Archbishops' communion advice contradicts the Thirty-Nine Articles

It is not just the Presiding Bishop of TEC who is compromising the Gospel message in what she says. Now, as reported with approval by Anglican vicar David Keen, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are offering official advice to the Bishops of the Church of England which directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul, as well as Article 30 of the Thirty-Nine Articles:

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

1 Corinthians 11:25-29 (TNIV), emphasis added

30. Of both Kinds.
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

(I presume that “men” here is intended in the older gender generic sense.) But today I read:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today written to Bishops in the Church of England recommending the suspension of the sharing of the chalice at communion.

On what authority have these Archbishops taken it upon themselves to recommend their bishops and clergy to go against the teaching of Jesus and Paul and disobey the clear instructions in one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England? Doug Chaplin has recently suggested that these articles might be consigned to the scrapheap. But if so, this needs to be done by an official decision of the church authorities and after wide consultation, not through unilateral advice from the Archbishops. And I trust no one is suggesting that the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles is similarly destined for the scrapheap.

Note that this is a theologically important issue because the mediaeval western church, and the Roman Catholic Church until recently, withheld the communion cup from lay people. The Reformers insisted on communion in both kinds because this was clearly taught by Jesus and Paul, as quoted above, and was the practice of the worldwide church up to the 13th century.

So the Archbishops, through the advice they have issued, are attempting to reverse one of the key advances made in the English Church at the Reformation, ironically one which the Roman Catholic Church has also made since Vatican II. By changing this practice, they are also, by the fundamental Anglican principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (explained by Doug Chaplin as “”The rule of praying is the rule of believing”, or, more colloquially, “If you want to know what we believe, look at how we pray””), changing the doctrine of the Church of England.

The Archbishops have recommended as an alternative “personal intinction by the presiding minister”. This is also an ancient alternative, having been used in the mediaeval western church before being condemned by a Council. It is not explicitly condemned in the Thirty-Nine Articles, but does seem to go against their teaching, and that of Jesus and Paul, about drinking from a cup. It also clearly goes against the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, also one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England: in the rubrics (instructions) for The Communion in the BCP there are separate words for two separate distributions of the bread and the wine to the people:

And, when he delivereth the Bread to any one, he shall say …

And the Minister that delivereth the Cup to anyone shall say…

The Archbishops justify intinction as “a practice widely observed in Anglican churches throughout Africa”. But since when does the practice of other Anglican churches take precedence over the Book of Common Prayer?

At this point at last I need to mention the excuse which is being used for this attempt to change the practice of the Church of England: a slightly variant form of a fairly mild disease which is currently doing the rounds in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Yes, you’ve guessed it: swine flu. For the vast majority of those who get it, it means a few days of a nasty headache, not pleasant (see this personal story in The Times) but really only a minor inconvenience. Yes, a few people, almost all with other health complications, will die from swine flu. But it seems no more deadly, or severe in any other way, than the regular flu which has always been “pandemic” and which kills tens of thousands in the UK most winters.

If swine flu is a reason to withhold the communion cup, then why hasn’t the same action been taken long before, in response to regular flu, and all kinds of other infectious diseases? It has long been recognised that shared communion cups are a potential health hazard. So, if action is justified, why has it been taken only now?

If Church of England members are not prepared to take a possibly slightly increased risk of a few days’ headache so that they can obey Jesus’ teaching, then what is the chance of them remaining faithful when real persecution for their faith comes?

So, let me return to a question which I didn’t answer: On what authority have these Archbishops taken it upon themselves to recommend their bishops and clergy to disobey the teaching of Jesus and clear instructions in one of the “historic formularies” of the Church of England? They refer to “advice from the Department of Health not to share “common vessels” for food or drink”. But surely this has always been good health advice! So what’s new?

I can’t help thinking that the Archbishops are overreacting to panic stirred up by the media, and in doing so are putting at risk the doctrine and practice of the Church they head. Instead they should be taking a lead in reassuring the public that swine flu is not a big deal and will not be allowed to disrupt the work, let alone the doctrine, of the Church.

