Is there an official line?

One thing that I have found interesting and frustrating in my journey towards ordination in the Anglican church is the lack of clarity around what, if any, is the ‘official’ line. It seems that while new ordinands are required to sign a declaration of adherence -(I think)- to the thirty-nine articles and the Creeds, and obedience to the bishop, there is no forum for discussing what happens when people feel they cannot sign this. I was quite happy myself to publicly state that I believe in all the details of the Creeds, and that I have no problem with the 39 Articles.(Maybe XXII witht its insistence on no images could be a bit of a problem.) But from time to time one comes across a clergy-person who states that they are not able to make the same statement.

Well, you may say, in this post-modern age, everyone has their own beliefs, and their own reasons for what they believe.

OK, I say, that’s fine, but is there a line? According to the constitution and the canons, yes there is.

In my studies I have recently come across a comment that the 39 Articles are no longer held as so authoritarian, but rather to be regarded as something that is important to us historically, maybe even as a cultural and religious taonga, if you like.

OK, that’s fine by me, I don’t have a barrow to push with this. I’m just looking for clarity. Or is it that being Anglican there are so many varying degrees of beliefs that anything goes? I would like to be part of a discussion around these issues. Coming into ministry as a new(ish) deacon, I find myself wondering what the rules are, what the brand is, and finding that the edges are very fuzzy. Again, I don”t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that there seems to be a big silence around talking about it. When one mentions the frustration with what seem to be disconnected approaches throughout the church, one is promptly labelled either a conservative redneck fundamentalist, who would be very restrictive and unloving of anyone with a differing opinion, or one is regarded as a super-liberal who wants to throw away all rules and guidelines.

Please, let’s be open about these issues. If we cannot find some clarity about this, how can we hope to deal with areas that have not had many years of church doctrine, tradition and teaching around them, such as the up-coming debate about same-sex relationships?

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Brand Anglican

A member of my family applied for a job with Coca-Cola, back in  the late 50s, when they were just starting to grow throughout New Zealand. As he sat waiting for his interview, a young employee offered him a nice cold glass of Coke.

“Uh, no thanks, I never touch the stuff” said my relative.

Did he get the job? No, of course not, because he didn’t enjoy the brand.

What’s this got to do with life as an Anglican? When I was ordained, I had to sign a declaration that I accepted the 39 articles and the constitution of the church and its rules and regulations, and the Creed.

Having been a member of the clergy for a few months now, I am discovering that some clergy, both in our diocese and others, are quite open about not subscribing to the official line. I have been troubled by this, wondering how loose the definitions need to be, especially as many of the formulations are ancient, and have been understood differently by modern theology. Where do we draw  line in the sand? What are absolutely foundational beliefs, which make us “Brand Anglican”?

Maybe as part of a 500-year cycle of having a ‘rummage sale’ and rethinking how we do church, it’s time to look at the declarations and even the creeds – ‘the resurrection of the  body’, as understood in the Apostles’ Creed, cannot surely be taken literally, for example.

Many things to think about – it’s an exciting time to be a Christian!