformation, with a theology which is therefore reflected in the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Ordinal.

    2. A concern about un-orthodoxy which is rampant in the USA, prevalent in Canada, and which finds frequent expression here.

    I wonder why you and your church would stand apart from FCA on the last point - if that is the case.

    On the Anglican heritage, I think there is much that needs further exploration here, but I doubt, for example, that many ordinands have even read the Thirty-nine Articles, let alone considered whether their own theology is consonant with them. And I know that the Book of Common Prayer is foreign territory to many Anglicans who have no idea how much it differs from contemporary liturgy, especially in the eucharist.

    We cannot and should not be a 16th Century Re-enactment Society, but as long as these Anglican formularies are mentioned in the Declaration of Assent, it is entirely proper to expect be familiar with them.

  6. John, thanks for your response which I did find reassuring. Hopefully this is evidence that the FCA is becoming a broader grouping - but how many advocates of women clergy/bishops are there in its higher levels of leadership?

    I have no problems with either of the two points you mentioned, but will make a couple of comments.

    The BCP is indeed absent from our parish and forms no part of our identity. Our worship is largely informal and uses minimal liturgy (currently from Common Worship), so the BCP is basically irrelevant to us. Many years back, a new vicar began his first communion service with the words "For those of you who were at my induction a few days ago, you may be interested to note that this is not one of those forms of service which are authorised by canon"!!!

    (If you consider the BCP to be superior to modern liturgy, please write a post on the subject - I'd be interested to read it.)

    Also, we've never really been a "reactionary" parish that has crusaded against un-orthodoxy - we've focussed on reaching our community with the gospel and have not got involved in church politics.

    I am pleased that you mentioned the 39 articles, as this is one of the things that really concerns me about the possible exodus of anglo-catholics to Rome. The 39 articles are strongly protestant in theology and so I would question whether any anglican who is even considering becoming a catholic subscribes to them. In which case, there's a strong argument that they are not currently anglicans anyway.

  7. 'A concern about un-orthodoxy which is rampant in the USA, prevalent in Canada, and which finds frequent expression here.'

    Hmm. I am a Canadian Anglican, inclined toward a traditional view of homosexuality, with a daughter in a lesbian marriage (which is legal in our country), so this statement cuts close to home for me.

    I find this throwaway comment troubling. What is the evidence that un-orthodoxy is any more 'prevalent' in Canada than in the UK? After all, the FCA was not formed in response to the Bishop of New Westminster's syncretistic book 'Mansions of the Spirit', or any official move by the Anglican Church of Canada to disavow the Nicene Creed. It was formed because of the issue of homosexuality. And if it is asserted that disagreement on that issue is evidence of unorthodoxy, then why is acceptance of, and participation in, a financial system that charges interest on loans not also evidence of unorthodoxy (since the Bible condemns it just as clearly)? The first three Christian centuries were almost unanimous in interpreting the teaching of Jesus to require what would now be called pacifism for Christians; why is not the presence of military chaplains in the church seen as evidence of unorthodoxy.

    I know many Canadian clergy who are in favour of the blessing of same-sex unions but who are thoroughly orthodox on every point of credal Christianity. And I know many English Anglican clergy who do not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin (which, unlike the issue of homosexuality, actually is in the Creeds). So why is un-orthodoxy described as being 'prevalent' in Canada but only 'finding frequent expression' in the UK?

  8. One of the branches of my family hails from the Chelmsford area. I am an Anglo-Catholic in Pennsylvania, US, looking forward to the creation of an Anglican Ordinariate into which my parish may be able to enter communion with the Holy See of St. Peter. We are driven to this because The Episcopal Church has no room for us in its "inn." Accordingly, I greet you all in the name of our Lord. I congratulate you on your fellowship as I add you to my daily prayers, and I ask your prayers for The Church of The Good Shepherd, in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, USA

  9. Ian, sorry not to have got back on this but we are dealing with a family bereavement.

    The FCA always was a broad grouping - look at the people who gathered in Jerusalem, and especially at the range of 'churchmanship', from Sydney low to African high.

    I don't know how many in the leadership internationally and in the UK are advocates of women's ordination or consecration, but I note that the Province of Kenya ordains women, the Province of Nigeria has just announced it will ordain women deacons, and in Chelmsford the chair of FCA is strongly in favour. (There was also a woman in a dog collar at the launch - not a 'big' turnout on that score, but she obviously felt welcome, and I hope was made welcome.)

    I think it is a great shame that the BCP doesn't enjoy more of a profile, though I recognize that the archaic language is a serious problem. The BCP is much more than an historical 'relic', it embodies doctrine, especially in its Communion service. I am personally of the view that it ought for this reason to be the norm in Diocesan gatherings and in clergy training settings - not least because it is so unfamiliar otherwise.

    I'm not a 'Prayer Book' person, however, in that I don't think if we 'bring back the BCP' all will be well. Having said that, I do think most modern liturgy is dire.

    On the 39 Articles, Newman of course tried hard (in the last of the Tracts for the Times, I think) to give them a 'Catholic' spin, but his efforts didn't even convince him in the end. I think there is a real challenge to Anglo-Catholics here and in other areas. But if it is true to say that Anglicans who cannot subscribe to them "are not currently anglicans anyway," then that would also discount a lot of Liberals.

  10. Tim, same apology to you as to Ian above.

    I'm sorry if the comment about 'prevalence' of unorthodoxy in Canada seemed 'throwaway'. Partly this was just a personal liking for threes and a dislike of repetition. The choice of 'rampant', 'prevalent' and 'frequent' was partly for literary 'balance' - not a hard and fast definition.

    Thus what is 'prevalent' in Canada may also be 'prevalent' in England, and similarly for what is 'frequent' in both. (I do think TEC is in a different category!)

    However, the difference in the current context is highlighted by the ABC's Pentecost letter, which focuses especially on what Provinces and Synods are agreeing, and here it does seem that on the 'unorthodoxy' front, Canada and England are in a different situation - that what is frequently believed here (and indeed acted on), has found a different level of official expression and acceptance in Canada. I think this is simply fact, not a value judgement.

    However, as you rightly identify, unorthodoxy finds many expressions. I don't think we need delay too much over the issues of usury or pacifism, though if you search this blog on the former you will find I'm convinced the church's current position on this is quite wrong.

    I am convinced that the present problems over sexuality are just a 'popular' expression of deep-rooted theological unorthodoxy. In fact, I would go so far as to say I personally would have less problem with women's ordination/consecration provided it could be guaranteed that the women concerned were thoroughly orthodox in the terms laid down in our Declaration of Assent (Scripture, the Creeds, the BCP, the Thirty-nine Articles and the Ordinal). The trouble is, I know that isn't going to happen, and that people who are 'wobbly' aren't usually just wobbly in one area, and the generation that wobbles on one thing produces a generation that wobbles on many.

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