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Posts Tagged "Bishop Gregory Cameron":

Yes to the Anglican Communion; No to the Anglican Covenant

A new voice has joined in the debate on the Anglican Covenant, the ‘yes to the covenant‘ website. They have a page giving reasons why people should support the Covenant, among which is:

 “The Covenant is ‘the only game in town’ if the Church of England is to remain in any meaningful sense apart [sic] of the third largest world church. There is no alternative.  So the Church of England’s choices are to adopt the Covenant, or to disappear from the world’s radar as a significant voice in the world.”


Do you know the feeling when some thought or memory is bubbling away in your subconscious but  refuses to surface? It niggles away, sometimes for weeks or months.I have finally had that ‘Eureka!’ moment of remembering what all the statements by the Pro-Covenanters remind me of.

John Knox , a Hebrew Jeremiah set down on Scottish soil, sought to destroy what he felt was idolatry and to purify Scotland’s religion in a relentless campaign of fiery oratory :

“The sword of justice is God’s, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may.”

John Lloyd writes: There’s an old saying, which Scots still exchange with each other, usually humorously: “Aweel, ye ken noo” – well, you know now. It harks back to when Scots life was dominated by the stern Presbyterianism engrained into it by Calvin’s disciple, John Knox: when…’the Kirk’ policed the morals of society with enthusiastic rigour. “Well ye ken noo” was the generic cry of the godly to the un-godly, faced with the prospect of the fires of hell, having ignored the warnings of the faithful in a life of dissipation. On the left is a portrayal of John Knox admonishing Mary Queen of Scots, who looks suitably chastened and uncharacteristically subdued.

We have had a spate of attempts recently to crank up the guilt amongst those who would oppose the Covenant, partly at least because we do not believe it would have the beneficial effect that its proponents believe. Here is Bishop Gregory Cameron:

“The Bottom Line: Do we value the Communion?  Do we care enough to work together with our sister Churches?  Do we think that it is possible to describe what holds us together as Anglicans?  A “yes” to these questions is surely a “yes” to the Covenant.  A “No” to the Covenant says:  We can’t say what it means to be an Anglican, we want to be able to ignore our sister Churches when it suits us, and we won’t mind if up to half the Communion walks away.”


All three statements, the yes-to-the-covenant’s ‘only game in town’, John Knox’s ‘sword of justice’ and Bishop Gregory’s ‘ bottom line’ have one thing in common. They are examples of  False Dichotomy:

Definition: In false dichotomy, the arguer sets up the situation so it looks like there are only two choices. The arguer then eliminates one of the choices, so it seems that we are left with only one option: the one the arguer wanted us to pick in the first place. But often there are really many different options, not just two—and if we thought about them all, we might not be so quick to pick the one the arguer recommends.

Example: “Caldwell Hall is in bad shape. Either we tear it down and put up a new building, or we continue to risk students’ safety. Obviously we shouldn’t risk anyone’s safety, so we must tear the building down.” The argument neglects to mention the possibility that we might repair the building or find some way to protect students from the risks in question—for example, if only a few rooms are in bad shape, perhaps we shouldn’t hold classes in those rooms.


The first time I came across this alarming form of reasoning, which is difficult to answer because it is so sweeping, was in the novel of existential angst by Albert Camus, La Peste (The Plague), which was perhaps the equivalent for British teenagers of J D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ in the 1960s. The priest, Father Paneloux, gives two sermons. The first is very much in John Knox Calvinist mode. The second asks the following:

“My brothers, a time of testing has come for us all. We must believe everything or deny everything. And who among you, I ask, would dare to deny everything?”

What happened to ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief’?


So what does the Covenant really say, should you vote yes or should you vote no? Alan Perry (a Canadian archdeacon with a background in canon law, in case you do not already know his blog) has written tirelessly about every conceivable aspect of all four sections of the Covenant. Here he writes on ‘A Tale of Two Covenants’. And here he writes about the frequent problem that those who are in favour of the Covenant often seem to read into its text provisions which sound attractive but are not actually in the printed text.

The Revd Tobias Haller, an American priest, has also blogged at length about the Covenant, here on possible alternatives. He concludes: ‘the proposed Anglican Covenant is not the way forward for the Anglican Communion, either as a Communion, or for the sake of its members, or for our ecumenical relationships.’

Finally, in the words of Kelvin Holdsworth of the diocese of Glasgow and Galloway:

‘We don’t want the Covenant. We do want the Communion.’


