"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Law and Church Synods

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A talk for the PBSC, Edmonton Branch, Sunday, March 21, 2010, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Given at St Faith’s/St Stephen’s Edmonton Topic: Synods – Back to First Principles

There are bits and pieces in here taken from the 1984 Conference Report from a Theological Conference held at the University of Kings College, Halifax, 27-31 May 1984. Page numbers are those in (14) after a quotation. These are informal speaking notes that have not been widely distributed and do not contain citations to the usual standard of an academic work. The goal is to raise questions, and to spark discussion.

Introduction

I need to start today with a caveat on my talk. I need to confess that I have in the past three years lost much of my interest in following what is going on with our corporate church at the national and international levels. In fact, I don’t follow what is happening anymore. The first thing that drew me away from watching the news feeds very closely was I decided I didn’t want to be angry anymore, and all that reading about Katherine Shori’s latest words did was to make me angry. Anger is not a Godly place to exist. The second thing that drew me away, and this was a liberating epiphany, was that it all really doesn’t matter in God’s greater scheme of things. What do I mean by that? Well, Scripture calls each of us into a life of radical holiness that should set us apart from the world. The mystical Body of Christ is the framework in which we work out that life of radical holiness.

Now here’s the epiphany, and what I believe is the major error in our ecclesiology in modern times (ecclesiology meaning what we understand to be the structure of the Church): The mystical Body of Christ, and the Anglican Church of Canada are not the same thing. In fact, the mystical Body of Christ, and the Diocese of Edmonton are not necessarily the same thing. Parts of the corporate church may be included in that mystical Body of Christ, but they do not become members of that mystical body merely by adopting a name that sounds churchy. In fact, as one friend commented to me, the corporate church – the business parts of our church – he considers to be the “powers and principalities” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age.” I found this to be very liberating, as I realized that much of my anger was in response to being constantly disappointed by our corporate church structures not acting like Christians. When I realized the corporate church is not necessarily part of the Body of Christ, but part of the world we are set apart from as Christians, my expectations of them changed. I’m much happier now. So, you don’t necessarily need to agree with my present state of mind, but it at least serves to explain where I’m coming from.

What we’re going to talk about today is a historic perspective on the system of synodical governance which we use to run our corporate church. What I’ll demonstrate through a review of how synods were conceptualized is how far from that idea that we have diverged as a corporate church. In fact, what we see today at General Synod has far more in common with a meeting of the shareholders of General Motors than it does with any Godly exercise of discernment. As we work through this history, I’ll present to you some alternate ideas about governance that are drawn from Holy Scripture, and talk about Christ’s vision for how we, as Christians, are to conduct ourselves as a part of the mystical Body of Christ.

So, just to make sure we’re straight on terminology, when I refer to the church I am speaking of the church as the mystical body of Christ – a gathering that transcends all of the corporate church boundaries, and the nations of the earth. This is crucial to understand because we, as Anglicans, have been suffering from a false understanding of church…for example, that our General Synod is ‘the church’, or that our Diocese Synods are ‘the church’. What I will suggest is that the mystical body of Christ – the Church with a capital ‘C’, is defined not by a name, or a building, but rather by the profession of faith made by those who follow Christ…it is a membership that is gained by a way of life, as opposed to a title.

I’ve handed out to you some papers that provide some of the things I’ll be speaking of, and we can turn there right now to read our Article of Religion, # 19, Of the Church (on page 1), “THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” Not that there are no corporate identifiers of the church, no need for a specific sign hanging outside a specific building, no particular name tag or anything else – a congregation of the faithful in which the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are administered. Now this definition talks about the mystical Body of Christ that I’m speaking of, the Church with a capital ‘C’, and that definition does not constrain that Church to Anglicans or anyone else.

When I speak of the ‘corporate church’, I’m talking about the business structures that we have voluntarily put in place to manage our particular community. Note that these business structures are not derived from Scripture, including our system of synods. These are entirely the works of humankind. This is why when we read Article #21, on authority of general counsels of the church there is a clear statement that bodies formed of people make mistakes, and sometimes quite big mistakes, “they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.” Our counsels, the business structures that we permit to rule over our common life, make mistakes…and the reason they make mistakes is because they are counsels of people, not counsels of God – and here you see the distinction I’m making between the Church with a capital ‘C’, that mystical Body of Christ; and the corporate church, the voluntary business structures we permit to manage our common life.

