Thursday, May 18, 2006

Archbishop Phil Jenson and the emerging Church

last week i posted some responses to an article from the Sydney Diocese about the emerging church. This week I attended a conference in Christchurch where the main speaker was the archbishop of that diocese. Needless to say I was looking forward to having my views negative views reinforced by the prejudice and shallowness of the Archbishop of Sydney. But I was wrong.
While I cannot agree with everything that was said i took his thoughts as an opportunity to refine my own, his challanges as an opportunity to rethink soemthings.
The first thing i would like to say is that this man has a sense of humour, an important aspect of communicating potentialy negative information/thoughts is to do so in a way that makes people at ease - he did this well.
Much of his first talk regarded the nature of and future of the Church - he quoted extensively from Kevin Ward's analysis of the New Zealand situation, and agreed with much of what Kevin said. Believing that the church needs to become more fluid, however Jensen wanted to suggest that the fluidity relates to structure and not Theology - we should maintain a solid doctrinal basis. A criticism he gave of the Anglican church was it's willingness to be fluid in its doctrines but not in its structure (a criticism i would agree with). So what of this solid doctrinal base is it possible when removed from a solid structure, i for one am not sure whether that is entirely possible. Which is why I would prefer to talk of agreed and shared values or a rule of life as grouping principle - in my opinion that allows for structural fluidity - commonality and a high level of solidity in theology over first order principles (slavation, nature of Christ etc...)But allows room for the indivuduals values judgement on others (women wearings hats, music etc..) While this isn't perfect i think it does allow us to be missional and contextual in our work, and at the end of the day I think the nature of a 'church' should be formed more by it's mission than ancient theological principles that may have little connection. I also think that the values/rule of life think leaves space for people to associate with a group in spite of their beliefs on the important values - it's about journey rather than having arrived at a point of belief.
A second point of agreement I found with him was over the limit of diversity in fellowship, in his words comprehensiveness has never really been an option in the Christian church. There are certain guiding principles, the irony is that in the Anglican Church one cannot minister if you are opposed to infant baptism (which I am) but you can if you don't believe in the ressurection or the divinty of Christ, duh...
A third apsect i found some resonance with was over the way that Justice issues have tended to take precident over theology. He cites that this is where the homosexual ordination debate should be, believeing that those who say it is right do so on justice basis rather than a sound theoligcal base. I say i agree in part with this but not in it's entirety - Justice is in my opinion an aspect of what forms theology, it is not though I think right to make it the entire formative factor of any theology.
So what about women in ministry - well in his opinion it is a matter of order rather than salavtion and therefore not essential - he recognised the NZ dissagrement with them on that. As for the ordiantion of Gay clergy, well this is an area I have a difficulty with, believing that homosexuality is sin and that no one who willfully follows a sinful path should seek ordaintion. there is lots to say on that issue but I feel i have said enough.

So what challenges can i take out of this for the emerging church, I think the major one relates to why are we emergent? Well For me I prefer the term missional as it reflects my desire and commsion from Jesus to proclaim good news. For that end I will attempt to engage, confront, embrace, cherish and utilize that which allows me to share the Jesus I have come to know. The challenge of Sydney is to do so whiel remaining Biblical and doctrinaly sound (issues of what is appropriate interpretation spring to mind here) , this is a challenge I want to convey the story to make it come alive in the context i find myself in. I cannot do that without risk and by being narrow. To proclaim the gospel in this context I think draws us back to a previous post, where I said that I do not nail my foot to a particaular theoloigcal slant but anchor a bungy to that slant - evangelical - giving me freedom to move and incorporate what i see as approrpiate form other spectrums and positions

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