Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fulcrum's 'listening ear' to AMiE's concerns

I must admit to having laughed out loud (though not in a good way) having read the full statement on Fulcrum’s website criticizing the establishment of the Anglican Mission in England when I saw that it ended with these words:
We therefore call upon those evangelicals who have started down this new path to talk with Fulcrum and the full breadth of evangelicals who share many of their concerns but who question their strategy. We believe that only in this way can those who have launched AMiE hope to secure what they claim they wish to find, a goal to which Fulcrum is also committed — a way forward together in mission as evangelicals within the Church of England.
I am frankly not sure how, following events since the launch of Fulcrum at a fringe meeting at the 2003 Blackpool NEAC 4 (organized behind the scenes and sprung on the leadership with just three days notice), anyone from the Fulcrum Leadership Team could seriously address evangelical conservatives in such terms. Perhaps the first step might be an apology!
Nevertheless, in a bizarre way, I am reminded of the appeal of the entertainingly psychopathic Don Logan, Sir Ben Kingsley’s character in the eccentrically brilliant Sexy Beast: “Talk to me, Gale, I’m here for you. I’m a good listener.” (The rest of the dialogue, unfortunately, is unprintable — at least here.)
The thing is, for a moment Don really does believe he is a good listener, and presumably someone who drafted this paragraph really did believe Fulcrum could, in their own words, somehow help AmiE "secure what they ... wish to find" (which itself overlooks the behind-the-scenes official dialogue elsewhere which has so far led to a dead end, and is despite the assertion in the same breath that this is only what AMiE "claim" they wish to find).
One may reasonably wonder how Fulcrum — or even ‘the full breadth of evangelicals’ (whoever they are and however one would identify them) — expects to deliver on such a dialogue. There is not even a clear support for the CEEC ‘following motion’ on women bishops, so what sort of ecclesiological rabbit would be pulled out of the hat?
Nevertheless, we must remain positive! So if anyone wants to offer a way forward with such a dialogue, feel free to start the ball rolling here.
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  1. Anonymous said...Oh puhlease - the Fulcrum mob have lost all credibility in my view because their strategy of Chamberlain-like appeasement has proved utterly mistaken when it comes to the Anglican Communion. They have been quite silent in the last year or so since they finally realised that the sweet smiles of the TEC leadership were completely insincere.

    Michael Jensen

  2. John:

    1. Respectfully request you keep us posted. Little info on this side of the pond.

    2. All I've seen is the Fulcrum statement and a a few articles in the Telegraph, including a phrase about "tanks on the front lawn of Canterbury."

    Donald Philip Veitch
    Jacksonville, NC

  3. Donald, beyond what's on the website (linked above) I don't know much more than you - but I'll keep my eyes open.

  4. Copy that.

    Raises questions about a blackout. We'll see.

    Donald Philip Veitch
    Jacksonville, NC

  5. Donald, I seriously doubt it is that sophisticated!

  6. John,

    I believe that you should preface (if you are truly serious)the word "evangelical" - or even "conservative evangelical" with the word "Anglican".

    Using technology through the medium of weblogs allows evangelicals of whatever stripe and flavour to express an opinion on this issue. Over the last 20 years, Anglican have had their ranks swelled (or diminished) by all kinds of adherents (or dissidents) which are not necessarily "catholic".

    Not all evangelical laity see scripture as the third person of the Trinity and are far more prepared to debate it than "drive it away". So the issue of false teaching, church order and church planting tends to focus the minds of Anglican clerics rather more than Anglican laity.

    As a evangelical, believing in the "priesthood of all believers", I am troubled by suspicions that church order is being downplayed by Anglican clerics who want to enjoy "the best boat to fish from" yet ignore the top-down caution that expects all its ordinands, within church precincts, to offer the Eucharist and minister to all its parishioners, not just those who they support or with whom they "agree".

    I note that the Church Times offers a poll asking folks to say whether they agree or disagree with border-crossing? It will be interesting to see the result. I'd like to ask you, John, whether you have canvassed your parishioners on this matter - and whether crossing borders is an identifier of Anglicanism?