Bishops and Governance

A word about our last General Synod and the operation of law. You may recall that at the last General Synod there was a resolution put forward that basically stated that any individual diocese could make a determination as to whether they wished to proceed with the matter of same-sex blessings. The resolution was defeated by a narrow vote, essentially based on the vote of one bishop (as a side note, Synod votes by house on some matters, and to pass a resolution must receive a majority in each house – bishops/clergy/laity).

After that resolution was defeated there were many questions asked by those who were supportive of the resolution, that all came down to basically the same thing – how is it that the bishops can stop a resolution that everyone else had voted in the majority to support? There were some very incensed people on that topic, and much chatter about things like ‘who do those bishops think they are to thwart the will of the majority?’ The simple answer to that question is – the bishops, whether they claim the role or not – have always been the safe-guarders of doctrine. This will come clear when we next look at the history of the synod. Our synod system has always put a disproportionate authority in the hands of the House of Bishops, and our collective ignorance of the reason for that authority supports my prior statements about the flaws in our ecclesiology, our understanding of church.

For example, consider the consecration of a bishop, and this oath (bottom of page 3), “IN the Name of God, Amen. I N. chosen Bishop of the Church and See of N. do profess and promise to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded in his holy Word, and as the Anglican Church of Canada hath received and set forth the same” This oath is only taken by a bishop, and marks their particular ministry to the church – to be the holder and maintainer of doctrine as commanded in Holy Scripture and as received by the Anglican church from the early church. Bishops hold a disproportionate voice at synod by reason of that added burden of their ministry – they are the sworn keepers of doctrine.

Ultra vires

A final word about the operation of law in a secular sense. I’m going to talk about jurisdiction today quite a bit, because synods are creatures of the law (that is they are created by human action) it is important to understand what jurisdiction means.

In the law jurisdiction is a key concept for anyone who wields authority granted by the state, by the action of the legislature or parliament. You are only allowed to wield that authority within your jurisdiction. If you exceed your jurisdiction, you are no longer permitted to wield that authority. A good example is the marriage process – ministers are considered commissioners of marriage in the province, which permits those so registered to solemnize matrimony. Now, this is quite apart from the spiritual side of marriage, and only deals with the legal oaths administered in the ceremony. Before a minister can exercise that authority, the couple must have a marriage license issued by the province. If a minister proceeded to marry two people who did not have a marriage license, he would be operating beyond his jurisdiction, and the act would have no force under law…even while he would have married the couple in a sacramental or spiritual sense.

The same thing would apply if a peace officer decided one day to issue tickets to homeowners who did not have an adequate number of flowers planted in their front flower bed. There is no law that sets a standard for such a thing, and any ticket issued would be beyond the jurisdiction of that peace officer. The particular legal term is the Latin, ultra vires, which literally means ‘beyond the powers’.

Here is the problem – as we will see with my description of the present authority of synods, I believe that there have been several instances in recent history when the General Synod has made resolutions that are beyond their jurisdiction to make, they have resolved things that are ultra vires by reason of exceeding their jurisdiction. So you might say, what’s the problem – just tell them and it’ll all be fixed!

The difficulty comes because no secular organization, and synods are secular creatures, will ever acknowledge that they have made a decision that is beyond their jurisdiction – first because most members of synod would not even consider such a thing, and secondly because if they knew it to be beyond their jurisdiction they would not have set the resolution before the body in the first place. Therefore, while you may have a legal opinion that something is within jurisdiction or without jurisdiction those opinions mean nothing unless you are willing to take the synod to a court of higher authority to have that opinion tested. In the secular world, if the state decides to expropriate your house to make way for a new highway your house is going to be torn down, unless you proceed to court to have the state’s authority to do such a thing assessed. If the police decide to search your car without a warrant, and find something that leads to criminal charges, only the court can determine if they have operated within their jurisdiction.

