Just Wondering

Why are we having to defend why a bishop-elect should teach accord to the Creeds?

I don’t believe the conservatives are correct. I don’t believe that, on the whole, TEC is an “apostate church”. But it is clearly way past time for the pendulum to swing out of doctrinal experimentation to recenter on the Christian message.

29 Replies to “Just Wondering”

  1. Derek isn’t alone in the fight. Recentering on the Christian message is key.

  2. FWIW, the clergy Bible study/lectionary discussion group (with an eye to Sunday preaching)I am part of is very much centered on the core (with perhaps one exception). And that is in the Diocese of Newark with all of us actively engaged in various diocesan roles. On the other hand, I do have colleagues who would give both Anne Redding and Kew Forrester an A+. What it means is that there is a lot of work to do, but the Holy Spirit IS moving – otherwise we wouldn’t be having these sorts of discussions.

    Vicki+

  3. The Holy Spirit is moving, but He must be exhausted from the head winds He’s meeting, on so many issues.

  4. How does one speak up on this without being a cranky conservative hater of TEC? Because the minute I mention believing in the creeds, some cleric’s eyes glaze over, while bishops give that weak smile that means I’m just an ignorant layman.

  5. I’ll go way out on a limb here and say that if you don’t believe in the Creeds, all of them, then you really have to reconsider calling yourself a Christian. Of course there are Christian Churches that don’t recite the Creeds at all, but let’s leave the Non-Creedals out of this discussion.

    I presume I’ll be put into the “ignorant layman” category, too

  6. “I’ll go way out on a limb here and say that if you don’t believe in the Creeds, all of them, then you really have to reconsider calling yourself a Christian.” (quoted from Scott122, #8)

    I attempted to make a similar point over in a comment at Fr. Mark Harris’ blog about a week ago, where I asked, “Yes we all say these words [the Creed], but are they believed when they are spoken?” What I was trying to ask was why is it OK for a bishop to cross her fingers, as it were, at certain statements in the Creed, or even explicitly deny the statement(s)? Is not a Bishop of the Church Catholic supposed to teach the faith of the church? Fr. Mark’s reply was that the recitation of the Creed, over time will often bring a person to the position of understanding or believing the statement. But should a bishop, in their teaching office, be permitted to cast doubt on the Creed, or any portion of it? Is not their office to teach and proclaim the faith of the Church, as it is expressed in the Creed (or the creeds)?

    I have to wonder how some of our bishops were able to agree to the statements describing the Office of Bishop in the current BCP:

    “A bishop in
    God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in
    proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel,
    and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and
    King of kings.”

    “With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of
    the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith
    of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of
    every generation who have looked to God in hope.”

    When I look at a current bishop, I am reminded of a thought I came across in a blog somewhere; “Will the church I leave behind be recognizable to those bishops who came before?” When I think about some of the guiding lights in today’s TEC, I have to wonder.

    I am probably headed for the “ignorant layman” category, as well.

  7. Isn’t it all pretty simple, really? If any of us don’t do the jobs we’re hired for, out we go.

    Why does anybody feel that Bishops (and/or priests) can live in the land of tra-la-la when it comes to doing what they’re paid to do?

  8. Ambly, Scott, and David,

    Here’s my thought, though I could be categorized as cranky and even conservative depending on one’s point-of-view:

    A layperson who respects the Creeds is not ignorant. He or she has imbibed a fundamental statement of our faith in the Living God and recognizes that that statement has living consequences for how he or she will live in the world because that Creed speaks to Who it is with Whom we are in relationship.

    With due regard for non-Creedal Christians, I will say this: One cannot be an orthodox Christian and not affirm what the Creeds affirm, namely that Jesus is perfectly divine and perfectly human and that God is One in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    With regard to Anglican Christians, I will say this: We affirm the Creeds. These are non-negotiable sufficient statements of our faith. Where they are removed from the principle Sunday Holy Communion or dispensed with at services of Holy Baptism, the priest or bishop responsible for their removal has tooled with our worship in such a way, to my mind, that he or she has broken his vow to uphold the “doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church.” Indeed, the saying of the Nicene Creed at the principle Sunday Holy Communion is canon law.