    I admire Fulcrum for their ability to take their evangelical constituency with them, unlike Reform or Anglican Mainstream who tend to impose their agenda.

    Beryl Polden,

  7. 'Their agenda', Beryl? Adherence to biblical truth is how I would describe it.

    The Fulcrumites crease me up. It's okay to impose innovations such as the ordination of women, which is far from proven by scripture, on the unwilling, but as soon as a lifeboat comes along for the unconvinced, they cry foul.

    It will possibly dawn some day that it is their opening of the stable door which has allowed the horses to bolt.

  8. Well I guess we all know from past history where engaging in such a ‘listening process’ will end up. But in any case according to the report in the Church Times talks with the C of E hierarchy had been going on for four and half years and AMiE was formed out of frustration at the lack of progress.
    The nature of evangelicals is always to emphasise the gospel message and to be always calling the church back to the centrality of this gospel. Endless listening and dialogue undermines this gospel message for we abrogate its priority over all else by acknowledging instead the higher priority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. This was not the way of evangelicals over the centuries (e.g. Luther, Wesley). Our friends in Fulcrum would do well to recognise that a “biblically based respect for order and hence proper regard to the authority of Church of England structures” has its limits.

    Steven Pascoe

  9. @ Jill,

    The issue is that "Biblical truth" (your term) is dependent on how you interpret the Bible.

    Since you mentioned women's ordination, you may be aware that our host has recently been discussing a booklet called "Women and Authority" by Rev Dr Ian Paul. This booklet makes an extremely strong case, based on careful exegesis, that that Bible places no restrictions whatsoever on women in leadership, teaching, or ministry.

    So your claim that the ordination of women is far from proven by scripture is more than a little questionable (and there are plenty of other theologians who share Ian Paul's view). In fact, there is a very powerful case to say that restricting ordination to men is not supported by scripture.

    This well-illustrates the problem. Conservative evangelical groups like Reform seem incapable of appreciating the theological diversity within evangelicalism. When they refer to "Biblical truth" they invariably mean their own convictions to the exclusion of all others. It worries me that AMiE may take a similarly narrow approach.

  10. No, you miss the point, Ian. I am quite happy to allow for 'theological diversity' but you are not prepared to do the same for me. (I don't mean you personally, so no offence!) I mean that it now seems unlikely that there will be any provision for opponents, of which I am one, when we have women bishops imposed upon us. We will have no choice but to leave the C of E. Hence my reference to a lifeboat.

    Where will you draw the line? Mine is at women bishops. Others will draw it at the inevitable openly gay bishops to follow. Wouldn't it be good to have a lifeboat to jump onto then?

    We seem to be following the same path as the rapidly shrinking TEC. I am baffled that some people seem to expect a different outcome.

  11. Jill,

    Fulcrum have neither "imposed" nor "innovated" women clergy or bishops on anyone - they have merely disagreed that all clergy (including bishops) must be men. Theologians who are wiser and more spiritual than me have made the case from scripture that Jesus is the host who presides at the Eucharist and He makes no distinction between men and women who teach others - both genders need to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

    And you surely must agree that evangelicals cannot concede that all who are not married must therefore be homosexually orientated as the liberals would have us believe - because they cannot believe in celibacy by choice, whether for the sake of the kingdom or otherwise. Homosexual orientation is much more nuanced than that.

    Those who believe like yourself are perfectly free to use the lifeboat that you believe AMiE provides. The trust of evangelicals is in Jesus Christ as the Lord of the church, and in His Spirit - and in a disbelieving world, He is the only lifeboat that a Christian needs. Attempts to divide the Anglican evangelical constituency will only result in the CoE being diminished and disestablished, and in folks setting up their own sectors of Anglicanism - which they are already doing. I cannot see "New Wine" or "Alpha" coming under the aegis of either Reform or AMiE.

    Beryl Polden,

  12. Beryl, that's my point precisely. Would "open" or "charismatic" evangelicals be able to share in the mission of AMiE? Both these groups are strongly committed to mission, yet I suspect that they will be excluded because of their theological differences. Hence AMiE seems to be partly about defining evangelicalism to be conservative evangelicalism. In this sense they are no different to the liberals - having a redefining and revisionist approach!!

  13. Incidentally, to Fulcrum's credit, they have not published my blog post referring to "the urban pastor"'s blog on the AMiE. As an occasional poster on Fulcrum, I was endeavouring to shed some light rather than heat - but I can imagine that they do not want to encourage further repercussions of the sort that happened to Richard Coekin - see here.

    I cannot do better than link to N.T.Wright's article,

    published on Fulcrum in 2006 in respect of the covenant for the CoE. The subject i.e. the covenant, may not be the same, but the sentiments certainly apply, and also reflect the feeling of many evangelical Anglicans, let alone those evangelicals who, although not Anglican, count themselves within the body of Christ

  14. Just a cotton-pickin’ minute, Beryl! ‘Attempts to divide the Anglican evangelical constituency’… who has done that? It was not AMiE who has made it impossible for many to remain within the Church of England!

    The sheer brass neck of Fulcrum’s statement took my breath away. No, it was not they who imposed or innovated women clergy and bishops, but they were quick enough to jump onto that bandwagon to the detriment of many of their evangelical brothers and sisters. This is not an issue which can be reconciled. The rest of us will not just ‘get used to’ something we believe to be profoundly wrong.

    I await with interest the hand-wringing which will occur in Fulcrum if (when) they find openly practising homosexual bishops imposed on them. Will they be saying the same things that I am now, I wonder? Will they look back and wonder if it was anything they did which contributed to this state of affairs?

  15. Jill,

    I was just thinking a bit more about your view that women's ordination is "far from proven by scripture". Surely the same thing could be said about infant baptism, which definitely requires some very creative (and contentious) theology to justify it. There are plenty of evangelicals who see it as "profoundly wrong". How come that isn't a concern to you?

    So try to see the big picture - there are also many other evangelical denominations who ordain women based on Biblical conviction, and they haven't experienced schism over it.

    But, going back on topic, my concern remains that AMiE may try to aggressively promote their flavour of evangelicalism and sideline those whose convictions are slightly different.

  16. Ian S

    You have to set this in the context of what’s been happening in the Anglican church in the last few years. Rowan Williams has been an absolute disaster of an ABC. He and the House of Bishops are not serving the church but their own liberal agenda. We’ve had splits in the wider Anglican Communion and now things are coming to a head in the CofE. So when some Anglicans get together to defend themselves against the liberal onslaught and stand firm for the gospel in this land, apparently to you this is all about some evangelicals trying to get one over other evangelicals by promoting their own particular flavour or brand! Have you not considered that for many of us it’s a struggle for survival? And do you not think there’s a real possibility that the CofE could follow TEC down the road to oblivion?

    You don’t like the idea of AMiE but what’s your alternative? And John’s question remains – what can Fulcrum deliver (other than more sitting on the fence)?

    Thanks for the urbanpastor link – very informative. It’s a shame Christopher Chessun chose to make the same mistakes as his predecessor. Bishops who forget their own vows at their consecration can hardly expect canonical obedience from others. Wholesale reform of the office of bishop is clearly needed but in the meantime, alternative episcopal oversight is the way to go.

    As regards infant baptism, I would disagree with your view that it requires “a creative (and contentious) theology to justify it”, but it is doesn’t seem comparable to what we face now – it’s hardly a recent innovation like women bishops is it?

    Steven Pascoe

  17. There is a vast difference with infant baptism, Ian. Presumably this was common in the days when many babies did not survive infancy, but can these days be ‘rectified’ by confirmation. No harm done. As Steven says, it is hardly a novelty, unlike women’s ordination, which has taken 2000 years to discover, coinciding amazingly with the rise of feminism.

    If, however, it is eventually acknowledged that women’s ordination cannot be proven by scripture (even though we are now behaving as if it has been), once we have women bishops it will be impossible to rectify, as we will have no way of knowing the validity of the sacraments, even from male priests, as they will possibly have been ordained by a woman. Coming from the anglo-catholic end of the Anglican spectrum, I believe in the apostolic succession, which will be broken.