Lots of handwaving – what does it mean? It essentially means that the synod can do whatever it wants and that will stand as an authority until we either refuse to allow them to make the decision, or until someone takes the synod to a court and has the court rule that they are beyond jurisdiction.

We need to be very clear on this point, as this is the battlefield upon which the doctrines entrusted to us from the apostles and the early church are being rewritten. The rules that govern that battlefield are not drawn from Holy Scripture, or long-standing tradition, but they are drawn from the law books written by the secular state. This is our greatest challenge, for it means decisions on matters of doctrine are being ruled upon by canon lawyers serving as chancellors in our church. There is an observation that in the early history of synods, the bishop would have a canon theological sitting next to him to offer theological counsel, now that bishop is more likely to have a canon lawyer advising him or her.

This is not an intrinsically bad set up, but when it is combined with our ignorance as to our ecclesiology, it creates fertile ground in which secular legal principles can be applied to matters of doctrine. That, I am convinced, is the lever by which all of the revision of doctrine has taken place.

My understanding of this came clearly in a dialogue I had with Fr Gary Thorne after my last Prayer Book Society talk. Fr Thorne wrote a rebuttal that suggested I misunderstood the St Michael Report and Anglican doctrine. After some dialogue I realized that he was approaching the question of synod as a theologian, but not as a person considering the secular legal structure under which synod operates. When I pointed out that the St Michael Report had left a loophole the size of a bus that synod would boldly drive through – this being the re-definition of doctrine into different degrees – he told me that anyone that made such a resolution would be ‘disingenuous’. A scant two weeks after that conversation, the Council of General Synod released a resolution that adjusted the size of the vote required and declared that same sex blessings were consistent with our core doctrine, which subsequently passed.

We need to be aware that while we should all think like theologians in solving questions about our life in Christ, there are many who are implementing change by thinking like lawyers. Theology and the law use two very different approaches to answering questions (it was not always so, but we are far removed from the classical period when science-law-theology all shared the same method of thought) We also need to be aware that a resolution passed by a synod, even if it is ultra vires, beyond their authority, will stand until someone can prove they exceeded their legal jurisdiction – and that is a legal argument, not a theological one.

History

The idea of using a synod to manage affairs in common is not really that old of an idea, in fact the first Canadian synod took place in 1893, which, in terms of Church time, is really not that long ago. I want to start with that synod because when we look at how that body was imagined is far, far different from what our present General Synod and even our Diocese synods look like.

First comes the question, what did we do before 1893? I don’t want to spend much time discussing that as it hearkens back to the English church and their relationship with the monarch and the parliament. For the Church of England, significant changes to the church required the consent of both the monarch and the government, and portions of that requirement continue to the present day. That structure never existed in Canada, and indeed when the first Synods were created they operated as voluntary associations with no legal standing, that is they were not corporations as they are today. As an interesting historical side note, the authority of the first synods derived almost entirely from the bishop’s authority which was granted under a letters patent from the Crown. This too has not been a part of our recent history.

Starting with a historical note from the present Handbook of General Synod, look at what the original communication about the first General Synod stated with respect to the role of General Synod, and particularly its powers as compared to a Diocesan Synod (bottom of page 1 handout):

3. Role of the General Synod
The Pastoral of 1893 stressed that diocesan powers would be undiminished and that “deeper meaning and fresh energy will be infused into them”. Among the major concerns of the General Synod were to be church teaching and discipline, including the Prayer Book, missionary work, clergy education and pensions, union with other churches and social concerns of national importance. The bishops urged particular attention to the question of religious education in the public schools and the Lord’s Day observance.

This is a very interesting statement about the concept of what the General Synod would do at the time of its creation. First, there is an affirmation that General Synod would not impose anything that would reduce the powers of a diocese. Then is set out what the General Synod should be concerned with: church teaching and discipline, the prayer book, clergy education, pensions, union with other churches and social concerns of national importance. So where does an issue like making a decision of doctrinal importance fit in that role? The answer – it does not as the synod system was not conceived to allow alterations to doctrine.

You can clearly see in this role a clear linkage back to Article # 20 (page 1) that sets out the authority of the church:

“THE Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for the necessity of Salvation.”

