Saturday, August 29, 2009

Christian Unity & Faith and Order

The Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Episcopal Church has issued a Handbook for Ecumenism, most recently revised in 2007. It states, on page 8, that "the story of the Episcopal Church in the ecumenical movement has yet to be written," and goes on to say that the story may be said to begin in the 19th century with the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

In 1870, an Episcopal priest, William Reed Huntington, published The Church Idea -- An Essay Towards Unity in which he proposed what later became the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Most of the 1886 resolution adopted by the House of Bishops in Chicago is printed on pages 876-877 of the 1979 Prayer Book. In paragraph 4 the bishops declare
That this Church does not seek to absorb other Communions, but rather, co-operating with them on the basis of a common Faith and Order, to discountenance schism, to heal the wounds of the Body of Christ, and to promote the charity which is the chief of Christian graces and the visible manifestation of Christ to the world.
At General Convention in 1910, Charles Brent, Missionary Bishop of the Phillipines, suggested a world conference on faith and order and a motion by the rector of Trinity Church in New York City, William T. Manning, was became the first formal proposal for a World Conference on Faith and Order. The first conference was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1927, and Bishop Brent was elected its President.

The first North American Conference on Faith and Order was held at Oberlin, Ohio in 1957. In October, 2005, the National Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order issued a Faith and Order Commission Handbook which contains a brief history of Faith and Order written by Sr. Lorelei F. Fuchs, SA. She writes:
To date Faith and Order is the most comprehensive theological forum gathering together representatives of Christian churches to work towards the visible unity of the one church of Jesus Christ. It embraces more Christians and churches than the World Council of Churches. Serving this movement at the global level is the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. Similar structures exist on other levels – national, regional and local. This world commission describes its meaning and purpose in its by-laws:
to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ, to call the churches to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ, in order that the world may believe
Oneness of the church of Jesus Christ... visible unity in faith and eucharistic fellowship... worship... common life... so that the world may believe... These concerns are the heart of this unity movement, which identifies two spheres that frame their consideration.

“Faith” is the first of two spheres that expresses the goal of Christian unity in the Faith and Order movement. Behind the “faith” sphere is the desire for visible unity in the essentials of Christian faith, life and witness that inspired the churches to come together in a conciliar structure at the turn of the twentieth century. Regarding “faith,” the purpose of the Faith and Order movement is to unearth the common ground that is at the root which binds Christian creed and confession.

“Order” is the second sphere that expresses the goal of Christian unity in the Faith and Order movement. At the centre of the “order” sphere is the ecclesial praxis of the Christian way of life. Concerning “order,” Faith and Order’s purpose is to discern the ways to mutual recognition and reconciliation of Christian spiritual and sacramental life, Christian mission and ministry.

Together, “faith” and “order” unite in a “movement” enabling the churches to enter into the theological dialogue and reflection necessary to discern and transcend the differences that are church dividing and to recognize and articulate the bonds that are uniting. The dimension of “faith,” then, focuses on doctrinal matters of faith, sacraments, mission and ministry. The dimension of “order” focuses on the form or polity or discipline of these matters. That Faith and Order is a “movement” means that it is not a static entity but a journey towards unity with a direction that is
charted and followed by diverse routes. Rather than a mapped-out blueprint, the movement’s goal of the visible unity of the church is understood as gift and call – a gift from God revealed in the response to a call to fellowship, communion, koinonia. Various structures support this movement.

Sustaining the world movement of faith and order is the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. This commission consists of a secretariat, programmes of studies and world conferences. These latter, the world conferences, are the peaks of ongoing theological work and prayer that is carried out in the valleys and plains of everyday life lived as an ecumenical Christian. Parallel structures exist on national, regional and local levels.

This coming October, the Faith and Order Plenary Commission of the World Council of Churcvhes will meet in Crete. Among the items on the agenda are:
  • Sources of authority

By looking at how churches use sources of authority, the commission will take a new approach to the old debate around "Scripture versus Tradition", moving it from a theoretical discussion towards a sharing of experiences.

  • Moral discernment

Through the examination of case studies – some of them on controversial issues like proselytism, homosexuality and stem-cell research – the commission will critically look at how churches arrive at their positions on moral issues. The goal is to begin the process of developing an ecumenically recognized set of steps for the churches' moral discernment.

These seem to me to be important questions -- and like many of the issues that Fiath and Order has taken up in the past, they are not easy.

The current WCC director of Faith and Order is Canadian Anglican theologian Canon Dr John Gibaut.

