Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Day of Pentecost: Icon of the Church

In his book on Images of Hope, Pope Benedict XVI writes the following on Pentecost:
A tongue of fire has been added to being human. We must now correct this expression. Fire is never something that is simply due to another and therefore exists beside him. Fire burns and transforms. Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I and no longer I. Whoever, of course, meets the average Christian today must ask himself: Where is the tongue of fire? That which comes from Christian tongues is unfortunately frequently anything but fire. It tastes therefore like stale, barely lukewarm water, not warm and not cold. We do not want to burn ourselves or others, but in this way we keep distant from the Holy Spirit, and Christian faith deteriorates into a self-made world-view that as far as possible does not want to infringe on any of our comforts and saves the sharpness of protest for where it can hardly disturb us in our way of life. When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes only at first glance. The comfort of the individual is the discomfort of the whole. When we no longer expose ourselves to the fire of God, the frictions with one another become unbearable and the Church is, as Basil expressed it, torn by the shouts of factions. Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God. Church began as the disciples assembled and prayed together in the room of the Last Supper. Thus she begins again and again. In prayer to the Holy Spirit we must call for this anew each day.

A Gift From God

Today we were able to get the new car pictured here. My friend from Australia who is a Roman Catholic priest doing a PhD here at Durham University sold us this car for a great price and under the value it holds. It is a true gift and we are thankful for God providing this for us as it was much needed!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ordination Announcement

This is to formally announce my ordination that is to take place on 1 July 2007 at 10:00 am at the Durham Cathedral by The Rt. Rev'd Dr. N.T. Wright. I am finishing up my formative training at Cranmer, St. John's College Durham University on 8 June. We move into our new home on 1 June (next Friday) in Durham, which is where I will be for the next few years while I am a curate at St. John the Evangelist in Meadowfield and St. Luke's Ushaw Moor.

I am continuing in the writing of my PhD at Durham University with the hope of submitting in the autumn of this year. I would ask for your prayers as we begin this new phase of ministry.

If you are in the Durham area, there will be a service of reception at St. John the Evangelist on 1 July at 6 pm. That service will include evening prayer, homily and benediction followed by a reception in the church hall next to St. John's. If you would like to come to that service, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email so that I can add your name to the list for catering purposes. Please do come if you are able. Thank you for your prayers!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Could it be discrimination to believe in marriage now?

Marriage is my thing: New Directions May 2007. This is frightening!

'Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament' [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2360]. In explaining the Christian understanding of marriage - and the fact that it echoes the natural law written into the fabric of our being, and undergirds the law of our country which governs how we are to live - I have been privileged to be part of some excellent classroom discussions, heard some forthright views, been touched by young people's statements of their beliefs and hopes and aspirations.

But under the Sexual Orientation Regulations, effective from 30 April 2007 and passed with minimal parliamentary debate, despite a valiant attempt in the House of Lords to tackle them properly, it is going to be difficult for me to talk about marriage in schools any more, or even to be of much use as a visiting Catholic journalist. The new regulations expressly ban my doing anything which might make pupils of homosexual inclinations uncomfortable. Suggesting - let alone firmly stating - that marriage is, by definition, a bond between a man and a woman, is going to be rather too antagonistic. Affirming the Catholic Church's position on other sexual relationships, including the homosexual one, is going to be trickier still, unless I am prepared (which I'm not) to state that it is possible that the Church is wrong and/or that other opinions on homosexual activity are of equal moral worth and validity, and/or that I recognize that everyone has the right to affirm his or her own sexual desires in his or her own way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Reformed Scholars Going to Rome

See the conversion story of another Reformed Scholar going to Rome. Will the Protestants wake up to what is happening? Read the actual conversion story here.

Lambeth Invitations: Who is Going? Who Isn't?