The historical statement of the role of General Synod fits quite comfortably alongside that article of religion – note the language used to describe the Church’s authority…we can create ceremonies and speak with authority on controversies of faith, but that authority is always subordinate to God’s Word. The Church is a witness and a keeper of God’s Word.

Witness and a keeper of God’s Word – can you recall hearing that same sort of statement just a few minutes ago? I read out part of the oath taken by a bishop at consecration that affirms the bishop will, “hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ.” Article #20 affirms the church’s authority to be a witness and keeper of God’s Word, and a bishop swears oath to hold and maintain doctrine, sacraments and the discipline of Christ. That similarity is not coincidence. It is in the hands of the bishop that the responsibility for the church being a witness and a keeper is delivered. This language is echoed in those 3 sources: the bishop’s oath at consecration, the Solemn Declaration of 1893 and the article of religion #20, which is significant, and sets a good basis for understanding the place of doctrine and the role of the synod and the bishops.

But, now just jumping back to the question of synods being run on entirely legal principles, can you see the beginnings of conflict? What happens when a bishop, whose sworn duty is to hold and maintain doctrine, turns to a lawyer to ask, ‘is this resolution on doctrine legal?’ That is nothing short of an abandonment of ministry by the person charged with the obligation for the care of that ministry. In an analogy, this would be like a judge on the Alberta Court of Appeal hearing a criminal case turning to the local bishop and asking, “Is the sentence I’m granting correct under the law?” This supremacy of secular law at our synods is an abandonment of who we are called to be as a church. It is in fact the conversion of the corporate church into another part of the secular world.

Am I suggesting that canon law has no place in the process – no. What I am saying is that canon law is not the first and last test applied to change being discussed at synods. First is the theological test, and if that passes then the legality can be debated. In a healthy synod, something that passes the theological test will always pass the legal test; however, the reverse is by no means the same. Secular law functions on a much different basis than theology in the modern world, as law is based mostly on opinion tested against a developing understanding of the law…whereas theology is tied entirely to unchangeable concepts passed to us from the ancient church.

In this historical understanding, the Christians who first conceived of our system of synods knew that they were not re-creating the Council of Jerusalem of Acts 15 or the Council of Nicea of 325, for the synod was formed understanding that it had no ability to rule on matters of doctrine. Why? First, we cannot create a church council in the same way that Nicea did, because the church has been divided many times since then. No synod, and not even an international Anglican synod (if such a thing existed) could render definitive statement on matters of doctrine because they do not represent the entire Church – being all believers everywhere. The modern reality of the synod is, however, that it is now treated as exactly like one of the early ecumenical councils.

In an address to the Church of England in the earlier 1800’s, one Canadian churchman set out the desire for a synod this way, “[we] have no desire to separate from the Church of England…but…require some better system for the management of…temporalities and the regulation of the preferment and discipline of the Church…they have demanded no power over matters of doctrine nor forms of prayer…” (19)

This is further echoed in the words of Bishop Medley as the Metropolitan at the first Provincial Synod of Canada in 1861:

Our wisdom lies in making a broad distinction between what may fairly be regarded as things alterable and of no vital consequence arising either out of necessary political changes or the usages and feelings of congregations and the fluctuating sentiments of the times, and those deep and solemn truths revealed to us in Holy Scripture, embedded firmly in our three ancient Creeds, interpreted by the first General Councils of the Church, and secured to us by our own formularies, to which the ancient rule, ‘Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus’ may safely be applied. (26)

So the bishop sets out a clear distinction between what synods can and cannot do. On the can side, a synod may change “things alterable and of no vital consequence”; a synod may not change “those deep and solemn truths”. He sums these up under the ancient rule ‘Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus’ – which means literally, ‘what (has been held) always, everywhere, by everybody’. In this regard, even the Church of England cannot rule on matters of doctrine, as they too are just another piece in the global Body of Christ.

What I hope I’ve made clear by this point is that from a historical perspective, our system of synods in Canada was never intended to deal with matters of doctrine, but only matters temporal – that is things doing with time and space as it related to the physical operation of the corporate church. (51) In that the bishop plays a particular role as the guardian of doctrine and spiritual matters, “those deep and solemn truths revealed”.