I call upon the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, and their equivalents in any other denominations who might follow their lead, to withdraw the advice they have just issued and uphold the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles that the Communion is to be given to all as bread and in a cup. Instead they might like to advise that those who prefer this because they consider themselves at particular risk from swine flu should voluntarily abstain from the cup. They might also consider suggesting use of separate cups, as used in many non-Anglican Protestant churches, which avoid the health risks. But they must uphold the priority of the “historic formularies” of the Church and, above them, of the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

Meanwhile perhaps the Archbishops ought to put a bit more emphasis on this part of the government’s health advice:

To help to prevent the spread of the virus, churches need to ensure that bins for the disposal of tissues are available at all public gatherings, that surfaces are frequently cleaned and that hand-washing facilities, including disposable towels, are well maintained.  Churches should also consider supplying tissues at services and other meetings as well as providing hand-washing gel.

What am I supposed to think if I go into a church which is withholding the cup but has not even provided visible “bins for the disposal of tissues”? Perhaps someone’s priorities have got mixed up.

Presiding Bishop calls the Gospel heresy – or does she?

Kevin Sam has two posts about some words spoken by Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC), the US-based body which, as I reported a few days ago, is on the verge of putting itself outside the Anglican Communion. In the first of his posts, Kevin reports on Albert Mohler’s surprise that Bishop Jefferts Schori used the word “heresy” in these words which Mohler quotes, from her speech to the General Convention of TEC:

The crisis of this moment has several parts, and like Episcopalians, particularly the ones in Mississippi, they’re all related. The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It’s caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.

Mohler comments:

note carefully that the Bishop identified as heresy what the church —   throughout all the centuries and in every major tradition — has recognized as central to the Christian faith. The confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” has been central to biblical Christianity from the New Testament onward. … The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church finally summoned the determination to apply the word heresy — and then applied this most serious term of odious rejection to the Gospel itself.

In a second post Kevin examines Jefferts Schori’s words for himself, asking the question Was Bishop Schori really talking about the heresy of selfishness? But he doesn’t give a clear answer. Now if it is selfishness that the bishop called a heresy, I would not disagree except to concur with Mohler that

The word heresy should properly be reserved for teachings that directly reject what the Bible reveals and the Church has confessed concerning the person and work of Christ and the reality and integrity of the Trinity.

But what was it that Jefferts Schori was attacking? The key is probably in these words of hers:

That individualist focus is a form of idolatry

This suggests that her main point was about “individual” and “alone”, the idea that salvation can be found by individuals apart from a Christian community. That is indeed a distorted teaching of many Christians in the West, related especially to the ideals of rugged individualism and personal independence – not quite the same thing as selfishness. Again, while “heresy” is too strong a word, if this is what Jefferts Schori was attacking I would not want to take issue with her.

But the Presiding Bishop’s words are all too open to the interpretation which Mohler puts on them, that what she has called heresy is a concept at the heart of the gospel, the teaching originally of the prophet Joel which was quoted by the apostles Peter and Paul:

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

(Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13)

If Bishop Jefferts Schori is calling heresy this biblical teaching, upheld by the church through the ages, then she is putting herself and the denomination she leads not just outside the pale of the Anglican Communion but outside the pale of historic Christianity. If this is not her intention, she needs to clarify her statement immediately. Otherwise she is simply hastening the day of TEC’s formal ejection from the Anglican Communion.

I'm a "Calminian" too

Craig Blomberg has just posted at the Koinonia blog a simple post explaining Why I’m a “Calminian” – that is, why he holds a mediating position between Calvinism and Arminianism, upholding both God’s sovereignty in election and human freedom and responsibility.

To summarise and even further simplify his position, also known as “Middle Knowledge”, God knows what choices would be made in every circumstance by each person whom he creates or could create. God sovereignly chooses which people he creates, knowing in advance which of them will turn to him and which will reject him. But each person makes their own free choice which way to go, and has to take full responsibility for that choice.