Let me reiterate that I think that someone at the Anglican Communion Office or the Anglican Consultative Council blundered when they put together the title "Unity, Faith and Order." My wife Liz points out that the names of the two previos commissions -- the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the Theological and Doctrinal Commission -- were clear and communicated what the commissions were about. The name of the Commission for Unity, Faith and Order is unclear, unless you realize that "Unity" and "Faith and Order" are technical terms that have ecumenical reference. The name is also unfortunate in that it lends itself to a risible acronym, which has been used by Adrian Worsfold not just once or twice on his own blog, but also at the Daily Episcopalian. Sad to say, Grandmère Mimi picked it up here and here.

Now that I've said all that, it's only fair to point out a few facts.

On The Anglican Communion Official Website is this page:

Ecumenical Affairs - Commissions IASCUFO

IASCUFO - Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order

IASCUFO’s mandate was approved by the Joint Standing Committee in November 2008.

The Standing Commission shall have responsibility:
  • to promote the deepening of Communion between the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and between those Churches and the other churches and traditions of the Christian oikumene
  • to advise the Provinces and the Instruments of Communion on all questions of ecumenical engagement, proposals for national, regional or international ecumenical agreement or schemes of co-operation and unity, as well as on questions touching Anglican Faith and Order
  • to review developments in the areas of faith, order or unity in the Anglican Communion and among ecumenical partners, and to give advice to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of Communion upon them, with the intention to promote common understanding, consistency, and convergence both in Anglican Communion affairs, and in ecumenical engagement
  • to assist any Province with the assessment of new proposals in the areas of Unity, Faith and Order as requested.

The first meeting of IASCUFO will be in Canterbury in December 2009.

Note that the Commission's mandate was approved the Joint Standing Committee in November 2008.

The Windsor Continuation Group Report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, dated 17 December 2008, refers to the IASCUFO. I have been unable to find any reference to the IASCUFO before May, 2009, although there is discussion of the report the Windsor Continuation Group starting about February.

Two resolutions of the May 2009 meeting of the Anglican Conultative Council (ACC-14) refer to IASCUFO. In section g of Resolution 14.09, the ACC
asks the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order to undertake a study of the role and responsibilities in the Communion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting; the ecclesiological rationale of each, and the relationships between them, in line with the Windsor Continuation Group Report, and to report back to ACC-15;
and Resolution 14.10 reads
The Anglican Consultative Council, in the light of the Resolution 14.08 of ACC-14 on the WCG Report, asks that the report of the study undertaken by IASCUFO includes a study of the existing papers developed within our Communion and of current best practices in governance for multi-layered complex organizations, and makes recommendations to ACC-15 on ways in which the effectiveness of the Instruments of Communion may be enhanced.
The reference to 14.08 is a mistake -- they meant section g of 14.09 quoted above.

There's plenty there to brood on, but I don't think it's necessarily ominous. The questions they are asked to study are profound ones. I'm going to leave it there for now.

NOTE TO READERS, IF I HAVE ANY: I'll have very limited time on the internet from now until next Thursday, September 3.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adrian Squeaks

At Daily Episcopalian Adrian Worsfold has written a piece called "Anglican no longer." That title is intended to signify that he, Adrian, is no longer an Anglican or a Christian, which is fair enough. Adrian is a clever guy, and on his blog, Pluralist Speaks, has written several clever commentaries on things Anglican, especially taking on Archbishop Rowan Williams and Bishop Tom Wright. He has also had cogent things to say about the proposed covenant and about the apparent drive for uniformity within the Anglican Communion. But in the end, he does not know enough and so he sometimes talks (or squeaks) through his hat.

I refer especially to this statement: The latest development is still worthy of comment: having an office for Unity, Faith and Order - a UFO very alien to Anglicanism. In fact, the office for Unity, Faith and Order is not, as Adrian thinks, part of a "drive towards unity of process" in the Anglican Communion. In the first place, it is not new -- it is the result of the consolidation of two long standing Inter-Anglican Commissions. In the second place, Unity and Faith and Order are both terms that refer to aspects of the ecumenical movement -- aspects indeed that have deep Anglican roots. Two minutes or less on Google, or my favorite, Goodsearch, would have brought these facts to light.

To be sure, the average Anglican layperson, and even clergy, are not very well informed about the ecumenical movement and thus might be forgiven for missing the significance of the rather unfortunately named position, Director of Unity, Faith and Order. It is also true that the August 14 post by the Anglican Communion News Services Appointment of new Director for Unity, Faith and Order is not terribly informative. For example, it does not refer to the July 1 post Inter-Anglican Standing Committee for Unity, Faith and Order - IASCUFO in which two important points are made -- first, that the new commission replaces two earlier commissions, The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, and second, that the Secretary for the Commission will be the Director for Unity, Faith and Order, Anglican Communion Office.
It was at the third meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Trinidad in 1976 that the idea was conceived of a representative commission to consider theological and doctrinal questions which concern the Anglican Communion as a whole. The proposal was endorsed by the 1978 Lambeth Conference, and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission was subsequently established. -- For the Sake of the Kingdom - 1986
Following Lambeth 1988, the second Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission was formed and in 1997 produced the Virginia Report. Following Lambeth 1998, the third Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission was formed and in 2008 issued the report "Communion, Conflict and Hope."

