[N.T.] Wright calls the Paul he discovers a Jewish Paul. Yet at the very beginning of the 2,200 plus pages (four volumes bound in two books) he says plainly: “For Paul these markers (circumcision, the food laws, and so on) had been set aside as inappropriate for the new messianic day… . Paul actually invents something we may call ‘Christian theology.’”
These statements to the effect that Paul set aside as no longer relevant the covenant markers of Israelite identity — not merely that he felt Gentiles were not commanded to do them, but now they were even set aside for Jews — come only a few sentences after he says, “part of the overall argument of the book is that Paul remains a decidedly Jewish thinker.”
It seems that Wright’s “Jewish thinker” believed in some kind of cessationist Judaism, a kind of monotheism without the covenant. The covenant markers of circumcision and dietary law and Sabbath need no longer be practiced for some reason, and my guess is that Wright will say the particular claims of Jewish people to be the chosen people of God are now in some way null and void. The reason God has called off his previous commitment to Israel in a two-way covenant is that it “is a new messianic day.”
This is a strange view of God in relation to his promises. It makes we want to ask Wright, “Should Christians like yourself be worried about your standing with such a God? Might he revise his promises again in some new, new messianic day and leave you in the cold?” Of course not, would be the answer, since Jesus is the climax of the covenant and there is no more room for movement. My response my be something along the line of “how convenient” and “glad God is finished switching things around and abandoning covenants.” The very title of Wright’s book — Paul and the faithfulness of God — seems undermined by his overarching theory! — Derek Leman, “A Long Journey into the Paul of N.T. Wright: The Beginning”
Even were I not a Baptist, though, I am not sure I could say ‘happy Reformation day’. Surely if Reformation day is to be marked, it should be only partly, at most, in celebration? The church was split, not reformed, by Luther’s intervention. Of course, the recovery and foregrounding of crucial gospel truths should be remembered (and yes, justification sola fide is at least a, if not the, ‘articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae’…) – but is Reformation Day not as much a time to mourn our divisions, to fast and pray that all who are baptised in the triune Name may together confess one Lord, one faith, and one gospel, and share one Eucharist around one table?
‘Happy Reformation Day’ sounds to me like saying ‘Happy Ash Wednesday’ – it is just the wrong salutation. — Steve Holmes (via wesleyhill)
The Episcopal Church is a denomination of small congregations. Our congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 70. Furthermore, the diocese, not the parish or mission, is the basic unit in our polity. Radically reimagining diocesan convention could transform a generally staid business meeting that many clergy and most laity try to avoid into an event for the entire diocese, an annual gathering of a “mega-church.” This would both affirm our unity and our ties to the diocese with our bishop as our chief pastor.
Too many congregations view their bishop as an honored guest or even as an intimidating and alien authority figure. Conversely, bishops quickly tire of an endless cycle of parish visits in which they preach, perhaps administer confirmation, perhaps eat well, engage in much polite conversation, and conduct canonically mandated inspections. Instead, we need bishops who provide effective visionary leadership for their dioceses, inspiring and energizing their people for mission.
Concurrently, by changing the format of diocesan conventions and maintaining our generally smallish congregations we would continue to enjoy the multiple benefits of belonging to a small group.
In sum, radically reimagining diocesan convention could give us the best of belonging to both a small and large church; diocesan convention, instead of being an annual burden, might become one of the high points of the ecclesial year. Laity and clergy might even clamor for convention to meet more than once a year! — George Clifford
Creedal Christian: Jordan Senner: "Why Am I An Anglican - And What Difference Does It Make?" -
I am an Anglican because I believe Anglicanism (at its best) faithfully expresses the fullness (the breadth and depth) of the gospel. There are eight primary ways in which I believe this to be true: Anglicanism is biblical, historical, sacramental, liturgical, pastoral, episcopal, ecumenical, and global. I will briefly unpack each of these defining characteristics of Anglicanism.
In [Luke 12:49-53], Jesus talks about the “division” that his ministry provokes, and the hard choices faced by those who answer his call to discipleship. In our contemporary ecclesial context, one is tempted to understand the kind of “division” Jesus is talking about as describing some very familiar fault lines that we draw in our own minds, fault lines like the one between those who are “orthodox” and those who are “heterodox,” between “reasserters” and “reappraisers,” between “revisionists” and those who stand for the “faith once delivered.”
But what if we’re getting it all wrong? What if the sort of division that Jesus is talking about doesn’t have to do with any of those categories? What if what Jesus is trying to describe is the division between those whose gaze is fixed on ‘Truth’, and those for whom ‘truth’ has become an idol?