The invitations to the Lambeth Conference 08 are going out now from Lambeth Palace. There has been a lot of speculation about who is going and who isn't. Provinces in the Global South have made it perfectly clear that if the American bishops who voted for Gene Robinson or took part in the consecration are invited or Gene Robinson himself, then they will NOT be coming. So, the Archbishop of Canterbury writes:

At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It's My Right: Putting Demands of Self over Scripture

One of the crucial issues facing the Church in the West is that the damands placed upon the Church are spoken from individuals who claim it is their right to believe and live as they please rather than submitting to the authority of Sacred Scripture. We live in a day of radical individualism where everyone seems to do what is right in their own eyes. Scripture is read with the refrain 'This is the Word of the Lord' followed by a whisper from some 'no it's not' if they don't like what was read. I know, I've heard it done! Where does this come from? I think the following article speaks to a lot of the problems we are facing in our culture and it is going to take a lot of work and patience to see us out of it; not to mention a lot of answered prayer!

Read the entire article here.

Freedom and Rights

Some people today would dispute the notion that submission is the ideal for the Christian. They claim that such an ideal is opposed to the Christian freedom proclaimed in the scriptures. Yet the submission being described here is closely related to true Christian freedom. Paul is the great apostle of Christian freedom, but the Christian freedom taught by Paul is not the same as the freedom extolled by modern man. For the modern mentality, freedom is the ability to set one's own standards, to submit to no person, to chart one's own course. The freedom Paul teaches about comes in Christ and through faith in him.(21) It is a freedom defined primarily in relationship to the Mosaic law. The two great epistles of Christian freedom, Galatians and Romans, are concerned with questions about the need for Gentile Christians to conform to the Mosaic law, especially in its ritual provisions. Christian freedom as taught by Paul, then, is first of all a freedom from the ritual provisions of the Mosaic law, at least for the Gentiles. But it is also a freedom from the (Mosaic) law in its entirety as the way to enter into the full relationship with God and the full status as his people. Behind this change is an understanding that the purpose of law is not to give life but to reveal sin (Rom 7:7-12). Life, relationship with God, power to live the Christian call, come through faith in Christ and through the Spirit of God given to us.

The freedom that Paul teaches is not, however, a freedom to disobey the ethical prescriptions taught in Old and New Testament alike, much less a freedom to set our standards and to submit to no one.(22) There was a temptation to abuse Paul's teaching in that way, but Paul understood that temptation as providing an opportunity for the flesh, that is, an opportunity to follow our own will and desires (Gal 5:13). Paul expected freedom to operate in precisely the opposite way. It should produce an ability and a desire to live the kind of life which not only fulfills the commands of the law but which proceeds to an even more complete and demanding love. It is a freedom to submit to God and to do his will with a more perfect submission than had existed under the law, when the commands of God were written on tablets of stone and not on the heart (2 Cor 3:3). It is freedom from the law, but a freedom that is meant to put us into a direct relationship of obedience to our Father as his sons and daughters (Gal 3:23-4:7). In fact, the same Paul who insisted so strongly on freedom could also insist strongly on obedience, and could act as a disciplinarian, commanding respect for his own authority because his authority and discipline were spiritual, conferred on him by the Lord Jesus under the New Covenant (I Cor 4:18-21). Freedom is another area in which contemporary man is ready to find contradictions in Paul, contradictions that never existed in Paul's mind. Here again, the contradictions are not in scriptural teaching. Rather, they arise when the scriptural texts are interpreted using a modern understanding of freedom alien to the scriptural mentality.

Submission, then, does not conflict with "freedom" in the scriptural sense. It can be undercut, however, by an approach to freedom which leads Christians to understand their lives in terms of their own rights. The discussion of the roles of men and women is often framed in a way which stresses the need to give women their rights and which urges them to claim or defend their own rights. At first, such an approach was used to claim for women basic legal protections and constitutional guarantees. Presently, it is often used to orient people toward seeking a kind of personal independence and individualism which conflict with the spirit of Christian teaching. We can often hear, for instance, that basic human rights include making one's own decisions, being independent upon reaching adulthood, expressing one's own opinions, developing one's full potential, having as much opportunity to do a particular job as anyone else. Moreover, we are sometimes told that these rights are violated not only when the government takes them away by force, but even when a group of people freely decide to establish their common life on different principles.

