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I was reflecting today that in the last fortnight I've received four pearls of wisdom from four Anglican bishops.  That's right, I said Anglican bishops.

The first pearl came from retired Bishop John Taylor who spoke at our ordination retreat.  He told the story of a pastoral visit to a very ill woman in hospital.  It represents brilliantly what I think pastoral practice (and good evangelism) boils down to.  Here's how I remember his re-telling:

I told her God's grace was for her - even for her.

She said "No, it couldn't be, you don't know what I've done."

I told her "Christ said 'The healthy don't need a doctor, the sick do.  I've not come to call the righteous but sinner.' It really is for you."

She said "No."

I said "Yes!"... 

...Eventually she received Christ.

 

Brilliant!  The word from beyond comes, contradicts and finally comforts.  It perfectly encapsulates my understanding of ministry.

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The next pearl comes from my Bishop of Chichester in his charge to us priests prior to ordination.   He spoke about public worship:

It is fundamental for biblical faith that God is the subject and not the object of the liturgy.  In [OT] Temple worship, it is God who reveals himself, his presence, his name, his will.  The cultus was not a kind of magical conjuring up of a compliant deity but the place at which by thankful remembrance of what God has done in the past God himself has the opening to disclose himself again, here and now, to renew faith and secure its transmission to the next generation... it is something which lies in God's own hands...

...Let me finish by trying to draw together a few scattered strands of this charge.  First, I would like you to remember always that true worship is not something we do, but a moment in which God discloses himself to us.  Second, I would like you to remember that both praise of God and thanksgiving for his actual gifts are central to authentic worship and third, I would like you to remember that worship has an important role in reconvincing people of his concrete, actual, historical acts of mercy so that they can become effective witnesses to those who do not believe.  And finally, I would like you to remember that if our worship is genuine, it can be a powerful witness to both those who believe and those who do not yet believe, that God is real and has been among his people.

We do not pull God down (through our faithful preaching, our good music or our sacramental practice).  These things, in God's good pleasure, are a means of His grace.  The direction of the arrow is DOWN.

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Next pearl was from my area Bishop, Wallace Benn who preached at my ordination.  His passage was John 21:1-19.  He spoke of the importance of feeding the sheep (v15-17) and of the sure expectation of suffering in ministry (v18-19).  But first and foremost he drummed into us the vital importance of 'maintaining your love relationship with the Lord' (v15-17).

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Finally, Douglas Milmine - former Bishop of Paraguay - was at my ordination.  He's been ordained since 1947, been a bishop for 35 years and absolutely brim full of the joy of the Lord.  Just minutes before the ordination service he said to us in the vestry: 

I've only one regret in my ministry - that I didn't save more souls.  That's the only reason we're here - saving souls.

 

Go bishops!

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I'm about to be ordained presbyter in the Anglican Church (in about 90 minutes!)  It's heartening to know I'm joining guys like these

Here's the final statement of the GAFCON conference.

Some extracts:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world.

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, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. 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. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.

I like this conclusion too:

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

If there's a bee in our bonnet - it's that Christ is not being proclaimed clearly and distinctly enough.  Everything else that's objectionable in these controversies flows from this crucial point.

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I'm about to be ordained presbyter in the Anglican Church (in about 90 minutes!)  It's heartening to know I'm joining guys like these

Here's the final statement of the GAFCON conference.

Some extracts:

We, the participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference, are a fellowship of confessing Anglicans for the benefit of the Church and the furtherance of its mission. We are a fellowship of people united in the communion (koinonia) of the one Spirit and committed to work and pray together in the common mission of Christ. It is a confessing fellowship in that its members confess the faith of Christ crucified, stand firm for the gospel in the global and Anglican context, and affirm a contemporary rule, the Jerusalem Declaration, to guide the movement for the future. We are a fellowship of Anglicans, including provinces, dioceses, churches, missionary jurisdictions, para-church organisations and individual Anglican Christians whose goal is to reform, heal and revitalise the Anglican Communion and expand its mission to the world.

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, which defines our core identity as Anglicans, is expressed in these words: The doctrine of the Church is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. 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. Building on the above doctrinal foundation of Anglican identity, we hereby publish the Jerusalem Declaration as the basis of our fellowship.

