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NZ Lectionary 2013

What unites us?

NZ Lectionary 2013

I want to share an email I received with you. But first some reflections around the 2013 NZ Lectionary publication.

Let’s not get too hassled that it incorrectly put Daylight Saving on Easter Day. There was no real problem with having people turn up an hour early at church and having their own personal Easter Vigil. But what is it that the Gospel reading on the Day of Pentecost is incorrect? Is someone really every year typing in every single reading individually, one by one, and typed that one in incorrectly?!

What about the suggesting that we should change to Red from Ascension to the Day of Pentecost (with no alternative provided when other days have up to all four colours given as alternatives!)? Well, you know I just think that is wrong. And remember the Lectionary explicitly says that “[liturgical colours indicated] are not mandatory but reflect the common practice in most parishes.” Seriously?!!! Lots of days get options (even all four colours!) but apparently you out there are all using Red during the Easter Season?! Well I have been using White for the whole Easter Season.

This year there’s a new rule. I have not the slightest idea where this rule is coming from. Tell me. This year, suddenly, “The reading from Acts must be used each Sunday in Eastertide” (image above). Where does the Lectionary get this stuff?! Certainly not from the Revised Common Lectionary. As far as I can see.

Let’s not get into a discussion about Ascension Day which has “This is a principal feast and should not be displaced by any other celebration” but can be transferred to Sunday where it can be replaced by Easter 7…

The problem, of course, with having a tradition of errors in the printed lectionary is that no one is assured which are the errors and which are correct. Another win for those (many) who don’t bother to follow the lectionary.

The email:

I am an avid follower of your website as well as a priest in The Episcopal Church. In the post on heretical hymnody you mention that your church has no authorized hymnal. You’ve also decried the decline of traditional collects, the confused ordo calendar and liturgy so permissive that any sense of common prayer is largely lost. I’m genuinely curious in what way your church understands its “Anglican” character? I’ve been to Episcopal Churches all over the US and though their particular affect or character may differ, they are all recognizably Prayer Book services. I guess what I’m getting at is that here, by and large, it is our common liturgy (and often precious little else) that draws us together and makes us see one another as “us.”

How is “us” defined within New Zealand Anglicanism? My international church experience is quite limited. You have followers all over the world, do you think that in our respective national churches, we are elevating only some aspects of a mythical “pan-Anglicanism” and diminishing others, which might contribute to our mutual misunderstanding?

Please keep up all your good work!

So here’s the question to Kiwi readers here:
How does the Anglican Church here understand itself? What unites us? What makes us Anglican? Is it anything more than “two degrees of separation” – the fact that our church is so small that everybody knows somebody who knows you?
And internationally:
What makes Anglicans (Episcopalians) Anglican? Internationally, what makes you recognise Kiwi Anglicans as Anglican, for example?

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22 thoughts on “What unites us?”

  1. With respect to your correspondent I have seen as much variety in TEC as I do in NZ, possibly more. I believe the only thing that really makes us Anglicans is our choice to be such, and it will be the only thing that keeps us together.
    And (warning; shameless self-promotion) just noting that it was Living Liturgy that revealed the mistake in the gospel reading for this week:)

    1. Thanks, Brian. Could you unpack “the only thing that really makes us Anglicans is our choice to be such, and it will be the only thing that keeps us together.” please? A fascinating statement. What is the “such”? Is it just the word “Anglican” – empty of any meaning? Or what is it that choosing to be “Anglican” actually involves? I cannot understand your statement, hence my asking for clarification. Is the answer to “What unites us?” merely “calling ourselves ‘Anglican'”? Christ is risen.

      ps. does Living Liturgy require the Acts reading on Easter Season Sundays – or has that error not yet been revealed?

  2. I guess I could list some other things – being part of something bigger than ourselves (not congregational), corporate worship, not passive observers, etc – but what I meant was there is no real formula that makes us Anglican – there may have been once, but certainly not now. I choose to be Anglican – to be part of the institution that is the Anglican Church – and that is enough. This was my problem with the proposed covenant. It would never have worked and anything similar never will. If I’m an Anglican tomorrow it will be because I choose to be such, not any formula I sign up to. That’s enough for me anyway.

    1. The danger of e-conversations is that, as we continue this conversation, it could have an argumentative feel. I am not at all trying to be argumentative, Brian, as I seek your further elucidation.

      We are already saying that Anglicanism (whatever we finally settle on that word meaning) in fact is congregational. You actually responded that it is even more congregational overseas than here. So what is the “something bigger” that you are part of? In actual, real, concrete practice?

