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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 17 November 2008

As saints of old still line the way ...

Well, people are posting away furiously here there and everywhere about Saturday's NEAC5 consultation. Even Pluralist has had a couple of goes. But the Ugley vicar reduces his comments to a preamble to a wedding sermon that I dare not read for my blood pressure's sake.

As for me, well it was my first proper evangelical "assembly" (unless you count being in the student body at Wycliffe Hall), and my first impression was that there were too many grey haired gentlemen and not enough women or people under 45. The chair of the session, Canon Michael Walters, who otherwise did a very good job, betrayed the truth of my impression when, in inviting comments from the floor he could only invite men by name. The old boy network lives on!

The morning was fairly innocuous, and I was lifted by the opportunity to see face to face people I recognise 'cos they have their photo on Fulcrum, but have never met properly. It was also one of those occasions when one scans the room for familiar faces - there were a fair few, but not as many proportionally as I would find at New Wine. I guess that says something about my constituency.

Talks were OK - I like Paul Perkin and he genuinely seemed to be preaching a message of unity, but I wasn't really sure whether in wanting us to redefine inclusiveness he was talking about our attitude to ECUSA or the C of E evangelical movement. I suppose different people starting from different places may have found what they wanted to hear in his carefully (and no doubt prayerfully) chosen words. The Bishop of Birkenhead talked a lot of sense; I wish they'd given him longer as he was the only person who said anything in depth about Lambeth. Bishop Michael is a nice guy - he's the only Bishop whose house I've been to and heard New Wine worship on the stereo. I think he lost his place a bit at the lectern, and didn't really say much I hadn't already heard expressed elsewhere.

As for the afternoon, well Christina Baxter had me in tears in her plea to God (and CEEC) for more women on the platform. Pete Broadbent had some constructive things to say too, but Mike Ovey was talking way too fast for me to keep up, and I'm afraid Chris Sugden's slick powerpoint just put me to sleep.

I remember the NUS in the 80's, and it was like that a bit when it came to the motion - whether or not we would express our support for the Jerusalem Declaration - lots of people asked for the motion to be withdrawn, or for a procedural motion that it be "not put". The main force of the argument was that this was meant to be a consultation but we hadn't been consulted, and it was all a bit too sudden for some. I felt we needed to have spent more time talking about the thing before we voted on it, and as we saw there was not going to be the opportunity to amend the motion, well it had to go. The vote itself was very tense, and hard to judge - although I saw Colin Buchanan tidying up his papers so I knew we'd won the day - as if anyone can judge a vote from the floor, he can.

But it wasn't a pretty end. Richard Turnbull, about whom many column inches have been written over the last few years, refused to withdraw the motion, and seemed oblivious to the fact that he had been defeated as he closed proceedings. I suspect his claim that the CEEC will just vote on it anyway may mean he is in trouble with them too.

He gathered himself enough to have a pop at Graham Kings in his summing up, and much as I am sympathetic to Graham's analytical picture of evangelicalism (h/t Rachel) I now conclude that there are only two kinds of evangelical - those who agree with Richard Turnbull and those who do not!

For the record, I couldn't have voted to express support for the Jerusalem Declaration, so in a slightly cowardly way I guess I'm glad we didn't vote. It's not that I don't want to affirm the orthodox in the States and Canada - I signed the petition that Jim Packer is an authentic Anglican. It's just that I don't agree with paragraph 13 about rejecting the authority of churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith.

There are two reasons for my discomfort with that paragraph. First, who decides who "those churches and leaders" are? What if I end up being one one day? Sounds like something from the Cultural Revolution. We don't actually remove someone's authority just because we reject it - they still have it, and opinion counts for nothing in disabling it.

Second, and in a way related to that, Article 26 of the 39 Articles, from which GAFCON I guess got the force of para 13, speaks of "the discipline of the church" and "by just judgement" in relation to how the heterodox should be dealt with. Neither CEEC nor NEAC nor GAFCON are executive bodies of the Anglican Communion; they do not have the power or authority to hand down discipline of the type article 26 and para 13 imply (to my reading). This properly belongs in the Cof E to the processes of the clergy discipline measure, and I guess the buck stops with Rowan Williams when it comes to the wider communion. If he is reluctant to wade in (which I guess he mostly is), it is for the same reason that The Bishop of London didn't discipline Martin Dudley for blessing a civil partnership in his church - we are all just far too nice to each other! At least Richard Turnbull doesn't suffer from that!

For me then the Jerusalem Declaration (sorry Jody, JD will always be Jack Daniels for me) is a case of nice missiology and morality, shame about the ecclesiology.
I asked two people last week who'd been to NEAC4 whether they wanted my spare ticket; they both said their experience at Blackpol had put them off ever attending again. I can't say I'm thrilled with the idea, but it may be necessary, if the bullying is going to be truly stopped.

To end on a positive note I have as a result of Saturday resolved to get more invovled in the diocesan evangelical association. Dunno where I'll find the time but there you go.


  1. Very interesting Tim - especially about the two types of evangelical - those who disagree with Turnbull and those who do not - em... no comment!

    It's all been very interesting and has taken me ages to read through all the commentary. It confirms for me many of the things that I suspected about the participants and I continue to look on and in to the situation, from the relative safety of my armchair, sometimes a little bemused and oftentimes a little amused but mostly just rather amazed that we all do this to each other. I'm working out things about myself as I look on and absorbing the intricacies and wonders of the gospel as I explore, no matter how much people keep rowing about it and how it should be defined. I'm perhaps more a Mercedes Benz than a pure river!

    Now back to business as usual
    Rachel re vis.e re form

  2. JR's wedding sermon - blood pressure - oh yeah - with you there - I've been cruising in on way too many CBMW forum posts for this one to remain unsullied.



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