    That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for struggling with the Creeds or with doubt. One who is in a position of public authority and trust and under vow, including bishops, priests, deacons, and oftentimes, professors is responsible to affirming the Creeds. And if he or she has doubts, following the taking of the vow, he or she is responsible to explore these with a competent spiritual director/theologian. If he or she feels he or she cannot publicly affirm the Creeds any longer (which is not the same thing as harboring doubts), he or she is obliged to step down.

    Since, I take the lay estate seriously, I will say also the same thing for laypersons in positions such as Vestry members, lay preachers, lay professors, etc. And, I will say further that no layperson in our tradition should be deprived of the riches of our Creeds, and that all laypersons should know the Creeds and wrestle with them. It is the responsibility of our clergy to provide regular education in this regard, and where they do not, for us to do so ourselves.

    Here is a nice piece by a High Church Liberal, or at least that’s how he was understood in his own time. Today, F.D. Maurice would be considered quite conservative and traditional.

  9. I had a wonderful long conversation with a laywoman the other day. For her generation, affirming the creeds was tied up with a cultural conservatism. For those my age and under (39), the creeds are being rediscovered in their true radical intent. I think we need to make the point that insisting on the grammar of the faith is not in fact conservative in any conventional sense. What we are conserving is Jesus, and he is radical.

  10. Fr. Bill, absolutely. I made that point at one of the two threads at the Cafe. For me the doctrines of the Incarnation and Trinity found in the Creeds are liberative as a gay man.

  11. What we are conserving is Jesus, and he is radical.

    Amen, amen. How incredibly sad – and what a terrible waste! – to reduce this radicality to either liberal politics or social conservatism.

    And believe me, I’m all for exploring the faith – i.e., the Creeds – to see what else it might be telling us; that’s where the problem is, if you ask me. This really didn’t end 2,000 years ago, although it began then; we need to remember to honor both parts of that idea, IMO.

    It just won’t do to throw the formulas out; this isn’t done in any discipline, let alone one so connected to the past. What’s important is to move forward with what we’ve been given – which has been valuable to human beings for two millennia. (Another problem is that modern people think the past is utterly benighted – something to be ashamed of and to disown. But that doesn’t work, either.)

  12. When I blogged a while back, about the three things need for Christianity to make sense at all, they were Trinity, Incarnation and Eucharist. The whole thing is pointless without them, as far as I’m concerned.

    You don’t need to *defend* the choice to focus on the Christian tradition, as far as I’m concerned, but we *do* need to answer the question of Authority.

    By what authority do we pick some things and not, say, all-male priesthood or, eliminate certain Bible scholarship? How do you sort out the things of “authority” that are important vrs the things of “authority” that are not?

    Derek, in an earlier comment you picked what is nearly the Chicago-Lambeth model. I picked Trinity, Incarnation and Eucharist… I think you and I might have much in common. But a different person (eg, my rector) would pick Social Justice, the Jesus Seminar and bad hymns (we sing “here I am, Lord” far too much – once every couple of months, in fact) as the hallmarks of the faith.

    The point being that we – as Protestants – *pick* what is important.

    In a real and positive sense Forrester was elected (and Spong and the PB, etc) when Luther nailed his theses to the door. The idea that we humans can pick and choose from among the doctrines accepted by our ancestors leaves us in a greatly weakened position when trying to say “These Protestants picked rightly, but those Protestants did not.”

    So, again, I ask by what authority do we pick what is most important – and reject what others pick to be most important? How to we say “we get to pick and choose, but you, over there, do not”?

  13. Huw, this thread is about Bishops and what they are hired to do, plain and simple. And our formularies are quite clear about that; it’s quoted above:

    “A bishop in
    God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in
    proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel,
    and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and
    King of kings.”

    “With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of
    the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith
    of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of
    every generation who have looked to God in hope.”

