Wright on Rome

Over at Christianity Today there is an article on Protestants who defect to Rome. Bishop N.T. Wright is quoted in the article, but his full quote is not provided. Here is his full quote:

a. I’m on sabbatical writing Volume IV of my big series, on Paul; so I don’t have time for more than a quick response.

b. ‘Sacramental, transformational, communal, eschatological’? If you gave me that list and said ‘Where in the Christian world would you find that?’ I could easily and truthfully answer: (i) in the best of the Reformed tradition — spend a couple of days at Calvin College, or read Jamie  Smith’s new book, and you’ll see; (ii) in much of the best of the  charismatic movement, once it’s shed its low-church prejudices and discovered how much God loves bodies; (iii) in the best of… dare I say it… Anglicanism… ; (iv) in some bits (not all) of the Emerging Church movement . . .

c. Trent said both much more and much less than this. Sacramental, yes, but in a muddled way with an unhelpful ontology; transformational, yes, but far too dependent on unbiblical techniques and practices; communal, yes, but don’t let the laity (or the women) get any fancy ideas about God working new things through them; and eschatological?? Eschatology in the biblical sense didn’t loom large, and indeed that was a key element in the Reformers’ protest: the once-for-allness of the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection as producing, not a new system for doing the same stuff over and over, but a new world. Trent, and much subsequent RC theology, has had a habit of never spring-cleaning, so you just live in a house with more and more clutter building up, lots of right answers to wrong questions (e.g. transubstantiation) which then get in the way when you want to get  something actually done. In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer,  at a deep level, to the nature/grace question, which is what’s at the  root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary  claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational,  communal nor eschatological. Nor biblical. The best RCs I know (some  of whom would strongly disagree with the last point, some would  strongly agree) are great conversation partners mainly because they  have found ways of pushing the accumulated clutter quietly to one  side and creating space for real life. But it’s against the grain of the Tridentine system, in my view. They aren’t allowed to say that but clearly many of them think it. Joining in is just bringing more of your own clutter to an already confused and overcrowded room…

d. I am sorry to think that there are people out there whose Protestantism has been so barren that they never found out about sacraments, transformation, community or eschatology. Clearly this person needed  a change. But to jump to Rome for that reason is very odd. It reminds  me of the fine old German NT scholar Heinrich Schlier, who found that the only way to be a Protestant was to be a Bultmannian, so, because he couldn’t take  Bultmann, became a Roman Catholic; that was the only other option in  his culture. Good luck to him; happily, most of us have plenty of  other options. To say ‘wow, I want that stuff, I’d better go to Rome’ is like someone suddenly discovering (as I’m told Americans occasionally do — sorry, cheap shot) that there are other countries in the world and so getting the first big boat he finds in New York to take him there . . . when there were plenty of planes lined up and waiting at JFK. Rome is a big, splendid, dusty old ocean liner, with lots of grand cabins, and, at present, quite a fine captain and some excellent officers — but also quite a few rooms in need of repair.  Yes, it may take you places, but it’s slow and you might get seasick  from time to time. And the navigators have been told that they must never acknowledge when they’ve been going in the wrong direction . . .

e. I spent three very happy weeks as the Anglican observer at the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops last October. They were talking about the Bible: about how for so long they have more or less banned the laity from reading or studying it, and how now they want to change all that, to insist that every Catholic man, woman, child, cat and dog should have the Bible in their own mother tongue and be taught to read it, study it, pray with it, individually and together. Hallelujah! Who knows what might happen. Question: why did nobody say this in 1525? If they had, we’d have been saved a lot of bother.
Let’s engage cheerfully in as much discussion with our Roman friends as we can. They are among my best ecumenical conversation partners, and  some of them are among my dear friends. But let’s not imagine that a renewed biblical theology will mean we find ourselves saying ‘you guys were right after all’ just at the point where, not explicitly but actually, they are saying that to us . . .

Aside from what may be an implicit endorsement of women’s ordination in there, that’s pretty good stuff! I particularly like his rejection of Mariolatry in Rome. Perhaps Rowan Williams should listen to Bishop Wright more.

Ending the Anglican Alphabet Soup

With the creation of the Anglican Church in North America, the time has come to end the various sub-groups which were necessary for the time of trials just passed through. Part of me doesn’t like this much because I think that parts of the AMiA are the best current representation of what a Biblical Church should look like. But it seems to me that every dollar spent on maintaining separate organizational structures is wasted. Why have a separate communications structure for CANA, AMiA, REC, etc? It’s waste of effort and money. And yet we see Bishop Minns saying:

Since Day 1, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity.  We will encourage groups of congregations when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses.  Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.