    I have been reading today in an ordained woman’s blog bitter resentment of the ‘glass ceiling’ they have to face, and I admit this made me feel quite sick. As if the priesthood was a career ladder! Men and women are not interchangeable. Fatherhood and motherhood are not interchangeable. Personally I cannot see anything wrong with being a woman and taking my natural role - something a man cannot do. To try to snatch a man’s role is demeaning to women, as far as I am concerned.

    I am straying off topic somewhat, but I agree with all Steven has said above. What are we supposed to do? Rome is not an option for many of us, nor are we attracted to other denominations. Why should I have to leave the Church of my baptism? I wonder what Fulcrum would say to people like me, trampled on in the rush up the career ladder.

    AMiE is, for us, a little beacon of hope.

  18. There seems to be some confusion here. AMiE isn't "conservative evangelical".If only it was! The confusion is understandable, as the launch was at the EMA. But the Reform newsletter makes it clear that AMiE has been deliberately set up to include Anglo-Catholics (as was FCA). The newsletter also implies that AMiE will accept female clergy. One of the group giving oversight, Michael Nazir-Ali, is certainly not conservative evangelical, and has ordained women.

    Stephen Walton

  19. If that is so, Stephen, why are Fulcrum getting their knickers in a knot?

  20. @ Stephen Pascoe,

    I would agree than Rowan Williams has been a disaster for the CoFE. But when you use phrases like "struggle for survival" I wonder if you're talking about the same church. I simply don't see any of the open or charismatic evangelicals using similar language. In general, evangelical parishes just do their thing, and the goings-on in the wider CofE are irrelevant for them. That's the way it's been for many years.

    I can't remember the details, but I'm sure that, every time some statistics are published, they show that evangelicalism is the only wing of the CofE that is growing. This hardly suggests that we are under threat.

    @ Jill,

    I'm not an anglo-catholic so the issues you raise are not ones I share. In fact, as an evangelical, I regard the ideas like "apostolic succession" and the "validity" of sacraments as being in complete contradiction to the teaching of the Bible. Would you like to visit the large methodist, baptist, pentecostal, or "house" churches near me and tell hundreds of people that they're wasting their time taking communion because their pastor's ordination is invalid? (or non-existent in the case of the house church!) That's what your beliefs say about other branches of the church, and I would urge you to reconsider them.

    As far as the ordained lady's comments about a "glass ceiling" go, perhaps you should see them as frustration that the church is not willing to recognise the gifts and callings of women, rather than complaining about the lack of career opportunities.

    @ Stephen Walton,

    If AMiE is going to accomodate (as equals) the full spectrum of anglican evangelicalism and not take the approach of Reform towards female clergy then that can only be a good thing. I await an unequivocal announcement...

  21. Stephen is right - I was going to say this earlier, but I've been very busy. AMiE is a 'broad orthodox' body, not a 'single issue' one. There is no need for an 'unequivocal announcement' on this, since Anglican Mainstream has, from the beginning, shared the same characteristic. For example, Chelmsford AM - now Chelmsford FCA - is chaired by a man who fully supports the idea of women bishops.

    Why have Fulcrum got their knickers in a twist? I am tempted to say 'force of habit' when it comes to more conservative initiatives, and possibly personality clashes.

    BUT, regarding Ian S's comment that "evangelical parishes just do their thing, and the goings-on in the wider CofE are irrelevant for them" - that's the problem.

    The evangelical parishes, even taking the most generous definition, are the minority. So where is the ministry of evangelism in the (majority) non-evangelical parishes? One answer has been church-planting, but the institutional church doesn't like it and resists it. Hence AMiE has a focus on church-planting, if necessary in the face of institutional resistance.

    The other answers would be for the institution to reform itself and introduce some theological rigour.

    So there is an alternative - but will the evangelical bishops adopt it?

  22. Ian S

    “I wonder if you're talking about the same church. I simply don't see any of the open or charismatic evangelicals using similar language. In general, evangelical parishes just do their thing, and the goings-on in the wider CofE are irrelevant for them.”