The term "rights" is a legal term, indicating something which gives us a claim in court. "Rights" in this sense is an ancient term, and can be found in scripture. The broader idea of basic human rights, or of the rights of man, was formulated later in human history as a way of developing certain principles for framing the constitutions of modern states.(23) The origin of this approach will be discussed in Chapter Nineteen. This broader concept has much utility, especially as a protection for individuals in a pluralistic state which cannot presuppose a shared view of fundamental social and ethical questions. The term "the rights of women" is certainly appropriate in discussions about how legal protection should be given to women in contemporary society. However, when that legal rights framework is brought into a Christian discussion, it normally orients the whole discussion in a direction that is alien to the basic Christian context. It leads to a frame of mind in which people become oriented primarily to their own welfare, it leads them to even make demands on the Lord himself. In short, the legal rights framework used as a basis for a Christian discussion leads away from an attitude of submission, of eagerness to find out what the Lord is saying, and of readiness to accept and obey his will.
Legal rights, then, is not the proper basic framework for issues concerning the people of God. The "constitution" of Israel, and that of the Christian people, rests on an entirely different basis than those of modern states. The scripture does not speak about "the rights of man." From the scriptural point of view, we have no intrinsic and inalienable rights.(24) Women have no rights, but men have no rights either. Human beings are God's creatures, totally at his disposal. In the book of Isaiah, the Lord says,

"Woe to him who strives with his Maker,
an earthen vessel with the potter!
Does the clay say to him who fashions it,
'What are you making?'
or 'Your work has no handles?'
Woe to him who says to a father,
'What are you begetting?'
or to a woman, 'With what are you
in travail?' "
Thus says the Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
"Will you question me about my children,
or command me concerning the work of my hands?
I made the earth,
and created man upon it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host."
(Is 45:9-12)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Archbishop Orombi: Guard the Faith!

The Archbishop of Uganda has clearly spoken about the nature of the Communion and the seriousness of the fracture within it. He also makes it perfectly clear that if the Americans, including Robinson, his bishops will not be attending Lambeth 08. This will all be very sad indeed. But the call is clear for the Church he says and no matter what culture says, the Church is Church and though she has faced troubles throughout her history she has NEVER been destroyed and she never will!!

Listen to it all at Anglican TV.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CT Interviews Dr. Beckwith on his Re-version to Rome

Christianity Today interviewed Dr. Beckwith on his conversion to Rome. He states that he will be coming out with a book or a substantive article on why he converted in the near future. Take a look and leave comments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Out of Your League? Beckwith Matters!

I have been reading a bit of the Beckwith news about his return to Rome. You can find a reference to his journey below; not that it should be such a big deal when questions about the ongoing necessity of the Reformation are becoming more prominent in our day. But that is an issue for another time. Nevertheless, Dr. Liccione's excellent response to Dr. Trueman from Ref21 is argued well and as a theological gentleman. In response to this piece, Mr. Phillips writes a response solving the problems for us all by simply telling us to follow the Reformation principle of relying on the Holy Spirit's authority. Now, how many questions does that beg in reference to the Holy Spirit's authority and leading in the first 1500 years? Who is going to interepret the authority of the Spirit for Mr. Phillips? Who makes the decision about what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not? Like Luther said, 'every man hath a pope in his belly', and that appears to include Mr. Phillips.

Sometimes debates need to be left in the hands of those who began them. What Mr. Phillips is trying to convince us of by his call to simply not choose between a false dichotomy but the authority of the Holy Spirit is void of any substance and answers nothing of Dr. Liccione's issues. Maybe let Drs. Trueman and Licionne handle this one!

Cyril: Life from the flesh of Christ

We find Andrewes very sympathetic with the language of Cyril of Alexandria who speaks of the life-giving flesh of Christ in the Eucharist. Cyril is reflecting on John 6.53 and writes,
And since the flesh of the Saviour has become life giving (as being united to that which is by nature life, the Word from God), when we taste it, then we have life ourselves, we too united to it as it to the indwelling Word. For this cause also when he raised the dead, the Saviour is found to have operated, not by word only, or God befitting commands, but he laid stress on employing his holy flesh as a sort of co-operator unto this, that he might show that it had the power to give life, and was already made one with him…He touches the dead, thereby, also infusing life into those already decayed. And if by touch alone of his holy flesh, he gives life to that which is decayed, how shall we not profit yet more richly by the life-giving blessing when we also taste it?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cyril of Alexandria: A Source for Andrewes' Eucharistic Christology

I have been reading tonight a book on Cyril's Christology and Eucharistic theology and have found what appears to be the source for how Andrewes is interpreting his Eucharistic theology with Christological categories. In his commentary on John's Gospel, Cyril points out the close connection of union (from John 17) to be a result of the Eucharistic sharing in the humanity and divinity of Christ. Glory for Cyril is obtained in the receiving of the Eucharist and the indwelling of the Spirit. Cyril writes,
We have, therefore, been made perfect in unity with God the Father, through the mediation of Christ. For by receiving in ourselves, both in a corporeal sense and a spiritual sense, as I said just now, him that is the Son by nature, and who has essential union with the Father, we have been glorified and become partakers in the divine nature of the most high.
This is the exact language used by Andrewes in his sermons on the Incarnation when he describes the unity of the Incarnation with what we receive in the Eucharistic elements. I note that Cyril speaks of a corporeal and a spiritual receiving. Interestingly enough, Andrewes talks the same kind of language. Lawrence J. Welch points out that for Cyril 'the headship of the second Adam cannot be disassociated from the Eucharistic context.' (101)

This is very interesting indeed! What is also interesting is that it has been pointed out by Welch that the Second Adam headship which is explained by Cyril is Eucharistic. This headship though is always in relationship to the Body, the Church. This union of the Second Adam and the Body is caused by the Eucharist. What we receive in the Eucharist is the glorified 'kenotic' Son who empties himself for us on the cross and again in the Eucharist. This self-emptying is the unifying instrument that brings us to taste of the eschatological glory. Therefore the Eucharist is the flesh of Christ that has the power to give life and the Church is not joined to a mere man. What I have discovered tonight and maybe am just now understanding is found in the words of Welch. He writes,
In other words, whenever Cyril uses the Adamic typology to explicate the incarnation his Christology cannot be disassociated from his understanding of the Eucharist. The two are intimately linked. This suggests that there is a synthesis between Cyril's theology of worship and Eucharist and his Christology.
Now, anybody that has done any serious reading of Andrewes, particularly his Incarnation sermons, knows that this is also true of him. I have much to think about here but I put it out here for any thougths you might have!

Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Ordaining Relativism

National Catholic Register

What do you think? Does it take Peter's voice alone or is his the alone voice? What about the relativism argument here? Let's hear from you!

I was living in England and working as an Anglican priest when the Church of England finished debating the question of women’s ordination. The Church was in great turmoil over the question, and many priests and people threatened to leave if women were ordained. On the other side, many people were increasingly angry and upset at the Church of England’s slowness to move on this issue which seemed obvious to them.

Although my instinct was to be opposed to women’s ordination, I was determined to hear both sides of the argument and make up my mind accordingly.

The process left me increasingly confused. From a human point of view, both those who were in favor of women’s ordination and those who were opposed had strong arguments. Both sides attempted to marshal support from Scripture.

It seemed that both sides could summon arguments from psychology, the social context, compassion and church history. Both sides called on a range of experts to support their cause. In addition to all this, people on both sides of the argument were sincere, prayerful and church-going people. Both sides really did think they were being led by the Holy Spirit. Who was right? How were we to make up our mind?

As I listened to the debate, I also began to analyze the grounds for the debate. Those who were arguing in favor of women’s ordination were carrying their arguments in a leaky bucket, and that bucket was relativism. I was surprised that they really only had three forms of argument: utilitarianism, sentimentality and political correctness, and these three forms of argument were leaky.

The first leak is utilitarianism. This is the philosophy that what works is best or what is effective and efficient is most true. The utilitarian argument for women’s ordination was, “Sally has great people skills, she’s a good administrator and a dynamite preacher. She would be just as good a priest (and better) than many of the men who are ordained.”

The utilitarian argument continued, “Women have shown their abilities in all the other professions, why not the priesthood?”

The sentimental argument in favor of women’s ordination was one that appealed to compassion. The argument goes like this: “Sally is such a prayerful, sincere and devout person. She feels she is called to be a priest. It would be so unkind to deny her ordination.” Those who argued from these compassionate grounds often went on to accuse the church of oppression of women and cruelty in denying women the ‘right’ to be ordained.

The sentimental argument merged into the political argument. Women’s ordination became a question of equal rights. It was discriminatory to deny women ordination. The campaign for women’s ordination then became a campaign for justice, and the patriarchal church became the great establishment machine that one day had to be overcome.

In the Church of England, those who were opposed to women’s ordination admitted the strength of the utilitarian, sentimental and political arguments, they simply insisted that these could not be the only criteria for deciding the matter. They said the ongoing tradition of the church, and the mind of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church mattered in this decision. In doing so, they were appealing to the wider authority of the church. This bedrock for authority is the check and balance for the relativistic arguments of utilitarianism, sentimentality and political correctness.

When these debates were going on, I can remember quite clearly pointing out to my parish council that the arguments for women’s ordination could be used for most anything. I said that the same type of arguments could be used to argue for the ordination of practicing homosexuals or for the “marriage” of homosexuals, and I predicted that the Anglican Church in 10 years would be having debates on those issues.

My prediction proved correct. Now the Anglican Communion is embroiled in debates over homosexuality. Those who are in favor of a permissive policy use the same three types of argument.

The utilitarian argument is: “George can do the job of a priest just as well as a heterosexual man. Why should his sexual orientation be an issue?”

The sentimental argument says, “George is a good, prayerful man. He is sensitive and feels hurt by the Church’s rejection. It would be so cruel to deny him his calling.”

The politically correct argument says that homosexual “marriage” and homosexual ordination is a question of justice to the oppressed.

While these three arguments should be considered as part of the overall debate, they cannot be the only forms of argument. Catholics balance these points with a wider understanding of authority. We not only call on a broader understanding of human sexuality, but we also look to a more ancient and universal voice of authority.

This voice of authority transcends the utilitarian, sentimental and political arguments of any age. It points to truths that overarch all our narrow perspectives. It connects with truths that run deeper than our particular cultural concerns.

Despite their unpopularity, it expresses those truths with courage and compassion, and with a voice that reaches back to Jesus Christ himself: the voice of the successor of Peter.

Father Dwight Longenecker is

chaplain of St Joseph’s Catholic School in

Greenville, S.C.( DwightLongenecker.com).

Sunday, May 06, 2007

May 2007 New Directions

Just in case any of you are readers of New Directions I thought I would post that the May issue was now available on line. If you would like to make a donation, I am sure they would appreciate the support! If nothing else, it is worth looking at when you see the cover!!!

ETS President Dr. Francis Beckwith Returns to Rome

This news has obviously caused a great stir amongst Evangelical Protestants. There is much more of this to come I imagine with the present state of division and creeds of Protestantism. Take a read of it yourself. I welcome comments. 'My Return to Rome'.
The past four months have moved quickly for me and my wife. As you probably know, my work in philosophy, ethics, and theology has always been Catholic friendly, but I would have never predicted that I would return to the Church, for there seemed to me too many theological and ecclesiastical issues that appeared insurmountable. However, in January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries. Moreover, much of what I have taken for granted as a Protestant—e.g., the catholic creeds, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the Christian understanding of man, and the canon of Scripture—is the result of a Church that made judgments about these matters and on which non-Catholics, including Evangelicals, have declared and grounded their Christian orthodoxy in a world hostile to it. Given these considerations, I thought it wise for me to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.

A Catholic Priest Reaching the Youth: Fr. Stan Fortuna

This Roman Catholic priest is really loved here in the North of England. I would love to have him here in our parish church to reach the youth in Durham. Take a look at the two videos here and listen to the message. The first one is called the School of the Eucharist and the second is the song 'Everybody got 2 suffer'.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Eucharist: Encountering the Humanity of Jesus

The following sermon was Preached on 28th January 2007 (The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany) by The Reverend Canon Dr David Brown FBA at the Durham Cathedral. Professor Brown is my PhD supervisor at Durham University.

Today's gospel is the same as what you will hear if you attend the sung Eucharist for Candlemas this coming Friday evening. So, rather than have Canon Cherry and I competing as to who could preach the better sermon on the same topic, I thought that this morning I would focus on a rather different anniversary. However, I want to preface this by introducing you to a rather unusual image that was once to be found quite commonly in the paintings of late medieval and early modern Europe. It is of a marriage or betrothal. A handsome woman is kneeling to receive a ring from her beloved, but the young man in question is extending towards her a rather unusual band. Is it silver or gold? No. Is it of wood? No. Look closer, and one sees that in fact it is of skin colour. Astonishingly, it is made from tiny folds of human flesh. Puzzling, until you reflect further about why the young man in question is portrayed quite so young. It is in fact the infant Jesus who is offering such a ring. What we are being invited to contemplate is Jesus using the redundant flesh from his circumcision a few days earlier to seal his bond with this woman, St Catherine of Siena.
To some of you, perhaps to most of you, it will seem a rather revolting idea, scarcely in the best of taste. But what I want to suggest this morning is that, however disturbing the image, it does at least illustrate a fundamental and rather worrying change in Christian consciousness between then and now. Nowadays, when we approach the eucharist we tend to think in very general terms about God's presence here in our midst. If we think of Jesus' humanity at all, we tend to place it firmly in the past, in a life lived two thousand years ago. But that is not of course what Christianity has traditionally taught. Rather, it asserts that his humanity continued beyond death and is available to us in the here and now. So each eucharistic encounter is not only with divinity it is also with a particular humanity now at one with God in heaven but also available to help us one day towards the same goal for ourselves. It is this conviction that was absolutely central to medieval thinking and which helps explain our strange image. It is not Christ's divinity as such that saves us, but our identification with Christ as fellow human being alongside us, who can then raise our humanity like his into a new order of existence.

Catherine was a tertiary Dominican, someone who lived the Dominican life but without actually becoming a nun. The most famous Dominican of them all was St Thomas Aquinas, and it is his feast day that falls today. Living as he did in the thirteenth century, his life corresponded with the Church's decision to establish the Feast of Corpus Christi. Most of Thomas' writings are rather dry and abstract, but he it was who Pope Urban IV commissioned to compose the liturgy for that feast. Even today we continue to sing three of the hymns that he wrote for that occasion, 268, 269 and 308 in our present hymnbooks: ‘Of the glorious body telling' O saving victim opening wide' and ‘Thee we adore, o hidden Saviour, thee.' Urban chose Aquinas, presumably partly because his poetic skills were known but mainly because he had written a major defence of the doctrine of transubstantiation, decreed a dogma of the Catholic church a mere half century earlier.

That dogma, as also St Thomas' defence, is often misunderstood. At this point I observe some eyes about to glaze over. No, don't worry, I am not about to turn this sermon into a recondite academic lecture. All I want to impress upon you is a simple but important idea: that medieval Christianity and the Reformation actually shared more in common with each other on this matter than either of them do with the contemporary Church. While for some of you that may mean so much the worse for both, what I would like to suggest is the contrary, that in our own day we need to recover what Aquinas, Luther and Calvin shared, that stress on Christ's humanity, if our experience in the eucharist is really to be as deep and lasting as was theirs.

Transubstantiation is often presented by its opponents as a form of crude literalism. What we actually consume here and now is the very body and blood of Jesus the human being who once walked on this earth. While it is true that some Catholics do play the paradoxes for all they are worth, that was not the main aim. The basic idea in the assertion lay elsewhere, in the conviction that by a divine miracle two worlds - heaven and earth- are brought close together, so that the now exalted body of Christ in heaven can be met with anew in each celebration of the eucharist. Unfortunately, the thirteenth century Church tied that assertion to a rather implausible use of Aristotelian metaphysics, to talk of the substance of the bread and wine being changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood. St Thomas' genius was to so hedge about this mistake with qualifications that only the bare assertion remained: two worlds meeting and the totality of Christ's humanity present to us, however small the wafer, however tiny the particle of wine.

The Reformation rebellion against such a view is often misunderstood. Certainly, strong exception was taken to what usually went with transubstantiation, the conviction that, because Christ's humanity was present anew in each eucharist, the mass was therefore itself each time a new offering of Christ's original sacrifice. The uniqueness of Calvary was thus, it was believed, undermined, and so that is why Cranmer in his Prayer Book liturgy repeatedly affirms that Calvary was unique: ‘who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.'. Twenty words where two might have done reminds those of us who still attend that liturgy each time of disputes that really only had relevance five hundred years ago.