Bishop Murphy has said similar things about AMiA continuing in something of a “Canterbury and York” model. Indeed, as I was writing this I received an e-mail from AMiA where Bishop Murphy says:

As a founding member of both the Common Cause Partnership and the emerging province, we will continue to fully participate in ACNA.  As we have consistently explained, however, we remain a missionary outreach of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda under the authority of Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini.  This allows us to enjoy dual citizenship, a similar relationship to that of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

But I think we need to ask whether in ten or twenty years we will need all of these separate groups? It’s great for AMia and CANA to continue missionary efforts, but they should be able to do this as some kind of missionary diocese under ACNA, without needing their own leadership and headquarters. How much of this division is due to leftover animosities between bishops and churches?

I do understand some legitimate reasons for staying apart. As my friend Jim said to me, many folks won’t want to be under a Bishop who approves of women’s ordination, for example. But these issues need to be worked out from within ACNA unless it becomes obvious that it will never change and is un-reformable, which is hardly the case right now at its inception. I think good Anglican in all the bodies that make up ACNA should voice their desire for unity to their leaders and pray for change.

AMiA Ordaining Women

Bad news! It is not surprising, but is very sad, that the AMiA is continuing to reject the entire history of the Church – Old Covenant and New Covenant – and is ordaining women to the priesthood; see this newsletter. The priestess in question pastors a church in Canada. Increasingly, the AMiA looks a lot like CANA on the national level, and that’s not a good thing. I hope to say more soon about the recent issue of WAVE that came out and which was uninspiring on many levels.

If the Anglican Church in North America does not repent and get right on this issue, it will have no coherent ground to stand on when facing relativism all around. Rejecting the Bible, the canon law, the history of the Church until radicals in the last century innovated – this will continue to undermine the very Gospel that ACNA seeks to spread. It will also lead people the faithful to Rome, to the East, to groups like TPEC or the CRE.

In the short term, the number of faithful and vital Anglican congregations is the size of a man’s hand. Lord be merciful to us and increase our faithfulness.


The Anglican Benedict Option

I’ve written a bit about creating an Anglican community by like-minded Anglicans moving to the same location. Steve has put down some great thoughts about what educational praxis could look like in an Anglican setting. I’d like to see all of this come together in an Anglican Benedict Option – fleeing the collapsing modern state and “preserving the remnants of Christian and classical virtues and laying the groundwork for the rebirth of a new civilization.” If you have any interest in really doing this and not just thinking about it, please contact me!

It seems to me that this would require some agricultural know-how. Working the land might be necessary in a small town with no big job-provider around. I am presuming that the internet and modern communication will persist, but that the permanent things will be left behind by a reckless culture. So I speculate on other trades that could provide income in a situation where a new community attempts to carve out a place and survive on the outskirts of the empire. I wonder if typography in the form of a type foundry could work in a small town? Fonts are distributed globally so perhaps that is a flexible enough craft to be performed from anywhere. Book binding is a niche market that would seem logical for the people of the book. Publishing in general would be desirable, and creating lasting editions of works like the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible, and the Church Fathers would be essential to a Benedict option for Anglicans. Depending on proximity to the ocean or lakes, some type of boat building / repair might be profitable. Establishing a school and a university would seem to be necessary to perpetuate learning in the face of global ignorance and the bankrupt university system of the United States.

We can cultivate a different way of life in the face of the moral miasma that is the air we breathe. Formed by the cycle of the Church year and daily prayer, devoted to alms giving and works of mercy, fearless in proclaiming the Gospel and practicing the liturgy that has undergird the Church since her earliest days, we can begin again.

Martin Bucer on the Book of Common Prayer

The famous reformer, Martin Bucer, reviewed the Book of Common Prayer at the request of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. He provided what we would call “feedback” in our day. Some of his thoughts are summarized by Arthur Roberts as follows:

He then declares it as his opinion that so great a separation of the chancel (chori) from the rest of the church, as that that should be the place where the sacramental rites are to be exclusively performed, which belong nevertheless to all the laity as well as the clergy, is Antichristian. He states (what appears to be the fact) that the object intended to be answered by this separation of the chancel was the exaltation of the clergy, as if they were a class of men who, irrespective of their characters, and merely by reason of their order and place, were to be regarded as nearer to God than the laity, and able, by virtue of their opus operatum, to appease Him on their behalf….He asserts that, in the most ancient Churches, the clergy officiated in the centre of the building; (the churches being mostly circular,) inasmuch as that was the place where they would best be heard and understood.