29 June 2008

Confessing Anglicanism

Dave Perry writes a helpful post on the subject of GAFCON and the Pilgrimage of Faith. I shall be lazy and leave you to follow the links in that blog article. Dave has some helpful thoughts on how Methodists on both sides of 'the homosexuality debates' might react to what is happening within the Anglican Communion and also what experience and suggestions we might have to offer our Anglican brothers and sisters about respecting different points of view.

I leave you to read his thoughtful piece with respect to the issues surrounding homosexuality and their potential to divide a denomination. For my part, I'm more interested in the fact that GAFCON are declaring a 'confessing movement' within Anglicanism.

Personally speaking, I don't want to be part of a 'confessing denomination'. I grew up in one. Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt. It's a painful place to be, in my view. Also theologically problematic.

I see that
The Jerusalem Declaration is starting out with fourteen points in its 'Confession'. My predication is that, within five years, there will be more than fourteen points. Or rather, I predict that there will be many new elaborations to the original fourteen points.  I predict that there be vital interest in, for example, what 'really' constitutes belief in holy scriptures as the word of God, or what is a 'genuine' upholding of the 39 articles or an 'authentic' upholding of Anglican clerical orders or a 'genuine' belief in the creeds.

Why do I think this? Because the underlying assumption in a 'Confessing movement' or a 'Confessing denomination' is that the true Church must identify false believers and separate itself from them. In order to do this the movement will need, over time, to increasingly define its core doctrines in an ever more detailed manner. Every time a new detailed definition is promulgated, someone will find that they cannot accept it. In my opinion, confessing movements are inherently unstable and apt to schism for this reason.

What does a person learn by example about God when they are part of a confessing denomination? In my case, it was that God was a perfectionist who would not have mercy on anyone with imperfect doctrine. The concepts of 'grace' 'mercy' and 'lovingkindness' (chesed) become legal concepts with no soul. The acted-out, lived-out experience is that God is always on the verge of throwing an omnipotent temper-tantrum if a person doesn't hold the right beliefs about the virgin birth or whatever. 

Not for me. Not ever again. God is more merciful and gracious than that - praise the Lord, or I'd be lost.

May God have mercy on his Church Universal and may he bless with much wisdom and patience to key decision-makers at the upcoming Lambeth Conference.


DaveW said...


What about the confessing Church in Germany? Wasn't that a different style of confession? A Church that confessed Jesus and denied Hitler?

That kind of confessing Church is what I suspect these others are trying to claim legitimacy from (and failing).


PamBG said...

Dave - I suspect that this is what they are trying to do too but my predictions stand. Every 'confessing movement' that I know cites the German movement and Bonheoffer as their role models.

The raison d'etre of all the confessing movements I've known is about defining who is 'kosher' and who is not according to their beliefs. I don't see how it can help but schism.

If you have a bunch of people who can't take communion with someone who believes in gay marriage[1], what happens when some of them say they can't take communion with someone who believes in divorce or in women ministers/priests or who does not denounce abortion?

I stand by my prediction and the future may prove me wrong! :-)

[1] In case there is any doubt, I recognise that 'not being able to take communion with someone who believes in gay marriage' is different from believing that homosexual acts are sinful but still being willing to be in a communion with folk of different views. My hope is still for denominations that can hold people of different views together.

toujoursdan said...

Good grief I wish we could stop going on about sex. The world is entering an oil crisis that is going to make everyone poorer and cause many to lose their jobs. Can't we talk about "affluenza", materialism, the importance of community and coming together instead of this?

Tim Chesterton said...

I will not be joining the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans although I have friends who will, good people who I respect. That's the problem with this whole schism - it's not a matter of bad people versus good people, there are good and honourable people on both sides. Or, to put it another way, there are flawed and imperfect people on both sides!

PamBG said...

Tim, I agree that it's not a matter of good people and bad people and I apologise if I gave an impression otherwise. I simply believe from my experience that it's a flawed process of theology and a flawed process of behaviour. Of course, other people will disagree with me.