The Modern Implementation

In the modern era, the purpose for synods has not really been changed, at least from a theological perspective. An orthodox theologian today would describe the role of a modern synod using the same sort of language that you heard in those period quotations. The major shift has been in the wholesale adoption of the democratic process, as structured under secular law, and the continual claiming by the synod of greater and greater authority over the church to include matters of doctrine.

Pope Benedict identified this as one of the major problems with Anglicanism, on page two of the handout there is an extended quotation, but here’s the punch line, “the extending of the majority principle to questions of doctrine and the entrusting of doctrinal decisions to the national Churches. Both of these are in themselves nonsensical, because doctrine is either true or not true, which means that it’s not a matter to be decided by majorities or by national Churches.” He identifies two problems with our present ecclesiology, the first is that we’re using a secular democratic system to rule on matters of doctrine, and the second is that we’re making those doctrinal rulings at increasingly local levels.

Let me talk about this for a bit by a review of our own recent history. Last General Synod a resolution (A186) was passed that read, “This General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada.” This followed a vote that defeated a motion to require a 60% majority in each house, so the core doctrine declaration was carried on a simple majority (61% by clergy/laity and 52% by bishops).

This is arguably a doctrinal statement in of itself, and in reality, by declaring that same-sex unions are consistent with core doctrine the issue has been settled once and for all. From the perspective of the synod at least, the matter has been definitively spoken on. There is a problem with this…that lies in the jurisdiction of our present-day General Synod.

At the bottom of page 2 in the handout, there is an excerpt from the Handbook of General Synod that talks about jurisdiction that is interesting. Although synods have never been formed to take authority over doctrine, our General Synod does:

6. Jurisdiction of the General Synod

Subject to the provisions of section 7 the General Synod shall have authority and jurisdiction
in all matters affecting in any way the general interest and well-being of the whole
Church and in particular: […]

i) the definition of the doctrines of the Church

    in harmony with the Solemn Declaration adopted by this synod

; [Underlining added]

…but it is a very interesting jurisdiction. The General Synod can speak to the definition of doctrines insofar as the doctrines are consistent with the Solemn Declaration of 1893. I’ve included that on the handout page 3, but I’ll summarize the entire Solemn Declaration as a clear statement that we consider ourselves to be members of the mystical Body of Christ throughout all of reality. This means the General Synod would be exceeding its jurisdiction if it passed a motion that affirmed a doctrine that was not shared by the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. This means to me that resolution A186 passed at the General Synod in 2007 was ultra vires the authority of General Synod, as they had clearly exceeded their jurisdiction to make such a resolution.

Did you hear the walls of Canterbury Cathedral fall down on that day? Nope, because a body can joyously exceed their jurisdiction until someone goes to a court of competent authority to have them declared as acting beyond that jurisdiction. It means that General Synod can basically do whatever they desire, and it will become reality for the corporate church until they are taken to task by someone.

Even the wording of that resolution A186 is bizarre, given the jurisdiction of General Synod, “This General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada.” There is really no such thing as the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada, there is only the doctrine of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the world. By phrasing the resolution in that manner there are two things which become apparent: the General Synod does not consider itself to be involved with the greater Church as our doctrine is conceived in isolation from anyone else (including other Canadian churches); they are forming a resolution which fails the jurisdiction test as the General Synod can only speak on matters of doctrine insofar as they are consistent with the solemn declaration of 1893.

Now, I’m on the home stretch, and I just want to talk about that jurisdiction question a bit more because at the bottom of page two in the handout, I’ve included another excerpt from the Handbook titled the ‘saving provision’, that further limits the authority of General Synod.

9. Saving Provisions

a) Nothing contained in sections 6, 7 and 8 shall limit or affect the powers, jurisdiction and authority inherent in the office of bishop, or exercised collectively by the bishops of the Church sitting as the House of Bishops of any province or of The Anglican Church of Canada.

