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slippery slope

four-fold Anglican shape?

slippery slopeI am concerned about theological education, study, and formation within the Anglican Communion; especially of ordinands – and this ongoing in the life of the ordained; especially within my province; and also of all the People of God. My primary ministry is about this amongst young people.

I pick up with interest the reports from the recent meeting of TEAC (theological education in the Anglican Communion). Good stuff. And then we get to…

TEAC members … sharing insights from the four-fold shape of the Anglican Way of being formed by Scripture, shaped by worship, ordered for Communion and directed by God’s mission.

Excuse me?

[And I’m not talking about the shocking absence of the Oxford comma].

I’m fascinated by the Anglican Way suddenly having a “four-fold shape”: “formed by Scripture, shaped by worship, ordered for Communion and directed by God’s mission”.

I agree with Mark Harris’ warning: “We need to take a long and careful look at this business of a Four Fold Anglican Way before it sneaks in under the wire and becomes yet another phrase that gets set in stone as part of the Anglican ethos.”

We’ve seen this happen a lot already.

The three-legged stool. The Instruments of Communion. The Windsor Report. The Lambeth Decision. The five-fold mission statement… the four-fold shape…

Our province (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) does not formally recognise the Lambeth Conference, for example. That conference is a meeting of bishops and any motion that is passed there (with whatever large or slim majority) affects us locally through respect, and through the the leadership of our bishops who have met there.

Similarly for the Primates’ Meeting. We have three primates – so thrice the weight. But, nonetheless, there’s no formal recognition of that meeting in our church’s life.

We do not formally recognise “The Instruments of Communion”.

The Windsor report is just that – a report.

The three-legged stool (scripture, tradition, reason) is a nice mnemonic but I don’t think there’s any official status for it?

The five-fold mission statement is sorely lacking by omitting worship as central to our mission. And I’m convinced I’m not heretical just because I publicly challenge it.

I’ve seen our General Synod’s approving “in principle the provisions of Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the proposed Covenant” (my emphasis) be declared as our church’s acceptance of those sections in practice.

So this new “four-fold Anglican Way” might also be a nice mnemonic – but let’s be cautious that we don’t start bandying it about as if it is doctrine.

H/T Mark Harris
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12 thoughts on “four-fold Anglican shape?”

  1. This in some ways to me resembles the UK admission to the European Union.

    We started of as members of the European Economic Community. ECC.

    We than under the Maastricht agreement we became part of the European Free Trade area. EFTA.

    Even later we became members of the Single Market.

    Than under the Schengen agreement, we became members of the Open Borders area.

    Four things, which under European centralisation agenda have restricted our Parliamentary Democracy, has imposed expensive, burdensome legislation upon us and have even redefined our constitution in terms of human rights. Now, under harmonisation (step 5) they want to take away our tax raising independence and financial controls.

    The difference between the UK and EU membership and the Anglican Communion 4 fold (or 5 fold) is that Anglicans have rejected the Anglican Communion’s centralisation agenda, while our Government, whatever their protestations, has submitted to the European Agenda.

    Time for change in both organisations.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, “UKViewer”. On this site (with some exceptions for reasons known to me) we use our ordinary name for commenting – it helps, I think, to keep this community positive, even when we respectfully disagree with each other. Blessings.

  2. I would be grateful if someone could explain to me what you understand by the phrase “ordered for Communion”. Who ordered us? The only things I have ever ordered for Communion were wine and wafers. Sorry -that sound flippant but I am serious about what this phrase means.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I affirm your point that this “slippery slope” phrase is not obvious. It has that pro-“Angican Covenant” feel to it doesn’t it… Blessings.

    1. Thanks, as always, Peter, for your comment. With respect, this is the very sort of “slippage” that I am suggesting we need to pause for before repeating.

      Firstly, there’s a lot of misinformation – even on websites (I know! I know – surprising!). Originally there were four marks of mission presented as part of the report of “Working Section I: Mission and Ministry” to the sixth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council which took place in Badagry, Nigeria, in 1984 [many sites date the five marks to this year – that, as far as I can see, is incorrect]. At the eighth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Cardiff, Wales, in 1990, a fifth mark was added. [See, the report of “Section II: Mission, Culture and Human Development”]. The marks now became:

      To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
      To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
      To respond to human need by loving service
      To seek to transform unjust structures of society
      To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

      Secondly, correct me if I’m wrong but, as far as I know, the Five Marks of Mission have never been adopted as resolutions of the Anglican Consultative Council or of the Lambeth Conference. As with the Consultative Council, however, the Five Marks of Mission were included and affirmed in the report of “Section II: Called to Live and Proclaim the Good News” in the official report of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

      Now these Five Marks of Mission were discussed in the report of MISSIO (the Mission Commission of the Anglican Communion) to the eleventh meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1999. From there the challenge was: “We commend to each Province (and its dioceses) the challenge of developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture.”

      From there, at the 2009 Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, a sixth mark was agreed to in principle that relates to peace, conflict transformation, and reconciliation – as far as I know the final wording is still being decided.

      So let us compare this with what I presume you are referring to in our Constitution which says:

      …the mission of the Church includes:
      (a) proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
      (b) teaching, baptising and nurturing believers within eucharistic communities of faith,
      (c) responding to human needs by loving service and
      (d) seeking to transform unjust structures of society, caring for God’s creation, and establishing the values of the Kingdom;

      Not only is this not five-fold, but the wording is different. Hence underscoring my point that to state “that the fivefold mission statement is incorporated into our church’s constitution” is the sort of slippage that I am suggesting we need to pause about before uncritically repeating.


  3. Peter Carrell

    I do not disagree with your analysis but I offer also SR01 “SRO1. PRINCIPLES OF MISSION (SR35)
    That this General Synod / te Hīnota Whānui endorses the principles as to the mission of the Church set out by the ACC 6 and ACC 8 resolution(s) namely:
    (i) To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom;
    (ii) To teach, baptise and nurture the new believers;
    (iii) To respond to human needs by loving service;
    (iv) To seek to transform unjust structures of society;
    (v) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth [1988, 1994].”

    The sixth just awaits a wee motion … 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Peter. This is fascinating. Not least that this standing resolution contends that there are ACC6 & 8 “resolutions” on this. My information has no such resolutions – can you point to these ACC resolutions (or can anyone else?)? Should such resolutions exist, of course, they would need precisely this sort of General Synod acceptance to have any weight here. I also note the fudgy language of “…endorses the principles as to the mission…” Let me be clear (I hope I have been) – I think they are very good, important dimensions of mission – but I think they are sorely incomplete. And I am happy to state that here publicly. I am unhappy with a statement that limits the church’s mission to these five dimensions. To limit it solely to these five, for me, would be slippery. I think that, in your saying you do not disagree, that we probably agree at this point also. Blessings.

  4. Before long we’re going to be need a “Twelve Days of Lambeth” carol to remember all of these things.

    On the fifth day of Lambeth the bishops did agree:
    Five marks of Mission!
    Four “shaping” traits,
    Three-leggèd stools,
    Two sacraments,
    and not One source of real Authority.

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