Church Leadership: Recognising and respecting authority and why AMiE makes me more than nervous

No. Amie, isn’t somebody I have a crush on. The Amie I am referring to is actually the Anglican Mission in England.

If you would like the conservative Anglican explanation about what it is you should read this. The post is coloured in a way that is very much favourable to the formation.

If you would like to read an Evangelical criticism, the Fulcrum statement is worth your time, even though the website is as ugly as a turd. That’s the background.

This post is a look at AMiE seen through the lens of a sympathetic conservative who understands why it was created but who is distressed at the development for a number of reasons: It undermines the larger churches witness and the witness of the conservative wing particularly. In my view it actually goes against Gods word in that it undermines the authority we have been commanded to adhere to. Finally, because of the first and second, it undermines the authority and the strength of the leaders and preachers (and their witness) who lead congregations within FCA in the UK.

Unusually insightful comedienne

The Guardians religious affairs correspondent offered a provocative, witty and above all satirical view of the AMiE issue in her divine dispatches this week. It’s a rather spunky Britney Spears video entitled: If you seek Amy. Do watch it as it’s the best illustration about how this all looks to an outsider. (Edit: Note minute 2:43 and onward is key)

The creation of Amie follows the creation of FoCA, but all the similar sounding joviality jokes aside, I think Riazat, through the video, offers a poignant criticism of the formation of AMiE. Sadly it also shows how she views the people who are involved in actions which tend toward disobeying what they themselves hold up to be the most important thing to guide our lives and conduct, namely the teachings of the Bible.

I say sadly not because Riazat misunderstands what Amie means to the conservative leaning churches desire in asking for alternative oversight, (I think she doesn’t really care about them), but it is sad because it reflects back to the conservatives what they have done, namely: sully the witness of the church through seeming holier than thou, rather than pointing to Jesus. They think they are pointing to Jesus by doing exactly what they did, but obviously somebody didn’t get the message. That’s the fault of the communicator.

But it does bare saying that the accusation of pharisaic “better than yours” nature of AMiE is accurate in at least the sense that the conservatives have decided to disrespect the authority structure which we are commanded to adhere to.

Obey those who have been put in authority over you 

Disobedience comes into this—or at least perceived disobedience—not only to the Archbishop and through him to the Queen, but also through that disobedience, to the word of God. Ok strong words. But let me work this argument out before you go all ape, (or cheer if you’re that way inclined).

Though it is said among proponents that the Archbishop knew about the formation of AMiE, nothing is thus far on public record as to say whether he agrees with it or not and whether it received his blessing. I rather doubt that it did. But silence means a degree of toleration. What we do know, is that after three men where sent to Africa to be ordained (irregular ordination) under cloak and dagger circumstances, a press release was sent out announcing the creation of AMiE. These things went hand in hand.

Why having an established church cuts both ways

Consistency is important. Romans 13 talks about the requirement Christians have to respect authority and while most people would then say that Romans 13 talks about obedience to the state and Government, we must recognize that through having C of E Bishops in the House of Lords, and because the Monarch is, de jure, the Supreme Governor of both the state and the church through divine appointment, those desiring to stay loyal and within the Church of England must at least attempt to read Romans 13 in that light and apply those principles.

Many leaders within FCA would also want to affirm the Christian heritage that our country has prospered through. They would want to affirm the position of the Bishops in the House of Lords and further require that in some way the Christian faith an interpretation of Biblical principles are applied to the state legislature. They would claim there is a precedent to do so, precisely because of the Church of England’s relationship to the state. If they wish to do so, they cannot have it both ways.

Other passages on authority

Furthermore, passages such as 1 Timothy 6, while talking about the slave/master relationship, are worth taking into consideration here, because the principle of employment, but not payment (and I have heard sermons preached on this subject in FCA churches), tell us to respect those who have been put into authority over us (whether political or otherwise), so that we can be a witness to them of Gods love. While I would not want to say that FCA leadership should be like slaves to their masters within the C of E, the respect they preach should be modelled to those of us in action.