I like this conclusion too:

The meeting in Jerusalem this week was called in a sense of urgency that a false gospel has so paralysed the Anglican Communion that this crisis must be addressed. The chief threat of this dispute involves the compromising of the integrity of the church’s worldwide mission. The primary reason we have come to Jerusalem and issued this declaration is to free our churches to give clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ.

If there's a bee in our bonnet - it's that Christ is not being proclaimed clearly and distinctly enough.  Everything else that's objectionable in these controversies flows from this crucial point.

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Right now you can read live blogging of GAFCON and the EMA.  I give you live blogging of the Chichester diocese ordination retreat 2008!  

On Sunday I'm being ordained into the presbyterate. In the Anglican church we're ordained first as Deacons and then, usually the following year, as Presbyters (or "Priests").  I've been reflecting on my ordination vows - which are weighty indeed.  Here is an extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (this is right at the heart of the Church of England's doctrinal basis which consists of the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles and the Ordinal). 

The bishop says this: 

"Now again we exhort you, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye have in remembrance, into how high a Dignity, and to how weighty an Office and Charge ye are called: that is to say, to be Messengers, Watchmen, and Stewards of the Lord; to teach, and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.
    "Have always therefore printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his Spouse, and his Body. And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any Member thereof, do take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Wherefore consider with yourselves the end of the Ministry towards the children of God, towards the Spouse and Body of Christ; and see that ye never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until ye have done all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life.
    "Forasmuch then as your Office is both of so great excellency, and of so great difficulty, ye see with how great care and study ye ought to apply yourselves, as well to show yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord, who hath placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be occasion that others offend. Howbeit, ye cannot have a mind and will thereto of yourselves; for that will and ability is given of God alone: therefore ye ought, and have need, to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that ye cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures, and in framing the manners both of yourselves, and of them that specially pertain unto you, according to the rule of the same Scriptures; and for this self-same cause, how ye ought to forsake and set aside, as much as ye may, all worldly cares and studies.
    "We have good hope that ye have well weighed these things with yourselves, long before this time; and that ye have clearly determined, by God's grace, to give yourselves wholly to this Office, whereunto it hath pleased God to call you: so that, as much as lieth in you, ye will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way; and that ye will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Saviour Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost; that, by daily reading and weighing the Scriptures, ye may wax riper and stronger in your Ministry; and that ye may so endeavour yourselves, from time to time, to sanctify the lives of you and yours, and to fashion them after the Rule and Doctrine of Christ, that ye may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow."

 

And here are some of the vows we will take regarding the Bible - this time taken from the Common Worship ordination service which we'll be using...

Bishop: Do you accept the Holy Scriptures as revealing all things necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?

Ordinands: I do so accept them.

Bishop: Will you be diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in all studies that will deepen your faith and fit you to bear witness to the truth of the gospel?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

Bishop: Will you lead Christ’s people in proclaiming his glorious gospel, so that the good news of salvation may be heard in every place?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

Bishop: Will you faithfully minister the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them, so that the people committed to your charge may be defended against error and flourish in the faith?

Ordinands: By the help of God, I will.

 

It's pause for thought to consider that those bishops about to meet at the Lambeth Conference have at least three times publicly signed up to this understanding of ministry and the bible.  They've made vows just like this before God and man - once as Deacon, once as Priest, once as Bishop.  Anglicans may not always live true to their calling - but this missional, gospel-centred, word-based ministry is the essence of true Anglicanism.

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I flew a kite here for the notion of confession following our taking of communion.  It wasn't enthusiastically embraced!

I was reminded on Sunday of how brilliant Thomas Cranmer's 'Prayer of humble access' is.  In the Anglican church, this is what we pray before receiving communion.  Isn't it great?

We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord, whose nature is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Now if the supper was explained to people 'On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread...'.  And people said this prayer, haven't we been sufficiently prepared?  Then, following my appropriation of Christ's grace, then I formally confess my sins - and let's take some time about it, let's mourn our sin and hate it.  But don't we confess best when humbled by grace?

(Even if you object to this, thought I'd share the prayer - good huh?)

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