The Inter-Anglican Commission on Ecumenical Affairs is relatively recent. It was established following Lambeth 1998. Before that was something called the Ecumenical Advisory Group of the Anglican Communion which issued the Agros Report to the Anglican Consultative Council at ACC-1o in 1996 and then to the Lambeth Conference.

It is true that both of these commissions have dealt with issues which touch on coherence within Anglicanism, but these are old issues and there is really nothing new here.

In part II, I shall discuss the Anglican and Episcopal roots of the terms Faith and Order and Unity.

Note: I inadvertently posted an incomplete version of this on Thursday, August 27.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cottage and Canoe

A week ago, I took our friend Howard out in our canoe. It's a 17 foot Morris canoe which my cousin Doug restored about 10 years ago. Here we are bringing the canoe close to the spot where Howard could disembark. I then took the canoe over to the spot where we could take it out of the water.And here's a view of our cottage from the lake.

Monday, August 24, 2009

So Many Thoughts

As this last full week of August begins, I find my head swirling with ideas. Ideas, that is, that I want to write about. At the same time, I find that I have a number of tasks that seem to take priority over writing. I don't seem to be able to produce a coherent composition -- so I'll just jot down a few ideas and hope to be able to expand on them later.

Since I heard a broadcast last summer on Alternative Radio of a talk by George Lakoff, I have been interested in embodied mind theory, and especially in the explanation it provides for why rational argument rarely changes people's minds, why so many ordinary people are persuaded to vote and act against what is clearly in their own interest, and why otherwise decent people can so easily demonize others. This has application to the LGBTQ struggle, to immigrants, to anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions, to the health care reform struggle, and to a host of other issues. I want to write more about this.

Because my wife Liz is active in the ecumenical movement, I have been exposed to both current thinking and the history of the ecumencial movement, the desire for Christian Unity, the Faith and Order movement, and contemporary inter-religious dialogue. I want to write more about this, especially about the Episcopal roots of the ecumenical movement and the influence of William Reed Huntington and Charles Henry Brent.

Although I can't call myself a Marxist (I don't know enough to be able to tell whether I am a Marxist or not,) I do call myself a socialist. I am convinced that capitalism as it exists today, along with what I will call financialism, are incompatible with the Gospel as I understand it.

I would like very much to try to explicate what I mean by "the Gospel as I understand it." This will take a good deal of work.

Those are some of the things I am thinking about. Now for a few of the things I am doing.

Liz and I have been here at Heart Lake full time since July 25 -- that is, Liz has. I hve gone back to New York for one or two nights every week. Sometimes it's for a meeting, sometimes for a dentist's appointment, sometimes for both. The meetings are connected to my service on the Board of Directors of our coop, Morningside Heights Housing Corporation. The dentist's appointment are for prosthodntics at Columbia Dental School which can only take place on Wednesdays (because of the schedule of the attending dentist who is overseeing the work.) Two weeks ago I was in the chair for eight hours and last week for five hours. The drive to New York is three hours each way.

Meanwhile, here at the cottage, we are proceeding with some work to improve things both outdoors and indoors. When we rebuilt the cottage after the 1988 fire, we acquired an attic space. The number of things we have put in that attic is astounding. I have begun the task of cleaning it out -- it's a big job.

To be updated.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stouter than I used to be

I have mentioned before that I am a G & S fan and have been for more than 60 years.

I think (nay, I know) that I have also mentioned that that I am a fan of BBC Radio 3 on the internet and in the summer a fan especially of the Proms.

Well, on August 12, the day I am posting this, I have an appointment with my dentist so on Tuesday August 11 I had to drove back to New York. And while I was driving the BBC was broadcasting, live from the Royal Albert Hall, Prom 35 - Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience -- conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. (Chatles Mackerras is eleven years older than I, and I bought a record of his Pineapple Poll, a ballet based of G & S tunes, before I was 20, so I have known about him almost all my life and certainly all my adult life.

So consider my dismay when this broadcast (and internetcast) took place while I was driving. If I had been driving on the wrong side of the road in England, (I should tell you sometime o about the first time i did that) I could have listened to the broadcast live -- but in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and again New York, it just wasn't possible.

But wait, on the BBC iPlayer I can "listen again" for seven days. So I didn't miss it after all. As I write this, I am listening to Felicity Palmer, as Lady Jane, sing "Silvered is the raven hair," accompanying herself on the cello. I recommend it. You can hear it here.

The image of Lady Jane is from the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive.