We publish this contribution from an Australian reader of New Directions who is in dispute with Forward in Faith Australia, not because we agree with what he writes, but because we believe in freedom of speech. Readers should understand that the course of action Mr Mills here describes has been taken despite every effort of Bishop John Broadhurst, the Chairman of Forward in Faith International, to persuade him and others that it is not a proper way forward. In the interests of balance, we have invited the Bishop of The Murray to respond to this piece in next month’s issue.
Apart from its literary excursus, it is difficult to understand the relevance to readers of the content of the contribution of your Australian Correspondent in the December issue. It is no doubt of interest to those here in Australia who may share Philip Murphy’s views. But as he has issued the injunction to ‘say it as it really is,’ I write to assist in doing so.
Alone in FiF throughout the world, the Council of Forward in Faith in Australia (FiFA) is now effectively part of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). Its Chairman and Vice Chairman are both bishops in that church and Bishop Chislett of the TAC also serves on the Council, along with Bp Ross Davies, the Anglican Bishop of diocese of The Murray. The three TAC bishops now hold licences as priests only in that diocese.
In July last, former members of FiFA who wished to remain loyal members of the Anglican Church of Australia and work for relevant alternative care and oversight while participating in an international FiF organization, formed an alternative association to be known shortly as FiF International (Australasia) Inc. Already its growing membership has many clergy and laity, both catholic and evangelical in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. It has been welcomed by FiF North America as the newest FiF group in the Anglican Communion and I write as its present Chairman.
Fr Murphy first raises the matter of ‘illicit’ consecrations. While the TAC may ordain and consecrate whomever it likes, it cannot do so for the Anglican Communion. The recent TAC consecrations of Frs David Robarts and Harry Entwistle in South Australia allegedly took place for an ‘ecclesial fellowship of FiF/ACCA (part of the TAC ) with ‘dual citizenship’ and as ‘regional bishops for Forward in Faith. But FiF is not a church and has no authority to consecrate bishops. Further, they can have no ‘dual jurisdiction with the Anglican Church of Australia absent mutuality of purpose by both parties who are ad idem on that issue.
Secondly, he accuses Bishop Hough of not attempting to secure a future for traditional Anglicans throughout the nation. Does he suggest that the Bishop do so by joining the TAC or by staying in the Anglican Church?
No doubt Bishop Ross Davies, as a member of the House of Bishops has the same desire to secure that future, but he has also chosen not to leave the fold, even though his capacity to do so in that body has been diminished by his (unrepeated) participation in the previous TAC consecration and support for its bishops. On the other hand, Bishop Hough’s contribution over time may well prove to be effective by not following that example.
However, more serious questions arise relating to the future of FiF internationally (with the UK and North America) amid these claims of ‘dual jurisdiction and ‘concordats’. Is the ‘ecclesial structure’ FiF seeks, as referred to in our foundation documents, to be the TAC? How does FiF as an international body intend to define itself and continue to exist to help orthodox believers throughout the world?
Our association believes, and it is the fact that there are few Anglicans in Australia leaving their present parishes for the TAC option as an appropriate ecclesial structure. Fr Murphy himself would no doubt agree as he is remaining in his present incumbency. Any Australian solution will need the involvement of the growing Sydney diocese, with its strength and influence rather than a body, such as the TAC, which has no voice in Australian Anglicanism.
At the time of writing, the outcome of the Primates’ Meeting in Dar-es-Salaam is unknown. What preceded it was a report by a Sub-Group on The Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report, which offered a strikingly positive conclusion. What follows is an unusual and imaginative explanation from an Episcopalian commentator.
Emotions ranging from grief to nearly hysterical anger characterize the response of orthodox Anglicans to the report of the committee tasked with monitoring the response of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to the Windsor Report. The Sub-Group appears to give TEC a clean bill of health.
The most common target of orthodox outrage is Archbishop Rowan Williams, whose name is on the report. However, those who know ++Rowan’s work and character find those claims difficult to accept. There must be some other explanation. I believe that explanation can be summarized in one word: ‘over-accepting.’
Over-accepting is a term popularized by Sam Wells (Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School) in his book, Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (SPCK, 2004). Wells looks to the genre of improvisation in the theatre to describe the kind of ethical behaviour for which disciples should be trained.
In improvisation, the most important goal of actors is to keep the play going. No matter what kind of outrageous behaviour one improvising actor ‘offers,’ her colleagues must respond in such a way that continuity with her actions is maintained, so that the drama continues. In other words, their response must not block the offer of the colleague, or the drama stops.
Wells shows that over-accepting is the way of Christ. Wells’ key point is that Christian actors improvise by over-accepting the offers of others in such a way that the action is reoriented in the Way of Christ. When offering pastoral care, a Christian actor over-accepts in order to help the lost re-locate themselves rightly in God’s drama.
As the orthodox claim loudly, the offer made by TEC was plainly unsuitable, in that it falls short of the requested language of repentance, nor promises to cease the behaviours that tore the bonds of affection. Rather than blocking that response by rejecting it and ending the conversation with TEC, ++Rowan continued the action by over-accepting the offer and redirecting the action in such a way that TEC must relocate themselves rightly in God’s drama.
That is, ++Rowan accepts as satisfactory the feeble response of TEC, but reinterprets it in such a way that TEC commits itself to cessation of the offensive behaviour. TEC is thus offered the opportunity to continue the story along a direction it did not expect, or to stop the drama.
Still to come
Following the leaked draft to ‘The Times’ suggesting reunion between the two communions, the following statement (edited) was made
Growing Together in Unity and Mission is being published as an agreed statement of IARCCUM (the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission), and is to be published under the Commission’s authority, not as an official statement of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion…
The statement was recently completed by IARCCUM, and is scheduled to be published by the Commission as soon as a Catholic commentary to accompany the document has been completed; an
Anglican commentary has already been prepared. The text was made available to the Anglican Primates, currently meeting in Tanzania. The Primates were also presented with a copy of the agreed statement of the International Commission of the Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue, entitled The Church of the Triune God.
Through these two texts, Anglican leaders were able to look at the recent results of important international dialogues with which the Anglican Communion is currently engaged. Both these texts address the theology of the Church, and given that the Anglican Primates are currently discussing the nature of the Church, it was felt that the dialogue documents had something to contribute.
Growing Together in Unity and Mission has not yet been officially published. It is unfortunate that its contents have been prematurely reported in a way which misrepresents its intentions and sensationalizes its conclusions. The first part of the document, which treats doctrinal matters, is an attempt to synthesize the work of ARCIC (the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) over the past 35 years…
It should be pointed out that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has consistently spoken of the value of the Anglican Communion remaining a communion, rooted in the Apostolic faith, as indicated in this statement from 2004: ‘It is our overwhelming desire that the Anglican Communion stays together, rooted in the historic faith which our dialogue and relations over four decades have led us to believe that we share to a large degree.’
During the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Pope Benedict in November 2006, the Holy Father noted, ‘It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity’
Archbishop John Bathersby
Catholic Co-chair of IARCCUM
and Bishop David Beetge,
Anglican Co-chair of IARCCUM