The Archbishops have to be respected. York and Canterbury have, in their wisdom (like it or not) decided that the current C of E authority and parish structures should be adhered to and that irregular ordinations and as far as I understand, should not occur. The Archbishop has appointed flying bishops for the Anglo-Catholics. I don’t see why application for such an opportunity should not have been made for the Conservative Evangelicals, unless this is actually about power.

On the subject of homosexuality (which is why some churches in South London are in impaired communion with their overseeing Bishop), both Archbishops have affirmed what the Lambeth Conference agreed in 1998, neither of them has dissented from the Windsor Report, and we wait to hear what they say about the forthcoming House of Bishops forthcoming reviews of policy in light of the developments around civil partnerships.

While FCO leaders would say that the Archbishop has done too little to chastise those that have caused the problems in the first place, he has set in motion a move for reconciliation, and has made it clear privately that he will resist the Governments move to allow homosexual marriage. He is taking the long view and the FCO is impatient and for my money does not see the problematic context in which the Archbishop finds himself. Does that mean the Archbishop is weak or unfit to serve? That’s not for me to decide. However, respect is due to him as well as to his wishes as well as to the House of Bishops.

As far as we can tell York and Canterbury fit very well into the class of an overseer as described in 1 Timothy 3, particularly where it says: “not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” and “he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace…” So while it is in line with obedience to be in “impaired communion” with Bishops and those in authority in the C of E who are not willing to preach and teach what the Bible says, or indeed what the Lambeth Conference affirms, it is disrespectful to those who are in authority to avoid their authority for the sake of causing trouble for those who are, or are perceived to be, false teachers.

Modelling proper authority through showing obedience

On the last point about modelling authority, I find it is good to turn around the effect Amie might be having on those in the authority structure of the C of E, who have been disrespected. [Edit: I have removed a section here as I found it was unhelpful, and added the following up to the end of the paragraph] Are we to understand that church politics in the local congregation should follow a similar pattern if we find the direction of the local church in relation to other issues, where we find the church is lacking {lets say in relation to engaging with issues of public justice, or about church diversity}? I don’t think we should, but it begs the question and relates to issues that are far clearer in the bible than that of homosexuality or the ordination of women.

Currently I find that the language around FCO and Amie, tends towards doublespeak from those who have decided the way forward is to undermine the Archbishop, the House of Bishops and their affiliates. I also find that the way this has been talked about within the congregations I have been to, has been very lop-sided, to the point where the implications of what has happened have been obscured. [Edit: no doubt for the sake of simplicity and church unity and stability. Nevertheless, if we are being take into a right royal battle, I for one want more clarity about what is going on, why its happening now, and what this means for the future of the congregation, including whether this is about pastors being put away because of their unwillingness to marry gays.]

Show me the funniest of men

Hypocrisy serves Riazat the comedienne in two ways in that it is at once the gun powder and the target of the cannon ball. Any comedian worth her keep will acknowledge that we are all hypocrites, but she is not required to do so, nor to offer a solution to the problem. However any theologian worth the salt he dishes out, will always have to point us back to the Christ-act, and ask for forgiveness for we know not what we do.

If you feel this is unfair theologically badly analysed, please let me know. I am open to correction and clarification.

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18 Responses to Church Leadership: Recognising and respecting authority and why AMiE makes me more than nervous

  1. Guy says:

    Good read, Lauri. Some questions wanting answers in there.

    • Lauri Moyle says:

      Thanks Guy. Yes I think your right to frame these as questions, thanks for phrasing it that way. It helps me.

  2. Phil says:

    I also was disconcerted by the apparent cloak-and-dagger politics around AMIE. I don’t know why it was all so sudden and surprising, which makes me suspicious of the whole enterprise.

    I think your paragraph that mentions 1 Timothy 3 hits the nail on the head.