However, what is usually forgotten in hearing or reading of all the fury and bile in that Reformation dispute is the underlying continuity that was still present: Christ's humanity continuing to be available to us in each and every celebration of Holy Communion. Certainly Luther and Calvin alike both rejected the language of transubstantiation, but not, let me repeat, what it was trying to preserve, our present access to Christ's humanity. Luther suggested it was best to speak of Christ's humanity existing alongside the bread and wine rather than substituting for it, while Calvin proposed that our souls (unbeknown to us) are momentarily caught up into heaven there to share in Christ's presence.

But enough of metaphysics and philosophy. Why does all this matter? It is because our salvation is all about being transformed into Christ's image, and about the deepening of the relationship that makes this possible. But in saying this it is also important to realise it is not simply about conforming to Christ as he once was. It is about conforming to him as he now understands the human situation. The incarnation was a real entering into the limitations of the human condition, its prejudices as well as its potential. The earthly Jesus was thus firmly a first century Jew, who used the ideas and images of his time to communicate, even while straining to go beyond them. But he is now the resurrected, ascended and glorified Christ who can enter into our humanity as it now is, with all the changes that implies. So, as you kneel to receive that presence once more, recall you are not only with God but also with a fellow human being but not just some figure from the distant past: rather, one who understands fully your present condition, and is there to aid and transform it. Divinity encountered yes, but also a wonderfully alive humanity, so alive that Catherine even dreamed herself married to it. May we too dream visions, and so draw nearer to our risen, ascended and glorified Lord, once more present in our midst.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

FiFUK: Response to Affirming Catholicism


The recently published Affirming Catholicism submission to the Legislative Drafting Group engages directly with our own submission Consistent with Canon A4, which we published only after the Drafting Group had had ample time to consider it. The members of the Affirming Catholicism Working Party judge that our arguments on the meaning and effect of Canon A4 “cannot be sustained” (p.24). The purpose of this short paper is not to reject their conclusions (which of course we do), but to draw attention to other features of their submission. The Affirming Catholicism document crudely caricatures the position we have carefully set out, traduces the real legal and historical position, understands ‘the Church’ in a very narrow sense and is disturbing in its un-Anglican and intolerant zeal to stifle public expressions of dissent and doubt.

· Caricature: We are patronised as those “who continue to have difficulties with the ordained ministry of women” (p.12). Our parishes, it is suggested, may have passed Resolution A out of dislike of “the sound of a women’s voice singing the preface to the Eucharistic prayer” (p.24). It is tragic, at this stage in the debate, that an issue which for us touches the divine imagery of Father and Son in the economy of salvation as it has been handed down to the Church of our own day from the Apostles themselves, should be trivialised as mere aesthetic preference. The Submission claims, moreover, that we consider any decision to admit women to the priesthood or episcopate to be “null and void” (p.4). On the contrary, we have always maintained that women priests are duly and canonically ordained, whilst also agreeing with the Windsor Report and Bonds of Peace that there is to the development ‘a degree of provisionality’.

· Denial: Like the Bishops of Guildford and Gloucester, the authors of this submission seem unable to grasp the plain meaning of the statutory language of Resolutions A and B in the 1993 Measure. It is not about “declining” (Guildford and Gloucester), nor is it about “fettering a discretion”, as Affirming Catholics now maintain (pp.23-24). It is about non-acceptance (“this PCC would not accept.”). Before weighing into our use of the term “validity” (disliked in their Appendix C, but used with approval in the body of their own submission: p.7), the writers would do well to admit that the Resolutions exist to give public expression to the degree of provisionality in the decision to admit women to the priesthood - as the documents undergirding the 1993 Measure make abundantly clear. All this is simply one aspect of the canonical doctrine of reception. When the juridical text of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 says “discerning the rightness or otherwise”, it means what it says: the decision could prove to be wrong. Recognition of that rightness or wrongness is a matter for all the Christian faithful, individually as well as collectively, who, possessing “a sense of faith,” are together in search of a consensus fidelium.

