28 Nov 2015

Rebuild My House

Synod this year was opened by a sermon from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.


Fr. Raniero is a Papal preacher and an advocate of renewal in the Church. He writes (via CBN).
“Baptism in the Spirit is not a human invention; it is a divine invention. It is a renewal of baptism and of the whole of Christian life, of all the sacraments. It is a renewal of my religious profession, of my confirmation, and of my priestly ordination,”
You can read more of his reflections on renewal here.

Fr. Raniero also believes that renewal is a path to unity in the church.
Today as well, the Holy Spirit will be the one to lead us into unity, if we let him guide us," he said. “God has poured out the Holy Spirit in a new and unusual way upon millions of believers from every Christian denomination and, so that there would be no doubts about His intentions, He poured out the Spirit with the same manifestations."
So his invitation to speak at Synod is significant, especially for those of us who are embrace the sacramental and charismatic elements of the church.

His entire Sermon is here, but there are some key points:
Christ is the light of the world, the one who gives meaning and hope to every human life – and the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed! How can we be unconcerned, and each remain “in the comfort of our own panelled houses”? We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than love for Jesus Christ unites us.
This is the section some 'conservatives' have jumped on, as if Fr. Raniero was a liberal! However it makes clear that different views on sexuality are not to be a barrier to unity and shared mission. It is not the touchstone of orthodoxy. Even amongst charismatics!
We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world. When Paul wants to summarise the essence of the Christian message in one sentence, he does not say, “I proclaim this or that doctrine to you.” He says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), and “We preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). ...

This does not mean ignoring the great theological and spiritual enrichment that came from the Reformation or desiring to go back to the time before it. It means instead allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its achievements, once they are freed from certain distortions due to the heated atmosphere of the time and of later controversies. 
The call to an Apostolic Reformation may be one familiar to charismatics in the new churches. And of course some of us in reading the Apostles and the early Fathers have come to the conclusion that the shape of that reformation is actually far more Catholic than we may have first believed. Yes there is a simplicity of faith, but also the debates of the reformation need to be re-examined in the context of what we see in the Apostolic church, in word, sacraments and the power of the Spirit. 
Nothing is more important than to fulfil Christ’s heart desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel. In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.
Christians have always been persecuted, but in the modern world we are becoming more aware of global persecution of Christians. For those of us privileged to live in nations where we are free to meet and worship this should inspire us towards unity and bring our divisions into perspective.

There is far more in Fr. Raniero's sermon - please do read it for yourself.

6 Oct 2015

Tribalism & Identity

The Bishop of London's lecture at Lambeth has created some great discussion. It is a long read, but worth it.

Bishop Richard Chartres speaking at Lambeth Palace, 30 September 2015. (Photograph: Lambeth Palace)

For me what stands out is the rejection of tribalism, but the acceptance of identity (or different expressions of church).

One obvious source of division was the training of the clergy in party colleges, and an effort was made to overcome this aspect of the old system while eschewing any attempt to homogenise the proper diversity of the Church of England.
The desire to stimulate vocations and to train ordinands in a context in which every legitimate tradition could be honoured had an impact on perhaps the most significant development of the past twenty years: the establishment of St Mellitus College.
In the old system candidates were entrusted to independent training agencies, often founded along party lines.
One of the underlying principles of the past twenty years in London has been that every legitimate strand in the Anglican tradition should be honoured and reflected in the appointments made in the Diocese. There is only one vital distinction which transcends the differences between different strands of churchmanship and that is the distinction between dead church and living church.
I am working with a St.Melitus placement at present and I can confirm the spirit of that community, that they carry out into their work in parishes. I also deeply value my time at Westcott, especially as part of the Cambridge Theological federation. But St. Melitus seems to be doing something different.

The Bishop also recalled Jaroslav Pelikan's take on the difference between tradition and traditionalism:
Traditionalism is the obstinate adherence to the mores of the day before yesterday – the dead faith of living people. Tradition is the spirit-filled continuity of the Church’s life, through which the truth is communicated from generation to generation in fresh ways in order to stay the same.
I suspect that having an identity is vital for a congregation; a narrative or story of which we are a shared part, and one that speaks of growth. Movements in the church are good, healthy and normal. And yet that identity's role must be to act as a spiritual well that we draw from rather than as a fence built to exclude the gifts of other identities. Whilst believing what we believe because we believe it to be true, we must also believe that truth permeates other expressions of church also!

From Bishop Chartres reflections London's growth is prophetic. Not because the practical models used can be duplicated in other contexts (which may or may not be the case), but because those models have come out of a rejection of a tribal fenced in mindset.

In this God's Spirit has worked, and the Church is alive.

27 Sep 2015

Badge Making Workshops

I am embarrassed by the response from Anglo-Catholics on social media to Bishop North's recent comments:

I didn't hear his comments in context - I would be keen to read them. But as they stand I would ask:

Who is denying people the Eucharist? 

Or arguing that songs and craft workshops represent the fullness of faith? I recently attended a Pioneer breakfast with ++Justin Welby and he was passionate about the fullness of sacramental life in Fresh Expressions. Yes there may be some in the Church of England who reject the sacramental entirely, but what I encounter among contemporary evangelicals is a greater desire to engage with sacraments, especially as worship.

What was the pattern of the Apostolic Church?

Were enquirers and new converts brought immediately into the 'The Offering' of bread and wine, or were they expected to have first had an encounter with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, been baptised and prepared? How was their context different to ours, and how has ours changed to be more like theirs in the last 30 years?

What happened to Anglo-Catholic badge making?

The success of the catholic revival in the Church of England was driven by diverse community engagement. My own parish had a number of football teams for teenagers in the 50's and 60's. These efforts may have failed in part but that is no reason to retreat, rather the lessons must be learned and passed on.

What is so great/bad about clapping songs?

Or other forms of media that engage with people, mind, body and spirit? If people are able to meet with Christ through them in emotion and physical action, isn't that what catholic worship offers in part? Or is there a deeper anglo-catholic insecurity that, through the ecstatic and charismatic, others have a knowledge of God?

What was St. Paul even doing on Mars Hill?

"Badge Makers, I see how extremely creative you are in every way. For as I went through the workshop and looked carefully at the objects of your craft making, I found among them a book mark of great beauty. Your natural creativity has a source: this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth."