January 26, 2011

Something to chew on

Anglicans and Orthodox agree that bishops do not form an apostolic college apart from and above the local churches. Bishops are an integral part of their respective churches. Such an understanding precludes any form of centralised universal episcopal jurisdiction standing apart from the local churches. [Furthermore] if conciliarity is one important complement of primacy, reception is another. Decisions of councils and primates need to be referred back to the local churches for their acceptance . . . . Such decisions must be received by the community in order to become authoritative. This fact reinforces the truth that bishops, including primates, are not independent of their local churches.” 

The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue 2006. V. 21-23.

Emphasis added.



Ecclesia Anglicana said...

Precisely. Thank you.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

As someone once said, "I'm not making this up!"

Fr. J said...

Sure. But I think you misunderstand at least what the Orthodox mean by that. It doesn't mean that there must be absolute consensus and if one local church says no the whole thing falls away. It means that local churches have to take and apply the teaching of councils, making them operative in unique and particular ways, and that out of that experience can often come a corrective to what councils have done. Generally speaking, the work of councils comes up from the bottom rather than down from the top, regardless of who calls for them. But everyone goes in willing to be bound by the decisions made, believing them to be of the Holy Spirit, unless proven otherwise by the experience of living with them. To go into a council insisting that it make no decisions and cannot hold any authority is a ludicrous waste of time.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Sorry, Fr. J., but that is exactly what the Orthodox mean. A case in point is the official position on Anglican Orders. (I'm also snowed in and can't lay my hands on the text, but... ) This was addressed by the Orthodox in encyclical fashion from the early part of the 20th century on through, as I recall, the late 30s. Each of the various churches agreed that Anglican Orders were acceptable until it got to the Russians or the Greeks (I forget which) who coyly observed (as I quote from memory) "There is something to be said to being in schism from heretics (i.e. Rome) but not very much..." And so the whole enterprise ground to a halt and Anglican Orders are not accepted in Orthodoxy.

This is also Orthodoxy's problem with filioque which was not adopted by all; and of course there is the whole matter of the non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church, which was part of the larger "East" until then. Of course, this lead to schism; but the point is still true: until a conciliar decision is accepted by a church it is not active for that church. This is not about a waste of time, but is essential to the very nature of what conciliarity means, as the Agreed Statement says. Otherwise you simply have a curial structure, rather than a conciliar one. And the problem is that Mouneer and others are using "conciliar" when they ultimately mean "curial." The whole point of the argument from SC, ACI, and Fulcrum, is that TEC has broken some "rule" and not followed the "decisions" of Lambeth and the Primates Meeting -- which is why some of them see the meeting as pointless and refuse to attend.

Christopher said...

I just pointed my own issue with much of the current conversation:


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Christopher. In my sermon last week I noted that making Apollos or Cephas or Paul the "focus of unity" utterly misses the point. All of us, bishops and archbishops included, are "only unworthy servants." There is something not a little blasphemous about this language in re Canterbury. The classical definition of idolatry is putting that which is not God in the place of God.

Anonymous said...

John 2007

"Decisions of councils and primates need to be referred back to the local churches for their acceptance . . ."

Agree completely, which is why I think we should follow in some way the model of presbyterians who send their national votes back to the local churches for ratification. This would eliminate some of the self-selecting that goes on with delegates to conventions in ECUSA.

June Butler said...

There is something not a little blasphemous about this language in re Canterbury. The classical definition of idolatry is putting that which is not God in the place of God.

Amen to that.

According to the ACO's press release today, the Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to have said at the present meeting in Dublin:

...although it had altered over the years, the original purpose of the meeting established in 1978 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan was an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”.

I'm not sure how the original purpose of the Primates Meetings has altered over the years, but I'd like to see the meetings return to their original purpose.

Ecclesia Anglicana said...