    Luther and “Protestantism” are red herrings here – an effort to talk about something not at issue. Anyway, as we know, Luther wanted to reform the corrupt Church, not start “Protestantism.” But that’s neither here nor there; we’re talking about something quite simple here.

  14. Huw, that I picked items “nearly the Chicago-Lambeth model” is no accident. I believe that the Chicago-Lambeth model is the sine qua non for Anglican belief. For my part, I hang with Lancelot Andrewes:
    * One canon reduced to writing by God himself,
    * two testaments
    * three creeds
    * four general councils
    * five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period: the three centuries before Constantine (†337), and two after

    This also moves toward your question on tradition. Christian tradition is massive, broad, and diverse. I’ve read quite a bit of material through a host of times and places and have a sense of just what its breadth is. Indeed, I’d say that all the Christian literature that is orthodox (as measured by the creeds and councils) is not necessarily coherent. As a result, the tradition that any one of us uses must be a restirction or synthesis chosen out of what is the authentically Christian tradition.

    For myself, I’m a child of the Western Church, Lutheran in early formation but Anglican by choice. Our ground is what Lancelot Andrewes identified and what should be the common patrimony of all: the Scriptures, creeds, councils and early Fathers. Beyond that, I cleave most closely to the strand that formed the heartland of English monasticism. Thus Gregory the Great, John Cassian, the Rule of Benedict, Bede, etc. inform me the most along with the preaching of medieval Englsih monastics. (Too, the more Cistercians I read the more I like them…)

    So, the answer to your big question is Yes on Chicago-Lambeth and +Andrewes.

  15. Derek – it is the same question:

    Take your BCP quote:

    “A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.”

    “With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope.”

    I can well imagine how the Bishop Elect could say he is doing exactly that. I mean that sincerely.

    You disagree with that claim.

    What gives your claim – within the Anglican & Protestant traditions – more authority than his?

  16. Huw, you seem to speak as if this were a matter of individuals agree and disagreeing.

    It is not.

    The church—even one as broken as the Episcopal Church—is a community. We read together, we make decisions together, we seek a consensus. The Church as a whole holds the Chjoicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It is the Church as a whole who decides whether any given member is inside or outside its boundaries.

    That’s why the whole church has to agree on consents for bishops-elect!!

    I think I’m inside; I think the bishop-elect of N. Michigan is outside.

    The question is if others agree and if we believe that reading is of the Spirit.

  17. My first reply was addressed to Derek and it should have been to BLS. Sorry!

    Derek –

    We break the consensus of the church in ordaining women to various orders. We do so in ordaining sexually active gay persons as well. (I happen to support both things… but prefer NOT to break fellowship with those who reject them.) We break the vast consensus of a huge majority of Christians in stopping at 4 councils. Why only 4? You – or Andrews, at least – has picked those above the 7, or above the several that transpired since then… Why? What since then is broken?

    Our support of women’s ordination touches on sacraments, ecclesiology, Christology, ecumenism, scriptural authority, Christian teachings of ontology, the authority of 7 (or 4) councils, the teachings of 99% of the saints and a good few non-saintly Christians. The support for ordaining gay people and same-sex marriages touches on *all* of that plus sexual morality, social justice issues etc.

    I don’t know that I have right I have to question the Bishop Elect on any of those points where you’ve cited him where I already know that I’ve broken the consensus of the church. I’m just wondering what authority others – who also support those things – have to ask him anything?

    You well state the problem, Derek. You think you’re inside, you think he is outside. The vast majority of Christians (from history) think we’re all outside as Protestants. My point is not that it’s about “individuals agreeing”, but rather about the fellowship of Christians. If we choose to define someone as outside – even when they insist that they are inside – we’ve rather a lot to answer for.

  18. Huw,

    Your right, the unity of the Church Catholic is broken. Therefore we speak in these matters about the Episcopal Church—or at least I do.

    I do have the right to challenge the bishop-elect. I have the right, not through learning—which I have—but through baptism. I do not hear in his words the creeds that I clothed myself in then and reaffirmed in Confirmation.