      Corporate worship, and not being passive observers does not define “Anglican” – it is true of any other number of groups. So doing that does not define one as Anglican. Is, I posit, not what unites us.


  3. Working backwards: I have no problem with not being unique – perhaps what is unique about Anglicans is we have nothing unique only to us. I don’t think we need anything ‘uniquely ours’ to unite us.
    I never said that what I’ve experienced in TEC is congregational (although some of it is). What I said was there was as much, and maybe more, vartiety within the American Church as there is in NZ. That doesn’t make it congregational. My current parish is very different to those around us, but we remain part of the wider diocese and province, and recognise our unity with the wider Church within our diversity. Nothing congregational about that. The ‘something bigger’ is about relationship, not uniformity.
    Therein, I believe, lies the challenge. Now that we no longer do the same, think the same and look the same, how do we maintain a relationship? My answer is, by choosing to do so.

    1. So, Brian, are you saying what I said in the post: there’s nothing that unites us except being small and having two degrees of separation, what you call, “relationship”? Blessings.

  4. Peter Carrell

    We are united by our living under the authority of a local bishop (even though sometimes that authority is disregarded) where that local bishop ( for there could be one or two or three) is her or himself bound by the authority of the General Synod whose own authority is governed by conformity to the doctrine of Christ as explained in the BCP, NZPB, 39A and ordinal (am working from memory at this point ). Anyone who tells you differently is wrong. Or disagrees with me!

    1. Thanks, Peter. That at least is an expression of unity that can be discussed, as far as I can see. What does it mean to be under an authority that is sometimes disregarded? And how often or how much disregarding before one ceases to be able to talk about unity? Are we there yet? Ever close? Tending that way? Blessings.

  5. No. I don’t think you’re ‘hearing’ me Bosco. I’m saying it has nothing to do with size or separation and everything to do with choice – as in choosing to be in relationship with a whole group of others – far and near – who choose to be Anglican.

    1. To me this feels circular, Brian – being Anglican are those who choose to be Anglican.

      An alien anthropologist lands in a Flying Saucer to investigate the tribe %$#@! and asks a member of the tribe, “I’m genuinely curious in what way your tribe understands its “%$#@!” character?” “How is “us” defined within %$#@!?” That is the question in the post. Saying, “being %$#@! is being in relationship with all others who choose to be %$#@!” has a certain Zen-ness about it – but you might also understand my struggle to ‘hear’ you.



  6. Peter Carrell

    We are a complex church so on some things we are united, others tending that way, and far apart on others. Then, as you know, there is also the question of unity within parts of the whole: parishes have their moments!

    In one way we are united quite well. It is my estimation that if we removed sex, St John’s College and the use of the SJC Trust Board funds from the agenda, there would be nothing to discuss at General Synod! (Assuming well written collects do not require amendment on the floor of synod 🙂 )

    1. Removing St John’s College and the use of the SJC Trust Board, Peter, would (to use Brian’s language) still have me choosing to be Anglican. Let me think a little longer about your third suggestion. Blessings.

  7. Peter Carrell

    The key words, Bosco, are “from the agenda”! The agenda of GS is not to be confused with daily life 🙂

  8. Mark Aitchison

    Anglicans are probably the hardest to pin down of all denominations by outward appearance: from the Church Army (that looks and feels like the Salvation Army) to bells-and-smells in some parishes that out-do some Roman Catholics. I am sure a lot of Anglicans appreciate the fact that this denomination is a cross-section of the entire Christian body, and where Christianity goes, Anglicanism goes; all our problems and joys are found in various other parts of the church, but usually not all at once! So I think that being a broad collection of Christianity – and treasuring that – is an important part of who we are, it unites us.

    Even more vital is a common *approach* over many centuries – rather than the doctrinal conclusions reached. I recently read a quote from Carl Sagan: “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge”. I think something similar can be said about what it means to be Anglican: more important than (say) the historic 39 articles or some other details of doctrine is the approach seen in Paul Zahl’s book “Five women of the English Reformation”, and especially in the BCP section “Of Ceremonies…”:

    “Of such Ceremonies as be used in the Church, and have had their beginning by the institution of man, some at first were of godly intent and purpose devised, and yet at length turned to vanity and superstition…”

    The process of looking at ourselves and what we do every so often, even looking at what we considered a Good Idea in the past, and being prepared to change anything (even what might seem to identify us as who we are) if it isn’t bringing glory to God now, is extremely important (and very difficult at times, so perhaps we go through more agony than if we stayed put, but we are not led to stay put and never change!).

