Are Anglicans allowed to resist and reject a Bishop?

Discussion in 'Questions?' started by Elijah148, Jun 21, 2022.

  1. Elijah148

    Elijah148 New Member

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    Let's imagine that you are under the jurisdiction of a notoriously heretical Bishop who is very open about rejecting the existence of the devil, rejecting the divinity of Christ and who worships literal idols under the guise of "ecumenism".

    Roman Catholics have several documents that makes it relatively easy to resist and reject him.
    Satis Cognitum (slightest deviation from the faith = you are cast out from the body of the Church), Mortalium Animos (equates interreligious gatherings with apostasy) and Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio which gives the laity the allowance to reject a notoriously heretical Bishop, Cardinal and Pope.

    A Church Father has this view:

    “I do not recognize as bishop—I would not count among Christ’s clergy—a man who has been promoted to a chief post by polluted hands, to the destruction of the faith.”

    -- St. Basil the Great

    Under the Arian Crisis you've had virtually no orthodox Bishops since the majority were Arian or Semi-Arian.

    I have found one vague reference in an old Catechism of the 39 Articles which would allow a layperson to withdraw his allegiance from a church if it defected.

    Can Anglicans reject the jurisdiction of a notoriously heretical Bishop who hasn't been removed from office? Can Anglicans remain outside the jurisdiction of any Bishop for a prolonged amount of time (due to lack of orthodox Bishops) without incurring the status of a schismatic?
     
  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I don’t think this accurately represents the RC position, and especially the debate going on among them now, about how to deal with Pope Francis. Even among RC traditionalists a vast majority does not believe they can reject him. Even the SSPX say their masses una cum with Francis. The only ones who reject him are the 1% of the 1% of trads. So this is very much an extreme minority position.

    Churches which place a heavy emphasis on incarnated real-world presence, such as Anglicans or RCs, simply wouldn’t have rules for easily dismissing church authority, based on one’s own private interpretation of the case.

    Instead, what you’re mainly looking for is judicial condemnation and removal of the said bishop from authority. This has happened with several ACNA bishops in the last 10 years, so the oversight mechanism is functional. However when the oversight mechanism is not functioning, as was the case with the Episcopal Church where the heretics became bishops and then began to oppress those under their charge, the case was more difficult. The way the faithful addressed it was by putting themselves under the charge of alternative bishops from competing jurisdictions (usually overseas orthodox Provinces).

    So in brief, no it is not possible so to reject a bishop as to not have some bishop at all; in extreme cases an orthodox bishop may provide his jurisdiction to you. But there is no church without bishops; the Bishops are the Church. “Where is the bishop, there is the Catholic Church.” -St. Ignatius
     
  3. Elijah148

    Elijah148 New Member

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    1. Option 1 you mentioned has ceased pretty much altogether in multiple Protestant denominations
    2. So what you are saying is that an Anglican has an obligation to either align themselves with someone from an orthodox remnant Diocese or to join the Continuing Anglican movement which has its own Episcopate? The 2nd option you mention was the norm during the Arian crisis. The advantage of Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy is that their theological system doesn't implode from within if Constantinople or Canterbury defected. Roman Catholicism on the other hand implodes with a defection of the See of Rome, hence why RC has a growing number of sedevacantists.

    But you have to explain to me how someone would be condemned by God if their mind was totally perplexed and obfuscated due to the massive confusion of this age. Can someone be truly viewed as schismatic, rogue etc. if they cannot see the four marks of the true Church in a particular Diocese or organisation? Lots of disunity exists even among traditionalist Anglicans on basic points of Christianity. (Think of Evangelical vs Anglo-Catholic).
     
  4. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    It needs to be remembered that 'heresy' is a legal category in addition to a moral one. A person suspected of heresy can only be found guilty as a result of a formal trial in an ecclesiastical court. Heresy itself consists of the insistent denial of a defined dogma (which is not simply 'what the Bible says'); there is no defined dogma of the existence of the devil in Anglicanism, for example, as C.S. Lewis noted in God in the Dock:

    A few corollaries to this principle are worth noting:
    • To refer to someone as 'a heretic' when no such decision has been rendered is either slanderous is libelous.
    • People cannot claim justification for schism by asserting that their former bishop was 'a heretic', without any ecclesiastical judgment to sustain the charge. That's not something laypeople just get to decide on their own.
    This kind of confusion, in my experience, is what happens when Protestants use Catholic terminology and try to act as though they're Catholics.
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes, it is very sad. Sometimes they can have the more correct doctrine than the RCs, but an absence of divinely ordained ministry. The RCs have kept the visible machinery of ministry, but lost the way of what they’re even doing. Christendom is a microcosm of the sin of the whole human race.


    Yes, right.


    I don’t see how Rome has a future, honestly. The Papacy could only work when they could hide the Popes and everything they said/did.