    Yes, the vast majority of Christians from history think I’m outside of their historic discipline. But not on core doctrine.

    I asked a scholar of the councils the same question—why 4 and not 7—his answer was that the first 4 defined Christology which was the central issue.

  19. What I refuse to buy—and what you seem to be wandering towards—is “if it’s not black and white, anything goes.”

    Anything does not and will not go in my church while I have breath to say anything about it.

  20. Huw,

    I responded to your post and comments here on my own blog because I think you’re painting an overly simplistic picture similar to the one Gary is painting at the Cafe that uses history to completely blur any bounds.

    Like Derek, I do not hear the God revealed in Jesus Christ in K T-F’s words and as understood, described, and proclaimed in the Creeds which I responded to and affirmed at my Baptism. There are various theories of Atonement, which Anglicans are not required to subscribe, but we do profess the Atonement, that in Jesus Christ sin and death are overcome. This is not something we could do on our own or discover in ourselves. This revealer Christ that seems to be what K T-F emphasizes is precisely the sort of Christ St Irenaeus condemns.

    I would add that for the Orthodox the other councils are Christological, particularly, the Seventh. Nonetheless, for Anglicans, the first four have carried particular weight, and these are not negotiable in our tradition.

    Frankly, depending on which era we choose, we all fall out of historic discipline in one way or another. However, we have maintained and our Quadrilateral implies that we have maintained with Nicaea, one bishop, one diocese. The disciplines are response to the core doctrines, how we live out being Church and disciples. To obfuscate the core is to end the possibility of ongoing response to the Living God as we understood God to have revealed Godself and is present to us and for us.

  21. Derek – your division between “discipline” and “doctrine” would be a very hard sell in certain quarters where, (in the examples I noted) it’s *all* Christology. And, for that matter, so are the other councils – beyond the 4… Our idea that we can divide, categories and pick which ones are important is the issue.

    It’s not black and white or else nothing. We broke the fellowship of consensus and have a lot of chutzpah invoking that consensus at random times and with our own definitions – unless we are consistent and we’re not.

    So, as I said, let the one without heresy cast the first stone.

  22. So, as I said, let the one without heresy cast the first stone.

    Sorry, Huw, that dog won’t hunt.

    What you seem to forget is that theology and Christology are not abstract mind-games. How we understand Christ has an impact on how we understand ourselves and the pastoral care that we render to others.

    Heresy isn’t just somebody thinking a thought that somebody else doesn’t like; it leads to people misrepresenting the Good News to other people. And that’s bad news.

  23. Forgive me. I’ve already violated my lenten self-agreement by arguing over this and by doing by stealing time from my employer

    I bid you peace and I ask your prayers for a sinner.

  24. I think it’s time we start reemphasizing the core, and the uniqueness of our tradition. Maybe a manifesto?

    What I’m pretty sure is that the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Creeds have to be a starting point for us. If we fail to do that, then we are proving the schismatics are right when they say that it’s not about gay inclusion, but about deeper theological shifts.

    I want to believe it isn’t. I want to believe that it’s possible to be a credal, and inclusive Christian.

  25. I haven’t called anybody a “heretic,” Huw. My issue is that Bishops have a job to do, and that some of them just aren’t doing it.

    Again, is it too much to ask that Bishops teach the faith they promise to teach? That’s their job, and in fact I think it’s pretty much their only duty. It’s all very nice that various priests have other interests – but when a person gets hired for a position, s/he really ought to be willing to submit to its requirements. One small example: the Book of Common Prayer represents “the mind of the Church,” and it takes two successive GCs (I think) to make any change to it. GC is the only place that laypeople have a voice, in fact. Is it too much to ask that priests and Bishops cease being a law unto themselves, and use the resources they vow to use? If it is too much, perhaps they should really find someplace else to ply their trade.

    Again: you and I would be out on our keesters if we didn’t do what we promised to do when we got hired. Luther has nothing to do with the internal discipline of an organization.

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