I too would want to consider myself a “Calminian”. And while I would not want to be too dogmatic about Blomberg’s particular middle way, it certainly seems to make a lot of sense of the otherwise apparently conflicting biblical evidence.

Hosea redeems his wife: a model of the Atonement

The preacher at the evening service I just went to, a young layman, made in passing an interesting point relevant to the Atonement. His main theme was about the wooden idols in Hosea 4:12. But he also mentioned how in Hosea 3:2 the prophet bought his estranged wife Gomer out of prostitution by paying money to her pimp – at least that was the preacher’s interpretation, which makes a lot of sense. The NIV Study Bible suggests that what Hosea paid for her was equivalent to the regular price of a slave, 30 shekels. Of course still today prostitutes are often in effect the slaves of their pimps. So Hosea had to pay the price to redeem Gomer from slavery before he could take her back again as his wife.

The interesting point here is that, as is made explicit in Hosea 1:2, the prophet’s wife is a picture of unfaithful Israel, and the prophet himself is taking God’s part in accepting her back despite her unfaithfulness. As Christians, and this was tonight’s preacher’s point in passing, we can understand Hosea as a type of Jesus Christ and his wife as prefiguring the church, the unfaithful bride of Christ.

So we have here a model of the Atonement, and one which is somewhat different from the more standard models like penal substitutionary atonement and Christus Victor. Hosea, the type of Christ, pays a great price to redeem his bride. But this price is not any kind of punishment or fine; nor is it the price paid to be victorious in a battle. Rather it is a purchase price, which is actually paid to someone, not to God. The recipient is the one who has held the bride captive, the pimp.

Now we don’t know how Gomer became a prostitute, apparently reverting to her former life before first marrying Hosea (1:2), but we can suppose that she started with adultery (3:1) and gradually became enslaved through her sin. And it is a general rule that people who sin gradually become enslaved through their sin, not necessarily to a human slave owner but to a greater or lesser extent to the powers of evil, to the devil.

So, typologically, the pimp who received the redemption price corresponds to Satan. This sounds like the classical ransom view of the Atonement. This was apparently the dominant view in the early church, but was rejected by, among others, Anselm and Gustaf Aulén, on the basis that “Satan, being himself a rebel and outlaw, could never have a just claim against humans”. But, one might respond, although the almighty God could have simply overridden Satan’s claims, whether just or unjust, the way he chose was to submit to these claims, without conceding their justice, and pay the price demanded – which was the death of his Son.

So maybe there is more to the ransom view of the Atonement than is generally recognised. It can certainly be understood as one of a number of different models which have good biblical support. But like all the other models it must be understood as a human description which is not fully adequate, rather than a complete explanation of something whose details must remain a mystery beyond human understanding.

It is worth noting also Hosea 3:3: after Gomer was redeemed from her prostitution she was expected to become a faithful wife again, not to return to prostitution or adultery. In the same way our redemption in Christ is not to be taken as an excuse for continued sin or unfaithfulness to God. This theme of the redeemed remaining sexually and otherwise pure is taken up again in Revelation 14:3-5.

The Anglican centre: a gospel of inclusion AND transformation

My friend Tim Chesterton, an Anglican priest in Canada, has written an excellent (but rather long) post Good News: Inclusion, New Creation, and the Limits to Transformation. This is in part his reaction to the position taken by The Episcopal Church (TEC), which is rapidly leading to a parting of ways from the majority of the Anglican Communion. Tim’s post has already received an episcopal “imprimatur”, in the first comment.

Tim is not afraid to take on the issue of homosexuality, despite it being so controversial. Personally I would want to state more clearly than Tim does that same-sex attraction, at least when not carefully controlled, is not “part of God’s will for his creation”, but “part of the brokenness that evil has caused in the world” – but then perhaps Tim doesn’t want to invite the kind of reaction the Team Rector of my own parish received for what he said about this issue in a sermon, which made it to the front page of our local newspaper.

The implication of what Tim writes is that he cannot go along with the “progressives” in TEC, and in his own Anglican Church of Canada, for whom the gospel is only about unconditional inclusion without a call for transformation. But it also implies that he cannot go along with those who reject the inclusiveness of the gospel, the apparent stance of some of the more conservative Anglicans who have been forced out of the official churches. I would agree with Tim on both these points.

This suggests to me that there is a strong central strand within global Anglicanism which does not want to go along with either of the extremes but is feeling torn apart as the apparently inevitable schism proceeds. It will be interesting to see what happens to this central strand. I would hope and pray that it is able to survive and grow through these difficult times, and perhaps emerge as the surviving core of the Anglican Communion as the extremes on either side go their own ways. But for that to happen this central strand will need some strong leadership. Perhaps the highly respected Bishop N.T. Wright, whose article I quoted a few days ago, can provide this leadership and some kind of focus of unity.

The end of the Anglican Communion as we know it?

I don’t think Bishop N.T. Wright’s article in The Times today is in the obituaries section. But it might as well be. This is because in effect he is announcing the death of the Anglican Communion, at least in the form I have known it since I was a child. In those days there was a map of the Communion on our church wall, showing the geographical areas of each of the provinces. Probably the second largest of those areas was the USA, represented by The Episcopal Church (TEC – at least that is its name today).

But the step which TEC has just taken has in effect put itself outside that Communion. At least, that is what one of the most senior bishops in the Church of England (who is also one of the world’s top theologians) is now saying. Of course we have long been hearing this from supporters of GAFCON and the newly formalised (in England) Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. But now it is the loyalist bishops who rejected GAFCON last year who are starting to say that enough is enough. Here is how Bishop Wright starts:

In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Wright then goes on to write very sensibly about sexual ethics and homosexuality, but that is not my point here.

It is not just the moderate conservative Bishop Wright who is taking this view. As far as I know the Archbishop of Canterbury has not spoken out since TEC’s General Convention decision was finalised. But, as reported by Ruth Gledhill, before the final vote by the House of Bishops of TEC Archbishop Rowan Williams said:

As for General Convention it remains to be seen I think whether the vote of the House of Deputies will be endorsed by the House of Bishops. If the House of Bishops chooses to block then the moratorium remains. I regret the fact that there is not the will to observe the moratorium in such a significant part of the Church in North America but I can’t say more about that as I have no details.

That is, Archbishop Rowan was saying that he regretted the decision by the House of Deputies which was later confirmed by the House of Bishops. From him that is strong language. This is part of Ruth’s commentary:

In fact the vote represents a direct snub to Dr Williams, who in his sermon to the Convention last  Thursday urged an opposite course of action. He said, ‘Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan’t deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart.

So, as Wright writes, “Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing”, deciding to “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level” and “walk apart”.

In effect, a large part of that world map of the Anglican Communion now has to be recoloured in grey, meaning no Anglican presence there. Or can the gap be filled by the recently formed “Anglican Church in North America”? Wright is unsure:

The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.

Indeed it would be wrong to rush into any decisions. But it seems that in the USA the point has now come where Anglicanism has divided into two separate streams, one liberal and one conservative. The question then is, how much longer can it remain united in the rest of the world, and particularly here in England?

My C-Factor: they say I am "somewhat of a Calvinist"

I found a quiz going round the Christian blogosphere which I could take (because it can’t access my personal information), unlike the dangerous Facebook quiz I discussed yesterday: Test your C-Factor. I come out with a C-Factor, a level of Calvinism, of 47%, which means that I am “somewhat of a Calvinist”. That’s more than Michael, and a lot more than Doug, but much less than Kevin.