    In terms of personal culpability, it is a very tough case to blame a Christian for failing to see the way today. It is very confusing out there.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2022
  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    This of course is not an obscure discussion, but rather the dynamic tension of the lived experience of many of us. Many Bishops in the Anglican Communion, or the wider Anglican Community, hold or promote views that may well seem at odds with the faith once delivered to the saints.

    As @Invictus has correctly alluded to, none of us have been appointed judge and jury over our Bishops. We are called to love and support our Bishops in their challenging role as they lead the Church. The proposition that if a heretical Bishop had consecrated a Bishop the Bishop's orders would be invalid is directly against the proposition outlined in the 39 Articles.

    XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
    Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

    Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.​

    As Anglicans broadly speaking we do not accept the principle of the infallibility of the Pope, though there is no doubt we agree with him on any number of things, but probably not all. I further do not think that any Anglican is required to assent to the proposition of the infallibility of Bishops.

    In the main, this leads us to the position of being loyal to your Diocesan Bishop, whilst not necessarily agreeing with him. I know that there are several things my Diocesan says and does which don't conform to my view of things. The question of a loyal opposition is both important and healthy.

    Sadly some simplistic analysis suggests that loyalty requires total agreement. Being a Loyal Australian does not require me to agree with everything the Prime Minister says and does. I suspect that is true of the English as well, and possibly even the Americans.

    When Ignatius wrote to Polycarp 'Where is the Bishop - There is the Church' he was not claiming that the BIshop was the whole Church, but rather that the Church gathered around her Bishop.

    The suggestion that Christians should just align themselves with an agreeable Bishop, is an urban proposition, it is certainly not that easy in rural Australia, partly due to what is known as the tyranny of distance, and partly dues to the historic partisan differences in Anglicanism in Australia being matched with geographically aligned development of the nation.
     
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  7. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In a functional episcopal structure, Bishops are under the authority of not only their archbishop, but also their peers. Episcopal church practice is hierarchical, and thus admonishment and correction for a Bishop must come laterally or from above, not from below. I know that a lot of people, especially those who came up in more congregational or presbyterian polities don't care for this model, but it's necessary for a church polity to function. A bishop can't be prone to being second-guessed by every member of the diocese -- they must be able to wield their own authority or the whole episcopate falls.

    I have come to prefer this organizational structure over the congregational/presbyterian model, but it does have weaknesses. And a major weakness is that the selection and elevation process for Bishops can be captured by cabals of clergy. This allows a fairly small group of people to control the content and direction of church doctrine and practice through selection of Bishops who are friendly to whatever position they may hold. (The secular version of this happens all the time in businesses and government; it's called "institutional capture".) In the RC church the Pope is the final authority and is supposed to prevent this sort of corruption, but all too often the Pope himself is a result of this institutional capture. Anglicans, having adopted a more conciliar and provincially-autonomous model, manage to avoid this to a greater degree. But it still can happen; the "great realignment" between Global Anglicans (GAFCON and ACNA) and the CofE-aligned Anglicans was precipitated by rogue Bishops in America and Canada. Canterbury's refusal (or inability) to snap the Bishops back in line caused the rupture that has been playing out over the past 20 years*.

    *I generally mark the real beginning of the troubles to the 2003 elevation of Gene Robinson to Bishop, but the underlying problems have existed for a lot longer than that. The heretic Bishop Spong not only was raised to Bishop without much fuss, but continued on as Bishop of Newark for nearly twenty years.
     
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  8. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    They are subject to peers only as a collective body, when gathered in Synod and (presumably) under the presidency of the archbishop or metropolitan. An individual bishop in one diocese cannot tell a bishop in another diocese what to do, or otherwise violate or interfere with his/her jurisdiction.
    Is this your opinion, or was Spong found guilty of heresy by a competent ecclesiastical court?