Archbishop Coggan's vision of the Primates' Meeting was not quite as innocuous as has been suggested. As Colin Podmore noted in his paper "The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion":

"[I]n 1978 Archbishop Coggan re-established a separate ‘Primates’ Meeting’. He explained this in an address to the Lambeth Conference of that year. His statement that the ‘primates’ (ie the senior bishop of each church – not necessarily primates in the traditional sense of the bishop of the ‘first see’ of a nation or people) should meet ‘for leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation’ has often been quoted out of context – sometimes with the implication that what he envisaged was merely an international fellowship group for church leaders. In fact, the theme of Archbishop Coggan’s address was ‘Authority in the Anglican Communion’. He began by asking where authority in the Anglican Communion should lie. Having rejected suggestions that it ‘ought to be centred in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury’ or that the Lambeth Conference would suffice, he went on ‘Is the central authority of the Anglican Communion, then, to rest with the Anglican Consultative Council? Again I believe that the answer is no.’ He similarly rejected the idea that a doctrinal commission could be ‘the authoritative council of the Anglican Communion’. Instead, he argued, the way forward was twofold. First, the primates should meet ‘reasonably often, for leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation… perhaps as frequently as once in two years’. The primates would be ‘the channels through which the voice of the member churches would be heard, and real interchange of heart could take place’. Secondly, the Primates Meeting should ‘be in the very closest and intimate contact with the Anglican Consultative Council’. Thus Archbishop Coggan explicitly saw the establishment of the Primates Meeting as part of a solution to the question of authority in the Anglican Communion."

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, E.A. I had a feeling that the Coggan was a bit downplayed as a sort of "clergy retreat" or chin-wag. In one sense, Coggan seems to be lining out something not too foreign to suggestions in earlier drafts of the Covenant -- and not unlike the current ACC structure and new Standing Committee (jointly of the Primates and ACC).

Ultimately, however, the question of reception still arises, and I see in the latest briefing that the Primates (or some of them) are thinking about it at the present meeting.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

John 2007, that would be quite a change in our constitutional structure. Not to say I oppose it, but it is a change. General Convention is not a "council" of course, but the governing body of the church. And deputies (and bishops) are hardly "self-selected." (Over one third of all deputies are new at each GC.)

Thanks, Mimi. Note Ecclesia Anglicana's corrective comment. I don't think Donald C. was letting any butter melt in his mouth. And remember that "consult" in British English means, "deliberate" -- one of the key problems with differing regard of Lambeth and the use of the term in some resolutions is that the British see it as a higher level of discussion than the kind of conversational gathering of opinions we think of here in the US.

June Butler said...

I see. Coggan's words sounded good to me, but I'm not skilled at parsing the meaning of ecclesiastical jargon and legislation, which is why I would not be good deputy to a convention.

And with the AC, there's the additional complication of the different meanings in the common language which separates the two English-speaking countries.

Ecclesia Anglicana said...

Slightly off-topic, but worth calling to mind in these times of cries for expulsions from the Communion. At the 2000 Primates Meeting in Portugal the final communique stated:

"The unity of the Communion as a whole still rests on the Lambeth Quadrilateral: The Holy Scriptures as the rule and standard of faith; the creeds of the undivided Church; the two sacraments ordained by Christ himself; and the historic episcopate. Only a formal and public repudiation of this would place a diocese or province outside the Anglican Communion."

Those calling for the Primates' Meeting to issue binding and authoritative statements would be advised to be careful what they ask for!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Mimi. That is part of the problem with the British and their life in the closet -- the closet of language that seems to say one thing but means another -- added to the actual differing weights of meaning on the sides of the Briney. It isn't just lifts and suspenders!

Ecclesia, thanks for that. This is a citation I do recall, and it is an important one. Of course, the chant of the retrograde ACI/Fulcrum/Global South is that TEC has formally repudiated the Holy Scripture and the Faith. (Note how an earlier draft of the Covenant, no doubt thanks to Radner, tried to sneak "faith and morals" into the credenda.