· ‘Church’: We look in vain, in the submission, for a truly catholic understanding of the ‘Church’. For Affirming Catholics the term seems to refer principally to the Provinces of Canterbury and York. We are told that women’s priestly and episcopal orders will be sacramentally assured by the “core catholic principle” that they depend on “the act of the Church” (p.7). This is plainly contrary to the consistent Anglican claim (e.g. Saepius Officio) to share the orders of the Universal Church. It raises again the problem inherent in the recent Synod motion originating from the House of Bishops. That motion claimed the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate to be ‘consistent with the Faith of the Church as the Church of England received it’. How, we naturally ask, can this be so when it is contrary to the consistent practice of the great churches of East and West from whom the Church of England received both faith and order? We are puzzled, moreover, by claims that our proposals for a structural solution in the event of the ordination of women to the episcopate would ‘sidestep’ or ‘undermine’ (p8) the legitimate authority of the Ordinary. As we believe we have shown, in Part Two of Consecrated Women?, the notion of the wall-to-wall territorial integrity of dioceses is not a principle upheld by English Church history. The twentieth century, for example, saw a number of new dioceses established, each with its new Ordinary. The creation of dioceses, with the resultant alteration of diocesan boundaries - which is what would be entailed in establishing a future structured arrangement along the lines that we have suggested - would not inhibit but free existing diocesan structures to pursue their “overall policy and pastoral strategy” (p.11). The existence of new dioceses, separated out from existing ones, would no more ‘sidestep’ or ‘undermine’ the Ordinary of the diocese than is the case with neighbouring dioceses presently existing.

· Intolerance: The main purpose of the submission, it appears, is a thoroughly un-Anglican attempt to repress and stifle dissent. It is allowed, once women bishops are a “fact”, that provision should be made for “dissenters” (who “may wish that it had not happened” and “retain their private doubts”) But no provision is allowed for those who question the decision itself (pp3-4) In this future church, all clergy, “whatever their private reservations, should recognize and teach that the Church of England does ordain women as deacons, priests and bishops” (p.18), with ordination candidates being expected to declare their mind on the matter (p.18). Such a position is both logically and morally indefensible. To assign opinions about their role and status within the Church to the private sphere is effectively to deny that bishops are public figures and ought to be the focuses of unity and expressions of the integrity of the dioceses which they serve.

Forward in Faith has sought, in its submissions to the Legislative Group and in the second part of Consecrated Women?, to set out proposals for future structured arrangements which take account of a genuine difference of opinion on a matter which affects, but does not necessarily destroy, the unity of the Church. They are proposals which would allow women to be - in every sense - bishops in the dioceses to which they were called. They would reserve to those conscientiously opposed the necessary freedom to act upon their convictions with integrity. Many of the details of such proposals remain to be worked out, and there will no doubt be anomalies in any settlement. But we are clear that no arrangements can work for us, or for those in favour of the innovation, which do not provide opponents with bishops who have real and actual jurisdiction. Suffragans of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York will not do and will not work.

Patronising caricatures of our position, expressed in “pastoral” terminal care meted out as a result of 5-yearly decisions by two-thirds majorities of special parochial church meetings (meetings which have never had such a decision-making role in the past) do not, in our view, contribute usefully to the current debate about provision (to which the Legislative Group is committed by its remit from the Synod).

The Reverend Paul J Benfield, LLB, BTh, of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister

Vicar of St Nicholas, Fleetwood, Diocese of Blackburn

Member of the General Synod of the Church of England

Dr Brian Hanson, CBE, DCL, LLM, Solicitor and Ecclesiastical Notary

sometime Registrar and Legal Adviser to the General Synod of the Church of England

Chairman of the House of Laity, Diocese of Chichester

The Reverend James Patrick, LLB, of the Inner Temple, Barrister

Recorder of the Crown Court

Honorary Assistant Curate of All Saints with St John, Clifton, Diocese of Bristol

Mr Clifford Payton, BCL, MA, of the Inner Temple, Barrister

sometime Churchwarden of the Parish of St Giles in Reading, Diocese of Oxford

The Reverend Jonathan Redvers Harris, LLB, LLM, Solicitor

Vicar of All Saints, Ryde, Diocese of Portsmouth

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Being a Better Dad!

I just posted a link to my side bar under links and it is called Dads.org. This is an outstanding site with some very practical material for Christian fathers. In the business of schedules and the many directions in which we are pulled, Dads.org is a resource that is very helpful. Pass it on to your friends if you find it useful. It comes highly recommended to all of us who could be better dads.
    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Societas Sanctae Crucis

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