Friday, July 18, 2008

Arcane matters of canon law and authorised worship

In a recent post on Anglican Down Under I provide a copy of a long response I have made to an open letter circulated by Archdeacon Glynn Cardy of the Diocese of Auckland. The issue giving rise to this exchange is the status of services of blessing for same sex partnerships (and/or civil unions). Such services are happening in the Western Anglican world, including New Zealand, but mostly 'under the radar', and sometimes in an 'informal' matter. So not much canonical scrutiny has applied to them.

The relevant point to this blogsite is that it can be easy to overlook the fact that licensed ministers - lay and ordained - have an obligation to lead services of worship which are 'authorised' by the church. The reasons for this include (a) following St Paul's injunction to conduct worship with 'decency and order', and (b) ensuring that the content of our worship is theologically sound, giving expression to the doctrine of our church (as agreed and hammered out over centuries) rather than to the opinions and speculations of the worship leader.

The simplest way of fulfilling this obligation is to leader services according to the prayer book (noting how much wording in these services is drawn directly from Scripture itself)! But it is also possible to fulfil this obligation through a more flexible order of service (which the prayer book provides for) so long as the content of such services conforms to the doctrine of our church (one way to help this occur is to include prayers drawn from the prayer book into our mix of songs and hymns and testimonies; another way is to ensure that Scripture is actually read in the service)!

Briefly, part of my dispute with Archdeacon Cardy is that our rules or 'canonical law' lays down the law rather than 'guidelines'. If we had guidelines then anything could happen in our which, and no formal accountability would exist between the bishop and his/her licensed ministers. But we do not have guidelines, we have rules. Yet the rules are not for their own sake: they are to ensure that our worship is truth-full.


Zane said...

Hi Peter,
I really appreciated your responce to Archdeacon Cardy on the Anglicans Down Under website. It was well thought through and made several excellent points. I just wanted to say thanks for the time you put into this delicate matter, and for alerting us to it through this blog.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Zane!
You will go far