Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Controversial Consecrations...

There has been recent news about a new bishop whose election and consecration reflects and deepens the divisions within the Anglican Communion.

No, not that one.

On April 13th, Canon Peter Hayward was consecrated bishop in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. Bishop Hayward now serves as Bishop of Wollongong, one of the regional Episcopal roles in the Diocese of Sydney.

The press release announcing Peter Hayward’s election contained an intriguing section of his CV:

In 1996 he moved to Spokane in the State of Washington in the USA and became the founding Rector of an independent Anglican congregation known as ‘Christ the Redeemer’.

As the rest of us know, there is no such thing as an ‘independent Anglican congregation’, granted the somewhat idiosyncratic understandings employed in some parts of the Australian Church.

Bishop Hayward cannot be held responsible for what ‘Christ the Redeemer’ now promotes or does, but its present materials show no sign whatsoever of Anglican identity, ‘independent’ or otherwise. It clearly does not adhere to fundamental elements of Anglican polity and theology around Church order. In particular, it does not seem Christ the Redeemer operates under episcopal authority, which makes it an odd spot in the career of someone who just made the declarations and vows required for a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia.

There was and is an Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, which is part of the Anglican Communion. Granted that there are now questions about the state of the Anglican Communion and of the Episcopal Church in particular within it, those questions were ostensibly not in existence in 1996.

An interview about the history of the Church found on Christ the Redeemer’s website explains some of its Anglican roots. Specifically, the founding members left the Episcopal Church after encountering some undeniable failures in local congregations, but were also influenced by the ‘Bible Study Fellowship’. This non-denominational fundamentalist group adheres to a highly prescriptive doctrinal statement whose doctrine of the Church, among other things, is quite alien to Anglicanism.

I don’t think it inconceivable that ordained or other Anglicans work in and with congregations of other traditions and polities, within limits that respect difference and integrity. When we act as though those limits don’t apply or exist, or as though we can use the structures of the Church opportunistically for an agenda that does not respect or recognize them, there is a huge problem.

To suggest that the problems in the Anglican Communion date from the consecration of Gene Robinson, or that those now constructing new confessional bodies were acting respectfully of the Communion and its structures before then, would be to ignore a considerable body of evidence.

Bishops have a unique and difficult role in maintaining unity in truth. We cannot pretend this is presently easy, whatever our opinion of the current difficulties in Anglicanism. On that note, pray for Peter Hayward as he takes up his important ministry in Wollongong. And pray for that other bishop too.

8 comments:

  1. This is not the first time the Diocese of Sydney has stretched the boundaries of Anglicanism. In 1983 Canon Dudley Foord a priest in Sydney was elected as a bishop for the (schismatic?) Church of England in South Africa and consecrated by the Archbishop of Sydney with the Primate of Australia and the Bishop of Kimberly, a Bishop of the CPSA, participating in a gesture of goodwill.

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  2. Andrew you are as perspicacious, wise and generous-minded as ever. Thank you.

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  3. David Conolly12:07 am

    Very enlightening, Andrew. This is the first I've heard of Hayward. It's not really the same issue as the Foord consecration - the CESA continued to claim to be Anglican and maintained basic Anglican practice. Christ the Redeemer Church (if one manages to endure the long interview tape on their website) now fully reject any Anglican affiliation, apart from their debt of gratitude to Moore College, and claim instead to be a kind of neo-Baptist group. I admire your charitable approach, but I must say I find the story disturbing. Thank you for sharing it.

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  4. Neil Hicks5:34 am

    Checked out Christ the Redeemer website.
    looked over the constitution,it is pure Presbyterian - elders are the governing people (men of course!) and the Senior Pastor is an elder. This is straight Knox/Calvin Scottish Presbyterian, which is OK if that is what you are--but Anglican/Episcopal NO WAY!
    N Hicks

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  5. I don't get it. What's the point you are making?

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  6. ian Hore-Lacy4:25 am

    so, Hayward has moved from that ecclesiology to Australian Anglicanism. So what? many others have moved from Brethren and Baptist roots and formation to be loyal and productive Anglicans, too. Are you trying to say that he didn't mean his consecration vows? Is he living in a way which is offensive to Anglican doctrine and polity? If not, where's the problem?

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  7. In response to Michael Jensen and Ian Hore-Lacy -

    a) There is no such body as an independent Anglican Church. Anglican Churches throughout the world are connnexional.

    b)to Ian - Hayward has moved from what particular polity? Dio Sydney names it as "Independent Anglican", but the website of the congregation shows not an ounce of Anglican polity. So why did Dio Sydney name it as an "Independent Anglican" place.

    c) To anyone. Was Hayward ever confirmed in an Anglican congregation? Did his Presbyteral ordination use an Anglican Ordinal? (assuming that he was a Presbyter before he took off to Spokane)

    d) It would be more accurate to say that Hayward has moved to "Sydney Anglicanism" - which is not the same as "Australian Anglicanism".

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  8. Anonymous1:25 am

    Sorry, I for one still do not get it. Why should serving in an independent church overseas be an impediment to serve now as a bishop? Would you propose to exclude missionaries that are required to serve overseas outside the Anglican Church on this basis? Is some concept of churchmanship more important than the gospel?

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