    Well if you are comfortable with how things are that’s fine. But why criticise other evangelicals and others like Jill who aren’t so comfortable looking to AMiE for help?

    Steven Pascoe

  23. John,

    If AMiE is broad orthodox then that is a good thing - my apologies if I have have got the wrong idea. Likewise, reaching out to areas where the only church is a liberal one is obviously essential.

    But the Reform newsletter - see - only mentions AMiE as providing alternative oversight, not planting churches.

    And AMiE currently seems closely linked with Co-mission, who are working in a part of the country that is already full of evangelical churches.

    I hope and pray that AMiE will be about mission in the genuine sense of the word - wouldn't it be wonderful if it refocussed the CofE on reaching the nation.

  24. Ah well, back to the drawing board!

    The 'I'm all right, Jack' attitude pointed out by Steven can only have a limited shelf life. The ordination of women might not seem an important issue to you, Ian, but it is a Trojan horse, that's for sure, and the ramifications will filter down eventually to shake people out of their complacency.

    I see no hope for the Church of England until she takes theology seriously - and I don't mean just a few books on the 'possibility' that it is God's will for women to be ordained when that is already a reality. It is indeed a possibility, but we should at least continue the proper process of discernment, ignoring the demands of the ambitious, before we go ahead with consecration of women bishops.

    As this is already a done deal, however, let us hope that something crops up to prevent yet another exodus.

  25. For my part, Jill and I have had previous discussion on the old Anglican Mainstream forum (when it was running) on the women’s ordination issue. At that time, I expressed my sadness for Jill and others like her, having experienced the kind of church disruption that disagreement on doctrine causes, but on WO, I do not agree with her that it is a first-order issue, and as a lay person, am not in a position of influence within the CoE as to how this turns out.

    As a postscript to my comments on this occasion, I have read a further blog post which, to my mind, is much more pertinent to Fulcrum’s lack of support for AMiE, the expression of which chimes with my own view – Romans 13 is as significant to church order vis-a-vis the state as passages from Timothy, Jude or Corinthians.
    See what you think:
    Beryl Polden

  26. The talk about 'lifeboats' is fascinating. Both the ordinariate and AMiE seem to be talked of in that capacity here in this thread. Yet if you read what Church Society have to say about the Pope (and I think John Richardson is on the council of Church Society?)then you would think the Pope was not even a Christian, let alone the leader of a lifeboat for Christians. And one of the bishops who has oversight of AMiE is the former Bishop of Rochester - certainly a supporter of the ordination of women, and an ordainer himself. So what is this lifeboat that Jill speaks of?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  27. The 'lifeboat' has become holed below the waterline, Canon Godsall, as far as I am concerned. Depression has set in!

    Beryl, there is no point in repeating what I have already said. I can only watch sorrowfully as new appointments are made of bishops who are happy to go with the flow. Where are C S Lewis's 'men with chests'? They stopped being appointed some time ago. The ones we had have mostly either retired or joined the Ordinariate.

  28. Andrew, I can't actually find any reference to the ordinariate here, other than your own, so I'm not sure how that snuck in.

    You are correct in saying that I am a member of the Church Society Council, but only since Saturday, so I'm not really responsible for what's been said about the Pope prior to my appointment.

    However, as to the policy of AMiE, I would only point out that not only has Michael Nazir-Ali previously not had a problem with the ordination of women, but the candidates presented in London were ordained in Kenya, which ordains women.

    AMiE is not, solely in and of itself, a means to address the issue of women's ordination or consecration. It may provide some sort of pathway to that provision, but that remains to be worked out.

  29. John

    Jill talks about Rome and lifeboats- the ordinariate is not specifically mentioned by her but I'm not sure what else she would be referring to.

    And so you joined the Council of Church Society but want to distance yourself from the things they have said about the Pope very recently?

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  30. It saddens me to read such angry and ugly words directed at Women's ordination by Jill. Seeming to base her arguement solely on 'bibical legitimacy', as Ian S says, 'Biblical truth is dependent on how you interpret the Bible..'

