Canadian Christianity — Bishop Michael Ingham

On Monday night, site Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s invited guest was Michael Ingham, recipe Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Ingham was introduced as one of the 25 most influential Anglicans in the world, and given the issues and events that have happened in the diocese of New Westminster in the last decade, this is not surprising. I have spent the last two years reading and trying to figure out the Anglican Communion, and I have read about Bishop Ingham, as well as reading some of his own writings. Attending the lecture gave me a chance to see the man himself, and I hope that it will help me to better evaluate his influence and his theology without relying on some of the opinions that are coloured by pain and anger. Saying that, Bishop Ingham presented himself as a quiet, smart, and well-composed. And while there are still theologies and actions that I still strongly disagree with, and believe that have caused damage to the Anglican Church in Canada and worldwide, Bishop Ingham is not the devil incarnate, or the “bogeyman.”

To introduce his lecture, he talked about the recent controversy about whether or not the liberal, mainline churches are dying, as discussed in mainstream media articles like Ross Douthat, Margaret Wente and Diana Butler-Bass.

This leads to a need to talk about what “success” looks like or mean in Christian discourse. Is a church successful if it’s growing? Is it successful if it doesn’t? What does success look like in light of the fact that we follow a Saviour who suffered and died?

Ingham’s lecture was on the impact of the shift from modernity to postmodernity on the Christian Church. For the most part, what he said was not really controversial, as he gave a basic overview of both modernity and postmodernity. His argument was that the labels “evangelical” “catholic” and “liberal” are fundamentally modern in orientation and are thus meaningless and obsolete in a post-modern context. These labels have become political labels that represent ideologies rather than theologies, and they belong to an older generation of Christians, and have no place in the new Christianity of the 21st century. Thus, younger Christians are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves. They are post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-conservative, etc.

Ingham then looked at the evolution that has occurred within the three traditions of Christianity: liberalism, evangelicalism, and Catholicism. So for example, out of liberal Christianity has arisen post-liberalism and radical orthodoxy. From evangelicalism has arisen the emerging church movement, and from Catholicism has arisen communities like Taize.

He argued that part of the problem today is that in spending so much time about the decline of the church, we are missing the fact that new and exciting things are happening. Indeed, he emphasized that the church is not dying; but it is changing. And while changed can feel like death because it is painful, Christianity is in the process of evolving.

It was interesting to observe his confidence that he is right in his decisions and actions in his role of Bishop. His lecture demonstrated that he believes that the issue of SSM has been settled in the Anglican church, that he has won, and that it is just a matter of time before the rest of the Anglican church capitulates to his position. This was evidenced in his emphasis that the new generation of Christians doesn’t want to fight about issues or doctrine. The way he set it up, it was clear that the older generation just needs to get on board with the younger generation; that the reason the young generation doesn’t want or need to fight is because it is right on the issues.

If I had had the chance, (or the courage), I would have asked the Bishop one of  two questions:

First, what will this age of redundant and obsolete labels mean for the selection and task of the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Second, his very concluding observation was that we shouldn’t focus on the people who are leaving the church but rather on the people who are coming, made me want to ask him if he is working at all to reconcile with the conservative congregations that left his diocese for the Anglican Network.

This was my first Luther Lecture, and I think I would go again. In the 40 years of the Luther Lecture, Luther College has hosted a diverse company of scholars and thinkers, including Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kung, Margaret Somerville, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Next year, the Luther Lecture will feature Martin Marty.

Another Adventure in Anglicanism

It just feels like Anglicanism at every level is in the process of change. And the fact that it’s all happening at the same time is a little overwhelming, check especially to someone who is new to the Anglican tradition.
At our church, check we’ve spent a year looking for a new priest, and so watching how the process of calling a priest to a congregation is fascinating. Our new priest starts in August. We’ve been without a priest for nearly a year. I’m impressed with how well the wardens and the lay leaders of the church kept everything running during this time of searching, prayer and evaluating the future of this little church. And, what is cool, is our new priest has a PhD in New Testament! (see my previous post: What would it look like if more pastors had Phds)

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

It was announced yesterday that our bishop has been elected to be bishop of another diocese. I had just met him and had a wonderful conversation with him May about some of the concerns and questions I have about the Anglican Church in Canada. I came away from that conversation feeling comfortable with stepping my toes into the Anglican stream and not feeling like I was diving into the United Church 2.0. (I lived through the United Church blowup in the 80’s and I don’t fancy doing that again). With the bishop leaving it raises several questions: what does this mean for our diocese? Will we get a new bishop who was as orthodox as our bishop was? A few of my friends are in the process of ordination and I wonder what this will mean for their journey. Does ordination get put on hold until the new bishop is installed?

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

And of course, on the global level, the Archbishop of Canterbury is retiring, and the political machine has started as the Church gears up to call a new ABC. Whoever is called will define the future of Anglicanism especially given the tensions and cracks that are threatening the unity of the church.

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

Sitting in church on Sunday, I was struck by how many of the congregants are “grey hairs”. It’s at least 60%, if not 75%. What is this little church going to look like in 10 years? I lived through a church that literally “died out” because it had a majority senior population. Will that happen to our little church?

The deconsecration of a rural Anglican church in the Diocese of Toronto made the mainstream news this week. It is closing because it is too small to be viable for the diocese.