The main illustration is of course the logo of the Anglican Communion. The stained glass portrayal of John Knox comes from the Covenant Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, California. And the photograph of Albert Camus was taken in 1957 and made available through a CCL.

The Church In Wales: Leading the Way with the Laity


The Bishop of St Asaph, Bishop Gregory Cameron, speaking at ‘The Future(s) of Anglicanism’, offered us the view from Wales.

The following two anecdotes have nothing to do with Wales, but Bishop Gregory is a gifted raconteur and was no doubt hoping to lighten the mood after a serious session on the Anglican Covenant. He began with a personal reflection on the hazards of communicating with children. Dressed in full episcopal kit and surrounded by a group of little dears (my expression, not the good bishop’s), he swung into his routine, playing to the crowd. His jokes went down well and he sensed a real rapport with this next generation of church-goers. Afterwards, the children were asked what they had enjoyed most about the afternoon: ‘the funny man in the party hat’ came the answer…

His second joke is not really a joke at all. A good man died and was met by St Peter at the Pearly Gates. St Peter offered to take him on a tour of Heaven the following Friday (the day reserved for tours). At the first place they came to, a barbecue was in full swing, with steaks, sausages, chops and kebabs. Everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. ‘This is Catholic Heaven’, explained St Peter. ‘On earth, on Fridays they were only allowed to eat fish’. They walked on and came next to a bar, with a group carousing and enjoying pints of real ale or glasses of vintage claret, according to taste. ‘This is Methodist Heaven’, said St Peter. ‘On earth, they denied themselves all forms of alcohol’. Next they passed  a group of people singing, laughing and shouting out of sheer joie de vivre. St Peter explained: ‘This is Quaker Heaven. On earth they learnt to sit quietly, waiting for the Holy Spirit – now the Holy Spirit encourages them to let rip.’ Finally, they came to a group of people looking inconsolably morose and bored. Our puzzled visitor looked at St Peter questioningly. ‘This is Anglican Heaven’, said St Peter. ‘On earth, there wasn’t anything they weren’t allowed to do…’


But to return to our Welsh sheep…

The Christian presence in Wales was already well-established by the time St. Augustine came to England in 597 and, when Augustine attempted to assert his authority as Archbishop of all Britain in 603, he was told by the Welsh bishops that he had no such authority over them. There are six dioceses in the Church In Wales, which was disestablished in 1920. At disestablishment, all patronage was abolished. Bishops are elected by an electoral college. Twice the number of lay representatives to those of clergy are elected to the Provincial synod (The Governing Body), and lay members are constitutionally a majority in all the councils of the Church in Wales, from Parochial Church Councils to The Governing Body. There were 350 members of The Governing Body, which meets twice a year, but this has now been reduced to 150 (still in stark contrast to the Welsh National Assembly, which has only 60 people to run Wales) with a church membership of 60,000 – 80,000. A commission is currently looking at the structures of the Church In Wales, and there is a move (as in England) to devolve more decision-making to deanery level.


The Laity

At present the proportion of stipendiary clergy to church buildings is about one priest for every two churches. If to this are added self-supporting and retired clergy, there is no pressing need purely on grounds of expediency to train the laity to lead worship. However, the Church In Wales does make a concerted effort to include the laity in leading worship, whether as Licensed Readers or Ordained Local Ministers, regarding this as a desirable end in itself. Bishop Gregory endorses this process, which he hopes will accelerate in future.




The illustration is the coat of arms of the Church in Wales made available under CCL by  Dyfsunctional at en.wikipedia. The photograph of Bishop Gregory is from his consecration and is taken from wikipedia. The illustration of a Welsh church is from Shutterstock.


What Are Bishops For?

Well, what are bishops for? I am not being facetious, or more than usually impertinent, but this question was left hanging in the air around the ‘Futures of Anglicanism’ course. We were privileged to be in the company of two bishops, with the opportunity to talk to them both in the intervals between the formal parts of the course, a privilege which we relished (more later). Bishop Gregory Cameron and Bishop Gayle Harris are particularly fine examples of the genus episcopus.