Here are my full results:

Test your C-Factor

47%
You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
ID Category Score Comment
52 Work 57% You sure have a Calvinistic working ethos. You never work hard enough; work for you is your bounden duty. You are the type of employee any company desires, but the balance between your work and private life may get disturbed.
55 Strictness 40% You know how to enjoy life. You don’t always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
57 Sobriety 50% You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better � slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
56 Relationships 0% In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
53 Beliefs 60% You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn’t worry too much.
Test your C-Factor
47%
You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
ID Category Score Comment
52 Work 57% You sure have a Calvinistic working ethos. You never work hard enough; work for you is your bounden duty. You are the type of employee any company desires, but the balance between your work and private life may get disturbed.
55 Strictness 40% You know how to enjoy life. You don’t always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
57 Sobriety 50% You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better � slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
56 Relationships 0% In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
53 Beliefs 60% You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn’t worry too much.

Actually I am rather surprised to see such a high score on work, and such a low one on relationships, considering how I answered the questions. But I think the overall score makes sense: not a Calvinist but some leanings that way.

Facebook quiz danger?

Sorry that blogging here has been so quiet. This is largely because I have been busy preparing for my wedding, on 24th October, and of course spending time with my beautiful fiancée.

In recent weeks several of my Facebook friends have invited me to take interesting quizzes on Facebook. These include Wayne Leman and ElShaddai Edwards, who have done so in blog posts, as well as various friends who have invited me with Facebook notifications.

The problem with this is that when I try to take these quizzes I typically get a message something like:

Allowing access will let it access your Profile information, photos, your friends’ info and other content that it requires to work.

I am required to allow this access before I can take the quiz. In other words, I have to give to a piece of software about which I know almost nothing access to personal information not just about myself but also about all my friends. If “your friends’ info” means what is on their profiles, it includes e-mail addresses, sometimes postal addresses and phone numbers (not my own), and all kinds of other details which people are happy to share with their friends, but not to make public.

Of course if the quiz program can access this information, so can its author – who can use it for marketing or sending spam, or sell it to the highest bidder. That may well be a breach of Facebook rules, but how well are these rules enforced?

Presumably each of my Facebook friends who has taken one of these quizzes has given the program permission to access my profile information, which is intended to be for my friends alone to see but not to pass on to unknown third parties. I am not at all happy that any of my friends have done that; I consider that they have acted unethically. But if I chose to de-friend them I would probably hardly have any friends left.

ElShaddai, in a comment in reply to mine, writes:

AFAIK, Peter, the “friends’ info” is applicable to the last step in the quiz where it asks you if you want to invite your friends to take the quiz.

Indeed, as far as he knows. But what I am worried about is what he doesn’t know, what the unknown author of the quiz software is not saying. He may be right, of course, but how do I know that he is right? I’m afraid “AFAIK” is not an acceptable defence on an ethical issue, just as it isn’t in a court of law.

My real concern is that this quiz program is in fact an elaborate trojan horse, installing itself in millions of Facebook users’ computers worldwide, collecting personal information on the side for some kind of nefarious purpose, or at least for a mass marketing campaign. Can anyone reassure me that there is no danger of this? I know Facebook has had to stop rogue applications before. Could this be another one?

Homicidal pews

An old friend of mine, Martin Jackson, is a vicar in the north of England, and blogs about life in his parish. This is in the diocese of Durham, so he recently had the honour of having his photo taken with the diocesan bishop N.T. Wright.

Today Martin has blogged on Dealing with homicidal pews. This sounds an improbable subject, but he reports the following exchange as genuinely overheard:

… an example of congregational nostalgia, implicit in an objection raised to the removal of a church pew: “Someone died in that pew.” To which the parish priest had replied, “Then it had better go before it kills someone else.” At which another priest leapt to her feet and shouted, “Let me have it – I can put it to good use in my parish….”

I’m glad that my church‘s building, dating from 1971, has never had pews. The mediaeval parish church (which is by the way where Lorenza and I are to be married – the date is now set for 24th October) had pews when I worshipped there, nearly 25 years ago now, but they were taken out and replaced with nice chairs about ten years ago.