Holding a creative tension

Holding creative tension is something the Anglican Communion is finding it very difficult to do. Instead, we are involved in various dynamics of avoidance, denial, collusion and dishonesty. The strategy of various conservative evangelical groups is to threaten to divide and rule or to develop an alternative church structure, whether parallel but within the C of E or independent from it.

Richard Coekin, at Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon in the Diocese of Southwark, writes at length, rejoicing at the emergence of the Anglican Mission in England.

“The Bible is clear that un-repented wickedness (including homosexual practice) prevents us from inheriting the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The refusal of church leaders to teach this truth with compassion and clarity imperils the salvation of gay people we seek to love in our community by suggesting that repentance isn’t necessary.”

“… (we) have longed for orthodox Episcopal oversight within the Church of England that will support Biblical teaching in our church-planting movement…”

“… we have finally been offered orthodox oversight from the Bishops of the Anglican Mission in England.”

Richard says a recognised form of Anglican voluntary mission society has been established to enable theologically orthodox churches like ours to proceed with contemporary gospel ministry in the fellowship of the Church of England. Recognised by whom?

“It is run by a steering committee with a panel of English Anglican Bishops (including Wallace Benn, Michael Nazir Ali, John Ball, John Ellison and Colin Bazley) who are all signatories to the Jerusalem Declaration. They are willing to provide different aspects of Anglican oversight for clergy and churches across England with needs of oversight that will greatly vary across Dioceses and over time (they can be assisted by orthodox senior Anglican clergy around the country who can function as “Deans of Mission” to help them manage situations at a local level). The steering committee and Panel of Bishops will naturally seek to support the ongoing mission of the churches in the recruitment, training, authenticating and deployment of able and godly gospel ministers of Jesus Christ. In this task they enjoy the support in this country of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland), a broad body of Anglicans whose Executive Council chaired by Rev. Paul Perkin is recognised by the Primates Council of the international Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, as a legitimate voice of orthodox Anglicans in the UK.”

AMiE has creative a group of bishops to provide alternative oversight to clergy and churches in England. This has not been brought to the House of Bishops nor to General Synod. AMiE proposes a system of recruitment, training and authenticating of ministers which will operate entirely independently of the Ministry Division (and has already selected and ordained three men).

Richard says:

“A.M.I.E., like other such legally constituted societies in the Church of England, is certainly not a rival or alternative denomination. It has been formed precisely in order to enable orthodox Anglican clergy and congregations to remain Anglican. We hope and pray that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York will welcome and facilitate this provision of oversight for the orthodox and license those overseen by A.M.I.E. bishops.

“Our Anglican Co-Mission churches want to remain Anglican because we rejoice in the Biblical faithfulness of our founding formularies and reformed Anglican heritage, in our multi-cultural global fellowship of orthodox Anglicans and in the special opportunities for mission still open to the Church of England. We rejoice that A.M.I.E. is Anglican!”

If AMiE really were a legally constituted society in the Church of England and truly Anglican, they would have brought their proposal to General Synod for consideration. I don’t believe for one moment Richard’s assertion that AMiE is Anglican. Emmanuel Wimbledon was on my doorstep in my youth, and was barely Anglican then, let alone now.

Richard Perkins of Christ Church Balham in Southwark Diocese has also written about AMiE.

Robert Piggott, the BBC Religious Correspondent, commented on Saturday on Radio 4s Today Programme that, in launching the AMiE, conservative evangelicals had parked their tanks on the front lawn of Lambeth Palace. People’s eternal salvation is at stake, says Richard, and sometimes that calls for drastic action. He spells out what this means in dramatic form: Like tanks. On the front lawn. At Lambeth.

Establishing the new “mission society” is seen by some as unnecessarily provocative because it is deliberately provocative. Richard admits it is a drastic move designed to ensure that his ‘side’ is being listened to.

I think the two Richard’s protest too much, as if we didn’t have the example of the various independent groups in the USA to show us what the intentions of AMiE really are. To return to my starting point, AMiE seems to have no intention of living with creative tension in the Church of England, and has little tolerance for tension.

Writing from a USA Catholic perspective, Richard Rohr’s reflections on creative tension are very helpful for me when considering what is happening in our Church and Communion. He helps me reflect on my own temptation to react and punish and to place in more accurate perspective what various groups in the C of E are trying to do, and why – what the dynamic is.

Richard Rohr writes:

“I have seen many Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists do it much better, but very few Christians have been taught how to live both law and freedom at the same time. Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without a contemplative mind, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgement and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learnt what to teach us. This is not the way of wisdom, and it is the way that people operate in the first half of life.

“Unfortunately, we have an entire generation of educators, bishops and political leaders who are still building their personal towers of success, and therefore have little ability to elder the young or challenge the beginners. In some ways, they are still beginners themselves. Self-knowledge is dismissed as psychology, love as “feminine softness,” critical thinking as disloyalty, while law, ritual, and priestcraft have become a substitute for actual diving encounter or honest relationship. This does not bode well for the future of any church or society.”

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