    When it comes down to it, I don’t really understand why churches couldn’t just remain in “impaired communion” with a dodgy bishop. When it comes down to it, what exactly has been gained by the introduction and creation of AMIE? theurbanpastor’s post does not explain this, though it does mention that it means “those who are genuinely in need of effective orthodox oversight in the Church of England can receive it”. Why would people “genuinely need” any oversight? And why do they need it now, rather than however many years ago (or however many years in the future)? Until I know the answers to those two questions, I don’t think I’ll be able to understand the arguments in favour of AMIE.

    • Phil C says:

      I think this post is a lot clearer (and in a better spirit) now that you’ve made those edits!

      • Lauri Moyle says:

        Thanks. The spirit of the thing wasnt meant in a bad way, but there are other examples that abound on the issue which we can talk about more.

    • Sinner says:

      Parishes and the Co-Mission now have AMiE oversight because
      a) the CoE diocese would not ordain their candidates for priesthood
      b) they cannot in good conscience be ordained by an heretic.

      • Lauri Moyle says:

        a) is not clear. There has been no public statement about that b) Might be, I trust the people who went to see the new Bishop and that they where in due course persuaded that he is in fact a heretic. But there is still c) with regards to the archbishop and canon law, which has not been asnwered and which I will continue to bang on about until it is.

        Now Sinner. Want to come out of your cloak of anonymity?

  3. Tom C says:

    Hi Lauri,

    I’ve yet to get my head around all of this – and your thoughts and the questions you pose are very useful, so thank you! However, I’m not sure I follow your logic when arguing that Canterbury and York should be treated as the overseers and respected, when the worldwide Anglican communion is expressing doubt over the rightness of that point of view. The GAFCON Archbishops released their Jerusalem Statement including the following:

    “Our fellowship is not breaking away from the Anglican Communion. We, together with many other faithful Anglicans throughout the world, believe the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism… We intend to remain faithful to this standard, and we call on others in the Communion to reaffirm and return to it. While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

    I find it hard to know whether to apply the clear teaching about obedience in the workplace to overseers and masters (whatever their quality) when in the case of the church, the ultimate overseer is Christ, not the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    I was encouraged by the fact that the “episcopal oversight” that AMiE is offering will be from men who either are or have been C of E bishops, rather than simply setting up alternative men as rivals. These are guys who’ve been approved by the Anglican authority and served in this capacity already.

    I was equally unsettled by the cloak-and-dagger approach though…

    Like I say, I’m still trying to wrangle it through in my own mind. Interesting to see the reaction from Fulcrum.


    • Lauri Moyle says:

      Thanks Tom. The fact remains that the oversite in the UK is handled by Rowan and John. To question the Timothy reference begs the question as to who my boss is, so in that sense opens the very question i was posing with regard to other authority. But I maintain Roman 13 within this debate it is important. As for the AMiE cofe bishops. Why did they not ordain our chaps then? It’s a weakness that shows this to be about something else. As for GAFCON, well ok, but why even mention Rowan as historic See? In which case the whole argument is, why is he no longer seen as first among equals? But that’s going beyond what I wanted to raise here. So I don’t see how your point challenge what I am worried about.

  4. Phil Allcock says:

    Hi Lauri.
    You raise some interesting questions, but there are some factual issues with what you write. I hope you don’t mind me picking up on two of them.

    First, the African ordinations were not in any way irregular. If you think they were, you must explain how. If you’re not sure of their status, then it’s better to say that rather than state that they are irregular.

    Second, although I’m glad you edited the original post, I still read this post as suggesting that if say, CCB members behaved towards Perks the way he has towards the bishop of Southwark, then he would be indignant, and they would be out of order (if I’ve misread that, then apologies and I’ll withdraw what follows). Well, we need to work that idea through, rather than leave it hanging as a theoretical suggestion.

    For someone in CCB to treat Perks the way they have the bishop of Southwark would involve the following:

    1. The congregation member comes to believe that Perks (for example) has either failed to fulfil his duties as a pastor, or has committed some act that violates his duties as such.

    2. They would then need to carefully investigate the matter, and then contact Perks to express their concerns and seek a meeting to clarify it.

    3. They would wait months, or even years for such a meeting, and if that meeting was unclear and unsatisfactory, they would seek further meetings.

    4. Then they would consult discretely with others who have responsibility for overseeing Perks in accordance with the Bible, probably in this case the elders and other Co-Mission staff to discuss the matter and seek redress.

    5. If after all this they were convinced that there were no extenuating circumstances etc, the behaviour was indeed ungodly and unbecoming for a pastor, they would then ask those in authority over Perks to act to discipline him.

    6. If after a reasonable period no such action had been taken, then the person would be right to raise the matter with other church members and with regret, tears and ongoing prayers for Perks, to leave the church.

    Would Perks have a problem with that process (in theory, none of us like being corrected in practice!)? No, I hope he wouldn’t.

    I know something of the background now to what has happened, and I suspect you would be amazed at how slowly, how cautiously, how reluctantly Perks et al have acted. I suspect you might be amazed at how much prayer has gone into it, how many people have been consulted, how graciously they have dealt with those in authority in what they have said and written.

    • Lauri Moyle says:

      Thanks for your comments Phil. To your first point. What about sending people to Kenya from England to be ordained is regular? Does it happen often? Is it usual practice?
      I don’t have to clarify why it is irregular. The second time I mention irregular ordination I do qualify the statement, that as far as I understand it its irregular. Who am I, but somebody who doubts information that he reads on the internet. But now that the Archbishop has come out as basically saying the ordinations do not fulfil English Cannon Law: “It is not clear what process of recognised scrutiny and formation has taken place and how, in the absence of Letters Dimissory (the relevant formal letters from the sponsoring bishop), they have come to be recommended as candidates for ordination by the authorities of another province.” I feel I was right to call the ordination irregular. But perhaps the term “irregular ordination” means something else and I have misunderstoods its legal or more formal use? Please do fill me in if I am wrong. Always ready to be corrected.

      But I am a bit confused that you even want to question me on that today, a day after the Archbishop said it was irregular, unless you want to, for some reason discredit me.
      In your second question you are right to think that you have misunderstood what I said and meant. By both what I put up initially and what I then put up as edited. What I am saying is that if FCA and AMiE leaders are being disobedient to canon Law and the Archbishop, they are modelling behaviour to us which is contrary to the very thing they teach us on a day to day basis, undermining what they say, by engaging in a structural challenge to the Archbishops authority, which if modelled by the congregation in which I participate, would be wrong. Is that clear enough?

      Lots of prayer, lots of patience still doesn’t justify contravening god’s decrees. So the question then remains, on what basis was the Archbishops authority challenged and if it was not done because he is a false teacher, what was the reason, and why does AMiE still seem to recognize his authority?

  5. Phil Allcock says:

    Thanks Lauri
    Irregular is indeed a technical term, which the Archbishop does not use. Indeed, you’ll notice that his statement asks questions about the ordinations, rather than calling them illegal/irregular/etc. Those questions have been answered in brief and will be done so more fully in the near future.

    As to the timing – I’ve only just come up for air after Revive and I am not a regular reader of blogs. I don’t see how it could be construed as an attempt to discredit, it was rather an attempt to show why I think you were wrong. Disagreement is fine, so long as it is gracious. Perhaps I failed in that, if so, I apologise.

    I don’t think your second point though is right. You write as if the obligation to obey the bishops is unqualified. Do you really mean that? Or to put it in concrete terms: The previous bishop of Southwark circulated a letter ordering clergy not to inquire into the whether a certain class of people were obeying the bible’s teaching on sex if they presented themselves for baptism. To obey the bishop’s letter would be to disobey the teaching of Scripture which require pastors to teach people to obey Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Who should Perks obey in those circumstances?

    The irony is that I think Perks takes the authority thing more seriously than most – he is not happy to play the fingers crossed behind my back, ‘oh yes we agree with you bishop’ nonsense when there is a serious theological disagreement. He wants to make sure that if he has to obey the bishop, that he’s not disobeying Christ by doing so. I commend him for that.


  6. Lauri Moyle says:

    So Mr. or should I say Rev. Allcock?, what was it in my post that you found interesting? (per your first sentence.)

    Could you please point me in the direction (preferably online) HOW the Archbishop has been answered? Because I have not seen anywhere where it has been clarified that you are ordained.

    You misunderstand me completely. Perhaps it is unclear from my blog post, but I fail to see how it could be. Anyway… I am talking about disobedience to the ARCH-Bishop, in the above blog post. Impaired communion with the Bishop of Southwalk (previous) was NEVER a problem for me. The current Bishop has not said anything publicly (as far as I know) which would imply that we should be in impaired communion, but I trust Perks and Coeken enough to know that if they are unhappy with him and went ahead with Kenya then there is probably something amiss with the current +Southwalk. Is that clear now?

    Let’s talk scripture because I know you like scripture (as do I), and online discussion previous you have said things to the effect that ‘the bible is simple to understand’ (not direct quotes, but close enough I think, please correct me if I am wrong).

    Now given your (irregular?) ordination, (and the fact that you know so much about the background of the issues which some of us have been left in the dark about), what parts of the post above do you feel able to comment about in light of what the bible says are wrong in relation to respecting authority? Have I misunderstood a passage? Have I misunderstood what FCA and AMiE are doing and what the implication of their action is?

    Given what the Archbishop has said, will you be able to officiate now? And what does officiate mean within this context? Marry people? Baptize people? Preach? Pray in public? Lead a service? I assume you will at least be able to read the bible in front of the church, if you cannot do the other things? I don’t know how these things work…

    Please come back at me with the bible, because I do want to be corrected if I am wrong. But if you are going to claim that your ordination was regular, tell me why it was so. Given people where not told about it, it was in Kenya etc etc… tell me how it relates to the Archbishop and what he said yesterday. Please above all tell me why it happened now, and how it helped the witness of the commission network to show the grace, mercy and above all righteousness of Jesus Christ and how we are saved through his work on the cross. Unless of course we have already broken away from the See, and you and the other chaps are now “missionaries in England”. I would be happy to hear that. But I still think how it was done was cynical, political and below what Gods expectations for us are.

    I am a failed human, saved by the act of Jesus on the cross. I am a hypocrite who has failed colossally. But I think God will provide answers for me one way or the other to this.

  7. Pingback: Church Leadership: Recognising and respecting authority and why … « Feeds « Church Leadership Blog

  8. Phil Allcock says:

    Lauri thanks for the clarifications and the questions.
    I will get back to you shortly when I have time to write something considered. I think these discussions are almost always better done in person so that misunderstandings can be cleared up instantly and clarifications asked for etc, but I’ll pen something in the next day or two when time allows.

  9. Lauri Moyle says:

    Please do. But for the avoidance of doubt I will emphasise that it was you who made this personal not my blog post, so perhaps you should have come to me personally if you feel this sort of discussion was meant to be kept in that relm. As far as I can tell from the leaders who I am asked to follow, blogging about this is not and indeed in my opinion should not be off the table, particularly when this is a national, if not international issue of concern.

  10. Phil Allcock says:

    Hi Lauri. Wasn’t aware I’d made it personal!
    Look, I’m actually not going to post substantively. In part I’m just up to my eyeballs. But more than that I think this is better done face to face. There are issues of confidentiality in some of the things I’d want to say, and the conversation tends to be far more constructive when you sit down with a decent coffee and an open bible.

    Let me know if you’re up for that.
    I’m not against online discussions in principle, but until we’ve met and chatted face to face, it’s really rather hard to read the tone correctly, etc. I already get the sense that we are mis-reading each other’s tone/meaning and rather than let that continue, why don’t we meet face to face?


  11. Lauri Moyle says:

    Thanks Phil. My blog post does not mention any names, neither does it mention the church that I worship at. I just talked to Pete and feel fine keeping it within my own church, thank you though. Addressing how the Archbishop has been treated has not yet been addressed and other issues which I am concerned about but I will talk to my people about this. If you would like to address what the content of this blog is about, please do.

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