    You say 'Women's ordination is by far from proven by scripture'..Very debatable. Womens' roles were conditioned and culturally prescribed, yet they were deacons and led house churches. It can hardly be called 'an innovation' since they have led and taken a full role in services in the Methodist, Pentecostal and other leading denominations for many years, and to the pastoral and spiritual benefit of the congregations.

    You desire to see 'Men with chests', yet fail to see that women are called and anointed in the same way that men are. For the lady vicar you decry for talking about a 'glass ceiling', in reality there are many men who do feel threatened by the presence of a woman in a position of power, usually an incumbent, which is equally sad and weakens the unity of the church and the power of gospel. You say 'men and women are not interchangeable'. No, but they are equal in the eyes of God, and this is a fact you sadly fail to emphasise.

    In Christ, Alison, Herts

  31. Andrew, I still can't find that 'Rome' reference. Is it me?

    Doctrinally, I agree with the recent CS statement to the effect that the Pope is not what RC doctrine claims the Pope to be. (I think you and I would see this the same way, surely.) I wouldn't necessarily personally have put it in exactly the same language - but then like I say, they didn't ask me.

  32. Hi John

    At 21:32 on 3rd July Jill says that 'Rome is not an option for many of us', after talking about the concept of a lifeboat. Rome clearly is a lifeboat for those who have joined the ordinariate isn't it? It enables them to stand in the stream of the faith once delivered to the saints that they believe the C of E has abandoned. Because Jill claims to be an anglo catholic, she is presumable not against Rome for the reasons Church Society are.
    I'm glad you think the Church Society language about the Pope is not helpful. I actually think it is inflammatorv and offensive - the kind of thing you might expect to hear at the height of troubles in Northern Ireland, rather than in a society claiming to be Christian. Perhaps now you are on the Council, you can persuade them to withdraw it. Why the various 'societies' (Reform, Amie, Church Society, Anglican Mainstream) can't get together, especially as so many have the same leadership it seems, is a bit beyond many of us. But what they really stand for is beyond most of us anyway....

    Andrew Godsall, Exeter

  33. Andrew - I've just discovered that Firefox 'search' is case-sensitive: 'rome' is not 'Rome'! I'll bear that in mind.

    To return to the main point, though, the current state of broad evangelicalism mirrors the multiplication of groupings. (I would agree with you there seem to be too many.) However, by the same token I am not sure that Fulcrum in any way provides the route to a solution for conservatives that their statement on AMiE suggests.

    As to Church Society, what's done is done - and I didn't disagree with the overall content so much as the tone of the press release regarding the Pope's visit. After all, Anglicans do believe that "the Church of Rome [though not rome] hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith".

    Obviously in joining the Society's Council I hope to have an influence, but fighting for the 'withdrawal' of one particular statement on narrow grounds is not a realistic way to begin. On the other hand I would hopefully be in a position to say something about future actions.

  34. Well, Alison, if you find my words on women’s ordination ugly, it is obvious that you have a complete misunderstanding of the Anglo-catholic position. (I say Anglo-catholic for want of a better category, although not all ACs are opposed of course.) We believe that women cannot be priests, not because they are not capable – which they certainly are - but because they are women - in the same way that women cannot be fathers.

    The ministry of women is quite a different matter. In Nigeria, for instance, the Mothers’ Union is an immensely powerful ministry. But perhaps the ladies of WATCH would turn their noses up at the MU. Having followed their website for several years I have noticed a number of references to their opponents wishing them to be restricted to ‘arranging the flowers’ or ‘making the coffee’. Now THIS is what I find ugly. I cannot believe that these women are ignorant, so I can only assume this is a deliberate misrepresentation, if not an outright lie. I do not know anybody who thinks that. This has nothing at all to do with equality.

    I am afraid you will just have to accept that there will always be people who do not accept the validity of women’s orders – and learn not to take it personally.

    John, I apologise for wandering off topic again, and also for my innocent mention of Rome, which has set Canon Andrew off on one of his diversions.

    I have had another read of the CEN article on AMiE by Richard Bewes, and feel a lot more encouraged than I did yesterday!