In South Africa, during the painful and tenuous transition from apartheid to majority rule, there evolved a curious institution called a “Truth & Reconciliation Commission.” Yes, the truth needs to be told, and it was the job of these commissions to facilitate all the truth-telling that needed to happen. When the truth is suppressed or denied, neither health nor life can long endure. The ability of people who had been ravaged by the institutionalized racism of apartheid to tell their stories, to expose the evils of that system to the purging fire and cleansing water of truth was a necessary step in the healing of that nation. But truth-telling that is abstract, truth that is strictly propositional, truth that doesn’t somehow point beyond itself, quickly become an idol, a sinful, death-dealing idol. By contrast, authentic truth-telling leads inexorably to reconciliation. The kind of truth that is liberating, that sets free, the kind of truth that is a stream of living water welling up to eternal life, is, in the paradigm of the gospel, always configured to reconciliation, always manifesting—if I can be forgiven for exploiting and repurposing the language of liberation theology—always manifesting a preferential option for reconciliation. My friends in Christ, the most sinful, the most death-dealing form of idolatry, is the impulse to use truth as a pretext for staying un-reconciled.
So I’m wondering tonight whether the sort of division Jesus speaks of describes not a chasm between, say, the orthodox and the heterodox, between Episcopalians and those for whom the Episcopal Church is an historical antecedent, but, rather, those who let truth trump unity, and those who tenaciously cling to the ministry of reconciliation? And make no mistake, the ministry of reconciliation is hard work; none of you, I suspect, need me to tell you that. At the most recent meeting of the House of Bishops, one of our guests was Archbishop Justin’s canon for reconciliation, David Porter. Canon Porter is an Ulsterman, and earned his stripes in reconciliation ministry on the streets of Belfast. He told us that “reconciliation can be a real bastard sometimes,” because it usually means that somebody, if not everybody, feels like they didn’t get justice.
Beloved, this gospel we share, this gospel we proclaim, is nothing other than the ministry of reconciliation, reconciliation with God and reconciliation with one another in and through the one who is at the same time our truth and our peace, having broken down every dividing wall of hostility through his self-offering on the cross. To the extent that there are divisions among those who own the faith of Jesus, the world is scandalized and the gospel is robbed of its power. To the extent that we, in a spirit of “true humility and self-abasement,” can unleash the grace of reconciliation to flow over every area of our lives, when our passion for truth is ever configured toward the end of reconciliation, we are like trees planted by streams of living water that bear fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither. Everything we do shall prosper. Floreat Nashotah and praised be Jesus Christ. Amen. — The Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield
A Baptist, a Roman Catholic, and an Episcopalian meet up in hell. After awhile they start comparing notes. The Catholic and the Episcopalian work up the courage and ask the Baptist: “How did you end up here?” The Baptist responds, “I drank on a Sunday.” Likewise the other two ask the Catholic, “How did you end up here?” He responded, “I ate meat on a Friday and didn’t go to confession.” Finally the attention turns to the Episcopalian, “and you? How did you end up in hell?” The Episcopalian responded, “I’m not sure, but I think I ate a whole meal with my salad fork. — Via The Rev. Mike Angell (via holabrody)
Now a sacrament, as understood by those who prize sacraments most highly, is an instance of a very definitive and special relationship of spirit and matter. We have already distinguished it from mere conventional symbolism such as we find in ordinary speech or (more accurately) in nomenclature. We have also pointed to the less marked distinction which separates it from the essential symbolism of poetry. It is a spiritual utilization of a material object whereby a spiritual result is effected. Its operation is not independent of symbolism or or of the psychological processes set in motion by symbols; but its operation and effectiveness does not consist in these. Indeed many of those who set special store by the sacramental mode of worship value it because of their belief that the efficacy of the sacramental rite is totally independent of any conscious apprehension or other form of spiritual experience at that time. When faith exists as a struggle to believe in spite of empirical and temperamental pressure to unbelief, when the whole life of feeling is dead, when nothing is left but stark loyalty to God as He is dimly and waveringly apprehended to be—then the sheer objectivity, even the express materialism, of a sacrament gives it a value that nothing else can have. And when faith revives its ardour, and feeling is once more aglow, when the activity of prayers spoken and praises sung is again a natural expression of devotion, the rite which is believed to have retained its efficacy when all else failed becomes a focus of grateful adoration to the God who therein offered grace—that is, His love in action—to a soul that could receive Him in no other way. All turns, of course, on the conviction that in the sacrament God acts, fulfilling His own promise. This distinguishes the sacrament from magic, of which the essence is that man through the rite puts compulsion on the god, while it also endows the sacrament with the virtue and potency which magic falsely claims to offer.
— William Temple (1881-1944)
Archbishop of Canterbury
What is happening in our worship services? Are they Jesus-shaped? As an Anglican with deep love for liturgy I see within our liturgies, their underlying dynamics properly understood, great potential to present Jesus to all who gather to find him. But I also see strange obsessions with form, including with robes, ceremonies and over elaborate ritual movements. Are these constructions of barriers to meeting Jesus inside the church? — “AMiE: Anglican Mission in Every(western)where”
The book of Revelation balances on a knife-edge, literally. It uses the most powerful metaphors of violence to proclaim the overcoming of violence: the victory of the lamb. And why would it do this? Because the embryonic Christian movement had been plunged as into the belly of the most violent and brutal of empires, Rome, and could find no other language both to identify the issue and imagine its complete undoing. If Christianity had been about saving souls and not the redemption of the earth, the book of Revelation would never have been written. —
The irony of that last sentence.