So even in Canada, the only real authority that the General Synod has on questions of doctrine and spirituality is that which is voluntarily given to it by the House of Bishops. In this regard, we are actually still quite close, at least on paper, to the intentions of those who formed the early synods. The authority for spiritual and doctrinal matters rests in the hands of those who are charged with the holding and maintaining the Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of Christ – and this is the exact same language used in the Solemn Declaration.

Our present situation effectively allows General Synod unfettered ability to rule on whatever matters they wish, and this will become even more apparent after the synod this year. The only real check on that ability, short of taking them to court, is the House of Bishops. Unfortunately, that House of Bishops has both been complicit in allowing General Synod to exercise authority that is not theirs, and by not vigorously upholding their oath to “hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ”.

So, what else is going on? Well, two initiatives I’ve heard of have been set in motion to further establish General Synod’s ability to dictate to the church – the first is a discussion around eliminating the provincial synods as a needless expense. As it stands right now, the provincial synods need to assent to any resolution passed by the General Synod concerning doctrine before it can take force. So the provincial synods stand as a real hindrance in the ability of General Synod to forward their will, and hence their existence is being questioned.

Second, is a discussion by a small group of canon lawyers concerning a recommendation to make General Synod a body with proportional representation. Right now dioceses are allowed to send representatives based on the number of licensed clergy but the proposal is to allow representation based on the number of communicants in the Diocese. The present rules do not allow much disparity in numbers, so for example a diocese with 50 clergy would be allowed 3 clerical and 3 lay members at General Synod, which a diocese with 150 clergy would be allowed 5 and 5. The new proposal would see that gap widened considerably – which would heavily weight the voting authority at General Synod to the dioceses in Ontario.

Conclusion
What I’ve done briefly tonight is to outline the historic basis for our system of synods – that from the first conception in the early 1800’s, those synods were conceived of to only deal with matters of practical shared necessity and were excluded from considering matters of a spiritual or doctrinal nature. This was done because the doctrines of the church were both shared with the entire mystical Body of Christ and could not be altered by any one part of that body, and also because those doctrines were seen to be unchanging.

As we’ve come into the modern era, the ability of our General Synod to define matters of doctrine has opened up a bit, but this is still practically restrained by being tied to the Solemn Declaration of 1893 and being subordinate to the intrinsic authority of bishops as the gatekeepers of doctrine and the great tradition. That restraint has shown little practical effect in recent General Synods, and a lack of action to have the General Synod’s resolutions declared as ultra vires (beyond their power) along with the Bishop’s tacit permission to carry on, have allowed that body, and will allow that body, to continue to make doctrinal pronouncements.

I attribute most of that loss of understanding of the limits of a synod to the wholesale adoption of secular democratic principles and the supremacy of law over theology as the defining method that we use to answer our questions of doctrine. It is the use of the secular law to render verdict on doctrinal questions that created the ability of General Synod to make grand pronouncements on doctrine.

This perhaps sounds like a bit of a hopeless conclusion – but I remain filled with hope through the realization that I opened with. General Synod can continue to do whatever they wish, and that might someday include a declaration that the historical Jesus was not really God’s son. It really doesn’t matter at the level of an individual Christian working out their individual holiness within a local community that claims membership in the mystical Body of Christ. The reason it doesn’t matter is that those secular governing bodies – and General Synod is a secular creature – do not speak definitively for the Body of Christ, or for those who are members of that mystical creature. General Synod may have forgotten who they are called to be, and God will be their judge. What is important to each of us here is that we do not forget who God is calling each one of us to be – for that is the quest of the life of a Christian, and there is nothing that our synods can do or fail to do that will stand in the way of that quest with Christ as our guide.

When you begin to be disheartened, consider the closing verse of the 1858 hymn, Stand up, Stand up, for Jesus.

Stand up, stand up, for Jesus,
The strife will not belong;
This day the noise of battle,
The next, the victor’s song:
To him who over-cometh,
A crown of life shall be;
He, with the King of glory,
Shall reign eternally.

Although we may be engaged in battle today, and it may feel like strife all around, we know that there is one waiting for us – Jesus, who wears the victor’s crown and waits to give that same crown of life to us.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Notes for the talk

FROM THE 39 ARTICLES…
XIX. OF THE CHURCH.
THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

XX. OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH.
THE Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for the necessity of Salvation.

