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?

Church is like family

An important theme in the Wellington Diocese at the moment is that we are family. I was thinking about this when my children were being particularly ghastly – it’s not necessarily a positive image, but it is a realistic one. Families squabble and put each other down, tease and annoy, but when it comes to the crunch they pull together and present a united face.

Someone leaked the name of the new Dean of our Cathedral. That’s just the sort of thing an aggrieved sibling would do in a family – telling secrets that they weren’t meant to tell, so they could gain some sort of advantage for themselves. Knowing other people’s secrets  when you are a kid is a great source of power!

But in God’s family we are all like kids really. We want to play together and have our own way, to keep our own toys, not to share. We don’t want to clean up after ourselves, but would rather blame someone else for making the mess.

If the church is claiming to be like family, perhaps we have to find the positive aspects. How about wider family gatherings, where tensions emerge as the day wears on? The arguments that break out at Chrisimas after too may beers or sherries? In our wider family we have  learnt that there are some areas that you just skirt around delicately – my step-daughetr and her husband have been avowed atheists, but with two  ordained minsters in the family there is a bit of tension there! Funnily, it’s as we do discuss the difficult areas that we can really model respect for each other.

The church is soon to be dicussing Same-sex relationships as they affect the church, both in leadership roles and in the blessing of same-sex relationships. We have been asked to be respectful of each others’ views. Just like in a  natural family, when you know that there are some topics best handled dlicately, so too with this one. We must give it our best consideration – coming to the table fresh and open to each other.

One of my kids was mugged a couple of weeks ago. (He’s fine by the way). When his sister heard about it, she burst into tears, and said, I know I always say I hate him, but Ilove him really. It would be awful if something happened to him.

Now that the crisis is past she’s back to swearing at him, and him at her( whose idea was it to have two kids going through puberty at the same time?)

But she knew that when the crisis attacked her family, that the love was there. Will the love be there in our church as we discuss these issues?

I hope so.