    As I mentioned above, heresy is a legal category; whether someone is or isn't a 'heretic' isn't something laypeople can, may, or should decide on their own. Spong unfortunately said a lot of things for "shock value". I can remember, decades ago, when Spong would make an attention-grabbing statement - apparently denying the resurrection, or the virgin birth, etc. - and it would get quoted in the newspapers. At the time, I didn't know any better, and took the newspaper accounts at face value when they gave the impression that statements like Spong's were normal, both for an Anglican bishop in the U.S., and for the Episcopal Church as a whole. Although neither was in fact the case - Spong was very much an outlier among Episcopal bishops - those accounts really turned me off to Anglicanism at the time. All that to say, I was no fan of Spong's, and I'm not sympathetic to much of what he said publicly. However, there remains a world of difference between popular-level discourse, and rigorous theological work. A trial might have given Spong an opportunity to clarify his views, or to supplement earlier statements. I can't imagine what he might have said, but we will never know for sure what might have happened in that event. Obviously he cannot be tried post mortem. And barring a valid ecclesiastical judgment, it is inappropriate to refer to him as "a heretic", however much we may have found some of his public statements to be suspect. Honoring such limitations is a large part of what it means to have non-lay church government that functions according to laws, not sentiments. I am not defending Spong here; I am defending the ideal of the rule of law within ecclesiastical government, and that the role of the laity is to support and obey their clergy and their bishop, whether they personally like or agree with them or not. As C.S. Lewis put it, albeit in a somewhat different context:
    If any particular church organization is going to have episcopal government, either do it all or don't do any of it. Episcopal government is the not the kind of system out of which one can just pick and choose what to observe and what to disregard. It is not accepted and practiced as a system, whole and entire, it will morph into something else over time. We do not have "conservative" bishops or "liberal" bishops; we just have bishops. We do not have "traditionalist" laypeople or "modernist" laypeople; we just have laypeople, who participate in the same prayers and services from the same Book of Common Prayer. Adherence to that standard, rather than to doctrinally precise Confessions, is the Anglican distinctive.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I normally prefer to see Anglicanism as Episopally Led and Synodically Governed. It is of course both a strength and a weakness, and it is based on the notion of people of goodwill who find their unity in Christ.
     
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  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. I was using "episcopal government" as shorthand for what you're describing. :thumbsup:
     
  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    You are confusing the crime of heresy with the sin of heresy. The sin of heresy is what comes first: the rejection of faith, of the supernatural, of what was divinely revealed, etc. This then gets followed up by an ecclesiastical trial where the person is hopefully convicted in a procedural and objective manner. But even if no trial took place, it is still possible to have confidence that the sin of heresy took place, by those who have access to the data. It’s just like, it is possible to be a thief, never convicted in court, but those with access to the data on the person — those who have seen him steal, or have records of his theft — can competently and validly call the person a thief.
     
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  12. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    This is a variant of the dictum that murder isn't wrong because it's illegal; it's illegal because it's wrong. The law is not purely utilitarian -- to a certain extent (more so in past times than now, granted) civic law exists to enforce moral law. Likewise canon law exists to enforce church doctrine and practice. Spong's heresy was obvious; it was the shame of his church that they failed to punish him for his flagrant and obvious violations of their own canons. To the contrary, he was abetted and even rewarded, making a mockery of episcopal authority in the process.
     
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  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Did I not say above that:
    With respect, you are confusing a private opinion with something that is ok to say publicly in one's capacity as a private person. If you suspect that a bishop has committed or is committing heresy, there is a process of church law to determine whether such accusations carry any weight. We do not get to blab on the internet every sin we think someone else might have committed, and then act as judge, jury, and executioner in the so-called "court of public opinion."

    You are also confusing the order of being with the order of knowledge. Yes, assuming heresy has actually occurred, it was indeed a personal sin before it was an ecclesiastical offense. However, we do not know that the sin has occurred unless there has first been a finding regarding the ecclesiastical offense. Likewise, we do not know that a suspect robbed a house unless and until it has been proved in court beyond a reasonable doubt (1) that the house was indeed robbed, (2) that the suspect was indeed the perpetrator, and (3) that there was indeed criminal intent. Until that happens, it's just a private opinion based on hearsay, and there are strict moral rules about the sharing of private opinions and idle conversation, especially when they concern things understood to be sins in others. "Heresy" isn't one of the sins condemned in the Decalogue, but bearing false witness sure is. That is why accusations either need to be entrusted to competent public authorities, or remain for a time as private suspicions until there are sufficient grounds for the suspicions to become formal accusations that can be handled lawfully.

    Lastly, we are now in the third decade of the 21st century. We do not have or desire a State religion. Heresy trials were wildly unpopular even in the 19th century. Nobody cares whether some dead bishop was a "heretic" or not, and nobody is interested in or desirous of organized churches bringing back heresy trials. That kind of talk just makes Anglicans sound backwards, and just turns people off.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    By stopping heresy trials, you’ve really flooded the Episcopal Church with new members, haven’t you?

    By all recent statistics TEC will simply disappear in the next 10-15 years. There just won’t be anyone there, except for the last person to turn off the lights.


    What if the perpetrator blabbed about that sin themselves? What if they told everyone: look I did this theft; here’s how I robbed the place. What if they, I dunno, wrote a book about their theft: could we call them thieves then? Don’t think like an Episcopalian, think like a rational person.
     
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  15. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Speak the truth until Christ comes. There is no other way.

    Our culture is depraved and backward. It is no shame -- in fact it is a commandment from our Lord -- to stand apart from it and proclaim God's truth against it (John 17:6-19).
     
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  16. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if perhaps you are attributing intentions and motivations to my observation, that weren't there.