There are a whole bunch of little churches throughout Saskatchewan. As the population shifts to the urban centres, Saskatoon, Regina, etc, it’s probably inevitable that this will end up happening across this province and diocese, especially since there’s a shortage of priests in Saskatchewan.

Change. Transition. New opportunities. Uncertainty. Flux.

Anglican Week — Ambiguous Anglicanism: Guest Post By Dell Bornowsky

Please welcome Dell Bornowsky! Dell is priest of the Big Country Parish in Saskatchewan, remedy Canada, and is our first guest post here at Anglican Week.

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Ambiguous Anglicanism
Ever since I decided to be a follower of Jesus I have been particularly interested in understanding THE church, which I presume consists of (as Anglican liturgy says), “all those who have served you [the God of Jesus etc.] in every age.” It may be supposed that as an Anglican priest I could easily summarize the Anglican portion of that church and my affinity for it. However this may be nearly as presumptuous as thinking I am one who can easily define a concept of brown-hairism (the behaviour and beliefs of everyone with brown hair), because I also have (used to have more) brown hair.

I suppose I could list aspects of Anglican tradition that I most appreciate: such as opportunities to express faith with symbols as well as words. But of course words themselves function as symbols so there is some ambiguity here. Indeed it seems anyway we look at it, whether in terms of its organization(s), or its tradition(s), there is quite a bit of ambiguity in Anglicanism. There are historical reasons why ambiguity is imbedded in Anglican thinking (no time to go into that here), but like many characteristics it may be seen both as a strength and as a weakness.

The Oxford Dictionary suggests ambiguity is the “ability to be understood in more than one way” (Oxford being a traditional center of Anglicanism, by the way). Ambiguity as it relates to Anglicanism also seems to mean “the ability to be misunderstood in more than one way”. But of course that particular ability can even be attributed to God. I know fellow followers of Jesus who equate ambiguity with confusion and inconsistency and presume that following Jesus should lead them out of ambiguity rather than into it. I encourage them to consider the saying that “a god small enough for our minds (small enough to be understand in only one way), is not big enough to be the God of everything else”.

As a strength I see the Anglican use of symbols (and the resulting ambiguity) as tools in the mission of proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ gospel to post-moderns. Here again, true to its ambiguous form, some Anglicans think more as Moderns and some as Post-moderns, and all this in a tradition that honours dozens of Pre-modern thinkers who were nonetheless also followers of Jesus. As a weakness, to be ambiguous means to be obscure, indistinct, indeterminate, and unreliable. There is danger in our attempt as Anglicans to be everything to everyone: that we thereby become nothing to anyone. Nevertheless, somewhere between nothing and everything, here we are!

Another Adventure in Anglicanism

I don’t pretend to know or understand all that is going on in the Anglican church of Canada. But as I settle in and become more comfortable with the liturgy and the language of the church, viagra and as I begin to put down roots in this local church, cialis I find myself finally being able to lift my head and take a look at what is happening more broadly in the denomination here in Canada and globally.

What I’ve read suggests there are some pretty wonky things going on. Supposedly there are some churches within the denomination who do not believe in a literal resurrection, treat or that Jesus is the only way to God. (Which I don’t get how that practically works, given that the liturgy in the BAS is so extremely Christ-centered that we proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection weekly be it through the act of communion, confession, or the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed). And of course there is the ongoing discussion of sexuality and marriage. Some people suggest that those who have left the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) to be a part of the new Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) are breaking communion. On the other hand, there are people who say that the ACoC (and the U.S. equivalent, the Episcopal Church) are the ones who are breaking communion by denying/reinterpreting the tenets and beliefs held by the global Communion.

As an outsider trying to peer in, it’s hard to navigate through the bluster and the spin and the hurt. For example, this article about the installation of the new priest at St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford seems way too propaganda-ish. It tries too hard to show how all the “cool” people came out for the special service. On the other hand, some of the commentary and blog posts coming from those who have left the ACoC to be a part of the ANiC are full of snark, and hurt, and as a result, sometimes lack charity and grace.

I grew up in a church that went through this twenty plus years ago. I grew up in a church where my pastor had to make the tough decision to leave the United Church of Canada because of the changing theological convictions of the denomination. I saw the hurt and the confusion and the struggle that the congregation and the pastor went through during that time. And the cynic (realist? grump? pessimist?) in me looks back at that experience and wants to say in this current situation that while unity is a noble goal, it is just not possible. On the other hand, I also find myself praying and reading and hoping that whatever is going to happen in this denomination in the next decade or so, will be done with all parties seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that there is healing, reconciliation, exhortation and corrective teaching (whatever that would look like) that will bring glory not to ourselves but to Christ.

Speaking of reconciliation, Fr. Allen Doerksen has started a blog that will chronicle his journey of Congregational Development, as he seeks to minister at St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford.

Here are some of the different sources I have been reading as I try to get a handle on what is happening within the denomination:
Anglican Essentials
Anglican Mainstream
The Anglican Journal
Diocesan websites (e.g., New Westminster, Qu’Appelle, Ottawa, and the ANiC)
Anglicans Online
Thinking Anglicans
Episcopal News Service
The Anglican Communion
Virtue Online