Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A wee bit of theology.

Well, conversation delayed the baking, so the brownies are a cooling and awaiting the application of the chocolate butter icing and I've some time to spare and write a wee bit.

I've been watching the latest instalment of the stately gavotte of realignment within the Anglican Communion with an almost detached interest. The American Episcopalians are gathering very near Disneyland (guys, didn't you ever learn about location, location, location?) to debate the possibility of moving away from the Moratorium of the ordination of LGBT folks and of generally authorising the blessing of same sex relationships. Meanwhile the GAFCONites in England shire have had a launch event with much noise from the retiring (though not shy and retiring) Bishop of Rochester and a rather OTT declaration from by old Bishop (Fulham) that Satan is alive and well and living in Church House Westminster. A decade ago I might have agreed with him: now it just seems such a silly thing to say. This argy bargy is not about the devil having entered into the Church, although that is the way it is looked at in parts of Africa and Asia: it is about a profound theological disagreement over the way we look at the mission of God's people in the world today. Sounds to me rather as if Bishop Broadhurst is certainly doing the Office of Readings daily and steeping himself in the mindset of the Church Fathers, but is failing to read the fulminations of Athanasius and Co with any sense of historical criticism or contextualisation and is simply impersonating a Bishop of the 4th century CE.

No, this is not God's light vs Satan's darkness, but the painful clash when two goods collide and seem to be in opposition. The Call to Faithfulness and the Faith once delivered to the Saints as it has been understood meets an emerging understanding of that faith being generous and welcoming to all. The vital point of the great Christological arguments was about understanding the Incarnation as an opening of the gates of grace and glory to all of God's people. If Christ was not both fully and truly human and fully and truly divine, then the Gospel and the Kingdom was not for all: that is why the Orthodox strove against the Arians et al - to keep the gates open. Surely they made huge errors in applying and realising that vision over the centuries: the treatment of women and of Jews to name but 2 examples. But their fundamental understanding of the Universal nature of the Salvation promised by God in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary was correct and essential.

remind me of the rather conservative Christians of North Africa with whom Cyprian of Carthage struggled. Their concern was to hold fast to the faith and not to give those who had apostatised an easy ticket back in. Their problem was that they came perilously close to saying there was no way back for apostates at all for Apostasy was that Sin against the Holy Spirit which Jesus called unforgivable. Cyprian certainly didn't offer an easy road back (serious penance lasting years was his solution)but he recognised that grace had to be held out to the Apostate at all costs. Hence the great split in Cyprians time. History tells us that the Conservatives were swept away by the rise of Islam in the 7th century and Cyprian's vision as preserved in the teaching of the Church as a whole came to triumph. In the long run I rather think that is what will happen to Archbishop Akinola and his pals: the tide of history will somehow sweep them aside and the generous Gospel will prevail eventually.


  1. One will pray that this is the case. Glad you've taken a break from Mafia Wars... or are you just coming to the subject from a different angle?

  2. Well, the game kept my mind occupied and distracted in a hairy period. The idea of dealing with GAFCON by sending them to sleep with the fishes has some appeal though!