The question is apparently not as settled as you might think and was raised in a paper for General Synod as recently as February 2009. In ‘The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion’ (GS Misc 910), Dr Colin Podmore said:

Episcopally Led and Synodically Governed’?
3.21 It is often said that the Church of England is ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’.
Working as One Body commented, ‘This useful and convenient phrase may, however,
tend to conceal the fact that the bishops are part of the synod and that the leadership they
give is in and to the whole synodical body’. That is, in fact, only one of a number of
difficulties with the phrase ‘episcopally led and synodically governed’. (For example,
lay people also occupy leadership positions in the Church and its synods.) Both the
Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Durham have criticized this phrase (not least in the
debate on the resolution to which this paper responds), and it is indeed apt to mislead.
3.22 While it is true that the Church of England’s bishops are charged with governing their
dioceses synodically (ie, with the advice of the representatives of the clergy and laity in
the diocesan synod and the bishop’s council), the phrase can be heard as implying that the
Church of England is governed by synods. As Working as One Body pointed out, synods
are parliaments (legislative and deliberative assemblies); they are not governments. At the
diocesan level, bishops not only lead but also govern and that has implications for the role
of the House of Bishops at the national level.

‘Charlotte‘ commented on ‘Thinking Anglicans’ that Dr Podmore’s paper:

takes a very high view of the office of a bishop and the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Though the authority of a bishop is not to be exercised except synodically, and not without consulting priests and lay people, Podmore’s analysis maintains that priests and lay people do not have authority equal to that of the bishops.


I leave this question hanging in the air (perhaps any readers will have something to say on the general topic in the comments?). The point made in discussion was that the Greek episkopos means ‘overseer’, someone who provides oversight. There are two problems of association with this definition: the first is that, curiously, the noun ‘oversight’ means something that has been overlooked in the sense of forgotten. More seriously, ‘overseer’ to anyone with any knowledge of the slave trade means the man on horseback  who spurred the slaves on sugar plantations onto ever greater efforts by the use of a bullwhip.


My dictionary defines ‘scope’ as meaning:
1. opportunity for exercising the faculties or abilities; capacity for action
2. range of view, perception, or grasp; outlook
3. the area covered by an activity, topic, etc.; range, eg the scope of his thesis was vast

I have some other suggestions for the job description of a good bishop, based of course on ancient Greek (what else?) Eschewing the abomination of neologisms with a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix, I suggest the following improvements on ‘Episcope’,  using Greek prefixes:

  • Amphiscope: Looking at both sides of a question
  • Bathyscope: Being aware of the depths while aspiring to the heights
  • Colonoscope: Detecting bullshit
  • Cryptoscope: Solving life’s little (and big) mysteries
  • Diascope: Making a window into men’s souls
  • Endoscope: Looking remorselessly within every file in the cupboard
  • Extrascope: Looking at the bits the Archdeacon isn’t telling you
  • Gyroscope: Measuring people’s orientation (actually, this is one of the existing job descriptions which could be dropped?)
  • Interscope: Reading between the lines
  • Kaleidoscope: Rejoicing in the rich diversity of God’s creation
  • Megascope: Ensuring the Church does not ignore the obvious
  • Metascope: Keeping an eye on the life beyond
  • Microscope: Remembering the detail
  • Neoscope: Knowing how to introduce the new
  • Oscilloscope: Working out which way the wind is blowing
  • Paleoscope: Valuing the old
  • Periscope: Communicating with the above in order to transmit to those below
  • Polyscope: Wearing many hats (and not just mitres)
  • Prososcope: Looking onwards, pointing the way
  • Stethoscope: Listening out for rumblings in the Body of Christ
  • Telescope: Keeping a watch on the horizon
  • Ultrascope: Linking congregations throughout the diocese, and diocese with diocese

What do you think? What are the essential attributes of a bishop which are missing from this list? (Or have I included some which have no place in the list of episcopal talents?)


Postscript. It seems a propitious moment to be thinking about this question. According to The Church Times of today, 23 September, ‘Meeting heralds new era for episcopacy’

Mary Johnston, a lay member of the General Synod, who heads a grouping of liberal Catholics, was also present. She was one of about 60 participants, who included male and female bishops, priests, and lay people. She said that the day had been “worth while and very positive. “It was exciting that Rowan said he wasn’t out to achieve ‘balance’, but he wants something more profound and prophetic. He wants a reappraisal of what it means to be a bishop.

Mmmm. The blog post is dated the 15th, the conference was on the 19th. I can hear some spoil-sport saying ‘Post hoc, maybe. But not necessarily propter hoc?’

 Post postscript

Dave Walker has drawn the perfect Christmas cartoon in answer to the question ‘What are Bishops For?’.

Note: I am indebted to Savi Hensman for the amended definition of ‘Ultrascope’ and to Grandmère Mimi for the inclusion of Colonoscope and Kaleidoscope, with their respective definitions.

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