  9. I am the email writer referenced in the blog. And the thought that drove my question was wondering whether Anglicans in other provinces understood “Anglican” in very different ways and what role this hypothesized difference might play in Communion-wide disputes.

    I’ve been a part of the life of 5 parishes in all different parts of the US, and worshipped at dozens more. We are obviously not monolithic, but I would guess that the general understanding of “anglican” in the Episcopal Church USA rests on the link to the ancient church through the Apostolic Succession and the related role of bishops in our life, The Prayer Book, an open mind towards matters of doctrine, its international connections, and a desire for continuity.
    It is also my opinion that the lack of a strong evangelical wing in the episcopal church may have shaped it in ways different from others in the Communion. Thank you to those who participated in this discussion.

    1. Peter Carrell

      I think Anglicans in different parts of the Communion do understand ‘Anglican’ differently. And in those parts there are different understandings, that is evaluations of what makes an Anglican an Anglican: continuity, Communion with Canterbury, use of BCP and/or it local, modern ‘replacement’, adherence and/or formal/informal allegiance to 39A (which version?), conformity with the mind of the Communion and/or submission to the authority of the local General Synod/Convention, and so forth.

      As I reflect further on things such as having bishops with the rejoinder that that is not uniquely Anglican, some kind of minimal definition of Anglican stirs within me beginning with ‘having bishops but in an ultimately Protestant rather than Catholic way’ (but one could say that of episcopal Lutherans and Methodists) so then ‘having bishops Protestantly in a formal and informal manner shaped by a myriad of Anglican factors such as heritage, formation, liturgical traditions themselves strongly shaped implicitly if not explicitly by the BCP (1662), 39A (CofE) and Ordinal, understanding of the heritage of the English Reformation seguing into the Elizabethan Settlement with later moulding by Evangelical Revival and Anglo-Catholic movement.’

      I will stop there, everything incomplete. But I think the lines of difference to Brian Dawson’s take re ‘choice’ emerge. Grouping with Anglicans (or ‘Anglicans’) who on closer inspection turned out to explicitly repudiate (say) bishops of an Anglican character would not be satisfying to Anglicans conscious of being Anglican in their being.

  10. “rests on the link to the ancient church through the Apostolic Succession and the related role of bishops in our life, The Prayer Book, an open mind towards matters of doctrine, its international connections, and a desire for continuity.”
    Thanks for your clarification Jon. I think the list you offer is about right, less perhaps the Prayer Book in some places (which of course once upon a time would have been the first thing people pointed to in any description of Anglican). I would also agree with your assessment as to why there may be a degree of uniformity in the US not present in some places.
    Of course (minus the Prayer Book) none of what you mention is completely unique to Anglicanism, which I, as I’ve mentioned previously, don’t think matters at all. I’m not sure being Anglican rests on needing to be unique. Of course in this day of extremely porous denominational boundaries being any denomination is often less important than being part of / belonging. I guess within that what we usually do quite well is the “being part of something bigger than just ourselves” bit.

  11. I thought I’d share this quote from today’s letter from our bishop (+Justin Duckworth). It seems appropriate here:
    ” Unity only really matters in diversity. Unity is never really tested in homogenous groups; it’s only tested and strengthened when we choose to be family in the face of difference. This is what I appreciate about the Anglican Communion: that I belong in an incredibly globally diverse family where there is even a place for a ragamuffin like me.”

    1. A good quote, thanks, Brian. It does, for me, however, return me to my original question: what (even in your quote) is the unity around? What unifies? In a family (the metaphor being used in your quote) there will be biological (genetic) and legal (marriage) connections that unify and define “family”. What is it that unifies the Anglican Communion in Bishop Justin’s quote? Blessings.

  12. As a Lutheran, what unites us is common adherence to the Lutheran Confessions. The seminary I attended, played host to an Anglican Church of Canada seminary. We shared worship, classes and fellowship. In addition, the ACC and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada are in a full communion agreement.

    As Lutherans, who find our theological and confessional centre in the Book of Concord, we always found it hard to nail down our Anglican brothers and sisters on their theology. We would ask things like, “How many sacraments are there?” and get answers like, “1 or 2 or 7 or more than can be counted”.

    Our seminary professors would say that if you wanted to know what an Anglican believes, read their prayer book. And as a more High Church leaning leaning Lutheran, I appreciated this kind of confessional location.

    However in Canada, Anglicans are almost uniformly Book of Alternative Services folks (the ACC’s update to the BCP). To imagine Anglicans who diverge significantly from the BAS (or comparable resource) is difficult.

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