XXI. OF THE AUTHORITY OF GENERAL COUNCILS.
GENERAL Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

XXXIV. OF THE TRADITIONS OF THE CHURCH
IT is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one and utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

From Appendix T of the Handbook of General Synod 15th Edition, Historical Notes

3. Role of the General Synod
The Pastoral of 1893 stressed that diocesan powers would be undiminished and that “deeper meaning and fresh energy will be infused into them”. Among the major concerns of the General Synod were to be church teaching and discipline, including the Prayer Book, missionary work, clergy education and pensions, union with other churches and social concerns of national importance. The bishops urged particular attention to the question of religious education in the public schools and the Lord’s Day observance.

A word from the then Cardinal Ratzinger…
Much of Catholicism remained in Anglicanism, as a matter of fact. In this respect, England and Anglicanism have always maintained an unusual intermediate existence. On the one hand, England separated itself from Rome, distanced itself very resolutely from Rome. One need only recall Hobbes, who said that a state must have religion, and there are especially two kinds of citizens that a state can’t afford to have: first, atheists; and second, papists, who are subjects of a foreign Potentate. So, on the one hand, there is an abrupt dissociation, but, on the other hand, there is a firm adherence to Catholic tradition.
In Anglicanism there have always been vital currents that have strengthened the Catholic inheritance. It has always been split in a curious way between a more Protestant and a more Catholic interpretation. The present crisis also shows this.

A new situation has been brought about by two circumstances: the extending of the majority principle to questions of doctrine and the entrusting of doctrinal decisions to the national Churches. Both of these are in themselves nonsensical, because doctrine is either true or not true, which means that it’s not a matter to be decided by majorities or by national Churches.

The resistance to women’s ordination and the conversions to Catholicism can be understood in the light of these two points. But it remains true that the state Church itself is not eager to lose the Catholic element and therefore consciously admits bishops who are not for women’s ordination and who provide a sort of refuge for the Catholic part of Anglicanism. A strong Catholic potency has always remained in Anglicanism, and it is becoming very visible again in the present crisis. [Underlining added]
[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, Ignatius Press, 1997, p145]

From the Handbook of General Synod 15th Edition, Declaration of Principles

6. Jurisdiction of the General Synod
Subject to the provisions of section 7 the General Synod shall have authority and jurisdiction
in all matters affecting in any way the general interest and well-being of the whole
Church and in particular: […]

i) the definition of the doctrines of the Church in harmony with the Solemn Declaration adopted by this synod;

9. Saving Provisions

a) Nothing contained in sections 6, 7 and 8 shall limit or affect the powers, jurisdiction and authority inherent in the office of bishop, or exercised collectively by the bishops of the Church sitting as the House of Bishops of any province or of The Anglican Church of Canada.

b) Except in so far as the provisions of sections 6, 7 and 8 are the same in effect as the legislation now in force, those sections shall not come into force in such ecclesiastical province until approved by the provincial synod thereof.

7. For General, Provincial, or Diocesan Synods.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world: We beseech thee to be present with all of the Synods of Your Church assembled in thy Name. Save its members from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe so to direct, govern, and sanctify them in their deliberations by thy Holy Spirit, that through thy blessing the Gospel of Christ may be faithfully preached and obeyed, the order and discipline of thy Church maintained, and the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour enlarged and extended. Grant this, we beseech thee, through the merits and mediation of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

SOLEMN DECLARATION of 1893
IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

WE, the Bishops, together with the Delegates from the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada, now assembled in the first General Synod, hereby make the following Solemn Declaration:

WE declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in the fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders; and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.

And we are determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in his Holy Word, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth the same in ‘The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England; together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons’; and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.

Consecration of a Bishop, the Oath (from the BCP):

IN the Name of God, Amen. I N. chosen Bishop of the Church and See of N. do profess and promise to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded in his holy Word, and as the Anglican Church of Canada hath received and set forth the same; and I do promise due obedience to the Metropolitan of N. and to his Successors. So help me God, through Jesus Christ.

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Written by sameo416

October 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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