    1. There are many different ways to go about "speaking the truth". Heresy trials are in no sense whatsoever necessary to the Gospel. Proclamation of the Word is; administration of the Sacraments is; conducting heresy trials didn't get a mention in the Gospels.

    2. At the same time, as I discussed above, "speaking the truth" is only obligatory regarding the things that are known to be true. It is in fact forbidden to publicly express mere opinions regarding the moral worth of others. "Christ is risen from the dead" is nowhere near the same level as "we think so-and-so [bishop]" is a heretic. It is the casual, dismissive attitude regarding gossip and idle conversation, and using either as a justification to disobey lawful church authority, that I am cautioning against.

    3. If you have a duty to win converts, and you know in advance that particular non-essential practices, or a particular didactic approach, or a poor choice of words, will either be ineffective or counterproductive, then you also have a duty to not use those methods; otherwise, you are knowingly and actively provoking people to reject the message. That does not mean you change the substance of the message; it absolutely means changing the manner of presentation when that is necessary.
     
  17. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not when it comes to damaging (or even discarding) the Gospel truth itself. You can love homosexuals and speak to them of God's love and charity; you cannot encourage them in their lifestyle or affirm their sinful choices. You may assure a young unwed mother of God's grace and forgiveness; you may not encourage her to abort her baby or affirm her in that decision. These are not "non-essential" positions -- these are central elements of the Gospel we profess.

    We are called to evangelize, not to save people. We cannot save a single person. We cannot even save ourselves. No one can. Only God can save. If we preach the true Gospel, the Holy Spirit will lead the elect to God.

    "Winsomeness" in the preaching of the Gospel has led to the current ruin you see in the Western churches, the notion that being friendly and open and accepting will (somehow) bring people into repentance of their sins and lead them to be born again in Christ. It's not working out that way, because the Gospel is being watered down and modified to avoid offending people. But if you preach that people can be saved no matter what they do, then why go to church at all? Why make any changes to their lifestyles at all? Why do anything? You can't eject the whole idea of 'sin' from the faith and expect the faith to prosper. If there's nothing to be saved from, why worry about salvation at all? What was the point or purpose of Christ's sacrifice upon the cross?

    The Gospel must include the message of sin and repentance. We are sinners, we must repent of our sin, and be reborn in Christ Jesus as new people. There is no other way.

    If your Gospel preaching isn't offending unbelievers, then you aren't preaching the true Gospel.

    Spong was indisputably a heretic; that his church didn't punish him for it is a shame to them. You don't have to be an expert theologian or a member of the clergy to see it. This isn't gossip on our part. This is Spong damning himself out of his own mouth, and going completely unpunished for it.
     
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  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    You're going in just about every direction possible with this except for the one I was actually talking about it. I said heresy trials - heresy trials - aren't necessary to the Gospel, and can be dispensed with, without compromising the integrity of the Gospel. We both know that's true, so why argue about it? Grant the point and move on. It was itself only a corollary to the broader argument regarding how laity should treat episcopal authority, which is the topic of this thread. I'm not here to bicker about boring culture war issues for the hundredth time. :dunno:
     
  19. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Well, anybody can come up with "what if...?" scenarios. I'm not trying to come up with a set of laws for slander and libel; we already have those. I am simply reminding my fellow Christians that we are already morally obligated to abstain not only from litigious behavior like slander and libel, but from gossip, idle conversation, anything that might cause scandal, etc. We do not discuss others' sins. Our righteousness must be of a higher order, should it not? I bring it up because these principles play directly into the topic of this thread.

    I don't see anybody getting "flooded with new members". The TEC dioceses that joined the ACNA have continued to decline since joining the ACNA. These trends cannot be divorced from the broader trends that are impacting the mainline churches generally. Discovering the reasons for the decline of mainline Protestant Christianity in the U.S. is ultimately a question only scientific research can hope to answer. I seriously doubt it has anything to do with "heresy trials", in any case.
    https://covenant.livingchurch.org/2...line-of-the-anglican-church-in-north-america/
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
  20. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    And I'm saying that this is wrong -- it is an antinomian attitude that is inconsistent with Gospel preaching and teaching. There is such a thing as heresy, and it is (properly) prohibited in the canon laws of the Anglican church, because the canon laws exist to enforce doctrine and church practice. A failure to uphold canon law, to the extent that canon law reflects Biblical teaching, is thus a failure to adhere to the Gospel and renders us hypocrites when we preach the Gospel to others. Many people were drawn away from the faith when Spong spouted his nonsense; TEC's failure to remove him involved them in his heresy. Their silence gave tacit consent to his preaching. To assert that Spong's status is ambiguous because he was not convicted of any wrongdoing in a church court is ridiculous. Spong's continued ministry was a signpost of TEC's collapse as a guardian of the Gospel truth (and it paved the way for the Gene Robinson debacle some years later).

    EDIT: changed "Biblical authority" to "Biblical teaching"
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2022
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